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How can I make my annoying coworker go away?

One of my colleagues seems unable to separate my duties from his own. “Henry” constantly interferes with my work and makes critical comments about the way I do my job. When I offer friendly explanations for my decisions, he dismisses them by saying “that’s just your opinion”. Henry and I work in different areas, but have overlapping responsibilities. Although his constant meddling is driving me crazy, I’m not sure how to address this or with whom. We report to the same manager, but I haven’t discussed this issue with him. Any advice?

Marie’s Answer

Many coworker squabbles are inaccurately labeled “personality conflicts'” when the real cause is poorly-defined roles. If the boundary between jobs is fuzzy, people inevitably step on each other’s toes. Therefore, to solve this problem, you must first clarify your responsibilities.

To accomplish this, you will need to agree with your boss on the scope of your position. Start by drafting a detailed job description with particular focus on the areas of overlap with Henry. Describe your duties as you think they should be, then request your manager’s input.

For example: “Henry and I often seem to be working on the same things, which can be very confusing. To avoid this, I’ve drafted a more detailed description of my role and would like to get your opinion. I believe that clearly defining my responsibilities will help to prevent future misunderstandings.”

Having delineated your boundaries, you are now ready to begin managing communications with your annoying coworker. Previously, your “friendly explanations” only served to reinforce Henry’s intrusive behavior and encourage him to continue. So if you want him to change, you will need to provide a less rewarding response.

When Henry launches into one of his critical commentaries, do not attempt to justify your actions. Simply state that he’s entitled to his opinion, but these decisions are yours to make. After that, just go on about your business and ignore any further remarks.