Dear Annie: I have some co-workers who irritate me. The work we do is intense and stressful, so I can't easily mind my own business. This is designed to be a collaborative work environment. And yet, I am usually feeling like a lone ranger. I have brought this up to one of the co-workers in question but was met with little empathy.

I'd like to talk to a higher-up -- not as a means of snitching but as a means of finding understanding and even advice. But I worry that my talking to a higher-up would get back to the co-workers and make them resent me for going over their heads. Ideally, yes, I'd work this out with them directly. But history has shown me that they're unreceptive to my way of looking at things. They don't make meaningful strides to change their behavior. I do like this job, but this is tempting me to quit. Would that be an overreaction? Or are isolating co-workers enough justification for moving on? It's easy to say, "Just ignore them and focus on your own work," but I see these people for 40-plus hours a week, and they're not good for me. -- Conflicted Co-Worker

Dear Conflicted: Co-worker dynamics are no small thing. A dull job can be fun and rewarding in the right company; a great job can become unbearable in the wrong company. But try the following solutions to straighten course before hitting the eject button.

1) Take them to lunch, one on one. Spending time together outside of the office, even if it's just an hour, will help you to see one another as people. When potentially hairy situations come up in the course of your work, you'll each be more primed for understanding, rather than attack.

2) If the problems persist, talk to HR. If you don't have HR, talk to your manager (or, if your manager is one of the colleagues with whom you've been butting heads, go to their manager). Avoid the appearance of tattling by actually not tattling: Express your concerns about your team's ability to work together effectively; seek solutions, not blame.

3) If efforts at establishing better rapport fail, keep as much communication to email and/or a professional instant-messaging service (such as Slack) if your company uses one. This creates a paper trail and encourages everyone to be on best behavior.

Dear Annie: I read your article on esophageal cancer in my local paper. I was diagnosed with this type of cancer back in March. I caught it early so it was determined to be at stage 2. I had no physical symptoms but I did notice my stools were black for a few days. If I did not follow up with this black stool, I am sure it would have gotten to the point where I could not swallow or eat. Luckily, my doctor of 35 years kept pressing me to have further testing, and the tumor was found when I had the upper endoscopy. My oncologist told me that this type of cancer is becoming more prevalent. Thank you for spreading the word. -- Tony B.

Dear Tony: I'm so sorry you're going through this. I heard from several others who reported that they had no obvious symptoms of esophageal cancer, such as the following.

Dear Annie: Five years ago, I was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. I had NONE of the symptoms you mentioned, except for some very minor weight loss. I would encourage people to have an endoscopy at the same time they have a colonoscopy. It's done by the same doctors, so there's only one anesthetic, and the recovery for both is the same amount of time. Having esophageal cancer and an esophagectomy is a life-altering situation with no "do over." Should any of your readers wish to have discussion they may email me. -- Arnie M.

Dear Arnie: Thank you so much for shedding additional light on this subject.

"Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie" is out now! Annie Lane's debut book -- featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette -- is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to