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We’ve all dealt with That One Co-Worker, the one who constantly tries to talk to you when you’re working, insists on making you listen to his off-color stories, steals lunch, insists on having loud and personal conversations (and then gets annoyed when you ask if she can speak more quietly). Or you get the cliques that make you feel as though you’ve transported back to high school. But in an office setting, you must learn how to play nicely with others, meaning sometimes you have to work with someone you’d not and know how to take other appropriate measures (and know what is appropriate).

  • Make sure it’s not personal. The annoying traits of a co-worker may unwittingly remind you of someone from your past you had a negative relationship with. Perhaps you had a roommate in college who always bugged you while you tried to study and never took hints, and one chatty colleague reminds you of her. Or you had an overbearing parent who made you feel wrong-footed when you didn’t know the answer to questions asked, and you feel the same way when your manager speaks with you. If you can distance yourself from that person in your past or recall how you successfully managed to deal with that person, you may figure out a better relationship.
  • Avoid jumping to conclusions. Often, we don’t know the motivations behind others’ behaviors, and what we think of as obnoxious behavior may have its root in something unexpected. That co-worker who always ignores you and turns up his music? Maybe he’s partially deaf and embarrassed to mention it. The one who interrupts women during meetings? Perhaps he learned to do that from the men in his life. Whatever the reason, try to find out the motivation first by speaking one-on-one with the person before passing judgment. And if this doesn’t help, you may want to involve a manager or HR for advice on how to approach this person in the future.
  • Know how handle the interview question. Interviewers will ask if and how you have dealt with difficult co-workers. Be ready to acknowledge things do bother you on occasion. Don’t attempt any version of the line, “Oh, nothing really does! I get along great with everyone.” Have one or two specifics that emphasize big-picture frustrations, such as the co-worker whose inability to meet deadlines holds up everyone. Have a response to that sort of behavior that demonstrates you can handle such problems with a solution that benefits all parties in a healthy way, such as taking it to a supervisor and responding so the work still gets done.

Every office has frustrating co-workers; your response says a lot about how well you can find solutions and rise above it to do your own work. To find your next great position, partner with the local staffing experts at PrideStaff Thosuand Oaks/Ventura County on your job search.

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