How Do I Address an Inconsiderate Co-worker?
Ever wondered what to do about the annoying guy in the next cubicle? Luci helps one reader figure it out.
I have a problem with one of my coworkers and I do not know how to handle it. He comes in late everyday, yells over the cubicles and leaves Chinese food in the refrigerator for weeks at a time. Last week he asked if I had a stamp for him to borrow, then he took the entire book. I want to say something to him, but I don’t want to ruffle any feathers. What can I do to make this guy more considerate of others?
Bullied in Bristol
It sounds like you have some resentment towards your colleague, and resentment often leads to anger.
Many cognitive behaviorists say there is a simple solution to the problems that anger us. The theory is that when a particular event occurs, the reaction we have depends on how we think about the event.
In your case, you may think he "should" be on time, he "should" speak in a lower tone and he "should" throw his food away. Albert Ellis called this “getting should on.” In other words, you are forcing your beliefs on another person and when they don’t follow your rules you get angry. But who says he has to live just like you?
Try this perspective on for size: Does your colleague’s behavior really affect you?
If so, speak up. Respectfully explain to him that deadlines are not being met, that the refrigerator’s odor is permeating through the breakroom and that it is a bit difficult for you to concentrate when the office is noisy. Ask him if he still has the book of stamps that you lent him last week. Chances are, if he’s like the rest of us, he will return them. If you speak to him in a professional manner, he will most likely respond accordingly.
If the thought of direct confrontation has you a bit unnerved, you could try adding a little humor. Say something like, “Hey Doug, what do you say we take bets on how long it takes your lo mein to walk back to the cafeteria.” Humor often serves to soften the blow while still getting your point across.
However, if you come to realize that, despite all of these annoyances, he is still doing his job and its not affecting yours, it is simply time to move on. Brooding over it will only give you indigestion while he’s eating his General Tso's in peace.