There is the guy with the bad breath. The woman who is so negative she makes Debbie Downer look like an optimist. Or what about the motor mouth who won't shut up?
Yes, these are challenging things to deal with at work. But the important thing to remember is that these aren't bad people. These are people who do things you don't like.
One approach is just to sit and suffer in silence. Or, you gossip about the person via email with your colleagues at work. "Can you believe John? He hasn't stopped talking about his kids and his weekend since he got to work four hours ago! I'm going crazy!!" you write to your co-workers.
But what does this solve? At best, maybe you vent a bit so that you can focus on work. Still, it doesn't solve the issue and and only means it will continue to drive you crazy -- and possibly lead you to say something unkind and unprofessional to the person who is annoying. At worst, it makes you immature and a gossip.
Think about it this way: If you had bad breath, or others avoided you because you were so negative -- wouldn't you want to know about it? Wouldn't you want to try and correct any problem so that others wanted to include you on big projects or you were seen as someone others appreciated?
So, let's look at some common problems and how to deal with them:
- Body odor or bad breath. When someone smells, colleagues often avoid working with the person. But what if you must work closely with this team member? Then it's time to address the issue in private. You can say something like, "Rob, this is difficult to bring up, but I know if it were me I would want to know. Your breath smells bad and I'm not sure you're aware of it. I hope you know that I'm bringing this up out of concern for you." While the person may be embarrassed, be supportive if the person brings up a possible medical problem causing the bad breath. "Yes, I'm sure your doctor or dentist can help you. I just want you to know it was not easy for me to bring up, but I would want someone to tell me if there was a problem I wasn't aware of."
- Negativity. Despite your efforts to stay positive, there is one team member who seems to take a negative view of whatever is being discussed. It doesn't matter if it's the weather or a new project, this colleague complains endlessly. Now, you're just sick of it and don't want to hear any more whining, so you decide to talk to the colleague. "Karen, it seems no matter what I'm talking about, you take such a negative viewpoint. I think you're a really smart and valuable co-worker and I know you want things to change, but such negativity doesn't help anything. I also want things to get better, but I need to stay positive. Can we just try and look at the bright side of things?"
- Motormouth. Open office plans are being touted as a great way to improve collaboration, but ask anyone who has to labor in such an environment and they will say the constant noise drives them batty. Especially the incessant -- and often loud -- talker who doesn't seem to have an "off" switch. You can try beginning the discussion by saying something like, "Taylor, I'm finding it difficult to concentrate on my work. I'm not sure you realize how much you talk about private matters-- or how loudly. I know you're not doing this on purpose, and I really value our work conversations. Perhaps you could hold your personal conversations in our private spaces or lower your voice a bit? I don't want to hurt your feelings, and value you as a team member."
Remember, no one is perfect, so be prepared to get a response such as "Oh, yeah? Well I'm tired of your constant emails! No one wants to get all those messages from you!"
In all these cases, make sure you listen carefully and show respect for what the person has to say. As long as you don't fire back with angry responses, the conversation can be productive for all those involved.