How to Deal with Those Obnoxious Individuals You Come Across at Work

Offices are complex amalgamations of different personalities and, oftentimes, these personalities clash. There are undoubtedly people in every office that someone finds obnoxious. These conflicts are intensified because professionals typically spend more waking hours through the week with the people in their office than they do with their families at home. Obnoxious office workers fit well-known archetypes that constantly annoy or offend their officemates. We must first identify these obnoxious individuals and then learn how to best deal with them.

See also: 10 Signs of a Great Coworker

1. The Gossiper

“Did you hear about what happened between Bill in sales and Monica in accounting?” Our resident office gossips have asked all of us questions like this. The worst possible reaction to this question would be to smile eagerly and ask for details. Gossip serves no productive purpose in the workplace and it can only distract you from your job.

The proper response to the question above is to explain to the gossiper that you do not engage in office gossip and tell them that you are not interested in his or her story. The gossiper needs your interest to fuel their desire to spread mostly untrue rumors about others in the office. By firmly explaining that you’re not interested in gossip, you effectively eliminate the gossiper from your life.

2. The Noise Maker

Most people in modern offices sit in very close proximity to one another with only a thin cubicle wall separating them from their coworkers. These close quarters are why the noisemaker is one of the most obnoxious coworkers of all. They can use a variety of methods to annoy people: clicking pens, using speakerphone, listening to loud music, and speaking loudly on the phone during personal calls. Noise can serve as a serious distraction to many professionals and can destroy their focus and productivity.

There are several ways to deal with the noisemaker. One subtle option would be to hang signs labeling the area near his or her cubicle as a “Quiet Zone.” He or she may ignore this sign and then you must talk to the person directly. Before approaching the obnoxious coworker, make sure to examine your own habits to ensure that you are not being hypocritical. When you approach the culprit, do it discreetly, firmly, and with kindness. Do not act aggressive or demeaning.

3. The Loiterer

You may often wonder what the loiterer does to earn a paycheck. He or she is always in someone else’s cubicle or office. The loiterer rarely has a reason for lingering in your space. He or she usually just makes small talk while you are trying to make calls and finish reports. Loiterers are a major source of distraction in the office.

Some people may just bluntly tell the loiterer to “Get lost,” but it is always better to be more judicial when dealing with an obnoxious person in the office. Loiterers often travel in patterns, so it is easy to predict when they will be invading your space. When your hear them coming, place your jacket or purse in the extra chair in your cubicle and spread papers on any available seating space on your desk. If he or she doesn’t have anywhere to sit, they are unlikely to loiter for long.

4. The Drama Queen (or King)

Drama kings and queens can be found in every office, and they can ruin the mood in the workplace faster than any other obnoxious office archetype. He or she is the office worker that is constantly complaining about being sick, having the largest or most difficult client list, and they will try and one-up any story you tell with an exaggerated tale of woe. It is true that some people have bad luck, or are often stricken with maladies, but the drama king and queen use their misfortunes to be as obnoxious as possible.

Much like the gossiper, drama kings and queens need someone to listen to them with interest. They need a sympathetic ear. If they don’t have that, their whole purpose for complaining disappears. So, don’t give them one. When one of them starts into a long whiny story, excuse yourself from the room. Announce that you have to make a call or you’re up against a deadline. If you do happen to get cornered by one of them, act disinterested in their plight and they will go in search of a more concerned coworker.

5. The Bully

There are bullies in every area of life, and they can be especially obnoxious in the office. They will browbeat you and try to intimidate you in an attempt to establish superiority. The rise of email has led to a new form of passive aggressive bullying in which the bully will send you an exclamation point and capital letter-laden email describing how awful you are at your job. For additional intimidation, they may cc your boss in the message.          

Defending one’s self against a bully has never been a mystery. Bullies love to prey on the weak because it makes them feel better about themselves. The best way to defeat this obnoxious pest is to prove that you aren’t weak. If a bully verbally jabs you, remain calm and reply with a smart and witty retort. This will leave him or her speechless in most cases and they will move on to easier prey. If the bully attempts email intimidation, print the email and walk into his office with it in hand. Then lay it on his desk and calmly ask him to explain its purpose. The bully will not want to confront you face to face, and you have just removed another obnoxious enemy from your work life.

See also: How to Deal with Sarcastic Coworkers

As long as there are offices, there will always be obnoxious people inhabiting them. The good news is that most of them fit one of these five archetypes and they are easily dealt with. Use these strategies to become less distracted and more successful in your career.




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