Recently I wrote a very popular column entitled "34 Things You are Doing That Annoy Your Co-workers (But They Rarely Tell You.)" The response was so amazing I felt the need to help people deal with all of these annoyances. Most people aren't annoying on purpose. Truly, sometimes they just can't help themselves. Annoyances can occur from people whining, yelling, being mean, sloppy or even just hopelessly unaware. But an office is an important ecosystem and people have to figure out how to get along.
Ultimately, there is no total cure for annoying people. Sadly nature continues to produce them in abundance. You can tell when they are going to be annoying because early on in life they appear as children confined in planes or subway cars yelling and screaming uncontrollably with no sense or consideration for the people around them. Of course many would argue that the annoying people in that case are the parents.
You can't control whether or not others will exhibit annoying behavior, but you can take control of your own situation and improve your working environment accordingly with these tips.
1. Confront them.
Perhaps people don't know that they are doing anything annoying? Not all people are truly self-aware. And it's possible that the things they do that are annoying you are not annoying to others, especially themselves. It may sound scary, but if this person is actually impeding your ability to function, take him or her out for coffee and have a heart to heart. Try not to be mean or judgmental. In a kind and objective manner, explain the behavior and how it is impacting you. Suggest some possible solutions that don't create difficulty for the offender. They may decide to hate you, but at least they may avoid you so you don't have to suffer their presence.
2. Understand them.
You can try to know the annoying person and the real reason as to why they exhibit such behavior. Perhaps if you know their backstory you can be more tolerant and the behavior may not irritate you as much.
3. Resolve them.
Consider helping them change their behavior to a more acceptable standard. If they are willing they may let you provide feedback when they exhibit their annoyingness and slowly become more pleasant to work with. Of course, if they don't think they have an issue this could backfire and you could strike them as annoying instead.
4. Avoid them.
When annoying people continue to be unaware of their impact on others, you may simply have to keep them at a safe distance. Move your desk away and avoid having them on your team. Even if they don't get the message, you won't have to see or hear them.
5. Ignore them.
This is why headphones were created. If you can't get them to modify their behavior, you may simply have to find ways to keep their habits from impeding on your personal space. Use sound and activity to redirect your attention on things that make you happy and peaceful.
6. Oust them.
I am not a big fan of Machiavellian tactics, but if someone is truly disruptive to the health of the team then it may be time for drastic action. Perhaps you can discuss with management how to reassign the offender or find ways to help them seek career development elsewhere.
7. Leave them.
No one deserves to be miserable day in and day out. If you are in a work environment that tolerates consistent behavior that is so offensive to you, it may be a sign that you are not experiencing a good culture fit. Time to move on and find a place to work that fits your values and comfort zone.