Annoying Office Behavior

By Vicki Wrona, PMP:

I had earlier posted a popular article on email pet peeves. Let’s continue that discussion by sharing how we handle annoying office behavior. With today’s open offices and greater workforce diversity in terms of age and culture, we all find ourselves observing behavior we may not deem as preferred (or professional). What can we do about that behavior if it affects our ability to work professionally?

There are several things which I have encountered which are bothersome. They are:

    • Headphones – I don’t mind people wearing headphones to allow them to concentrate while working in a busy, open or noisy environment. What I mind is when they get in the way of office communication. People who don’t remove headphones or earbuds when you are trying to talk to them are especially irksome to me. Shouting in the office so they can hear me over their music does not help anybody.
    • Loud talkers – this includes people on the phone as well as those whose voices really carry even during normal conversation. Some people are not aware of how far their voice carries.
    • Phone answerers – there are those people who will run to their phone while you are in the middle of a business conversation or meeting to answer their phone. Their implication is that the person on the other end, no matter who it is, is more important than you and the conversation you are having now. I understand that sometimes important calls are expected, but this should be the exception, not the rule. It’s OK to let the phone roll to voice mail and deal with that issue later.
    • Office fridge – there are the normal problems of unidentifiable, stinky and fuzzy food in the fridge. I will admit to the being the person who didn’t recognize my own container and so left food in the fridge until well past the fuzzy stage. (It only happened once, I swear.) I can deal with old food, because it’s easy enough to throw away. What I don’t like are the people who bring their lunch in a cooler or protected lunch sack who displace other food in the fridge to make room for their large sack. Don’t they know that the lining protects their food from the external elements…namely the cold air in the fridge? Meanwhile, they put food that is not protected and needs to be refrigerated on the counter. I wouldn’t mind their action if they tossed fuzzy food instead of fresh food.  Erg.
    • Showing up at work sick – I just had a discussion with my neighbor about this the other day. I worked for a company that issued awards for perfect attendance, encouraging people to show up sick to work. In the end, they may have received their perfect attendance but the rest of us didn’t.

How do I work around many of these? I use a proven method of providing feedback.

    • Headphoners – I no longer make fun of them and call them Borg. :)  I make sure not to raise my voice to compensate for the headphones. At times, I have simply asked them to remove the headphones or earbuds.
    • Phone answerers – Unless this is done by my boss or a more senior person, I simply leave their office or the conference room where we are meeting. If they do this in my office, I signal for them to step outside while talking and I switch focus to other work to give a clear indication that I am moving on. Later, I talk to them to discuss why I acted the way I did and see if we can come to an agreement on future discussions.
    • Loud talkers – if it is truly disruptive, I rely on providing simple feedback or asking them if they are aware of just how much their voice carries. I have found people to be interested and very willing to make an effort to lower their voice.
    • Showing up at work sick – my best defense was to avoid them as best I could. If I had to talk to them face to face, I kept a larger than normal distance and used lots of sanitizer. They knew who they were, and it became the office joke to offer them some sanitizer….even if it wasn’t really funny.

What annoying office behavior bothers you most?