Are You the Annoying Guy at Work?

There’s one in every office: the loudmouth, the grump, the interrupter… In fact, talk to anyone about their coworkers, and you’ll almost always uncover a litany of frustrations – often about habits that most of those coworkers don’t even realize they have. But have you ever wondered if you might be that annoying coworker?  After all, the office mate who’s The Annoying Guy generally doesn’t realize it.

Here are 10 warning signs that you might be pushing your coworkers to the limits of their sanity.

1. Do you dump last-minute work on people when you could have avoided it? There will always be projects that pop up at the last minute, but don’t be the manager or the coworker who sits on something and doesn’t assign it out until late in the game. You’ll come across as inconsiderate and disorganized, and it’ll be your name people are cursing when they’re working late to make that deadline.

2. Do you really like to talk, even when other people are on deadline or have something else to do? This one is hard to see in yourself, so think about how much talking you do in the average conversation compared to how much the other person does. Be alert for cues that your colleagues may be trying to extract themselves from the discussion, and remember that just because you happen to have time to talk, it doesn’t mean that others do.

3. Do you complain about people behind their backs rather than telling them your beefs directly? We’ve all had the frustrating feeling of discovering that a coworker is complaining to others about something we did but didn’t bother to come talk to us about it directly. When you talk to someone directly, not only do you act more fairly by giving them the chance to know about your complaint and to respond to it, but you may also learn new information that makes you see things in a different light.

4. Are you frequently negative? If you hate new practices, other people’s suggestions, and the guy down the hall, and especially if you’re not shy about making that known, you might be the office grump. Grumps sometimes think that they’re demonstrating their value by pointing out flaws all the time, but if you find fault in every suggestion, you’ll lose credibility, and eventually people will start finding ways to avoid your input altogether.

5. Do you bring your personal life into the office? If you’re frequently taking personal calls in earshot of others (especially if they involve yelling, swearing or crying), sharing details about the fight you had with your spouse last night, talking about your fertility issues, or complaining about your uncontrollable rash, you might be making people uncomfortable. While it’s fine to open up to your coworkers to a certain extent, remember that professional boundaries are different from social ones and err on the side of discretion.

6. Do you interrupt other people’s conversations? If you’re in the habit of answering questions that were addressed to other people, and if you don’t believe there’s any such thing as a private conversation at work, you might be the office interrupter. It can be really difficult to resist the impulse to interrupt once it’s become a habit, but try to work on retraining yourself to wait your turn and not to jump in people are talking privately.

7. Do you love to use the speakerphone? If you always play back your voicemail messages on speakerphone or, worse, have whole conversations on speakerphone, you can be confident that your coworkers are mentally cursing you. (Bonus points if these are personal calls you’re conducting within earshot of everyone!)  Keep in mind that you’re not at home alone; you’re in the midst of coworkers who are trying to focus on their own work.

8. Do you feel like you know everything there is to know, and you’re not shy about showing it? If you find yourself always telling people a better way to do things and offering unsolicited opinions, you might be the office know-it-all. It’s great to have knowledge and share it, but if you come across as if you’ve done it all and can’t possibly learn anything new, you’ll alienate and annoy your colleagues. Try holding back and letting other people demonstrate their own knowledge.

9. Do you pull your weight? If your coworkers are working away, but you’re playing on Facebook or planning your wedding, chances are high that you’ve got a reputation as the office slacker.  If you work less than others and find excuses for not being productive, it’s time to turn over a new leaf. Slacking off won’t just alienate your coworkers in the short-term; it will also ruin your reputation – and references and promotion potential – in the long-term.

10. Are you chronically defensive? If you bristle at the slightest hint that your work wasn’t perfect, your coworkers might end up spending more time trying to avoid you than talking to you because they don’t want to deal with your prickliness. As a result, you’ll end up finding that problems go unaddressed and you don’t get important feedback when you need it. If nothing else, try practicing this phrase: “I want to take some time to think about this, but I appreciate you telling me.”

If you recognize yourself in any of the above habits, you might just be the irritating coworker that your colleagues are complaining about. But don’t worry – there’s hope for a recovery!  Try a one-month moratorium on the behavior and see if any of your relationships improve.

Alison Green

Alison Green writes the popular Ask a Manager blog where she dispenses advice on career, job search, and management issues. She's also the co-author of Managing to Change the World: The Nonprofit Manager's Guide to Getting Results and former chief of staff of a successful nonprofit organization, where she oversaw day-to-day staff management, hiring, firing, and employee development.

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