Having associates or staff is a great way to share the workload when you are a VA, OBM or freelancer, but every so often it can cause more problems than it fixes! If a potential team member doesn’t have the required skillset to perform the tasks required of them, that’s one thing that is relatively easy to fix with a simple parting of ways, some additional training or moving them on to a task that they can provide helpful support carrying out.  What is harder is if the team member is fabulous at what they do, but incredibly, painfully annoying… so how do you deal with that?

1.) Gently raise the issue with them – for me, communication in business (and life!) is key.  In a successful business, you can’t rest on your laurels, you need to keep reviewing what is and isn’t working in your business and pushing for positive change.  This involves being able to speak to someone about their communication style, working habits, etc. in a positive and professional manner and being able to address the issues that are causing friction or tension within your business.  Make sure you allow your colleague/associate to share their thoughts too.  I know that this feels a little personal, but ultimately, if this is the case then their behaviour is having an impact on business productivity/efficiency, so should be addressed just as you would any other business issue.

2.) Change your systems and processes so that you aren’t triggered by their annoying habits – Are you annoyed by their interpersonal skills when communicating with colleagues? Do they frequently miss out important steps of the work they do (but not enough to cause major issues – just minor inconveniences?). Why not restrict business communication channels to simple progress reports/task updates, or work with them to use their task management system more effectively? It might be that some issues could be minimised relatively simply with some creative thinking! 

3.) Keep a strict personal/professional boundary – this is a simple one. If they annoy you in real life, don’t add them to your personal Social Media pages or agree to meet up with them socially.  I know that this may seem a little awkward (particularly if you are friends with other team members), but as long as you are civil, professional and polite, you don’t actually owe them anything more than that.  I know it’s hard if you don’t like to hurt people’s feelings, but it’s better than being annoyed so much that you accidentally end up saying something you regret just because you’ve opened the door of your personal life to your annoying colleague.

4.) Get someone else to liaise with them, if necessary – if you are the only member of your team that doesn’t gel particularly well with a team member, why not see whether another associate can liaise directly with them instead of you? Reducing the amount you have to interact with a problem colleague is another simple way of trying to minimise the annoyance that you feel whenever you are faced with them 

5.) If they are part of your team, consider replacing them – if you have taken on a team member (rather than being part of someone else’s team) and are struggling to have a positive and professional working relationship with them despite trialling the suggestions above, it’s worth seriously considering replacing them.  Make sure that you aren’t going against the terms of any associate agreements, etc. that you have in place (and make sure that you have an associate/hiring agreement in the first place!), but let them know that you don’t require their services anymore and part ways professionally and amicably. You can always provide a testimonial that highlights their strengths (without mentioning how much they annoy you) to help part ways on a positive note. 

What’s most important is that it is YOUR business, and as long as you deal with colleagues and customers professionally and in accordance with appropriate terms of business documents and contracts, you can do what you want with it. And that includes surrounding yourself with people who get you and share your ideals, values and sense of humour.

Life’s too short to keep yourself in negative situations that you have the ability to change relatively simply.