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(Paul Vasarhelyi/iStockphoto)
(Paul Vasarhelyi/iStockphoto)

Office etiquette

Co-worker driving you nuts? Join the club Add to ...

The Know-it-All. Negative Nancy. The Over-Sharer. The workplace is filled with all kinds of personalities, each with their own unique (and sometimes annoying) habits.

While you can’t choose your co-workers, you can choose how you handle their annoying behaviour. Your best approach will largely depend upon your circumstances, and the level of annoyance.

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For example, if your co-worker’s habit hampers your ability to do your job you’ll need to take care of the problem even if it means going to your supervisor. However, filing even a verbal complaint should always be your last resort. Meanwhile, you may want to look at your own workplace behaviour which, unknowingly, may be offensive to others.

Tips for resolving conflict

Remove yourself from the situation: If you find yourself focusing more on your co-worker’s annoyance than the work in front of you, take a break. Even a few minutes away from your desk will clear your head and calm your nerves.

Find an outlet for your frustration: A 20-minute power walk or “vent session” with a trusted friend is another option. Once you’ve released the built-up tension, you’ll find you have a new perspective on the situation.

Find your focus: If deadlines prevent you from removing yourself from the situation, create a place of calm in your own mind. Any technique that helps you create a “clear headspace” will provide a sense of control and calm. Try noise-cancelling ear buds or mentally repeat a mantra, like “focus” in your mind.

Go to the source: If all your attempts fail and your work is still suffering, be respectful and pay your co-worker the courtesy of addressing them directly. Explain the problem (for example, it’s hard for me to concentrate) and, together, find a solution that works for the both of you.

Last resort: If the problem persists, you have no choice but to bring your concern to a supervisor. Who knows, you may not be the only one in the office having a problem with this co-worker.

Taboo workplace topics

Even the most friendly workplace conversation can sour when people discuss “taboo topics.” To avoid office friction, don’t broach the following “hot topics;” and if raised by co-workers, opt out of the conversation.

Salary: Your salary was determined by you and your employer. It’s proprietary information and should stay that way.

Medical woes: Only you and your family care about your medical problems. Keep your aches and pains to yourself.

Relationship problems: Failed romances and other relationship issues belong in your personal life, not in your professional life. No exceptions!

Sex, religion and politics: These “big three” hot-button topics are non-negotiable. They are called hot-button topics because they are polarizing and run the risk of alienating, even insulting, colleagues. Discussing them is always off-limits and inappropriate in the workplace.

Examine your own behaviour

As you go about your work day, pay attention to your interactions with others. Do you interrupt colleagues while they’re working or engaged in conversation with others? Do you discuss business matters with co-workers or do you bring up personal issues, about yourself and others? Do you complain about problems in the workplace but fail to offer any viable solutions?

Remember: It’s always easier to find fault with others than it is to see our own problems.

Pamela Eyring is the president and director of The Protocol School of Washington (PSOW) which provides professional business etiquette, image, and international protocol training. Founded in 1988, PSOW is the first and only school of its kind in the U.S. to become accredited.

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