While positive co-workers can make even the worst office crisis seem much easier to handle, it takes no more than a single toxic colleague to turn your regular working hours into a waking nightmare. Sources of negativity at the workplace can take different forms, starting with an Oscar-worthy drama queen from the office nearby, a micromanaging boss sending you emails at 10 pm Friday night, to a Grump sitting right next to you, having their say on every move you make.
While numerous survival guides are written on how to best cope with co-workers you hate, as their main trait is being mean whenever the opportunity presents itself, impatient and grouchy coworkers are a completely different story – their annoying remarks are more likely the result of their lack of self-censorship and their unwillingness to mince words than the meanness of their spirit, so you can find them nice and lovable, but behavior very frustrating.
Below are some of the ways to try to deal with them, without quitting your job and giving up on your salary.
Understand Their Reasons
When your co-workers are giving you a hard time, behaving restlessly and anxiously, try to remember that they are, after all, only human. If possible, try to determine the reasons behind such behavior. Your grumpy colleague may be passing through some kind of personal crises or going through a rough patch in their personal life and their cross behavior may be a mechanism for masking their true feelings, while your boss may be rushing you to finish your report as soon as possible out of fear that your company’s latest project has been going downhill. You can try to disarm your moody co-workers with your kindness, by showing your concern and, if they are willing to talk about the issue, offering your support in overcoming challenges.
Establish Workplace Expectations
If a gloomy and nagging atmosphere seems to follow them around, and your productivity and efficiency at work seem to suffer, it’s time to change your approach. There is a fair chance you impulsive co-workers are not fully aware of how their behavior affects you and other colleagues, so confronting them in an assertive manner might give them a clue and be a win-win situation for both sides.
Don’t be surprised if, in the first place, they counter-accuse you for being aggressive, or become apologetic about their behavior, as this kind of upfront communication may catch them by surprise too. Hear them out but state your professional behavior expectations too, as the next time they’ll have a clear notion that such conduct is a big no-no.
Don’t Give Them Rewards
One of the worst things to do when your colleagues are being grumpy or impatient, and it’s affecting your mood and your workplace performance, is to give in. We all sometimes find it easier to do what’s expected by the intruder than to go on listening to their sullen remarks, or risk starting a conflict.
On the other hand, those co-workers are going to feel as if your rewarding them for such behavior and that it’s fully acceptable for them to make such demands.
Some people just don’t want or can’t change their behavior, no matter what you do or say. Still, you don’t want their behavior to have power over your work performance and your attitude, so you’re the one who needs to be in control. You won’t take your power back if you’re obsessing about someone else’s behavior or future reactions, as well as overthinking every possible situation and the outcome. Think of yourself as responsible for your behavior only, and make sure to stick to professional standards on your part. If this means taking your feelings out of the equation and having a strictly formal relationship, it’s the price you can and should pay for your own peace of mind at work.
Make Your Distance
Still, no one can hold their horses for good, and it’s much easier in a toxic surrounding when there is a physical barrier between you and the person that has been driving you crazy. Look for an opportunity to change your desk if you’re sitting close, or even the office if possible. Until this happens, there are many other ways to make yourself unavailable for criticism or a hasty remark. Wearing headphones while working should be a clear sign you’re busy or that you shouldn’t be disturbed. Prevent your grumpy co-worker from bothering you during the lunch hour by talking a walk to a nearby eatery or any other place you know they won’t be present.
File a Complaint
If the situation gets out of control and you’re having a problem handling this issue, or your co-worker’s behavior heads for the worse, you’ll have to address the issue directly with the management and file a formal complaint. Be very professional when it comes to which boundaries your co-worker crossed, and try to provide your manager or HR with clear and concise details about the incidents, how they’re influencing your job and your performance, and impacting your work environment. Employers don’t want their workplace to go toxic any more than you do, and some organizational changes are going to follow. Get ready for a backlash as soon as the word is out, but expect to find some allies too.
Hopefully, your issue will be solved then and there, and after a few days, things will be back to their usual ways, with an occasional grumble. If no progress has been made and you’re feeling stuck with annoying co-workers, look for another job opportunity, and leave. Just don’t be surprised if there is another Grumpy waiting around the corner.