Let’s be honest. Even if we like our jobs and we like the majority of our co-workers, we all have at least one person we have to be in contact with at work that we would rather do without.
If we are lucky, that person is external, rather than internal — clients, customers, other business people from other organizations, etc. We don’t have to see them on a regular basis and we can grit our teeth and get through it when we need to.
When the person is internal, though, we are in a different position. We may try to grit our teeth and get through it, but the constant gritting of teeth can lead to jaw pain or even a cracked molar. Moreover, our body is constantly triggered into fight, flight or freeze. Over time, we become a little extra sensitive or hyper-vigilant to the other person’s behaviors which annoy us.
We may find ourselves actually looking for that little bit that annoys us most just to prove to ourselves that yes, that person still is incredibly annoying and justify our dislike of that person.
We may find ourselves avoiding that person and praying that person avoids us as well (then perhaps noting that they did and feeling left out).
We may find ourselves making snarky comments about the person to other people and/or to the person directly. Even if we are able to keep from making a snarky comment with our out loud voice, we may still be thinking plenty of snarky comments and our facial expressions may give us away.
So, what can we do about this annoying person?
I know that you want to have a magic wand that will make the other person less annoying. You don’t have that level of control over the other person. You do have that level of control over you, though.
Take some time to answer the following questions for yourself: What is it that you find annoying about the other person? What behaviors of theirs are particularly challenging for you? Why are they triggering for you? Should you even be around this other person? What can you do to be less triggered in this situation (if anything)?
When you process what is annoying you and why you are triggered, you are able to move from responding only emotionally to analyzing the problem intellectually. You may find some parts of yourself that you didn’t realize existed and might not even like very much. You may find that if you make a list of the positive attributes of the person and remind yourself of those attributes when you are triggered, you are better able to see the good in the other person and be less triggered.
- Do you have the ability to fire the person? If so, that is an option. You could instead a. try to work it out with that person, b. find a way to move past it yourself, c. build in small, measurable goals for that person that have to do with changing the behaviors that are most annoying to you (and see if that person can meet those goals). If not, then….
- Does the other person have the ability to fire you? If so, you can a. try to work it out with that person, b. try complaining to a person above that person (if any), c. find a way to move past it yourself, or d. look for another job (before that person fires you). If not, then….
- Are you on equal footing with the other person? If so, then you can a. try to work it out with that person, b. try complaining to a person above that person, c. find a way to move past it yourself, or d. look for another job (before you crack a molar from gritting your teeth).
Please note, however, that sometimes we are triggered by people who may actually be dangerous to us, whether emotionally, physically or sexually. While most conflicts result from good people with different ideas as to how the world works, there are also conflicts that result from one or more people behaving in a toxic manner. If you are in that situation, your choices are limited. It is unlikely that you will be able to work through the conflict with this person. You may find a way to move past it yourself. You may find that you don’t feel emotionally and/or sexually and/or physically safe in the workplace as a whole or around this person in particular. If you are in that position and your complaints to upper management have been for naught (or there is no upper management to whom to complain), then your options are 1. stay and be miserable or 2. leave. There is no third option.