7 Things That Will Make Your Colleagues Hate You

Collaborative Workspace

Do you work in an open workspace? If so, make sure you’re not guilty of these highly annoying behaviors.

The collaborative workspace is still a hot trend among creative firms and departments. The belief is that an open office configuration will facilitate spontaneous sharing, brainstorming and problem solving once the physical barriers between coworkers are removed. And while many people love the teamwork and creativity fostered by a collaborative workspace, the setup also poses some interpersonal challenges. Here are seven annoying behaviors to avoid at all costs:

1. Yapping loudly on the phone. Noise is generally a top complaint about collaborative workspaces. And while it’s OK to take a quick (and quiet) call at your desk, try to find a private place to chat if you’ve scheduled a call that will take longer. If an impromptu conversation lasts more than a few minutes, ask the person if you can move to another area and call them back to finish the discussion. Also, steer clear of the concentration-killing speakerphone when in an open setting.

2. Getting personal. In the same vein, make sure your personal calls remain, well, personal. Yes, it’s fine to accept a short call from your spouse confirming that you’ll pick your kid up from daycare, but keep longer and more personal calls private if you must take them at work. Nobody wants to hear about your medical test results or your back-and-forth with your kooky landlord.

3. Shooting the breeze. The same goes for face-to-face conversations with coworkers, including those with whom you’re chummy. While a little chitchat can build camaraderie, keep the non-work-related banter in check. In a collaborative workspace, the noise from side conversations is particularly distracting and could fuel resentment from colleagues who feel like you’re slacking off. Save the talk of politics and pop culture for coffee breaks, lunch or a happy hour.

4. Stinking things up. Did you bring in a leftover garlic-infused pasta dish? Eat it in the lunchroom, not at your desk. Did you commute to work on your bike in 90-degree heat? Consider keeping some extra deodorant and body wipes at the office. That said, keep the toenail clippers at home.

5. Snacking with abandon. Some people in a collaborative workspace are driven to rage by repetitive sounds such as gum cracking, chip crunching and bag crinkling. If you like to snack at your desk, be aware of the noise you’re making and how distracting it may be to others.

6. Spreading germs. In a first-person article about the problems with the open-office model, Washington Post contributor Lindsey Kaufman said this of her collaborative workspace: “Last flu season took down a succession of my coworkers like dominoes.” Sound familiar?

While people working in any office environment should exercise good habits like hand washing and cough covering, those practices are especially critical in a collaborative workspace where there are no barriers to contain germs. Keep a bottle of hand sanitizer nearby — and always dispose of dirty tissues immediately. And if you’re sick, don’t go into the office. (Read this post if you need more convincing about the importance of staying home when you’re contagious.)

7. Tuning out. While many creative professionals feel energized by listening to music, constantly wearing headphones is akin to donning a “do not disturb” sign around your neck. But your coworkers need to know when it’s OK to talk to you. To curb the confusion, come up with a way to indicate when you can — and can’t — be disturbed. It may be as easy as posting a sign when you’re in the zone and want to be left alone.

Whether you like your collaborative workspace or not, the concept seems to be here to stay. Practicing a little extra self-awareness and courtesy could go a long way toward improving the situation for all involved.  

If you’re searching for a new job, remember to consider a potential employer’s office environment and overall company culture. These things matter. For more on this topic, check out our post on the 7 Elements of a Highly Creative Work Environment.