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Coworkers testing your patience? How to handle pet peeves on the job

Workplace psychologist Jennifer Newman says the winter can be an exceptionally frustrating time of year.

Workplace psychologist Jennifer Newman says the winter can be an exceptionally frustrating time of year

Workplace psychologist Jennifer Newman says its common to be great at your job, and still miss out on that big promotion. (Getty Images/Blend Images RM)

Did someone steal your pen, use your mug, or leave you with some extra paperwork?

There's a lot of things that co-workers do that can drive a person nuts throughout the day, according to workplace psychologist Jennifer Newman.

And our stress can compound when the weather gets a little dreary outside.

She joined host Rick Cluff on CBC's The Early Edition to share some tips on how you can deal with some of the more frustrating pet peeves you have at work.

Rick Cluff: Are workers more susceptible to being cranky during this time of year?

Jennifer Newman: You can see an up-tick in depressed feelings, sadness and irritation.

For some it can be extreme. Seasonal affective disorder is an example — it's a mood disorder.

Workers feel sad or hopeless during fall and winter. They may experience weight gain, have sleep problems, get easily distracted, and have trouble remembering things.

Also, they may be prone to angry outbursts. But, for many it's not so intense.

Even so, workers may find they have more pet peeves to contend with this time of year.

What kinds of things tend to bug workers the most?

Things that annoy a worker all year may be especially irritating if they are feeling a bit blue.

Things connected to the senses can be bothersome.

Jennifer Newman is a workplace psychologist and regular on CBC's The Early Edition. (Jennifer Newman)

Like your co-worker's headphones turned too loud, or whistling, humming and singing colleagues might drive you crazy. Pen or gum chewing can irritate.

It can be smells, like smelly food, or stinky fridges, body odour, perfume or cologne.

Environments that are too hot or too cold can bug workers.

What about interactions with colleagues, what peeves do workers encounter when they work with others?

When colleagues don't replace what they use, like leaving tools all over, when they could just as easily be put back.

Draining the coffeepot and not making more, using the last roll of toilet paper, things like that.

Or, if a peer uses your stuff, like your stapler, mug, pen, or safety vest and doesn't tell you or give it back.

These things can make workers want to scream.

Barring a mood disorder, are there some workers who are just more prone to being peeved than others?

Irritation with workmates is often connected to feeling intruded upon. 

Or, believing others are inconsiderate on purpose and that it's personal.

Unassertive workers may find they endure things and feel peeved. Instead of asking someone to turn down their music or stop whistling so they can concentrate, they'll fume.

Others have peeves about the personalities of their workmates. They see red when someone boasts, or they get cranky if a co-worker tells them what to do.

What can workers do if their pet peeves run the show or ruin their day?

Figure out what's bugging you. If it really is the gum chewer next to you, have a word with them.

If you would like your stuff to remain undisturbed, let the culprit know. Be polite about it.

If you think it might have more to do with your mood, you may be suffering from seasonal affective disorder, which can often come out as irritation or anger. Get some help from a psychologist.

If you think it's connected to run-of-the-mill winter blues, try to get outside at mid-day if you work in an enclosed area.

Exercise and eat well. Turn on the lights, raise the blinds, let in as much light as possible.

Writing down all your peeves can help. Some find it funny to see what bugs them, especially if it turns into a long list.

If that doesn't work, try taking a break. Or a getaway can help.

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