Most of us have at least one coworker we can’t stand. Maybe it’s because they chew loudly. Perhaps it’s because they bully the innocent. Whatever the reason, it can be difficult to work alongside someone who you find annoying, unprofessional, or just plain rude.
Luckily, there are ways to tackle the many varieties of obnoxious people. It just takes patience, tact and the ability to see the big picture. With that in mind, here are 16 types of coworkers you absolutely can’t stand — and how to deal with each of them.
Lynn Taylor is a recognised workplace expert and the author of Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant: How to Manage Childish Boss Behaviour and Thrive in Your Job. In no particular order, here are 15 office worker “types” that Taylor identifies as the most infuriating, along with tips on how to handle them.
Office and personal phone calls – especially with significant others – music, and repetitive noises can easily drive anyone nuts.
“Consider approaching the noise offender privately, using as much diplomacy as you can muster,” says Taylor. “You also have several defensive moves: wearing headsets; putting up a ‘quiet zone’ sign as needed; and remember to take breaks. (And make sure you assess your own chatter meter before you approach others.)”
“Some workers love being known as the office gossip, as it is a warped view of “information is power,” says Taylor. “Politely excuse yourself from the rumour mill, explaining you have work to do. If you’re captive, give neutral responses, like, “I try not to get involved with that stuff.”
#3 Chompers, slurpers, and coughers
The list doesn’t stop there.
“There are sneezers, throat clearers, and much more,” says Taylor. “Talk to your fellow worker in private.”
Try asking if they feel all right — which is a nice gesture, but also a way to let them know that you notice the annoying sounds they’re projecting.
#4 Phone abusers
Endless phone chattering, ring-tone lovers, and speakerphone users all add up to a lot of distraction. Consider just being honest and let them know that it’s hard for you to focus with all of that noise.
“Or you can put up a ‘quiet zone’ placard when the decibel exceeds the bell curve of human tolerance,” says Taylor. “Headsets and short walks can also work wonders.”
#5 Repetitive noise makers
“One way to drive yourself to distraction is to get caught up in the ever-growing beat of pen clickers from aspiring percussionists; foot tappers; drawer slammers; and techno-notification zealots,” she says. “Use diplomacy and be direct — and make sure you’ve examined any of your own habits before you approach the offender.”
#6 Wannabe singers
“Singing, humming, and whistling can drive anyone to fantasize about crawling into your credenza”,” says Taylor. “Avoid the temptation to out-blast them or threaten to post their vocal murmurs on YouTube. Instead, tell them it bothers you. You can try humour with something like, “I know things can get humdrum, and I always have a tune in my head. But, lately I can’t get ‘Happy’ out of my head. I like that song too, but…”
#7 Drama kings and queens
Every office occurrence is a disaster — a screenplay ready to be written.
“They will likely want to drag you into the latest catastrophe, but beyond speaking rational, common sense to them, you’re best served to bide time by explaining your need to meet a deadline or make a call,” Taylor says. “You can always excuse yourself and or make an exit for the break room.”
#8 Constant swearers
You start to cringe after every bad phone call or email that happens to your colleague, because you know the ‘F bombs’ are on their way.
“Diplomatically let your office neighbour know that you realise things can be really stressful, but the distraction can make things worse,” Taylor suggests.
#9 Bad-food offenders
“Some foods, like fish or garlic, can feel like they’re disrupting your olfactory system,” Taylor explains. “Remember that cultural differences can account for different cuisine, eating habits, dress codes, and more. But when it’s nearly impossible to get work done, it’s time to speak up.”
These are the people who do just enough to get by. They lack regard for deadlines, have very little motivation, and put minimal effort into their work.
The worst part is that working with a lazy colleague can make your life more difficult, especially if you are teamed up with this person on a project or work directly with them on a regular basis.
Invite this person out to lunch and ask if they truly enjoy their job. Try to get to the bottom of things.
Without insulting him or her, mention that you’ve noticed a lack of enthusiasm. Explain how them not meeting deadlines or completing all their tasks affects you and others in the office.
If nothing changes, talk to their manager.
Do you constantly catch your coworker staring at you? Do they make inappropriate comments about your looks, or constantly send you sexually explicit jokes?
Not only will this make you feel uncomfortable, but it can also get pretty annoying.
Remember, what they are doing might be considered sexual harassment — so it may be a good idea to talk to HR.
#12 Mess mongers
These colleagues seem oblivious to the fact that their jackets are nearly encasing your elbow or boots are a hallway hazard. You can always try a more subtle approach first: “Oops, I almost tripped on your shoes!” Or, “I don’t want to spill anything on your jacket.”
If that doesn’t work, you’ll likely have to go the more direct route.
#13 Smelly coworkers
Bad breath or hygiene around you can make you dream of arriving to work in a gas mask.
“This is highly sensitive, and may warrant being listed in a memo or mentioned in a group meeting about respectful work habits,” Taylor says. “See if HR will help.”
You can always politely offer your colleague a mint or piece of gum. Maybe they will get the hint.
“Bossy coworkers are as common as the office water cooler. Don’t engage them, say you’re busy with tact, and don’t bully back,” says Taylor. “If things become untenable, consider addressing the matter with your boss or HR.”
“Whiners can make you feel as if you’re travelling into a famous country western song about love or projects lost,” says Taylor. “But that shouldn’t impact your determination in setting boundaries.”
Negative reinforcement can come in many forms. Starting with the positive approach, try: “Well, look at the bright side. XYZ could happen.” It’s not your job to uplift your fellow workers, but if the dynamic is out of hand, you might have to be more direct about your need to stay upbeat.
This story originally appeared on Business Insider.