All is going very well right now—the new office on the 8th floor provides a nice view of the lake and the park where many have lunch in the spring.  The open seating of the office with minimal separation will take some getting used to and for now, the firm is understaffed so one third of the desks are empty.

You are into week two in the new space and your mantra is:   “The work that I do is rewarding, I love my clients and I love this new office!”

HR sends the weekly newsletter and you read about the 10 new folks starting on Thursday and you wonder who might be your new office mate.  Thursday comes: “Oh goodness, this guy sitting next to me is major annoying!” You think to yourself. “How in the world will I be able to do my work every day???!!”

Frustrated Office Worker

Many of us will admit that at some point in our professional career, we sat in proximity of someone that was just plain annoying!! They talk too loud, wear too much perfume or too little deodorant, slurp their coffee OR are just plain lazy………………………….

In this blog we want to provide a process that may assist you in creating options for yourself when you are constantly annoyed by an office mate.  We will walk through the questions below and use Tom, our friend in the new office on the eighth floor, as the example.

In a sentence, paint the picture of what is going on for you, Tom. 

“As soon as Joe arrived and landed next to me, I noticed his annoying habit of slurping every single thing he drinks!! It makes me crazy and I can no longer use my speaker phone in fear that my clients will ask ‘what is that noise’?”

 In a sentence, paint the picture of what is going on for Joe from your perspective, Tom. 

“I don’t know. I guess he is totally unaware of his loud habit.   He is new and this is his first job out of grad school. I bet others went nuts too with the slurping. He drinks 8 glasses of water after his coffee in the morning and before his latte in the afternoon.”

What do you believe is a reasonable outcome, Tom?

“Maybe there are several outcomes: 

  • I can ask to move to a different desk, I will lose my view and then he will make someone else annoyed.
  • I can find a way to talk to Joe and explain the issue, maybe he will understand, let’s hope so.
  • I can talk to him and he may get angry and go to the boss.”

 What is your goal in this situation?

 “I want to be a team player, get my job done, enjoy the window and the view, and stop being annoyed with Joe”

Through the exercise above, Tom clarified a few key items for himself:

  1. He wants to do his job, be a team player and stop being annoyed.
  2. He identified several outcomes one of which is most promising as a positive solution.

A final step in the process is to have an open and honest conversation with Joe and explain the challenge that Tom is having.  Let’s get back to the guys.

“Good morning Joe! Do you have a minute before the phones start ringing?”

“Sure Tom, what is up? You have been pretty quiet this week, everything okay?”

“Joe, I have really good hearing and when I hear certain sounds, like slurping when people are drinking, I feel frustrated.  It would help me a lot if you could be a bit more careful when you are drinking.”

“Gosh Tom, I was not aware of my slurping, are you serious? I do not want to annoy anyone and I certainly will try and stop. Can you please tell me when I do it??? That would help me break the habit. “

“Absolutely, Joe, I would be glad to.  I am so glad we were able to talk about this, now we can move on and get to work. Thanks Joe!! “

Our example, although very basic, demonstrates what can happen if a minor/major annoyance is identified and discussed.  Conflict Transformation Associate’s belief in transforming conflict for positive change adds the final dimension – a minor/major annoyance can actually create a positive and rippling outcome.   Joe will be a quiet drinker now into eternity!! Think about how many people this will impact!