How to Handle Disorganized CoWorkers

Julie Shenkman
Posted by in Administrative & Clerical Services

No matter what your industry, disorganized co-workers are an inevitability. For administrative professionals who depend heavily on organization to get through the day, dealing with chaotic working styles can be a source of frustration. Developing strategies to work peacefully with your less organized colleagues can boost efficiency and create a happier work environment.

Don't Assume Superiority

When dealing with disorganized co-workers, you may feel a sense of superiority. To keep the peace, don't allow those feelings to show; doing so will only put your colleagues on the defensive and make them less likely to cooperate with you. Instead, keep in mind that like personalities, working styles are all different. After all, disorganized professionals can get record-breaking results, and ultra-efficient professionals can fail. Accepting your co-workers and treating them with respect can only improve the office environment.

Build in a Buffer

For administrative professionals, one of the biggest struggles with disorganized co-workers happens when deadlines arise. If you are aware that a person in your office tends to lose track of time or forget about tasks until the last minute, build in an extra time buffer. Ask them to get you a document a few days before you truly need it. With the extra flex time, you can reduce the stress of rushing to meet a goal, making it easier to relate to your colleagues with grace.

Impose Organization

It is not uncommon for disorganized co-workers to lose items, accidentally delete emails, or forget where they placed a crucial file, causing unnecessary delays. When you notice a pattern of forgetful behavior, it may be time to impose your own organizational skills on the person. Don't hand over important materials until you require action; too much lead time increases the risk of loss. Keep a copy of each file in your possession, request that colleagues come to your office to work on projects and keep a close eye on important contracts. While it's not necessarily your responsibility to babysit your colleagues, a few extra precautionary steps can save a great deal of frustration.


Disorganized co-workers may struggle to wrap their minds around vague ideas or general requests. Instead, communicate exactly what you need, using specific steps with individual deadlines. Don't rely on spoken requests or voicemails — create a digital paper trail by putting your requests in writing in email form. This way, your colleagues will have a clear-cut list to refer back to, even if they can't find their paper copies.

When your job hinges on your efficiency and organization, disorganized co-workers can put a wrench in the office machine. By accepting your colleagues as they are and developing strategies to work around their quirks, you can maintain friendly relationships without sacrificing performance.


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