5 Ways to Deal With Coworkers Who Don’t Understand Personal Space
Right up there with bad bosses, interrupters, and coworkers who do things that drive us crazy, personal space invaders land a top spot on the list of problems people have at work. According to Winq, a social polling app, 73 percent of millennials say they get super annoyed when someone invades their space. (A whopping 67 percent say it happens often.) Yikes! We reached out to Jessica May Tang, a mindset and ergonomics specialist from Damon Wellness, to dig deeper into how to deal with it when it happens to you. Scroll on for five expert tips you can use to reclaim your space, all while being kind and keeping your cool.
1. If you can, walk away. “Always consider whether or not you can personally change the situation. If you can’t, you might need to actually walk away,” Tang says. Oftentimes, people who invade personal space don’t mean to — like at happy hour or an industry networking event, she adds. If the person invading your personal space is someone you have to collaborate or chat with regularly, you might need to have a conversation about how you feel.
2. Keep your cool. Instead of letting your frustrations fester while working with someone with cigarette breath or an obnoxious laugh that rings in your ears all day, take action early and with grace. Tang describes this as a “low level” reaction, like speaking to the person in a kind way. “Blowing up or going to your boss about it without addressing it directly first would be a high level of reaction,” she says.
3. Address the issue with compassion. Winq’s data shows that while personal space is a big problem, only 53 percent of millennials who participated said they had the courage to actually address it. Since nothing will change if you don’t speak up, remember that you can voice your feelings and still be kind. Tang advises, “Basically, just try to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Could it be that they’re having a chaotic day and that’s why their stuff is spilling onto your desk? Are they struggling with something and their anxiety is making them extra chatty?” Once you’ve taken a breath and evaluated the situation, decide whether it’s a good time to broach the topic.
4. Express your personal preferences. “When you talk to this person, come from a place of kindly teaching them about your personal preferences. When you’re educating or teaching someone something, you would have a calm and kind voice, right?” Tang asks. “It’s always good to remind yourself that someone isn’t offensive just because they act in a way that doesn’t match your preferences.” This might mean working next to someone who keeps a sloppy desk while yours is super orderly, someone else who asks constant verbal questions, or another person who will just plop down in your space to pick your brain without asking if it’s okay first.
5. Use positive statements. It isn’t easy to tell someone they’re making you uncomfortable (no one wants to hurt anyone’s feelings, after all!), so we asked Tang for a good tactic that can help soften the blow. She says that positive statements can make all of the difference, adding, “When you tell someone that they’re in your space more than you’d like, be sure to share specifically what you’d like them to do instead.” A good example might be: “It would really help my concentration if you could step out to answer your cell phone,” instead of, “Stop talking so loudly on the phone!” “The more you can avoid negativity, the better results you’ll have at work,” she says.
How do you deal with people who invade your personal space at work? Spill your secrets with us on Twitter @BritandCo!
(Photos via Getty)