There are any number of things that can make a coworker particularly annoying, from the mildest behavior that just happens to rub you the wrong way, to outright criminal acts. The best response to an annoying coworker will vary greatly, depending on the precise behavior and the total circumstances. But here are a few points to consider:
1. It takes two to tango.
A person can’t bother you if you don’t allow yourself to be bothered. In some cases-not always-it is both possible and justified for you to change your attitude toward a coworker’s behavior rather than trying to change their behavior. You don’t have to learn to like the coworker and their behavior (though it’s certainly not unheard of that something we find annoying initially seems endearing later), but perhaps you can be more tolerant and just ignore the annoyance.
It takes all kinds to make a world, and a lot of those kinds are annoying. Accept that fact, and life becomes a bit easier.
2. Why deal with something at all when you can avoid it?
Insofar as you determine your schedule, where your desk is located, with whom you go to lunch, etc., you may be able to reduce or eliminate your contact with the offending individual entirely. In rare cases it might even be advisable to change jobs entirely. The whole thing becomes a non-issue if you’re not around the bothersome person to be annoyed.
3. Go to the source.
Sometimes the best thing to do is to confront the person directly. You don’t have to be rude or antagonistic about it, but just tell them what they’re doing that’s bothering you. They may or may not respond as you’d like, but at least this way you’re showing the person enough respect to give them an opportunity to do so.
4. Or, maybe go to the source a little more indirectly.
There are some things that you’re not going to feel comfortable talking to a person about to their face. What if it’s a matter of personal hygiene, for instance? Or perhaps it’s something that you’re concerned they might even retaliate if you confront them about it?
There are a couple of ways to proceed here. One is to work through other people. Tell someone who’s better positioned to talk to the person, maybe a mutual friend. The other is some form of anonymous note.
5. Learn to say no.
Sometimes you give in to a person in little ways to placate them, and that just encourages their annoying behavior. If a coworker is always trying to get you to help them when you have your own work to do, or always looking to borrow a few dollars from you, it may be because you’re a soft touch and you’re letting them get away with it. But if you consistently turn them down, they’ll likely leave you alone and find someone more promising to bother.
6. Report more serious behavior.
There is some coworker behavior that crosses the line from annoying to something more serious. If you have a coworker who is stalking you, sexually harassing you, stealing from the company in a way that puts you in jeopardy of being taken down with him, etc., you are within your rights to bring the situation to the attention of your employer or some other relevant authority.
Annoyances are a part of work life. What you have to do is decide which can be tolerated, and which have to be dealt with. You don’t want to be too thin-skinned and let everything get to you, but on the other hand there’s no reason you should have to suffer because of someone else’s inappropriate behavior.