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Working in an office environment means irritating coworkers are sure to be present.   These employees many times pose challenges, making it difficult to remain focused on your work .

Distractions are commonplace in the workplace and we can all relate. There’s the person with the hacking cough that continues throughout the day; the colleague whose perfume or cologne is so strong you can smell it over the wall in your cubicle; or the coworker who decides to reheat last night’s fish leftovers in the microwave, which is close to your desk.

An article I recently read discusses the results of several surveys that address workplace distractions which drive co-workers crazy.

Let’s face it, some of our coworkers have certain habits which will require our tolerance. There are times however when these distractions need to be addressed and it can be a slippery slope.

As an HR professional who has listened to his share of irritating coworker complaints, I can tell you that there is no standard rule on what to do. There are situations in which a conversation with the irritating coworker may be the best way to mitigate the problem.

If a person is playing their music too loud, a non-confrontational “conversation” with your colleague may do the trick.

Perhaps you can place a sign above a microwave asking that people be “mindful of what they are cooking/reheating as the emanating odors may be a distraction to co-workers”.

Other matters may not be as easy to address and perhaps require the intervention of Human Resources.  Sensitive issues like bad breath or body odor may be due to a medical condition. Tapping of fingers on a desk may be an uncontrollable condition best not addressed by a co-worker.

At the end of the day, employers want their workplaces to be free of as many distractions as possible, as an unfocused workforce is an unproductive one.

Should you encounter a situation at work regarding an irritating coworker which you cannot tolerate, consider speaking with human resources. The last thing you want to do is to make a situation worse by saying or doing something you may later regret.

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