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4 kinds of annoying workers and what to do about them

Praise something you like about them, share a specific action they did that does not work for you and enlist their help to achieve a shared goal

Working with other people can be great. I like collaborating with colleagues to achieve shared goals and our joint success has helped us get ahead in the organization.

I have also worked with people who made me feel annoyed. One piece of advice for my younger self would be to avoid employment at companies that reward people who you find annoying and seek out companies where such people have short tenures. To do that, you can listen closely to your gut as you are interviewing at a potential employer.

However, people are usually on their best behavior when they are trying to recruit you, so you are likely to have to deal with such annoying people. Here is what you should do about four kinds of annoying co-workers.

  1. Compliment-free riders.

Many of the courses I teach provide students with an opportunity to work on group projects. Every semester I sadly encounter a small number of free riders — people who do the least amount of work possible. Such free-riders hope to receive a good grade by taking advantage of conscientious team members who take on the duties they leave undone.

Sadly, many corporate teams also include free riders. The conscientious team members will no doubt become increasingly annoyed with the free riders — who pass on most of their work to interns or split off tiny pieces and ask their co-workers to help them this one time, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Rather than letting this annoyance spill out in public shaming of the free riders, conscientious team members should complement the free-rider — for one of the strengths they bring to the team — before citing a specific behavior — e.g., “I learned that Lisa the intern has been doing your weekly reports.”

Rather than calling their work unprofessional or initiating a public shouting match with the free rider, this approach can help you engage the free-rider into doing more to help the team.

  1. Develop longer-term plans with micro-managers.

Another type of annoying person is the micro-manager — someone who is so afraid that you will not do your job that they constantly badger you for updates on your progress. I am happy to say that I have no recollection of working with a micro-manager.

An analogous approach — avoid name-calling, praise the person, and propose a solution — can work with micro-managers. As the Journal wrote, you can tell the micro-manager that asking for an update every 20 minutes does not work. Then you can request agreement on a plan of action “of what our timeline for getting things done will be.”

For example, my consulting projects start with an engagement contract. Once my client agrees on the plan, I am free to work the plan without interference — as long as I provide updates on progress (or challenges).

  1. Ask bulldozers to promote the work of others.

Another annoying co-worker is the bulldozer — a person determined to shout down anyone who interrupts them — including going behind your back to the people above you in the organization to get their way, notes the Journal.

Rather than silently waiting for the bulldozer to finish, you should recognize that they crave attention more than the typical person and use that to help others who have good ideas but are less comfortable expressing them.

To that end, you should ask the bulldozer to step in if the quiet person gets interrupted in a meeting. As the Journal wrote, you can tell the bulldozer something along the lines of: “If anyone interrupts Jay, can you make sure he gets the floor back? And when he makes a point, can you call him out and make sure he gets credit for it?”

  1. Build a case against the kiss-up, kick-down co-worker.

Finally, there is the most annoying — and sadly, often most successful — kick-ass, kick-down (KAKD) co-worker “who the boss loves but who tortures you behind the scenes,” according to the Journal.

If you go to your boss with your complaints about the KAKD co-worker, you will be digging your own grave.

Instead, you should build a case against this person by finding allies outside of your immediate social network. Collect from such global allies objective evidence that this “kiss-up-kick-downer” has been exhibiting the same abusive behavior outside your “local” team. “The less social connections you have to these folks, the bigger the red flag, and the more motivated your boss will be to fix it,” wrote the Journal.

If you are fortunate enough to work in a company where you are generally satisfied with your colleagues, these tactics will help you minimize the annoyance you feel with these four kinds of co-workers.

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