Well first, how does this even happen? It could be a simple clashing of egos or personalities. Maybe your coworker has an annoying habit. You might think he's rude, impulsive, or arrogant. Maybe you think he keeps taking credit for your good work. Maybe you think he keeps passing you over for a promotion or in some other way keeps you from climbing that ladder.
Sometimes you can go to H.R. Violence (physical or emotional), sexual harassment, even body odor are things that can make for a quantifiably hostile work environment and should be taken to H.R. But when it comes down to personality issues and character defects those aren't necessarily H.R. kinds of matters.
Otherwise, the best course of action is to talk to the person about the issue. He may or may not acknowledge the issue as a problem and may or may not try to change it. If he doesn't change, it can be really easy for us to get passive-aggressive and try to make them change ourselves. Maybe we covertly place a bottle of hand sanitizer on his desk because he's not good about washing his hands. Maybe we start sharing pages from our inspirational Maya Angelou daily desk calendar because he's not very thoughtful.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with politely asking someone to change their ways. However, it's imperative to know that it's impossible to make someone change. If you ask someone to do differently but they don't, there's still a change that happens and it's critical to understand this:
He is no longer the one with the problem; you are.
It doesn't seem fair, does it? He's the one with the irritating whatever. It doesn't bother him. You have no control over it. You have options though:
- Get over it
- Get away from it
- Get overwhelmed by it
Option 1 is probably the hardest because it requires you to be the one to change. We're not good at internal change. And when I say, "Get over it," I mean to truly let go it, accept that he will not change, and cease to be bothered by it. This takes time. This takes patience. This takes love.
Option 2 isn't always very practical. For your own health and well being, it may be necessary to consider it. If you can't find peace with your coworker, it may be the only way to get away from your feelings of frustration.
Option 3 is hopefully not an option at all for you. This is where you neither get over it nor get away from it. Situations like this are breeding grounds for resentment. Some very wise people once told me that resentment corrodes the container. Left unresolved, this can lead to you becoming a bitter, unfulfilled person and cause you to hate a job that you once loved.
Coworkers don't always become friends but that doesn't mean they have to be enemies either. Talk problems out with your coworkers but also look within because sometimes the solution is stored within your own heart.