Top 5 – Irritating office habits (and how to deal with them)

Anyone who’s spent time working in an office knows how important observing the right workplace etiquette can be.

Unfortunately, however, a happy and harmonious environment can be all too easily compromised by the idiosyncrasies of others.

To help you get to grips with some of your co-workers more aggravating attributes, here are our top five irritating office habits and how to deal with them…


1. ‘The Clutterer’

Unless you’re one of the lucky few who has their own office (see also: cubicle), you will probably be sharing your workspace with at least one other person.

And, if you have particular problems with sharing, this may be a challenge. Find yourself sitting next to someone who can’t keep paperwork to themselves and the challenge may be even greater.

To combat the clutterer, try tidying their things for them or giving them some simple rules, reminding them to Keep It Tidy, or K.I.T (feel free to come up with your own acronym here). Because nothing says fun but fair like a barrage of gently persuasive post-it notes attached to everything they own.

Remember: completely disregard if you work from home. Young children are less perceptive than you may think…


2. ‘The Latecomer’

You know the type. They turn up late every day for work without fail. No matter how far in advance the meeting’s scheduled, they always seem to arrive five minutes after it’s started. There’s always one in every office. And if you feel your office lacks a latecomer, the chances are it’s probably you.

The best way to deal with tardiness is to pre-empt it. Schedule meetings half an hour, an hour, or even a day in advance. That way, the meeting slacker becomes the early bird. For more serious cases, set their computer’s clock ten minutes early, and they should even themselves out. Unless, of course, they wear a watch. In that case, you’re on your own.


3. ‘The Desktop DJ’

Depending on your role and your place of work, employees may be permitted to listen to music as they go about their day. If you’re one of the lucky ones, music can increase your productivity, and positively affect your morale. That is of course, unless you sit next to the ‘Desktop DJ’, or in other words, a frustrated musician convinced that those noise cancelling headphones cancel the noise for everyone else.

First of all, they don’t. Politely remind them to try and keep the volume at an acceptable level. And, if you’re not allowed to listen to music, courteously ask them to leave the boombox at home. Music can still be their life, just not between nine and five.


4. ‘The phone f(r)iend’

Nothing says workplace rudeness like an important business conversation being cut short by a colleague’s phone going off. Let’s get this straight, some phone calls need to be taken (we’re thinking partner going into labour/serious accident/a more important business conversation etc.). If a friend’s simply ringing to tell them what’s just happened on Home and Away*, you’re well within your rights to say something.

Similarly, it’s good business practice to keep your phone on silent.  A ringtone says a lot about a person. If their ringtone screams ‘I’m in my mid-thirties and I’m still into Justin Bieber’, it’s probably best to keep it on silent anyway.

Because not everyone loves experimental Latin Jazz-Folk Fusion. And that’s ok…


5. ‘The no-names policy’

When people have been at a company for so long that they’re practically part of the furniture, it’s easy to forget about the little things. And politeness is not necessarily restricted to remembering your P’s and Q’s.

For example, if there are new people starting in the office, even something as simple as remembering their names can go a long way. And, when it comes to e-mails, common courtesy would be to reply to it within 24 hours. That way you display perfect etiquette, and avoid any embarrassing moments around the watercooler/in the lift/other awkward social situations.

If a co-worker does not follow these golden rules, feel free to say something. Alternatively, try fighting fire with fire. Call them the wrong name a few times (‘Are you sure it’s not Kevin?’) and stop forwarding them the funnies, they’ll soon get the message.

Because Karma is a lot quicker if you do it yourself…


Honourable mentions: The know-it-all, the inappropriate dresser, the sniffler, that annoying guy in accounts* (who we can’t quite put our finger on).

*N.B. would like to point out that we have absolutely nothing against Home and Away. Or accountants.

Please share your office etiquette fails and frustrations* in the comments section below. Or, if you prefer, tweet them to @reedcouk.


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