This is Why You Should Tell Your Annoying Coworker They're Annoying

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April 21, 2024 at 7:46AM UTC

You spend hours with your colleagues at work — usually more time than you spend with folks at home. And when you’re so close with people, you’re just bound to find a few of them annoying sooner or later. But when someone’s behavior is really bothering you (or the people around you), is it ever worth it to bring it up?

According to an article in the Harvard Business Review by Carolyn Webb, it’s advantageous to tell an annoying coworker they’re annoying for two reasons. We’ve broken them down here so you don’t need to feel bad addressing that individual — in a respectful way, of course.

1. Letting your frustrations simmer reduces brain activity.

Research says that when we’re stressed about something, say our coworker’s constant distractions or irritating mistakes, we experience a “fight-flight-or-freeze” response. It’s our brain’s way of defending us against a potentially dangerous situation. During this response, our brain activity is impaired — and spending too much time in this state can cause lasting damage. 

According to Webb, trying to suppress emotion causes our brain to be even more defensive. So, pretending you’re fine won’t just impair your brain — it can hurt it by holding you in your anxiety response for long periods of time. That's no good. 

2. Negative moods are contagious. 

Recently, psychologists have found that negative moods can be transmitted between people — even if they aren’t talking to each other. Your coworkers are subconsciously experiencing your bad vibes, and your team’s productivity and happiness are probably worse off for it. Meanwhile, the annoying person you’re directing your frustration towards — even if you don’t mean to — will feel your negative emotions, too.

So, now you know that you need to chat with your coworker. Webb also breaks down how to address your coworkers. The key takeaways? Be respectful and collaborative, use lots of “I” statements and brainstorm how to fix the problem — don’t just complain and walk away. 

Want a more specific action plan for confronting your annoying coworker? Post your question in the FGB Community to get insights from women who have been there. Happy truth-telling! 

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