Heard in the Lunchroom is a Robert Half blog series offering real-world advice on navigating tricky topics that can impact your professional happiness and career prospects.
Annoying coworkers are a part of office life. Many people have strong technical skills but lack courtesy and common sense in the workplace, from pushing back when they’re asked to help on projects to coming to work sick and infecting the rest of the team.
You may think your on-the-job etiquette is just about perfect, but the fact is that we all have habits that can annoy others.
Here are 10 bad habits that annoying coworkers are known for. Consider it your guide to what not to do. And feel free to share this link with your most, um, considerate colleagues (wink, wink).
1. Always saying, 'I’m so busy'
First and foremost, everyone is busy. Why do some coworkers feel the need to constantly (and loudly) remind us of how swamped they are? Moreover, it’s one thing to set appropriate boundaries; it’s another to never step up to help overworked colleagues because “that’s not my job.” For those who don’t like to work beyond their job description, keep in mind that being part of a team means pitching in whenever possible.
2. Being closed to new ideas
A few colleagues have come up with a brilliant concept for an event brochure, but your team’s resident naysayer says, “We’ve always done it this way — no need to reinvent the wheel!” Not being open to change breeds resentment and stifles creative thinking and innovation.
3. Calling unnecessary meetings
Most of us have a meeting addict in our midst. These people are far happier talking about work than actually doing work. Beyond calling too many meetings, he also invites too many people. Concerned that you might be a meeting addict? Periodically step back and ask yourself if a routine gathering truly needs to take place. In many cases, you’ll realize you can alter its frequency, reduce the participant list or scrap it altogether.
4. Ignoring details
You’ve crafted a detailed email to your coworker, outlining next steps and due dates for an upcoming project. You ask him to reply with any suggested changes or to confirm that he agrees with your proposal by the end of the day. Three days go by with no reply, so you ask again. He writes, “Looks good.” He obviously didn’t read your original message in full and has held up your timeline by a few days. Be respectful and make sure you follow up on details that require your input promptly.
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5. Frequently offering unsolicited advice
You’re brainstorming with your manager about a new client project, and the coworker sitting next to you chimes in with her thoughts and tries to steal your thunder. It’s great to have opinions, but make sure that you’re diplomatic — and in a situation where people actually want your two cents.
6. Talking too loud on the phone
We all have that coworker who practically shouts into the phone. Her voice is so deafening you can’t hear yourself think. Even worse, she speaks at maximum volume when divulging details about her personal life. If you don’t have four walls and a door, be mindful of your phone conversations.
7. Constantly dropping by
While it’s good to have regular interactions with our colleagues, everyone has work to do. When you work in a cubicle or have an open desk, you’re really at the mercy of those around you. Don’t be overly chatty. And don’t reflexively drop by your neighbor’s desk every time you need a break or have a work item to discuss. Instead, if your visit is a social one, you might ask if it’s a good time to chat (or IM first), and batch those work items to discuss all at one time.
8. Coming to work sick
Sick days are there for a reason. Please don’t go to the office coughing and sneezing. You’ll be doing a huge disservice to your coworkers by spreading germs. Stay home and rest when you’re ill, or talk to your manager about possibly working from home.
9. Not having good scents
This one isn’t new, but there are still annoying coworkers who go to work wearing far too much cologne or perfume. And then there are those who insist on heating up leftover tuna casserole and eating at their desks. Overpowering scents are nauseating, especially when working in a confined space for eight hours or more.
10. Expecting others to have all the answers
They say there’s no such thing as a dumb question. Yet one member of your team frequently interrupts you with queries that she could easily answer herself. It’s OK to seek clarification when you’re uncertain about something, but it’s also important to be proactive and use the resources available to you first to help avoid wasting others’ time. And when you do ask for assistance, always make a point to offer your appreciation.
Many of the behaviors mentioned above can be avoided by simply pausing and taking other people’s feelings into consideration. It’s unlikely anyone is deliberately trying to be an annoying coworker, and if you think a little more about those around you and how you want to be treated yourself, office life can be much easier — and a lot more pleasant.