In my career in business, I’ve found that the people you work with make all the difference. If everyone works well together, you all feel a sense of job satisfaction. If some people on the team are irritating to you and others, the whole environment becomes toxic, killing your motivation and the productivity of the team. Everyone thinks this is a management or the other person’s problem.
Yet, as a business advisor, after investigating a few of these situations, I find that both sides see the situation differently. Thus you may be irritating or annoying other people without even realizing it. In any case, there are many things that you can do to minimize the impact on yourself, and on the productivity of your team, especially if you are not the manager:
- Limit interactions with problem people to smaller doses. Total avoidance doesn’t get the work done, but strategically timed short encounters may not exceed your patience. Be proactive in timing your visits close to a natural exit, such as just prior to a meeting. Keep your vibes positive and unemotional, and you may uncover a new team member.
- Adapt your approach to match the style of the other person. It’s all in the approach. Some people are invigorated by a confrontation style, while others consider it irritating. Some want to tell you all the details when you are just interested in the bottom line. As in any relationship, both sides have to be empathetic, or positive results don’t flow.
- Define and adhere to role and relationship boundaries. It’s easy to forget that all members of a team are peers, especially if you have been there longer, or an expert in your specialty. Treat all with respect, and remember that the manager has a different role. Find neutral time and ground to discuss boundaries that may have been crossed.
- Declare constraints on your meeting times before starting. Many irritating interactions are the result of rushed or perceived incomplete discussions. If you have other commitments pending, such as a meeting about to start, or phone call scheduled, these constraints need to be communicated early to avoid negative reactions.
- Be aware that body language speaks louder than you do. You can’t change the body language of others, but you can control your own. Present a posture of being open and supportive, speak unemotionally, and keep the dialog positive. Reports indicate that body language is fifty percent or more of every communication. Make yours work for you.
- Treat all team members comparably and consistently. If any team members don’t know what random action to expect from you on the next interaction, you are part of the problem rather than part of the solution. Productive relationships require some degree of predictability, and the ability to anticipate the needs and style of peers and management.
- Avoid being a complainer or commiserating with downers. Perennially negative people are always perceived as irritating by the rest of the team and management. Even worse, however, downers drag down both you and your colleagues. It’s up to you to be proactive about fixing relationships rather than complaining to others about them.
- Find a job or role, rather than a relationship, to motivate you. Highly annoying and ineffective people tend to look to others around them for motivation and direction, rather than accept that responsibility. An example is someone who essentially does nothing until someone tells them to. If you find the work you love, good people relationships will follow.
Your ability to work effectively with potentially annoying team members is a perfect indicator of your future ability to manage an organization, rise in your career, or build your own business as an entrepreneur. It’s not all that different than adapting to difficult non-work situations and relationships. Remember that you can’t change others, but you help them change themselves.