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10 Ways You Annoy Your Co-workers

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What is your opinion on gum in the office?

A) One should never chew gum in the office! It is not polite!

B) It is fine to chew gum in the office if you’re quiet.

C) It is awesome! I have bubble blowing contests!

When you put on perfume do you:

A) Spritz a little on your wrists and neck?

B) Spray a fair amount on your clothes so you will definitely make a mark when someone is near you?

C) Take a bath in it?

How far away should you stand when you are speaking to someone?

A) An arm and a half’s distance away.

B) An arm length’s distance.

C) Close enough so you can study every detail of their face. That is called being a good listener.

If you answered C for all of these, you need to read this list below. When you work in an office, you are often in very close and open quarters where people can see everything you are doing whether they want to or not. There are things that are really perfectly reasonable at home and in social situations that are just not going to fly at work, so we want you to be aware of them so you don’t annoy your co-workers.

1. Chewing Loudly

“I mean, if you stop to think about, like, chewing… what it really is? How people just do it, like, in public.” —Angela Chase, My So-Called Life

This is one of my favorite quotes of all time, because the wisest teenage girl in television history is right. When you really think about chewing or mastication, it is gross. And if someone is doing it so loudly that it is actually distracting, well then, that is a crime.

2. Popping Gum

“You know how some people have these little habits that get you down? Like Bernie. Bernie liked to chew gum. No, not chew. POP. So I come home from work one night and I’m real irritated, and I’m looking for a little sympathy. And there’s Bernie, lying on the couch, drinking a beer and chewin’. No, not chewin’. POPPIN’. So I said, “If you pop that gum one more time…” And he did. So I took the shotgun off the wall and fired two warning shots… into his head.” —Chicago

And that is what happens when you pop gum too loudly at work. It is only cute if you are Kelly Kapowski on Saved by the Bell.

3. Bringing in Smelly Food

Lorelai: Oh, you’re ordering the Indian food?

Rory: Yup.

Lorelai: Good, enjoy. Can you burn the house down afterward? ‘Cause that’s the only way we’ll get the smell out. —Gilmore Girls

Bringing in smelly food to a room full of people can be offensive. It may smell delicious to you, but it will infiltrate everyone else’s taste buds and whatever they are eating (or not eating) as well. For something especially potent, bring it into the breakroom.

4. Lingering

Every office has one person who doesn’t really understand the concept of a conversation ending. You are trying to go back to work and they are still hanging out near your desk like a puppy waiting for a treat. There is work to do so have your talk, and then exit!

5. Close Talker

As we know, practically everything we learned on Seinfeld can be attributed to real life, and this is one of them. A close talker, or really anyone that invades your personal space, can really upset people. We work together; we don’t need to touch each other. I can hear you just as well when you are two feet away from me.

6. Too Much Email

Hey, we all love a video of a cat sitting on a dog while wearing a sombrero, but not every email chain or video is going to be that precious. You do not want to be that person in your office that forwards every email. This can also go for work emails as well. Is it easier to go talk to the person, or call them or do you need to send them 60 emails?

7. Loud Talker

I suffer from something called phone deafness. It hasn’t been diagnosed by a medical doctor, but I am pretty sure I have it. I can’t hear the other person as well so I speak really loudly when I am on the phone as if I were performing in a play. This is why I leave the room if I am near people when I make a phone call. Not everyone is interested in hearing about my personal life (shocking, I know) or a mundane work call.

8. Slob in Shared Spaces

It is fine to be a messy person at home. Heck, give Oscar the Grouch a run for his money. But when you are sharing an area with people, you need to be obsessive about your cleanup. Like, Mary Poppins obsessive.

9. Being a Debbie Downer

Constructive feedback is necessary in any operation, but you don’t need to find something negative with every situation. People will start to dread your presence. You don’t need to bum your whole office out. There is already too much negativity in the world.

10. Smelly Perfume

You may love your perfume a whole lot, but other people may be very sensitive to it. “Keep scent so light that it’s undetectable to anyone more than an arm’s length away from you in any direction—everyone has a personal ‘scent circle,’” Mary Ellen Lapsansky, a Vice President of the New York City-based Fragrance Foundation, told Real Simple. Finding the right amount may take some experimenting on a weekend with a trusted friend.

What are some other behaviors that should stay out of the office? Tell us in the comments!


Coworkers Work-Life Balance #Office Politics Presence Career Advice
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Isaac Middleton IV
Isaac Middleton IV

The "Close-talker" episode is probably one of my favorites. Great read Meredith!

Dealing with personal matters out in the open. My office is a mixture of cubicles and offices and people can hear everything. I particularly don't want to know a coworker's student loan payment is higher than the company said it would be or they can't pay it! Personal conversations should be taken in a more private space, such as at lunch, in a private conference room or empty office. Another annoyance: valley girls. Like, I don't want to, like, hear it. Speaking this way is unprofessional and makes my skin crawl. Horribly enough, the student loan girl IS the valley girl.

I see a lot of this in open-plan offices. They seem to be increasing in popularity, even though my personal experience with them has been awful: lack of privacy and productivity contributes to a tormented workforce! Plus, open plan offices make it difficult for you to conduct personal business during the day, which is the only time you can call the doctor's office or the student loan company!

Ugh!! I hate smelly food. That is definitely the WORST.

In the department I interned at last summer, my co-workers would always be online shopping and I would cringe when they would ask me for my opinion about a dress, or shoes, or a bag. My personal style is very classic and conservative, so often times my opinion about a dress one would wear out to the bar on a Saturday night would not be what they were wanting to hear. But hey, at least they received an honest opinion!

I read an article on uptalk and general valley girl speech patterns in the New York Times last year and it talks about how, even unconsciously, these sorts of patterns are effective power tools in building relationships.

I definitely agree that personal matters should be checked at the door and dealt with during lunch breaks if they can only be resolved within the 9-6 timeframe.

Love the Gilmore Girls reference! I'm usually the "low-talker" when it comes to phone calls. Working in health care, I was always a stickler about keeping patients information as confidential as possible. Other employees in the practice? Not so much. If I can hear you requesting a patient's diagnostic records from my own office, you're too loud and in violation of HIPAA. No one needs to know that patient x's biopsy was positive for prostate cancer before he himself hears the news....from the person with the medical degree. </rant>

What about pen clicking...constantly clicking the pen open then closed, again and again and again. Argh!

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