Don’t Be That Person – Workplace Behaviors That Annoy Co-Workers

You’re never late for meetings. You also chip in for every co-worker’s birthday or baby shower that comes along. That’s why you consider yourself a good colleague – certainly not like that annoying person in the cubicle next to you.

But what you may not realize is that you are indeed that person. The person who annoys teammates with rude, sloppy, underhanded and clueless behavior.

So let’s look at what seems to be getting you in the most trouble:

Other rude behavior that most irks colleagues is gabbing about personal issues on your cellphone. A Jive Software study finds that 65% of workers are annoyed by someone having loud or private conversations in a public area. The buzzing and beeping of your phone signaling incoming texts or emails also annoys your colleagues, and 59% say they dislike it when you fail to silence or turn off your phone when appropriate.

“Your mobile phone is mobile. Stand up, walk to somewhere that’s a little bit more private to have those private conversations,” says Sydney Sloan, Jive’s social media expert.

  • You’re sloppy. It’s one thing to turn your cubicle into a toxic waste dump, but it’s another when your slovenly habits affect others. Another OfficeTeam survey finds that 44% of workers say that making a mess for others to clean up is the most annoying break room behavior. So is eating smelly food in your cubicle, dripping coffee on the carpet and exploding a burrito in the microwave and failing to clean it up.
  • You’re underhanded. It doesn’t mean much when you get your work done if you’ve accomplished it by being a weasel. Perhaps you take full credit for a happy customer when you know that a colleague was the one who gave you the idea for solving the issue. Or, maybe you put only your name on a report that had significant input by someone else. There’s a reason they say karma is a bitch – you will find out one day when you need help and your co-workers turn their backs on you.
  • You’re clueless. What? You were supposed to have that report in by 9 a.m. today? You didn’t know that! Why is everyone so mad? Probably because you seem to like to keep yourself in the dark. Colleagues count on you to be resourceful enough to take care of your work from beginning to end, and they don’t want to babysit you to ensure the job gets done. Learn to be resourceful to develop not only your own value and skills, but to stop ticking off co-workers.
  • You need subtitles. While you may ask a question seeking clarification, it’s done in such a demeaning way that it feels like an insult.  You know that voice you use to talk to your 3-year-old niece? Don’t use that with co-workers, please.

Embrace the annoyance

If you’re being driven buggy by the bad behavior listed above, you can’t just ignore the problem.

University of Southern California researchers have found that being around annoying people can actually slow down your brain. We engage our right ventral premotor cortex to “mirror” others when we see people we like or who look like us. But when viewing someone we find annoying or dislike, then the process goes awry.

Dr. Liane Davey, author of “You First: Inspire Your Team to Grow Up, Get Along, and Get Stuff Done,” suggests that you can learn to get along better with a teammate you dislike and find annoying by:

      1.  Coming out of hiding. Quit avoiding the person who bugs you and instead spend more time with him or her. Known as the “mere-exposure effect” it’s a psychological phenomenon that says we develop a preference for things just because we’re familiar with them. In other words, spending more time with the person you’ve taken issue with may actually make you feel better.
      2. Looking on the bright side. Think of at least one thing you admire about the person, even if it’s an ability to self-promote (even if you think the behavior is overblown).
      3. Stand in their shoes. The person may be a braggart because he or she actually has self-esteem problems. Before jumping to judgments about the person, see if you can figure out what may be leading to some of the obnoxious behavior.
      4. Reach out.  Stop harping about the behavior that annoys you and use that energy to establish a connection. You can start with something like, “I feel like we got off to a bad start and I’d like to change that,” or “I’m really struggling with this new project. How is it going for you?”
      5. Use your manners. We often become brusque with people we find annoying, or try to completely ignore them. That doesn’t solve anything and leads to the situation becoming even more annoying. Make it a point to be polite to the person or offer to buy him or her a cup of coffee.  “All of these very small actions will signal that you are part of the same tribe—and we’re hardwired to like the people in our tribe,” Davey says.
What co-worker behavior do you find the most annoying and how do you deal with it?












Anita Bruzzese

Anita Bruzzese is a syndicated columnist for Gannett/USA Today on workplace issues and the author of “45 Things You Do That Drive Your Boss Crazy.” She has been on the Today show, and quoted in publications such as O, The Oprah Magazine, Glamour, Self.com and BusinessWeek.com. Her website, 45things.com, is listed on the Forbes top 100 websites for women.

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