Ever work with a teammate whose quirks were a bit too, well, quirky?

We’ve probably all had at least one co-worker with habits that rub us the wrong way, or whose style clashes with our own, or who just doesn’t seem to pick up on the social cues that would tell them they’ve irritated us.

We can do everything right – model the behavior we hope to see, talk honestly with them about the situation – and yet nothing changes.

When faced with this situation, I ask myself, “What would Jim do?”

Life Imitates Art

Jim, in this case, is a character on the TV show “The Office.” Jim is the calm in the eye of the wacky storm that is the fictional Dunder Mifflin paper company. He’s surrounded by colleagues who are Characters with a capital C. And when faced with the latest zany antics from his co-workers, Jim usually looks into the camera and gives us an amused smile.

Jim knows that if he wants to stay positive and not grow to hate his job, he can choose to appreciate the absurdity of the situation – and then let the whole situation go.

(I should note: I’m talking here about irritating but ultimately harmless behavior – the personality quirks and puzzling choices our colleagues sometimes make. Bullying, sabotage, harassment, and other unacceptable behavior shouldn’t ever be tolerated.)

Freedom from Frustration

Making Jim’s choice can be easier said than done. Many folks, myself included, struggle with the annoyance caused by teammates whose habits and styles clash with our own.

In these moments, we can remind ourselves that the only thing we can really control is our own behavior. It would be lovely if we could model a “better” behavior for the person and they changed their ways. The reality is that’s not always going to happen. They might not pick up on what we’re doing. They might not care enough to change. They might think their way is the “better” way.

It can also be tricky to talk about quirks with the person whose behavior is, well, quirky. Our ability to frame the conversation, how they receive the message, and their willingness to change are all variables we have to factor into our decision about whether or not to address the situation.

There’s a certain freedom in giving up on the idea of changing the other person. When we let go of that notion, then our expectations become different – maybe even a little more realistic. We don’t have to tie ourselves into knots over something we can’t control. And maybe we can find something valuable in the experience – a lesson to be learned, a different approach to try, or a new appreciation for what this person brings to the table. At the very least, practicing empathy – seeing something from another’s perspective – is a muscle we can all benefit from exercising more often.

(Another benefit? The humbling reminder that if their quirks are driving us around the bend, then chances are pretty good our quirks are doing the same to them!)

Ultimately, holding on to the frustration caused by our teammate’s behavior is like drinking poison and expecting it to affect the other person. Instead of making ourselves ill – with stress, resentment, irritation, or anger – we can pass up the poison and make the choice Jim makes: shrug, smile, enjoy the humor in the situation – and then let the whole situation go.

Decided to talk about quirks with the person in question? Click here for some tips on giving constructive feedback.