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7 habits guaranteed to make your coworkers hate you

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“The Office” might be funny to watch, but deep down you know that you would quickly go insane being surrounded by such coworkers day-in and day-out.

But what if you’re the one who is actually driving everyone around you nuts? On the scale of normalcy, are you Jim or are you Dwight? Your co-workers might be too polite to tell you. It’s time to take stock of your behavior.

Are you guilty of any of the following? Bad news if you are, since these are 7 things that are guaranteed to make your coworkers hate you:

1) Never cleaning up after yourself. Are you just plain messy? Sure, you can organize your own desk however you want, but encroaching into your coworker’s space is rude. Leaving trash sitting out on a table instead of throwing it away like an adult is another quick way to grate on your colleagues’ nerves. If you open something, throw away the packaging. If you use a cup or plate, wash it and put it away. If you pour the last of the coffee, start brewing a new batch. Cleaning up after yourself shows that you respect the fact that the office is a shared space and that you take responsibility for taking care of it.

2) Eating your lunch like an animal. Take a lunch break in the kitchen whenever possible. The smell of food is distracting for those who are trying to finish up one last task before taking their own lunch break. But the Regus Company found that listening to others chew was a surprisingly frequent pet peeve in co-working spaces. Eat with your mouth closed, don’t slurp your soup, loudly guzzle your soda or make that awful “death rattle” noise with your straw. Have table manners whether you’re eating in the kitchen or at your desk. If you care at all about maintaining a professional image at work, you also won’t talk while you have food in your mouth or leave crumbs everywhere. Didn’t you learn this stuff when you were five?

3) Flirting like it’s your job. Everyone gets it: you’re young and attractive and you think you’re pretty cool. But if your default communication style is to flirt, you have a lot of homework to do to fix it. You can think whatever you want, but saying whatever you want is not a good idea, especially if it’s overtly flirtatious or downright crude. The office isn’t the right place for making dirty jokes, especially not when giving a presentation or representing the company to visitors. Forget what you’ve seen on TV: office flirting is annoying. Most people are loyal to their significant others or strictly believe in the “don’t get your honey where you get your money” motto.

4) Talking the talk but not walking the walk. Always passing off work, telling other people what to do and spending all your time “networking” are signs that tell your co-workers you’re getting by with the bare minimum. If you’re going to pass work off to someone, make sure your nose is to the grindstone already. Ask politely when you need help rather than demand it. And unless your job title is “Chief Schmoozer,” get off the phone. Your co-workers will easily see through your paper-thin charm and will know they can’t rely on you to follow through with projects.

5) Being a stooge at email. Forgetting to reply-all when it’s warranted or using it willy-nilly when it’s not is just one way to mess up the email experience for your coworkers. Email is a wonderful communication tool because you can take your time to formulate a thoughtful response and get thoughtful feedback in return. But it takes a little bit of finesse to get it right. Some people can handle long paragraphs, but others will skim them and miss out on some of the important points. Use bullet points or highlight actionable items. If you find yourself writing a novel in email, pick up the phone or request a meeting instead. Use descriptive subject lines and don’t overuse the “urgent” tag. Finally, be careful to use specific language: answering “Yes” to the question “Do you like option number one or option number two?” is not helpful.

6) Dragging out meetings. Just like email, meetings require a certain finesse. Meetings with agendas and strict time limits are most useful in hurrying along discussion, creating action items and providing assignments. Whether you are expected to lead the meeting or just contribute, do not, for the love of all that is good, get off topic. Side-conversations and off-topic banter drags out the meeting for everyone else. What should be half an hour turns into a full hour or longer when you pause to tell everyone an anecdote or to ask someone about their vacation in order to “be friendly.” Think it, jot it down as something to bring up at lunch if you’d like, but don’t say it.

7) Nit-picking everything and everyone or always taking the pessimistic view. There is a time and a place for nit-picking. Develop a good grasp of when it is appropriate and when it is not. Are you sending out a client proposal that could lead to a million-dollar contract? Nit-pick away! Did someone make a grammatical error in an internal email? Don’t bother. And just as there is always one person who must be a perfectionist, there is always someone who has to be a pessimist. Do the words, “That won’t work” or “we’ve done that before” or “we’ve always done it this way” often leave your lips? If so, you might be the office pessimist. No one likes the office pessimist. Practice the “think but don’t say” regimen and give your coworkers space to be creative and to try new ideas.

What did we miss? Do you think coworkers or managers should be bolder about confronting coworkers who have these bad habits? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below. And share this with your coworkers … if they can take a hint.


Based in Louisville, KY, Cathy Habas makes a living as a freelance writer, editor and Spanish-English translator. Cathy is currently working as one of the Content Marketer at BuildNicheLinks. Professionally, she enjoys helping startups create eye-popping and effective websites. Personally, she’s always on the lookout for gadgets that make life easy.

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