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The habits of coworkers can be irksome in the tight quarters of the modern office.
Being part of a team can be a great learning experience when collaboration and discussion lead to new ideas and career growth.
But for some employees, like these professionals we talked to, interactions with co-workers range from merely irritating to being a complete nightmare. (To protect the innocent and the annoyed, some of these workers are only sharing their first names.) Do any of these sound familiar?
The scented worker
"I worked with a guy that smelled like dirty, wet rags. That was pretty annoying," recalls Christine Lam, a entrepreneur based in Washington state.
The issue impacted Lam's productivity. "He smelled so terrible, it made my eyes water and it was very difficult to work with him as a result."
Back away from the Blackberry!
Many of us are irked by our fellow employees spending way too much time on personal phone calls or texting friends and family. And perhaps no device is more visible at work than the Blackberry.
"I had a co-worker who was on his Blackberry so much he'd mastered blind-typing on it," says Andrew Chris, an employee at Olighting.com, an online retailer. Unfortunately, the Blackberry-addicted team member couldn't type, text and talk at the same time. "Talking to him while he is busy typing was comparable to talking to a container of glue."
Too much face time on Facebook
Krista, a consultant in Colorado, found the allure of the Internet severely curtailed her co-worker's ability to get anything done.
Krista's "no-worker" was particularly addicted to social networking sites. "She would spend the majority of the day on her MySpace and Facebook pages, which she took great pains to maintain," she notes.
In terms of actual work, Krista's teammate wasn't too productive. "I'd say she worked approximately two hours a day, and most of it had to be corrected or redone."
The bad behavior list
Those may have been some extreme examples, but co-workers can annoy us, rub us the wrong way and make us get our hate on for a number of reasons.
If they're not singing, our co-workers are chewing, slurping, sniffling, coughing or belching in a way that's impossible for us to ignore.
What are the most common reasons a fellow worker might be annoying? They're annoying you (and all of us) in many ways:
• He or she is a "Debby Downer," or has a consistently negative attitude at work.
• They're incredibly nosy or prone to gossip.
• They bring aromatic food to their desks for lunch. Tuna fish, broccoli and asparagus are just a few of our favorites.
• They use their cubicles as a spaces to take care of personal hygiene. Everyone LOVES a fellow worker who clips his nails at his desk, right?
• They leave common areas a mess, and don't clean up after themselves.
• They play "hot potato" with responsibilities and pass the buck whenever possible.
• They're constantly trying to one-up the competition.
April Callis, a Michigan-based trainer and facilitator, suggests several strategies to solve conflicts with irritating co-workers before they become major issues.
Ask for a resolution
"Greet each complaint or problem with the request for a solution," Callis suggests. She believes this approach is less likely to put your co-worker on the defensive, but instead makes them part of the solution.
Just the facts, ma'am
Another strategy Callis likes is the "Dragnet strategy." "When gossip, a complaint or negative information is brought forward, play Joe Friday and document the facts." Callis says that this approach defuses any potential sparks for greater conflict. "This will take the emotion out of the picture."
Any legitimate complaint about a co-worker should be taken seriously. But, minor conflict can often be resolved by using tactful humor so that the parties involved dial the intensity down a notch.
Workers should also remember that as irritating as some of these behaviors might be, there may be other factors that are catalysts to making them happen. Excessive time on personal phone calls may be a sign of a personal crisis, while hygiene issues might arise from a medical problem.
You or your manager should be fair, caring and empathetic when bringing up any issues with co-workers. They may not be aware that their actions are having an impact.
"I used to work at a company where a managing director was famous for spotting two people having a conflict and taking them to a conference room and introducing them as if they had never met or talked," recalls David Dalka, a Chicago-based consultant who specializes in social media change management, business development and web marketing strategy.
Dalka believes it was an effective strategy. "That was the whole point -- to encourage people to talk about little things before they became big things," he says. "The culture was one that encouraged people to reconcile with one another on their own."
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