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Dubai: You might see this in your news feeds on Wednesday, October 23 - it’s ‘National Slap Your Annoying Coworker Day’.

But don’t just go around slapping colleagues here in the UAE. It might earn you a memo, dismissal, fine or even land you in jail.

This ‘celebration’ is listed by National Today, a US-based PR company and aggregator of national holidays — official and quirky alike — from ‘International Hummus Day’ to ‘Mothers’ Day’ and ‘National Tell a Joke Day’.

Though this ‘holiday’ is manufactured, for it to earn a day in the calendar and get reposts means it is an issue in workplaces. But there are other ways to deal with annoying co-workers, career coaches have advised.

The first, though, is to determine what ‘annoying’ means because such behaviour is subjective, said Zeta Yarwood, Career Coach and Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) Life Coach.

“What’s annoying for one person might not be annoying for another,” Yarwood told Gulf News. “Annoying normally means we’re interpreting a person’s behaviour in such a way that challenges our rules and expectations around how people ‘should’ behave,” she said, adding this should not be the case.

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Zeta Yarwood

“For example, one person might interpret their bosses’ directive way of talking as efficient. Another person might interpret it as dictatorial and then label it annoying,” Yarwood said.

Regardless of the definition, society often has a consensus on what can be irritating to many. Emeline Roissetter, Professional coach and founder of Momentum Coaching and consulting, said this is normal because no one can please everyone.

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Emeline Roissetter

“One thing for sure, we are bound to work with very annoying people, regardless of the company or the country. A workplace is a mix of different cultures, educations, belief systems, work ethics, age groups and seniority levels, and it is almost impossible to like or to be liked by everyone,” Roissetter told Gulf News.

“Between the one who seems to know it all, the one who is always gossiping, the one who seems to take credit for your work, the one who is too loud, too confrontational or too negative, the office space is never short of annoying personalities,” she added.

The reality is, it is possible that no one is intentionally or knowingly being annoying, said Salma El Shurafa, founder of The Pathway Project, an executive coaching and leadership development company.

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Salma El Shurafa

So providing effective feedback to the person will help your relationship with your colleague. But you must first identify the behaviour that is bothering you by pausing, stepping back and reflecting to understand what is triggering you.

What about office bullies?

These people, however, cannot be mixed up with office bullies, El Shurafa clarified.

“An office bully is someone who pollutes your workplace by contributing to, and/or creating, a hostile work environment. This can be created by using abusive conduct like, intimidation, verbal mockery, threatening, humiliation and relentless criticism,” she said.

If it is happening to you, El Shurafa said, it is definitely happening to someone else. So it is best to report to your HR and they should take the matter seriously and fairly. All offices should have a zero tolerance policy towards bullying and proper action should be taken after investigation.

“Speak up because your voice is important. You should be treated with kindness and respect – stand up for yourself. It’s never going to stop or change unless someone knows about it,” El Shurafa said.


Burnout, depression

Overall, these behaviours should be addressed as they can affect the productivity and well-being of the team.

“Annoying co-workers and office bullies can have disastrous effects on both employees and business performance. The more time you spend on dealing with difficult people, the less time you have to meet or outperform your objectives. Even more damaging, the fear created by office bullies can affect employee confidence which in turn will affect creativity, ownership and performance,” Roissetter said.

“In some cases, this can even lead to burnout and depression. Unfortunately, the effects of such toxic behaviours tend to spread throughout the organisation and beyond (through suppliers, partners and clients.)”

So since slapping a coworker is of course out of the question, what then?

Here are 10 ways to build solid relationships with colleagues to avoid getting annoyed or annoying others as advised by professional career coaches Yarwood, El Shurafa, and Roissetter.

1. Don’t react, respond.

It is crucial to avoid reacting to the situation but actually responding to it, which means addressing it in a composed manner so the issue doesn’t escalate. Keep it professional and stick to the facts. Take a deep breath, stay calm and ask yourself what would be the best way to respond to the situation. Don’t reply to annoying emails while you are irritated and emotional, and don’t hesitate to ask for more details or information if you need time to gather your thoughts and your nerves. Take a positive and a forgiving approach. At the end of the day, we are all just human.

2. Resolve the issue and don’t spread it.

It becomes damaging when people do nothing but gossip and complain about annoying behaviour. Instead of supporting each other to find ways to stop being annoyed by someone’s behaviour, they simply focus on the negatives. Negativity breeds negativity. And negativity breeds demotivation which ultimately impacts the well-being and productivity of the team.

3. Set and manage your boundaries.

Although some work relationships can turn into great friendships, the focus is on building productive work relationships. Therefore, it is crucial to set clear boundaries that will encourage professionalism, respect and business performance.

4. Get to know your colleagues.

Take the time to get to know your colleagues on a personal level. By showing a genuine interest in our colleagues, in who they are and what they do — inside and outside of work — we are helping them to feel seen and heard. This recognition is a great door opener to building long-lasting solid relationships.

5. Say thank you and acknowledge other people’s successes.

As humans, we want to feel like a valuable member of our communities, including our workplace community. We want to know what we do matters and is valued. By genuinely expressing gratitude and appreciation when people help us or do something good for the community or by congratulating colleagues on a personal success, we help people feel good. And people naturally want to build relationships with people who make them feel good.

6. Go out of your way to help others, and treat everyone with respect.

Your title is just a title. It does not make you more or less of a human being than the next person. Be respectful to everyone regardless of their designation. And offer to help where you can.

7. Keep communication lines open.

Open and honest communication is critical in any relationship. People want to experience authenticity. This is an ingredient for building trust in the workplace. Your verbal and non-verbal communication matter. Stay calm, professional, respectful and positive. Communicate your working style, your ideas, your achievements, your questions, your concerns, your feedback and your boundaries.

8. Listen!

People want to be listened to. Give people your undivided attention.

Great communication skills will create trust, and that is the foundation for solid relationships.

9. Develop your emotional intelligence.

This develops your ability to recognise your own emotions and understand them and consequently helps you understand the emotions and needs of others. EI builds your empathy.

10. Always relate the problem to business.

As difficult as this may sound, don’t take those annoying behaviours personally and don’t let them get to you. You are not at your workplace to make friends with everyone, you are there to work and achieve organisational goals. Make sure to bring everything back to business and remain professional at all times.