So you have a co-worker who persistently taps his (her) pen on the table, or one who constantly interrupts you when you’re working, or who begins every sentence with “so,” or who’s workspace is a disaster, or who always asks unnecessary questions in meetings, or, or, or….

What do you do with a co-worker with annoying mannerisms? Do you just come right out and tell him how annoying he is? Do you slap him upside the back of his head? Or do you sit quietly at your desk and slowly go crazy? It’s a tough situation.

The first thing you need to do is ask yourself whether the offending mannerism is something that is really affecting your work (like constantly interrupting you), or just a personal pet peeve (like playing with her hair). If it’s something fairly significant, a friendly but serious approach is the best. Ask for his understanding as a colleague, and point out the effect he is having. For example, “John, Can I get you to do me a favour? The next time you have a question, could you wait until I’m off the telephone? A couple of times it’s really put me in an awkward position.” Don’t scold him for his past performance, just ask for his cooperation in the future. You’ll be surprised at how positively most people will respond.

If it’s just an idiosyncrasy that’s getting under your skin, it’s still important to address it, but the best approach is a casual, light-hearted one. For example, if your co-worker has a habit of tapping a pen on the table, you could say, “So Bob – you trying out for the position of the Rolling Stone’s new drummer?” Say it with a smile, and your point will be made without offending anyone.

Whatever you do, don’t voice your irritation about this person to your other coworkers. This will just make you come across as petty and a poor team player. And as a final note, if you find that there are a lot of coworkers doing a lot of things that annoy you, well… maybe the problem isn’t them…

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