6 types of annoying coworkers and how to deal with them

Unless you are extremely lucky or extremely tolerant, you’re going to have your share of annoying coworkers over the years.  Here are the six most common types and how to deal with them.

1. The interrupter. Whenever you’re talking with a coworker, this person finds a way to butt in. She answers your questions to other people, and you can’t have a private conversation with her ending up in it.

The solution: There’s only one way to make it stop, and that’s to address it head-on. The next time it happens, say something like, “Actually, I really wanted to get Jane’s input on this. Would you give us a minute?” If he doesn’t back off, say it again: “Thanks. Actually, I really want to talk to Jane about it.” Say it nicely, but be firm about it.

2. The know-it-all. This person has an opinion on everything and loves to tell you how to do your job better.

The solution:  Let it roll right off of you. The more you can ignore this person and not let them get to you, the better. When they offer an unsolicited opinion, say, “Thanks, I’ll think about that.” And if you find yourself getting frustrated, comfort yourself with the knowledge that this person is widely considered obnoxious; you’re definitely not the only one annoyed.

3. The slacker. You’re working away and she’s playing on Facebook or planning her wedding. Every day. It’s obvious to you and your other coworkers that she’s not pulling her weight, but for some reason your boss doesn’t do anything about it.

The solution:  Try to ignore it. Sure, it’s possible that your boss is letting her get away with it, but it’s also possible that your boss is addressing it behind the scenes; you probably wouldn’t know about it if so. Either way, the answer for you is the same: If it’s not affecting your work, it’s really not your business. But if it does impact your ability to do your job (because you have to take on her work, or you’re dependent on her work in order to do your own job), then you can raise it with your boss from that perspective, keeping the focus on that aspect of it.

4. The grump. The grump exudes negativity. Suggestions, new practices, the new guy down the hall—he hates them all and he makes sure people know it.

The solution: Have a sense of humor about it. Try to see this person as your very own office Eeyore. If that doesn’t help, remember that this person is miserable. Happy people don’t behave that way, and remembering that might make dealing with him somewhat easier.

5. The speakerphone lover. For some reason, this coworker always plays back her voicemail messages on speakerphone … or worse, has whole conversations on speakerphone, with an utter disregard for how annoying it is to those around her.

The solution:  Just be straightforward. Say something like, “Hey Meredith, would you mind taking your phone off speaker? It makes it hard to concentrate.”

6. The blabbermouth. The blabbermouth goes on and on and on. She’s especially talented at roping you into long conversations that never end when you’re on deadline or trying to make a phone call.

The solution:  You have to be assertive in this situation and not let the blabbermouth have so much power over how you spend your time. Speak up!  Say, “Sorry, but I’m on deadline and I’ve got to finish something up.” If she still keeps going, get even more direct: “I need to stop talking and get back to work.”

In fact, with most types of annoying coworkers, the solution is simply to be straightforward and assertive. Not angry, not hostile, just direct — but that’s something that can make people anxious, so it’s important to know that it’s really okay to speak up for yourself in a matter-of-fact, professional way. And if that fails – be glad these people aren’t in your family.

I originally published this at U.S. News & World Report.

{ 12 comments… read them below }

  1. D*

    Oh boy, I’ve got the interrupter and the blabbermouth all rolled into one! It’s a pain when I’m trying to read something (like AAM’s blog) or get something done. I’ve resorted to sometimes picking up the phone when I see her coming. I dial the automated 1-800 number of one of our vendors so she won’t stop in my office.

    She’s a nice person, but she doesn’t know when to end the conversation. I think she’s someone who thrives off interacting with people. She’s used to having a lot of people around at home and likes to socialize. She’s an extrovert. Me? I’m an introvert.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Ha, I have a neighbor who I do this with. If I’m driving up and see him outside, I pull out my cell phone and pretend I’m on a call.

      1. D*

        I feel for you. It’s even harder to get away from a neighbor.

        The person I work with always interrupts. Doesn’t matter who I’m talking to or what we’re talking about. And she always has to knock on my office door while my direct report and I are eating lunch. I think she just has to know what is going on all the time, where everybody is, what they’re doing, etc.

  2. Natalie*

    Somehow my office of 6 has an Eeyore and a blabbermouth, and they’re both management! It’s just lovely.

  3. Nate*

    What happened to the smelly (smelly food eating) one? I swear every other day I smell rotting onions and burnt popcorn.

  4. Phideaux*

    I have several extreme interrupters at my work. In fact it goes way past interrupting and deep into a total lack of respect for my time and my work. In my position, I serve a lot of the company in getting them information or materials to do their jobs. Because of this I need to be somewhat available, so I have some unofficial “open office hours” when people can stop by to get what they need. But, I also need to have time uninterrupted to contact vendors, do the rest of my job, and just think in general.

    To some, a closed door and me on the phone deep in a conversation about the report I have up on screen means just come on in, hover over my desk until I politely ask the person on the phone to please hold, then ask the offending jerk in the harshest tone I can muster without sounding hysterical, “What the hell do you want?!?!” Some people will finally get it, but there are still the few who believe that whatever they need is infinitely more important than anything I could possibly be doing.

    OK, I’m done ranting. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m sending Maintenance a requisition for a lock and a blind on my office door.

    1. Dawn*

      I know exactly how you feel. A closed door means nothing to some people. I’ve finally stopped closing my door. It doesn’t do any good anyway. Me talking on the phone means nothing. The person will just stand there waiting for me to either hang up or ask what he/she needs.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I finally just accepted that I was going to need to be extremely direct with people like this and started just saying directly, “I’m going to be a while. I’ll let you know when I’m free.”

      That usually did it, but if someone still hung around, I’d add, “I can’t talk right now. I’ll come find you when I can.”

  5. susu*

    i have a coworker that literally goes and complains to my manager every time i talk to her, she tells him that i boss her around and that i tell her she can’t do something or go somewhere. My manager and other supervisor have talked to me and apologize to her i have many times but its never my fail and now i don’t every talk to her and she still goes to my manager and tells him that I’m ignoring her I have no idea what to do iota really effecting me PLEASE HELP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  6. Lokesh*

    I have a co worker who talks very much, as if he knows everything and acts over smart and peeps into my work which he even don’t know what it is and gives me review comments, which I don’t take into my mind. But this guy irritates me to the core. And acts as if he is ignoring me. We are in client location for a consulting work he goes for meeting without even informing me. I really don’t know how to get rid of this person. The only good thing is we may work for another two months together.

  7. Anonymous*

    That is nothing I have a co worker who plays the same song over and over again very loud and sings along. Plus she knows every Disney song and sings those at random. She only stops singing to answer her text. Plus I think she is trying to give my dog diabetes because she gives my dog the whole bag of treats when I am not looking.

  8. Jen*

    Our annoying person doesn’t like me so when it is only me in the office, no problems. In fact productivity increases 4X’s over.

    The minute the rest of the team arrives, our annoying person goes in full swing with personal conversations about online dating failures, where she has been, what she has done, etc. This is all at full volume. Then comes the conversations shouting across the room and usually into my ear so I can not hear clients on the phone. The best part of my day is when the person goes to lunch. AGAIN 4X’s productivity.

    I get up and head to the break room several times a day just until she pipes down when I get that headache.

    It is frustrating, but humbling. I took the job because it was a temp position and unemployment exhausted. My background in middle management. I haven’t been in the clerical pool for over a decade and it is good to get back to my roots and see all of the mistakes that are being made with management and the dangers that lurk when a problem is not confronted from the start.

    4 weeks to go and it honestly can not end soon enough so I never have to see my obnoxious nut again.

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