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How to Turn an Obnoxious Officemate into a Cubicle Colleague

Considering today's average employee is spending more time at the office than at home it's inevitable that personalities will clash, fists will clench and even the slightest personality quirk will send fellow co-workers screaming behind closed doors.

Here's my three-step approach for coping with annoying co-workers:

1. Keep notes about when the annoying behavior takes place, and what happens (keep this information logged in a safe private place - never on a work computer or in your office). Can you detect any triggers that fuel the fire? See if you need to change anything about your own behavior, as that is essentially all you can truly control. Figure out how you can either look at the situation differently, or how you'd like to see the co-worker act differently.

2. If it's personal phone calls, odorous lunches or a gossiper you'd love to gag that are skyrocketing your stress, find creative ways to seek refuge away from the culprit. Is there an open cubicle or office nearby where you can play your 'I need some privacy' card? Are there ways you can stagger your schedule to avoid the daily migraines? Can you set up shop in a vacant conference room?

3. If you can't find a safe haven, approach your coworker directly and frame the situation in a way that focuses on your own feelings and distractions. Consider a calm approach such as, "I'm easily distracted by (insert annoying habit) and was hoping that we might be able to (offer suggestion)." You should have a suggestion or two prepared to offer as to how you'd like to see things resolved.

If that doesn't work, it's time to take it to the boss. Bosses like to know that coworkers have at least tried to work things out before you run to them. When you go to the boss, be sure to frame the issue in a way that shows how the coworker's behavior is having an adverse effect on getting the work done - the trigger for action on the boss's part. Again, be prepared to offer a few suggestions for resolving the matter.

Unfortunately annoying co-workers are a hidden reality from most job descriptions. Sometimes the best remedy is trading stories with a close friend (outside of the office) and finding humor and comfort in knowing you're not alone.

Robin Bond