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I'm part of my own team but the nature of it is that I sometimes get "hired out" to work with another team in the same company as a sort of subject matter expert. Today and for the last 3 months or so is one of these times where I'm temporarily part of another team.

So now, for the last 3 months or so, I'm sitting next to someone (a member of the new team) who seems to express anger and frustration quite readily including taking it out (not physically, exactly) on people in the team. It's hard to explain, but is having a noticeable impact on my own productivity (and we are going in to review season).

Every other minute, it seems there's an outburst of some sort from this desk neighbour. Sometimes just stuff like "what the ****" about some piece of code but more often slamming keyboards around or angry typing, shouting at others in the team about other people's infractions, etc. Every time I try to sit back down to concentrate on what I'm doing.. I can't because of another outbreak of "***ing hell I can't believe this" etc etc.

In an ideal world I'd probably humor the co-worker and ask them what's wrong etc - and I have in the past - but based on my actual experiences in life (many years ago) it seems I'm now "hard wired" to get my senses up and be on the defensive when anyone seems to get 'aggressive'. I've worked on it and I'm a lot better to the degree that I can now say to the desk mate e.g. "everything ok?" etc. rather than being on the lookout to respond to a physical attack!

Given the situation above I need to know if I should just "suck it up" and humor someone who obviously doesn't handle stress very well, for the sake of the project, or if I should address it in some way?

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  • I have one of these in my office as well -> He seems to have a anger-mgmt issue and seems to be quite frustrated in general (due to personal reasons I don't even want to know). When he's in a bad mood again, I put on my headphones and try to ignore him as best I can manage. But most important: Don't take it personal - Most of the time ppl like that don't even realise their rough behaviour could intimidate or distract others! If it overboards, have a privat chat with him and let him now how you feel (as mentioned he might not even be aware).. – iLuvLogix Mar 6 '20 at 13:51
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Without a lot more detail, and without knowing this specific person, there won't be good enough advice to be found around here. And personally, there is no escaping the fact that dealing with difficult people is difficult.

But since the problem seems restricted only to the posture of this given person, and not to the interactions you have with him, and also considering that you are probably not stuck working with this person, I'd consider asking HR for help. The message to be established is:

  1. There is no personal conflict with this person.
  2. There is no productivity issue with either.
  3. This person likely has some characteristics that HR depts should look after, such as irritability, being over stressed and so on.
  4. Failure to act may result in further stressing this guy out, and he may start loosing productivity of quit the job altogether.
  5. You are worried about him.

Remember that HR is not your friend, but they should take some care when dealing with people that present work-related psychological problems. HR usually hates nosing in to conflicts between coworkers, but if you send a clear message that it's not about it, they're likely equipped to help your colleague.

Now, two sides for the story:

  1. Maybe you are exaggerating the issue with this colleague, as he is just simply thinking out loud a bit too much. Maybe you could get some noise-cancelling headphones and let the music obfuscate his grumblings. Many people to this to cope with distracting (but not exactly with intimidating) workspaces.

  2. Maybe you've meant business with your question, and some slightly overstated facts will help convincing HR that action needs to be taken. But particularly, shouting at others even if nobody cares (which is never the case) is a good sign of behavior that needs to be curbed. I myself read the question and thought "This guy needs therapy".

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From your question I guess this person means no harm to you. (If I guessed wrong and the person means harm to you, please ignore this answer.)

You could start with a private conversation, following this formula

  1. Get them in private and ask them to hear you out.
  2. Describe, specifically, an example of the unwanted behavior.
  3. State its effect on you.
  4. Ask for a change.
  5. Be patient, as it takes time for people to accept this kind of input.

For example,

Jack, I have something to say to you. Please hear me out. Yesterday you slammed your keyboard against the table and said "W##$^#%^#@$". When you did that you startled me and caused me to lose my concentration on my work. I would be grateful if you would try to stop doing that sort of thing, so I can keep concentration.

This often helps. And, it's not offensive.

If it doesn't help, have a similar conversation with the person who assigns you your seat in the office, and ask for a different seat.

It's important to give a specific example and not generalize. It's also important to state the effect on you personally. Why? Your goal is not to argue about whether the behavior is actually bad, or not. The point is to ask for a change.

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