The 20 Highly Annoying Habits of Coworkers

Submitted by SharpMan Editorial Team on Friday 15th October 2010
In this article
  • The definition of "that guy."
  • How to spot the idiosyncrasies.
  • How to avoid being labeled.

They never seem to know what hit them. For them, any comments regarding their behavior appear to come from nowhere. They’re completely oblivious. But the truth is, these feelings about your coworkers have been building for months, perhaps even years. It’s the "That Guy" syndrome, and there’s one in every office. Read on for SharpWork tips to ensure that That Guy doesn’t turn out to be you:

Defining the Problem

For all intents and purposes, That Guy can be defined as that annoying coworker across the hall or two cubicles down whose habits, gestures and/or work style is so utterly exasperating that he becomes the butt of office jokes and impersonations. He’s outspoken and typically so outrageously confident that his personality leans more toward arrogance than self-assurance.

Granted, in any given week we may all find ourselves expressing some of these traits – after all, in some cases, our workplace may simply seem like an extension of a college dormitory or fraternity house, encouraging a chummy atmosphere that encourages us to let our guard down. But don’t be fooled: this isn’t freshman year or a pledge class. Instead, think of it as rush week –only the cool land the promotions.

So, in order to prevent inadvertently becoming the subject of whispered jokes and muffled laughs, check out our list of the 20 highly annoying habits of coworkers–so you can avoid being "That Guy":

One: Listening to voice mail on speakerphone. Get a headset or pick up the receiver.

Two: E-mailing the person next door instead of walking to their office or picking up the phone. While you might think that a quick e-mail to the cube next door will prevent useless water cooler-type chitchat, proceed with caution, especially if the e-mail contains anything confrontational or controversial. In such cases, speak to your neighbor face to face, rather than fire off an e-mail in which, bolstered by the distance e-mail creates, you might say something impolitic that you would never say in person.

Three: Allowing your cell phone to ring and ring… If you choose to keep your cell phone on at the office, discover the vibrate option.

Four: Whining about work, or complaining about the workload. Although coworkers often bond about bad conditions, you never want to be the guy who is let go during cutbacks, simply because management had gotten wind that you are "unhappy anyway."

Five: Eavesdropping, especially in cubeville. Or, standing in a doorway waiting for your coworker to get off the phone – even if it is evident that they’re on a personal call. If you’re trying to get a hold of coworker who seems to bounce from one call to the next, hand him or her a post-it indicating that you need to speak with him or her.

Six: Eating smelly food at your desk. Believe us, no matter how much air freshener your spray, the odor will continue to lurk – even on your clothes. Stick to the non-smelly stuff, or eat it out of the office. Make a point of washing food smells off your hands and (ideally) brushing food smells out of your teeth after lunch. For more information on avoiding bad breath, see our SharpHealth article Avoiding Bad Breath.

Seven: Eating other people’s candy, especially if it’s hidden in their desk drawer. Similarly, eating a coworker’s food from the communal refrigerator. Bring your own.

Eight: Wearing too much cologne. Go easy on the Eternity, Polo, Cool Water, etc. Instead, check out our SharpGrooming article on applying cologne without overdoing it, in Using Cologne Without Going Overboard.

Nine: Playing music too loudly. Even if your coworkers appreciate your fine taste in music, it’s distracting. If you have a radio in your office or cube, keep the volume very low so that it cannot be heard away from your desk.

Ten: Not re-making the coffee. If you’ve used the last drop to fill your mug, start a new brew. Sure it takes a few minutes, but not as long as having to make new coffee every time you head to the kitchen, because the rest of your office follows your no-coffee-making lead.

Eleven: "Smacking" your gum. It’s distracting, and some people — particularly older men and women (who tend to be in management positions due to their tenure) may even find it disgusting. Switch to mints; they’re more attractive and not as noisy.

Twelve: Tapping your pen. Again, distracting. Save the musical ambitions for your weekends in the garage.

Thirteen: Exhaling Coffee breath. Nothing ends a conversation faster than a colleague who’s trying to escape the wrath of Starbucks®. Either keep a toothbrush at your desk or pop in a breath mint after your morning fix. Same thing goes for smoker’s breath. For more information, see our SharpGrooming article Avoiding Bad Breath.

Fourteen: Having personal arguments over the phone. As much as we’d like to think that our phone conversations are private, they’re not – especially in cubicle settings. One SharpMan Team writer recalls having to listened to a coworker chew out his ex-fiancé because she was marrying a new guy — and he wondered why she didn’t find him irresistible? Our writer then had to hear the entire story four more times when the coworker called every buddy he had in order to recount the story.

Fifteen: Consistently deleting coworkers’ print jobs so that your pages get printed first.

Sixteen: Breaking the personal space barrier; for example, stepping a little too close to coworkers during a conversation. Here’s an easy rule: if you can feel their breath, you’re standing too close. If they seem to be wincing as you speak, you’re standing too close. If they seem at all uncomfortable during an exchange, you’re standing too close. Take a step back — they can still hear you.

Seventeen: Choosing a "neat" cell phone ring. In offices where cell phone rings are tolerated (but see Number Three), cell phone ring tones that deviate from the normal rang of "phone" tones can be annoying. Why? After the 15th rendition of "Take me Out to the Ballgame" your colleagues will begin gathering, mob-style, to chuck your little neon Nokia right out the window. Again, think vibrate option, or stick to the more conventional ring tones.

Eighteen: Clipping fingernails while at your desk, or using a pocketknife to clean underneath nails. It’s gross. Especially when a piece if nail flies over the cube barrier and lands on your coworker’s keyboard. Eeeeeew. For more information on how to trim your manly nubs, see our SharpGrooming article Figuring Out How to Use That Manicure Tool Kit You Got for Christmas.

Nineteen: Picking at your ears while at your desk — or any other orifice. Ears, noses, bellybuttons and anything else that should be done in the privacy of your own bathroom should be done in the privacy of your own bathroom. Sticking your finger in their ear, cleaning out your ear canal, then looking at it and wiping it on the shirt while at your cubicle is not acceptable. For information on how to clean your ears without causing permanent damage to your hearings, see our SharpGrooming article Ear Hair: What Gives?.

Twenty: Swearing at the computer. Unless you happen to work in the entertainment industry, swearing in the office is bound to look unprofessional. Even if your boss does it. Hysterical expletives just don’t inspire confidence and are often associated with the opposite of a SharpMan who can handle the rigors of management. Enough said.

The Next Step

No doubt you can peg someone at your office with one or many of these traits. The key is avoiding being labeled yourself. Should any of these highly annoying work habits hit too close to home, it’s time to reevaluate your work etiquette.

For a week, keep tabs on your behavior, and if one of these ugly deeds does pop up, step back, stop what you’re doing and remember that it’s better to be in on the office joke than the butt of it.

Additional Web Resources:

When your job’s too cushy to quit, Dilbert helps you deal with annoying colleagues by laughing at them.

Tips for dealing with a difficult workplace.

This article last updated on Sunday 30th September 2012
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