Are You Annoying Your Coworkers?

Are You Annoying Your Coworkers?

I once took a course on conflict management in the workplace, and was surprised to realize I had already experienced every example of conflict used in the two-day class.

Was my environment any more stressful than anyone else’s? No. It’s just that life is filled with conflict, and when you’re a manager, your employees (as well as your own manager) expect you to resolve conflicts that they’re too uncomfortable to address themselves. Many of the topics involved indirect, passive frustrations rather than direct arguments, and most were a direct result of the close proximity and inherent lack of privacy in cubicle land.

Following are some examples of real-life issues I’ve been asked to address: [Names have been changed to protect the guilty.]

  • “Greta is always yakking on the phone on personal calls. It’s hard for me to concentrate.”
  • “Harvey is such a slacker. He’s the first to claim credit, but you should know that I do most of the work.”
  • “Sidney has terrible body odor. Can you tell him to take a shower and wash his clothes?”
  • “Jane’s bracelet with bells on it is making me crazy. She wears it every day along with her jangly chain necklaces. Can you tell her to take them off?
  • “Rhonda’s smoker’s cough is so irritating. Can’t you force her to see a doctor? Also, she reeks of smoke whenever she returns from her hourly breaks. She really needs to quit.”
  • “Bob’s curry lunches and afternoon popcorn ritual are stinking up the office.”
  • “Amit’s music is too loud. I can hear the vibrations coming from his headset. Can you establish a “no music” rule?”

I never intervened in any of those circumstances, but instead encouraged the complainers to discuss the issue with the other person. Direct communication is an underutilized tool.

Any activity that impinges on one or more of someone else’s five senses has the potential to cause conflict. If you have committed any of the aforementioned workplace sins, chances are someone has complained about it to everyone but you.

So, if you’re not currently annoyed by the actions of your coworkers, perhaps it’s you who is driving them crazy… Ask yourself if you could make their lives easier in some way, perhaps by eating your lunch in the break room.

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