Co-Worker Getting Under Your Skin? Ask Madeleine

Dear Madeleine,

I work in a professional services firm and we have an open-space concept. Almost everyone is on the phone all day or reading complicated documents.

We have one assistant who supports a whole bunch of the senior people, and she sits right near me. She is an idiot, and loud to boot. Every day she has a new theme, and she works that theme all day – Rainy Days and Mondays, happy hump day, hot enough for ya? Every person who walks by her desk, every single phone call. Clichés on repeat all day long.

I am at the end of my rope, it has gotten under my skin to the point that I can’t even trust myself not to say something rude or even mean to her. She is a scourge to everyone in the office. I have talked about it with my boss, who incidentally has an office with a door. But what would anyone say to her? I use noise cancelling headphones with loud music as much as a I can but when I am on long conference calls, that doesn’t work.

I dream of blessed silence and being able to just sit and do my work without fantasizing about slapping her. Help.



Dear Annoyed,

Get over it. The only thing you can do right now is change your attitude about this. Play a game with yourself about what the cliché will be today. Count how many times she says it and start a betting pool. Remind yourself that all the annoying things she does are simply mechanisms to get herself through the day and she is probably dealing with stresses you don’t know about. Take the woman to lunch, get to know the woman and find something that will make you love her.

Re-frame this situation and take a deep breath and decide to let it roll off your back and smile and be kind.

Absolutely do get creative and try to find a quiet place to do focused work if you can. I worked with one manager who used to take his laptop into the emergency stairwell when he needed some quiet time.

This woman has been sent by the universe to test you. You are failing the test. I have failed this test, I kid you not, I left a yoga class I loved once because of the ridiculous breathing shenanigans of the woman on the mat next to me. Who was the one with the problem? She had a great class, so, it wasn’t her.

Let it go. Focus on what is important and you will be surprised by how the sound fades into the background.

Love, Madeleine

About the author

Madeleine Blanchard Headshot 10-21-17

Madeleine Homan Blanchard is a master certified coach, author, speaker, and cofounder of Blanchard Coaching Services. Madeleine’s Advice for the Well Intentioned Manager is a regular Saturday feature for a very select group: well intentioned managers. Leadership is hard—and the more you care, the harder it gets. Join us here each week for insight, resources, and conversation.

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