How to Deal with Your Idiot Co-workers

If you want to keep your data center running smoothly, you need to deal effectively with the many types of difficult co-workers.


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Posted February 2, 2007

Eric Spiegel

Eric Spiegel

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Did you realize it takes 25 minutes to regain your focus after an office interruption? And the typical office worker is interrupted every 11 minutes?

Well, these statistics must be true because I read them in an airline magazine. Okay, maybe not, but I still wish I was armed with this information when I worked with John. He was actually a pretty reliable co-worker. So much so that every day at 10 AM and 3 PM he would appear in my cubicle. No urgent work issue or scheduled meeting – just a chance to chat about sports, celebrities, what funky outfit our manager was wearing. You know, important things sure to improve productivity. Very reliable indeed.

We all have to deal with difficult co-workers at some point in our careers. For some of us this unfortunately is an all too frequent occurrence in our careers. I’m not classifying every difficult co-worker as an idiot. Some are just annoying. Others are just bored. But the fact is that they impact your productivity and could ultimately impact your job security.

There is nothing wrong with eccentric people who add spice to our work lives. I’m talking about people that directly affect your work results and may corrupt your work ethic.

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Here are some of the ways our coworkers interact with their teams and cause us to sigh when we see them coming down the hallway. I have also included my two cents on how to deal with them.

1) Time-Killers – This is how I would classify John. The Time-Killer randomly (or predictably) shows up in your office or traps you by the coffeemaker. They begin to ramble on about something, most likely not the least relevant to work. I’m not saying this is all bad. We need distractions to relieve our minds of work stress. But if these come at the wrong time or too frequently, that’s when we lose productivity.

If you are in the middle of a task, don’t be afraid to ask the person to leave or ask them to join you for lunch when they can have your full attention. I have heard of people removing extra chairs in their office or wearing their earpiece all day to reduce unwanted visits. Or you could be rude and just ignore them. (I’m kidding).

2. Procrastinators – This is the person who in college would wait until the night before a paper was due to start their outline. Some people are wired this way and it’s a hard habit to break. In a team environment, these Procrastinators cause much consternation as deadlines near. Team members frequently have to pitch in and work late to bring a project to close because the Procrastinator hasn’t delivered.

You can’t (and shouldn’t) do their work for them. First and foremost, focus on getting your tasks done. Frankly, management should be setting intermediate goals and holding them to it. If not, try dropping hints and nudge them to get started earlier. Offer to test their code or proof-read their document about halfway through the project. It may be more effective to make this offer at a team meeting to pressure them a bit.

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