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  • Writer's picturePeter Yawitz

How do I deal with an annoying coworker?

Dear Someone Else’s Dad,

I work on a pretty effective technology consulting team, where we all have different levels of expertise, so we generally help each other pretty well out on projects. Still, there’s one guy, let’s call him Chuck, who is more of an expert in data analysis than the rest of us, so we rely on him a lot. Since he knows he can do things the rest of can’t, he says things like, “You don’t understand how this works,” or “As usual I’m the only one here who can do this,” or the most common, “It’s just easier and faster if I do the entire thing myself than spend time explaining it to you.” Then he’ll do an annoying chuckle under his breath.

That last comment (and chuckle) not only bugs all of us because it’s kind of insulting, but also because it’s never faster—he holds onto the projects, and nothing gets finished on time. I’ve tried saying, “Can you let me know a quick way to get this done,” or “I know you always want to take over, but I need to finish this now,” but he still insists on doing everything himself.

The rest of the team hates when we have to get him involved because of all the delays he causes, but we still need his analysis. How can I tell him his bottlenecks are causing too many delays and bad morale?


Sick of Chuck

Dear Sick,

It sounds like Chuck loves the sense of power he has over the rest of the team. As much as he frustrates all of you, there are some things you can try to make sure you work together better.

1. You can’t change his personality; you can only change how you communicate with him. As much as you’d like to tell him not to be a work hog and jerk, that strategy will only backfire because he holds himself in higher esteem than all of you. And he’ll still be a jerk and a chuckler. So instead, suck it up and let him know how much you value his expertise. “Hey Chuck, I really appreciate how your analysis always helps us get the project done.”

2. Talk about past specific roadblocks and how they affected you. You’ll have a much easier time with him if you tell him how a specific instance in the past caused problems for you. He can’t deny how you felt as a result of what happened. For example, you can say, “Last month when the team didn’t get your results until a week after we gave them to you, I felt frustrated because we had said the client needed a preliminary report within 24 hours, and we didn’t have anything to show on time.”

3. Work together on a solution to the workflow problem. Chuck is not going to take advice from you on how to get things done. But try to get him involved in the solution. “So, Chuck, let’s brainstorm on how we can make sure clients get what they need when they want it. Here are some ideas 1) we post tasks, the people involved and the deadline so we can all prioritize our workflow or 2) we all post what we’re working on every week so we share resources appropriately. What do you think? I’m open to any of your ideas.” Then set a deadline to implement the new procedure.

Chuck will probably chuckle at your suggestions, but take a deep breath, and make sure you come to an agreement. And don’t chuckle back at Chuck.

Good luck,

Someone Else's Dad

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