The 12 most annoying workplace habits

We’re talking to you, Mr. Tuna Fish Sandwich.

Why can’t we all just get along, particularly in the workplace?

Well, because we’re human, and humans are mostly annoying. (Smiles.) Like the guy who sits in next cube and-you know-fiddles with his nose a bit too much. C’mon, no one has a cold 365 days a year, and no one’s allergies are that bad. But I digress from the mostly annoying to the overwhelmingly gross. Back to annoying.

We’ve all had workmates who are annoying, so I took a quick poll to come up with the 12 most annoying workplace habits. It got a bit graphic, so this list has been edited somewhat, lest we offend anyone. Such is the risk of cataloging truly annoying behavior.

1. Loud talking

Maybe it’s the boss bellowing on the interoffice intercom. Maybe it’s the stage—whispered cell phone conversations with a recruiter. Maybe it’s the clown who stands outside your office and talks about his cats. For a long time.

People who haven’t figured out what “inside voice” means need to go back to kindergarten. Be kind and keep your voice down when you’re in the office. And trust me: No one really wants to listen in on your sotto-voce conversations. They’re too worried about their own lives.

2. Reheating last night’s salmon in the microwave

Smelly food is tough enough to tolerate in a shared space, but leftovers—especially when heated to 300 degrees C in the malfunctioning microwave—are incredibly annoying. Have a heart; save the stinky food for your cats. (See No. 1.)

3. Whispering

There’s not much behavior that’s as subversive and damaging as whispering, especially when it’s the boss talking to his or her pet employee. Act like an adult. If you have something to say, speak up (in an inside voice, of course). Otherwise, hold that thought-or send an email.

4. Bare feet

I know I swore off hygiene issues, but bare feet are at times annoying (unless a person is surfing). You’re at work, not in the family room. Put on your shoes. Preferably with socks, preferably not white ones.

5. Saying “excuse me?” in response to every comment or question

Some people have so much noise in their heads or are so busy following along to the songbook of their own lives that they incessantly say “excuse me?” in response to the simplest comment or request. No, you are not excused. Pay attention. There will be no repetition of instructions.

6. Interrupting

This should really be in the No. 1 slot. Interrupting is annoying on every level. It’s bad manners. What you have to say is not more important than what the other person has to say. It may be a struggle, you may have to write a list while others are speaking, but don’t interrupt-unless the office is on fire.

7. Complaining

This is second only to interruption in the annals of annoying workplace behavior. Some people love to complain. Perhaps it makes them feel in control. Perhaps they’re just that dissatisfied. Maybe they think they know best. It doesn’t matter, really. If you need to complain incessantly, it’s time to find a new job. No Debbie Downers allowed.

8. Correcting people; no one likes a know-it-all

No one likes to be corrected, especially in front of the boss. If someone makes a mistake, find a subtle way to alert them. If you find yourself correcting people a lot, reconsider your behavior—you may be feeling sensitive or vulnerable. Or maybe you’re just an annoying soul. Don’t be that person.

9. Micromanaging

This one is also a strong contender for the No. 1 slot. If you’re a manager of people or projects, don’t do this. Let your people learn, which means letting them figure stuff out, test assumptions, make mistakes, and correct. If you’re so worried that you find yourself hounding people, take the task on yourself.

10. Chewing with your mouth open

Many workplaces think communal lunches build team spirit, but if you’re a mouth breather or loud chewer, reconsider attending until you get your manners under control.

11. Taking cell phone calls in meetings

Another strong contender for most annoying workplace behavior. You and your cell phone are not that important. Rent a clue, and leave the phone on your desk—with the ringer off, please.

12. Intruding on personal space

We know you need something. Really we do. But please don’t lurk. Send an email, call, leave a note. Just don’t intrude on my personal space. We all need a little space of our own to be happy, or at least productive, employees. Don’t intrude.

What behavior annoys you most in the workplace? You are safe here, really. Let’s have some fun.

Meghan M. Biro, founder of TalentCulture, is a serial entrepreneur and globally recognized career expert in talent acquisition, creative personal, and corporate branding. A version of this story first appeared on The 12 most blog.

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