How to Deal with a Disruptive Colleague

When working in an office environment, you’re exposed to a number of different personality types, some of which you’ve never encountered before, and not all of which are going to be easy to work with. The Houston recruiters at Murray Resources have put together a list of the best ways to deal with disruptive personality types commonly found around the office.

1. The Terrible Phone Talker

This person is always on the phone, and not solely for business-related matters. Not only does it sound like they are yelling every time they’re on a call, but also their personal conversations are distracting you from concentrating on your tasks at hand. Here’s how to handle the situation:

  • Politely ask your neighbor to speak more quietly when they are on the phone because it disrupts your workflow. Also, suggest that they might want to make their personal calls in a more private area, as the workstations aren’t sound-proof and they probably don’t want all of their colleagues knowing the intimate details of their personal affairs.
  • If their behavior persists, you can ask your supervisor to move either the Talker or you to another workspace, citing an inability to focus and hindered productivity as problems stemming from your current location.


2. The Imprudent Inspector

You and your colleagues spend most of your waking hours at work, so it’s nice to know a little bit about each others’ interests and lives outside of the office. Sometimes, however, you encounter a colleague who consistently takes the “we’re all friends here” mentality a little too far. They constantly cross the line and ask intrusive personal questions. It’s important to nip this behavior in the bud to ensure your time at work is spent in a pleasant, productive atmosphere, not dreading personal invasions of privacy. Some solutions:

  • The Imprudent Inspector often isn’t intentionally trying to make people uncomfortable with their intrusive inquiries. They usually just don’t understand the boundaries of socially acceptable conversation. Be direct when they broach an inappropriate topic by saying something like, “I really don’t think that’s an appropriate subject to discuss at work,” or “I don’t feel comfortable sharing that information from my personal life.”
  • If the behavior persists, talk to someone in your company’s HR department about some office sensitivity training. A refresher course on appropriate and inappropriate office banter can help him or her be more cognizant of and deliberate with the kinds of conversation they create.


3. The Desktop Drummer

This person is a close relative of the Toe Tapper, Squeaky Chair Spinner, and Gum Smacker. All of these nervous habits are usually ones that someone performs unconsciously, but are nonetheless still distracting to the people around them. Our Houston recruiters recommend using these two tactful methods to approach the subject:

  • Approach your co-worker amicably by asking if they’ve been under a lot of stress recently; you’ve noticed that they seem to be fidgeting a lot. If so, see if there’s anyway you can help them out.
  • If that doesn’t help, politely suggest that they express the habit in a way that doesn’t prove distracting to those around them. If they drum their pen on the desk, ask that they do it on a surface that will mute the sound (i.e. their leg or a mousepad). If they tap their foot, suggest they cross their legs and do it mid-air instead of on the floor.

The Houston recruiters at Murray Resources recommend that it’s best to approach a disruptive colleague directly, and remain polite but firm when voicing your grievances. Alerting HR of more personal issues is always a good idea as well, as they have been trained to handle these kinds of situations and can do so in a way that doesn’t affect your relationship with an otherwise agreeable co-worker. If the distracting behavior persists after you’ve exhausted these aforementioned avenues, only then should you consider speaking with your supervisor about the problem. We do maintain however that enlisting a supervisor’s interference should be a last resort. By using these tactful techniques to approach a disruptive personality in the workplace, you can ensure that you and your colleagues are able to produce your best quality work in a pleasant, conflict-free environment.

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