November 13, 2013

How to Deal with Workplace Annoyances

young businessman with head under copy machineThe workplace is renowned as a venue for any number of annoyancesoverly chatty coworkers, refrigerator bandits, endless meetings. Here are a few ways to handle several common workplace issues to make your work environment better.

First up, workplace food thieves. It’s always great to have an office kitchen so you don’t have to spend the time and money going out to eat every day, but it seems any time there are items in unclaimed territory (e.g. the fridge), there is someone who will take advantage and steal the goods. An easy solution to this menace is to punish the offender(s) by making their thievery more difficult. For example, you could keep all of the components of your lunch, such as condiments and other ingredients, separate until lunch time. That way the thief may be deterred from stealing your meal since he or she would have to take the time to put everything together first. There are also so-called “anti-theft” lunch bags that fool would-be thieves by making your food appear moldy at first glance.

Next, consider your friendly neighborhood ‘cubicle hoverer.’ You know the one. It’s the person who arrives with an otherwise innocuous question only to hang around your desk for no reason after the question has been answered. Even worse, they may even stand around simply to watch you while you work. If you are unable to tell the coworker to back off, try some subtle cues to signal that it is time for the person to leave. Ask the hoverer to help you with your workload, shift the conversation to topics they dislike or know little about, or try to be as boring as possible. If worse comes to worst, make your cubicle uninviting by obscuring line of sight or covering up extra chairs, or directly tell your coworker that you have work you have to do.

It’s difficult to think of a reason for anyone to actually like meetings, especially when they drag on and become an impromptu social gathering for a few of the attendees. Sometimes a coworker will insist on everything being explained in the finest detail since he or she was not paying attention the first time around. Or a meeting can become sidetracked thanks to off-topic comments or banter. Whatever the cause, meetings can end up as huge time sucks that sap productivity out of your day. But, unless you are leading the meeting, you don’t get to create the rules. If you are running the meeting yourself, consider setting mandatory time limits (as low as 10 minutes per meeting) to speed things along. If you aren’t, make some suggestions to your boss such as implementing standing meetings, or banning distracting devices, such as phones and tablets, from meetings.

There are a myriad potential annoyances at work but they don’t have to be constant sources of stress. The best way to approach situations like the ones above is to keep calm and work to try to make your workplace better for everyone.


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Joshua Bjerke, from Savannah, Georgia, focuses on articles involving the labor force, economy, and HR topics including new technology and workplace news. Joshua has a B.A. in Political Science with a Minor in International Studies and is currently pursuing his M.A. in International Security.