Dealing with colleagues who can send your stress levels soaring

There are ways to deal with those annoying colleagues who add to your work stress


You love your job. You love what you do. You even love those who sit around you at work.

But admit it, not every day is like being in a place just vacated a day earlier by Adam and his consort, is it? There are days when you want to look around to ensure no one is watching, take your hair in your hands and scream, “Urrrgh!”

Hate it or love it, the fact remains that stress is a part of being in any workplace. And unless you learn to deal with the things that cause you stress, they just might grow insidiously and wrap their tentacles around you till you feel cornered, squeezed and completely taken over. The tricks to coping with stress are simple.

But for a start, you need to locate the stress point. What is it that triggers off the tension in your shoulders? Or kickstarts that terrible migrane-like headache? The signs of stress often come disguised as simple but nagging pains. The first step is to know which of these seemingly mundane events could be your stressors. Find the trigger—is it a meeting with your boss? A colleague who tends to rub you the wrong way? Or a presentation or team huddle that is regularly held, but usually ends up unfruitful? Once you know the problem, it is easier to solve.

Here are a few common scenarios that are known to trigger stress levels, and ways to cope with them.

1. The Chatterbox

You have a neighbour who constantly chats with you. It breaks your concentration. Sometimes you get drawn into her rant; other times, you wonder how you can shut her out without being rude. Interruptions by a chronic chatterer can have you fall back on your deadlines, and that can stress you out. Being courteous to such people can be quite a mindbender too. It is best you break the vicious cycle. The easiest way is to request a change of seat and you can cite any other reason so as to not offend the chatterbox. Wearing ear plugs is another option. Even if you are not plugged in to your Dictaphone, computer or music player, it will deter conversation by implying you are listening to something else.

2. The Borrower

She loves taking a pencil, a pen, paper clips, the scissors, sometimes even your laptop! It is as annoying as your neighbour back home who keeps asking for an egg, a cup of sugar, a spoonful of salt. The borrower is always misplacing her own things and scrounging off others. If in your misplaced kindness you have let her help herself to your things early on in your unsuspecting relationship, chances are you have become her lucky dip. Because now, she will dip into your belongings whenever she wants! Sometimes even without your permission. Annoying? For sure! Stressful? Need not be…

Cope with her firmly. Tell her, her borrowing disturbs your momentum. Or just lock your things away. If she comes around asking, use those ear phones. They can help here too.

3. The senior who grabs your due

They lurk everywhere. Plaudit-starved execs who are in the position to make you do the dirty work and then grab the idea and the credit for it. Nothing builds as much stress as seeing your hard work or suggestions being attributed by the organisation to someone else. Especially if it gets him brownie points as well as the promotions you know are your due.

There are a few ways to cope with this. You could ask for a transfer, except that the grass may be browner on the other side. A more effective ploy is to hold a good idea quiet and speak up at a meeting where your boss is also present. However, some acting skill is required to make it seem like a sudden brainwave. Alternate this with placing a strategy or proposal when the project is at its nascent stage, preferably during a meeting so it is clear that you initiated it.

Your senior can take the credit for fleshing it out… and you will remain stress-free.

4. The timekeeper neighbour

You are 15 minutes late and he is staring at you with a look that bodes no good. Unlike you, who has to cope with trains, traffic and absentee maids, he sleeps under his office desk… how else can he be there on time every single day? It does not help that you explain that you leave no work pending for the morrow, his obsession with the clock is… well, obsessive. And the worst part is you know he is going to sneak on you to the boss.

One way to beat him at his game is to turn clock-watcher yourself. Make the super effort. Be there ahead of him every day for 10 days. That will take the wind out of his sails and perhaps he will find someone else to spy on. For longer term de-stressing, check with the boss about your infrequent late comings, and if he is not a clock-watching freak too, you should be fine!

5. The boss from Hell

This one is the toughest to deal with. There are bosses and bad bosses, but if you are stuck with a raging, foul-mouthed monster, then your stress is not going anywhere. The best way out is to avoid direct contact, keep out of his way, and not let him bully you into feeling as bad as he says you are. Of course, it goes without saying that you must leave no opening for him to take a swipe at you.

HR experts say there are many kinds of bullying bosses. Some shout, others insult, and yet another lot manipulates or preys on your emotions. It might help to realise and understand which tactic your boss from Hell uses, and get a handle on how to tackle him.

The last resort

If you happen to encounter a stressor that refuses to go away, perhaps it is best that you do. No boss and no job are worth tainting your good health and peace of mind!

This was first published in the January 2015 issue of Complete Wellbeing.

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