Hess Associates

So you finally have the great boss/job you were looking for.

But that guy/gal in the next cubicle or office or down the hall – it could be a loud voice, rude or off-colour remarks, warming up food with pungent odours, over-friendliness, being too close or “in your space, attention-seeking, a fake laugh, unctuousness, being unkempt or unwashed, the list could go on and on. What are you able to do about it? Please note here that we are not talking about someone trying to get your job, undermine you, gaslight you, and so on. That is a totally different ball game.

Although there is no perfect answer, just as there was no perfect answer during school days, at camp, within the extended family, amongst friends and acquaintances, there are some steps you can take before you seek psychotherapy:

1. Recognize that their behavior is not your fault and that you have the right to feel annoyed. Don’t feel guilty because you are human and reacting to something offensive to you.

2. Identify what is wrong, and try to speak with them, diplomatically bringing up the issue, as if it were very minor and something they never would have thought was a problem, and ask if they could alter this – – e.g. “You must think this is silly, but you have a very strong voice, which is lucky for you, as often people don’t hear what I myself say, and I have to repeat myself, but sometimes when I am on the phone, etc. I can’t hear the other person very well, as I hear you instead. I’m not sure why. Do you think you could help me out by speaking just a little more softly?”

3. Ask others if they feel the same way – maybe one of them can speak to this person. Perhaps they know them better/longer. Or if you have consensus, and it is troublesome, enlist HR to intervene. Sometimes an issue can be intolerable – and has to be addressed.

4. Try to avoid them, so if it is noise, or if they are always interrupting, think about a head-set, which will muffle the noise in the first case, or deter them from doing so in the second.

5. Certainly if it is a smelly food issue, this will annoy many others and can be addressed collectively by a spokesperson.

6. If what they are doing impedes work progress, think seriously about discussing the matter with your boss.

7. If they are rude or make off-colour comments, you should really confront them and explain politely that you don’t appreciate or tolerate what they are saying – that maybe they don’t realize how much it bothers you, that perhaps you are over-sensitive. You should strive to do this non-offensively as you don’t want to change roles with them!

8. Try to put it into context and only address what you can’t live with – it is called work, as going to work, and dealing with assignments and people is WORK – it is not recess at school (where even then, kids themselves were annoying). Your workplace is a small sample of the world in general.

9. Although you are the greatest and most mannerly person, think about what you are doing that may annoy your co-workers. No one is perfect.

10. Try to befriend the person if possible – maybe you have common ground and they are not as bad as you think.

11. The 10+ rule – do not lose your sense of humour – if you don’t have one, you’d better get one!