The relationships you have with your co-workers are some of the most important – and complicated – ones you’ll have in your life. These people can be trusted confidantes, mentors or allies that help you climb the corporate ladder.
But a bad colleague can make you dread going to work, even if you love your job. In fact, new research from Quality Logo Products has found that more than 90% of Americans have a co-worker that annoys them, and 57% of people have considered quitting, or left their jobs, because of an annoying co-worker.
The company surveyed 1,902 U.S.-based employees in February about the behaviors they find most irritating in their colleagues.
Working from home hasn’t done much to alleviate the tension either, as 55% of people reported that they still get annoyed with their co-workers several times a week in a remote vs. in office environment.
Their top pet peeves for remote colleagues include slow responses to emails or instant messages, excessive background noise on calls, and eating on camera.
Here are the three most annoying co-worker habits according to Quality Logo Products and how to handle them:
Interruptions are one of the most common problems in virtual meetings as it’s hard to tell when someone’s about to unmute their microphone, done speaking or dealing with an internet lag.
“We all have to have some grace around technological issues when we’re on calls,” career coach Letisha Bereola tells CNBC Make It. “Interruptions are almost inevitable at this point, so try to brush it off and not take it too personally.”
If you’re dealing with a chronic interrupter, however, career coach Susan Peppercorn suggests politely calling attention to the issue. For example, if someone cuts you off in a meeting, you can say, “Could you please let me finish? Then I’ll turn the floor back to you.”
You might notice that other people on your team are introverts, or might struggle with speaking up for themselves, too – in that case, Peppercorn says you should “appeal to the interrupter’s pride” as confronting them could come off as hostile or rude.
She suggests the following script: “I notice there are people on our team who don’t speak up a lot – could you help boost the voice of some of those people at our next meeting? So if someone interrupts [insert name here], could you help her get the floor back?”
Is there anything more infuriating than working hard on a project, only to have a co-worker claim it as their own? If it’s a first-time offense, give them the benefit of the doubt, Bereola says, as it could have been an honest mistake.
But if it happens again, find a gracious entrance into the conversation and clearly state that you came up with the idea/project/suggestion. These templates can help you take ownership:
“As [co-worker] was saying, my idea to [explain project] would result in [impact].”
“Thank you for bringing that up, [co-worker], I know I shared this with you [date you spoke about the idea].”
Peppercorn also suggests talking with your manager if it’s a project that you’re passionate about or could impact your performance review, and keeping a paper trail of your projects so you have documented proof of your contributions.
Being open about your life and hobbies can help strengthen your work relationships, but there’s a fine line between healthy banter and getting too personal.
Politics, Covid-19, money, religion and relationships ranked as the most annoying topics to discuss with a co-worker in Quality Logo Products’ research.
These issues can often be emotionally charged and quickly lead to arguments among co-workers, so it’s smart to be mindful of how often you bring them up with colleagues, and try to avoid office gossip at all costs, Peppercorn warns.
If a non-work-related conversation starts to “go off the rails,” she adds, pivot to asking your co-worker about a project they’re working on, or call attention to something else in business news.
Or, just disengage. “If you can leave the conversation by saying that you need to jump on another call, or if it’s a group, stay silent, then do that,” Bereola says. “You don’t owe someone a response, especially if you’re uncomfortable.”