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Fix the bad behavior, not the dud personality

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in Your Office Coach

Q: “Although I love my job, I hate coming to work because of one obnoxious, know-it-all co-worker. In this office, all the desks are in a big open room, so there is no escaping this guy.

“’Alan’ listens to our phone conversations and frequently interrupts with ‘corrections.’ He claims to have superior knowledge, yet he passes along sloppy work to the rest of us. We have to take Alan’s share of the calls, because he refuses to answer the phone unless our boss is around.

“We are all sick of Alan’s arrogant and bullying attitude. Several of us have talked with our manager individually, but he doesn’t seem to understand the problem. Since he never sees this behavior, he thinks Alan is great. What can we do?” Seething

A: Getting your boss’s attention will require a dramatic move, so present your case as a group. Avoid using words like “obnoxious” and “bully,” because that will only make you sound like squabbling schoolchildren. Instead, calmly describe how Alan’s actions are disrupting operations.

For example: “We wanted to make you aware that Alan’s behavior is starting to affect our productivity. His paperwork is often incomplete, he allows phones to go unanswered, and he frequently interrupts us when we’re taking important calls. We would like to see if you can help us solve this problem.”

Hopefully, this group intervention will spur your manager to act. But even if he wimps out, the rest of you should stop tolerating this insufferable jerk. You may lack the power to reprimand Alan, but you certainly have the power to set your own limits.

Start by informing Alan that he must stop interrupting your phone conversations. If he continues, simply turn your back and ignore him. When Alan gives you sloppy work, return it to him for correction. To distribute calls fairly, draft a phone rotation schedule for your boss’s approval.

Just remember that eliminating these intrusive behaviors will not turn Alan into a different person. So once he stops interfering with your work, you might as well stop fretting about his annoying personality.

People can be irritating for a variety of reasons. Here are a few unpleasant habits that create problems at work: The Top Twelve Unprofessional Behaviors.

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