How to Manage the Most Annoying Workplace Behavior

By Robert Half on February 8, 2017 at 2:15pm

You’re sitting at your desk at work, minding your own spreadsheets, when you feel it. Someone has just turned up the thermostat, again. Then you hear it. A loud voice on speaker phone right outside your office. You smell it. A bagel is burning in the break room. And you see it. Your newest employee is late for the 45th time. Forget the numbers. You have some seriously annoying workplace behavior to manage.

Maybe it could be worse. In an Accountemps survey of CFOs, more than a third (35 percent) of the respondents cited a lack of attention to detail or sloppy work as their biggest nuisance. For 28 percent of respondents, gossiping or engaging in office politics was the worst behavior in the workplace.

View an infographic, below, that shows the top responses to the question: "Which one of the following coworking behaviors annoys you the most?"

From pet peeves to grievances in the workplace

You’ve been in management long enough to know that the actions of your co-workers can have a detrimental effect on your entire organization. This is especially true with a smaller company. The more intimate the workplace, the less time it takes for difficult issues can spread.

Behavior that brings on workplace conflicts and decreased office morale can disrupt productivity, alienate workers and have an unfavorable impact on your employee retention.

Can you stop one bad apple from spoiling the bunch? Here are options for managing five types of troubling workplace behavior.

1. Calm the gossipmongers

Let’s say you have an employee who spreads fear and uncertainty by spouting (often untrue) hearsay about the future of the company. What can you do as a manager? The key to curbing office rumors is direct, honest and frequent communication. Instill trust in your team by sharing what news you can — both good and bad — in a timely fashion. Doing so will help quell concerns and insecurities. Also give workers tips for navigating office politics, such as walking away from corrosive conversations.

2. Keep an eye on the bullies

Some toxic workers repeatedly put down others by verbally intimidating or humiliating them. While you don’t want to give leeway to bullies, termination may not be a possibility. What can you do to manage such an employee? First, consider whether you’re giving too much power to the bully. If so, curb it immediately. Next, hold confidential meetings with all victims and witnesses. Gather written documentation of the bullying behavior should you decide to take the problem to a higher level or to human resources. Give a verbal warning in private to the bully and let him or her know you’re watching and expecting behavioral changes in the workplace.

3. Speak to the slackers

As staff members increasingly work in teams, careless errors and sloppy work can be a drag on the quality of the group’s output. Those who are occupied with other activities or who aren’t carrying their share jeopardize a project’s outcome. They also diminish the group’s morale by causing internal resentment.

As with other behaviors, if an employee is chronically making errors, you’ll want to take the time to meet with that person. You might find that the root causes explain the behavior, which can lead to workable solutions.

4. Confront the glory-hoggers

Some people pull double-duty: They take the credit from others and hoard the limelight during team projects. The best management advice to conquer this behavior is to hold a private meeting with the individual stealing the spotlight to discuss the difference between “collaboration” and “idea theft.” Sometimes self-absorbed employees just need a direct and honest intervention followed by self-assessment.

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5. Manage the campaigners

Worse than office gossip, office politics has the objective of gaining advantage with manipulative games. People who participate in such political undercurrents in your workplace should be shown that the way to success at your organization is through building positive relationships. As a manager, reward colleagues who treat each other with respect and don’t throw each other under the bus

To thwart future problems, take the time to let your teams know your door is always open, and that they can rely on you for support and discretion. Give them tips on how best to cultivate friendships at work.

You don’t need to interject every time a minor issue arises, but you can’t afford to turn a blind eye to problems that jeopardize your team’s output or risk damaging the reputation of your company.

Also, take a look in the mirror: Do you communicate well with people, and are you as considerate and approachable as you could be? Good communication, as well as management and leadership by example, can be a very effective way to change behavior in the workplace.

Annoying Workplace Behavior infographic


CFOs were asked, “Which one of the following coworker behaviors annoys you the most?”

2016 2011*
Lacking attention to detail or sloppy work 35% 41%
Gossiping or engaging in office politics 28% 23%
Missing deadlines 17% 18%
Being perpetually late 12% 12%
Presenting other’s ideas as one’s own 8% 5%

Source: Accountemps survey of more than 2,200 CFOs from companies with 20 or more employees in the United States in 2016 and 1,400 CFOs in 2011.

*In 2011, 1% of CFOs responded “Don’t know/no answer.”

© 2017 Accountemps. A Robert Half Company. An Equal Opportunity Employer M/F/Disability/Veterans.

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