Annoying Coworker Alert: 5 Ways Mindfulness can Improve your Relationships

“If we learn to open our hearts, anyone, including the people who drive us crazy, can be our teacher.” ~ Pema Chodron

A typical day at the office:

8:45: Race through traffic with breakfast in your lap. Spill yogurt on your black pants.

9:01: Immediately head to the coffee machine. You bump into Susy, ask Susy “How are you?” listen to Susy complain for 5 minutes about her cold, while coughing in your face for added effect.

9:30: Settle into your desk and try to tune out two coworkers in the cubicles next to you gossiping about poor Reynold’s divorce.

10:30: Plug your nose and ears while Sandra eats Tuna and clips her nails in the cubicle next to you.

12:00: Lunch time, finally! You try to duck away from negative co-workers who want to chat but you get corned at the microwave, you are forced to listen to Betty talk for half an hour about her grandchild’s poop.

2:00: Your manager has just reviewed a file you spent days to perfect. With superiority and condescence they tear you up for half an hour; finally complaining that they hurt their finger on a staple that failed to seal properly. They ask, “Do you need stapler training?” you resist the urge to punch him in the face.

3:30: Janine left the photocopier empty. You grumble and fill the photocopier while rushing to complete your 4 o’clock deadline.

5:00: After clock watching for the last hour you pack up to head out for the day, on your way out the door your boss calls you in to over some paperwork, you are stuck at the office until 6 o’clock.

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This may be an exaggerated scenario of a typical office day, but I know we can all relate to having a frustrating, pull your hair out kind of week. Days where you feel like your co-workers are the rotten eggs of the earth and you anticipate Friday like a pardon from a life sentence.

The sad truth is we likely spend more time with our co-workers than our own families. Like an old married couple little things start to annoy us. What is it about the way April lines her snacks up in OCD fashion or sits perfectly straight at her desk that annoys me so. Why then do I also hate her hair, the way she walks and silently compare her to a proud peacock whenever she speaks. I’m not a mean person, but where are these horrible thoughts coming from? I think we need a break.

What is the secret of the easy, breezy, happy co-worker, the one who is always smiling and floating through the office? While there might not be a steadfast secret there are a few tips we can all practice to help work become a more enjoyable place.

Peace is not about avoiding conflict, conflict is everywhere, life is full of it, it’s about being able to deal with it.

Workplace Happiness Tips

1. Realize that everyone just wants to be happy

If there is one thing that all human beings have in common its this: We all want to be happy and we don’t want to suffer.

When Tom takes credit for your excellent idea, chances are words such as JERK and —HOLE will appear in CAPS in the smoke coming from your ears. Take a moment to realize that Tom is manipulated by his own deluded mind. Much like cancer is disease of the body, delusions are a disease of the mind, while invisible at first both multiply unaware that they are destroying the organism which houses them.

On the drive to work I practice visualizing loving specific positive qualities about my co-workers, the difficult ones in particular. If Terri makes the best chocolate chip cookies, I focus on this and try to let the negatives thoughts dissipate.

Even if someone has wronged us, my Buddhist teacher encourages saying “May you be happy.” Know that all beings want happiness, just as you do. This practice develops a loving kindness, when I walk in the door each morning my frame of mind is better equipped to tackle whatever may come up that day.

2. Don’t judge and don’t take anything personally

My boss hovers over my shoulder and grumbles, “What were you thinking?” having had a bad day himself, he walks away without a second thought. But my pride is hurt and now I’m stewing, I roll this over in my mind all day long. I have now exaggerated this small miscommunicated statement into a justifiable reason to quit and allowed myself to feel stupid, devalued, angry and stressed.

Seriously stop taking things so seriously. If you envision the entire universe and all the transactions occurring, from robberies, rapes, murder, animal abuse, kidnapping and then look back down at that small interaction, now long since passed you will realize how silly brooding over something so insignificant is. Let it go.

If you just can’t let it go, and there will be times when even after 2 hours of meditating or mental calming your mind is still agitated, at this point maybe a conversation is in order. Approach the issue with a clear, calm head.

3. Remain positive. Kill them with kindness

Every time you ask Betty “How are you?” the reply is always the same; “I’ve been up sick all night with a pounding headache…..” and on and on and on. What is your initial reaction? Annoyance? Eye rolling? The quickest escape route?

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What if you responded, “Wow, its been a tough year for you, I hope you feel better soon.” And what if you really believed it? After your positive response maybe then make a mental note to avoid asking Betty how she is doing for a while. When you notice negative thoughts arise, don’t beat yourself up for having a bad thought; let them pass by, like a cloud floating through the sky.

Remember to appreciate diversity, the world and workplace are all made up of different people with different values, personalities and delusions. Let them all teach you. Engage situations from new perspectives, you will be amazed at the results on your own behaviours and reactions.

4. Don’t retaliate

The most important lesson is: Do not get angry. When the unavoidable annoyances do creep in, and they will, be aware of the danger of anger. Do Not Retaliate. Your first knee jerk reaction might be to meet anger with anger, insults with more insults, sarcasm with sarcasm, but this is just our own habitual neurosis and will continue the cycle of misery.

Take a moment to become aware of your own mind and your own reactions. If you look closely every reaction you encounter will be in precious defence of our obsession with “the self.” If your boss makes a comment about your sloppy work in a meeting, we may feel embarrassed; immediately a defence props up to protect the “self”. Remember those feelings of embarrassment will fade; nothing is permanent, so say to yourself, “this to shall pass” and let it go.

Work towards letting go of the ego and associated states of mind such as pride, anger, jealously and impatience.

When anger does arises, acknowledge the emotion, say to yourself, “my mind is experiencing unpleasantness.” take some space from the object of your anger. Remember to breathe deeply, mediation practices can be done anywhere at any time just by calming the mind and breathing for a count to 10.

5. Most important practice patient acceptance and loving kindness

If you envision a specific difficult person as your spiritual teacher would that change your perspective of them? Why not pretend that difficult people are here to teach you? Except we don’t need to pretend. They teach patience, acceptance and recognition of our own delusions. Instead of the usual reaction of annoyance, silently thank them.

Sounds far-fetched right? Well it works, I’ve tried it. The anger dissipates, like a gerbil spinning on a wheel you can see their web of delusions at work. When I practice envisioning my difficult manager has my spiritual teacher my job dissatisfaction is reduced and I experience a peaceful spaciousness within myself.

Change your perspective change the relationship.

And finally look inward and recognize that if something annoys you about someone else, chances are that it’s a quality you yourself possess.

“Everything that irritates us about others can lead to an understanding of ourselves.” ~ Carl Jung

There is no evil like anger

And no virtue like patience

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6 thoughts on “Annoying Coworker Alert: 5 Ways Mindfulness can Improve your Relationships

  1. Washington, DC

    I find this post very interesting as I’m a workplace expert. And also blog about organizations and their issues. Interestingly enough, if folks retaliate, take things personal, or fail to find positive things about the workplace, more systemic issues are created. So, its important to use a number of strategies to hold onto positive energy. Great content!

    1. Tina Williamson Post author

      Thanks for your thoughtful reply, holding onto positive energy is challenging at times and definitely requires a number of strategies, and back up plans, especially when working in such close quarters with office mates. I’ve read some of your posts, and especially think the one titled, ‘blame it on the alcohol’ could also be a fast track solution to solve some of these office problems. 😉

    1. Tina Williamson Post author

      It has its challenges that’s for sure! I would love to say one day maybe I can leave the office world and pursue something I’m more ‘passionate’ about, but until then, I’m going to try my best to be passionate about the office ha ha 🙂

  2. sandradorland


    This article was right on time for me. I’ve been practicing “chop wood carry water” consistently for a few months now. This practice was terrific — it detached me, kept me focused, all kinds of good stuff. This was great — until your 2PM scenario started to pop up. And then, like so many fingers stuck in the dike…. my hard work was slowly unravelling as all the rest of your daily list started to present their little selves.

    So thank you. A new strategy and practice for me on Monday. ❤

    1. Tina Williamson Post author

      I just looked into “Chop Wood Carry Water” and I’m so glad you brought that up, I’ve never heard of this book and it looks amazing! I’ve added to my reading list 🙂
      The 2pm scenario is very difficult, I have days where my mind takes over and says I don’t care what you say, he IS a jerk haha. All in all though these strategies really do make a difference.
      I hope a few of these strategies can help you, and thanks for the book reference!


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