15 Irritating Office Habits We Should All Strive to Break

by Tiffany Bloodworth Rivers on August 7, 2014
Checklist: Your Guide To Success With Activity-Based Working

We are all guilty of it—breaking in on conversation we are not involved in, or eating carrots at our desk, not considering who may be around us and how it affects them. Every one of us possesses some annoying habit that irritates our co-workers to no end. But the reality is, we spend a lot of time with our colleagues and should respect them, treating them as we would like to be treated.

I asked my co-workers and friends which workspace habits that annoy them the most. Here were the top picks:

1) Jumping into conversations we are not a part of

Like many workspaces today, ours is an open office, making it easy to hear what is going on around you. Having an open space like this is great, encouraging collaboration amongst employees. Just be careful
and ensure you have something valuable to add to the conversation before jumping in.

2) Saying “That’s not my job”

We are all working towards the same common goal. Success comes from the value that each team member brings to the table. Sometimes this means going above and beyond to get things done. So next time your teammate asks you to do something that doesn’t fall into your job description, show you are an asset to the team and find a way to help out.

3) Poor email etiquette

Proper email etiquette is important, not just amongst colleagues, but for your clients as well. If it is not necessary to “reply to all”, don’t. We get enough emails as it is, don’t clog up someone’s inbox with mail that is irrelevant to them. And the subject line is there for a reason, but it is only effective when used properly. Be sure to give your email a subject and update if the current subject line is irrelevant to the current topic.

4) Chewing loudly, mouth-breathing and/or sniffling

I don’t know about you, but there is nothing more distracting to me than hearing someone chew their food or sniffle all day long. If you’re sniffling, please excuse yourself and blow your nose; you may be surprised at how much easier it is to focus once you have. Have a bag of carrots to snack on, or some crackers and cheese? Take it to the break room for those noisy snacks. Studies actually show that a few mini breaks throughout the day make for a more productive workday. Which leads us to #5….

5) Not cleaning up after oneself

Remember that college roommate that let their dirty dishes pile up until you broke down and did them? Don’t be that guy (or gal)! We are all adults and should be able to act like it. Clean and put away your dishes, wipe up your crumbs, and throw your trash away. If you had a meeting in a common area, be sure to push in your chairs and straighten up before you leave. Leave things as you found them. Oh, and by the way, this goes for your workspace as well. Whether you share a collaborative space with others, or have your own office, your co-workers have to see and smell your trash. So be sure to throw your trash away when finished—no one wants to smell your lunch from yesterday or handle the flies that are inevitable if trash is left too long.

6) Asking questions you could look up on your own

We are all busy. And while your teammates are there for you when you need them, the answer is typically out there somewhere. Try to find the answer to your question before interrupting your co-workers.

7) Asking people to do something on their day off

Americans are amongst the hardest working globally, earning less vacation time than anyone else; and taking even less. So when your co-worker takes that much-needed time off, do not bother them. Chances are they are checking their inbox and voicemail at least once a day, but you should only take advantage of this if there is a real emergency or they have agreed to contact regarding specific subjects. Let them re-group while away-they will likely come back renewed and ready to tackle whatever is thrown their way.

8) Coming in when you are sick

While your dedication is appreciated, please stay home when you are sick. If you really feel horrible, you need to be at home resting, not spreading your germs all over the office, ensuring the rest of the office will 15 irritating office habits FMs should breakbe out of commission next week. If you really have a lot of work to get done, take your laptop to bed with you and finish it there. Trust me, this is one time in which your teammates would rather you “go it alone.”

9) Leaving lights on in the bathroom or common area once you leave

We are a very environmentally conscious society and everyone is looking to do their part. So, when you leave the bathroom or break room, turn the light off. If your facility participates in green initiatives such as recycling, get involved.

10) Loud talking

…And tapping your foot, and pen clicking, and breathing loudly. Any repetitive noise that could distract your colleagues while they are trying to concentrate. This is especially important if you are in a cubicle or open space setting, where everyone can hear EVERYTHING you do. Think about what things distract you and reflect upon your own actions. If you realize you have one of these distracting habits, make a conscious effort to break it. If someone points it out and asks you to stop, don’t be offended —just remember how frustrating it is when you are deep in thought and lose it due to Frank’s loud conversation in the next cubicle over.

11) Not replenishing something you used the last of

There is nothing worse than going to the restroom and realizing (too late) that there is no toilet paper. Or washing your hands and finding there are no paper towels to dry off. Take that few extra moments and re-fill the water before heading back to your desk—your co-workers will notice either way.

12) Taking someone else’s food from the refrigerator

So, you brought your leftovers from last night’s dinner for lunch today. It was such a great meal, you’ve been looking forward to lunch all morning. But lo and behold, you go to heat it up and…it’s gone!? It’s happened to most of us at some point. All I can think is “How rude, why would anyone do that?” If you are really hungry, please just ask me; I will probably share. But please don’t take my food and leave me hungry. The culprit is likely not looking at it this way when they are doing it, but it is stealing. Please bring your own food or ask before taking.

13) Being a “Negative Nancy”

I get it, life stinks sometimes. But the energy we put out affects everyone around us. So please, keep the negativity to a minimum and remember-the energy you put out into the universe is the energy you get back.

14) Sharing too much of your personal life

While it is appropriate and encouraged to get to know your colleagues on a personal level, there is a line. Before sharing details about your financial situation or how many times your daughter went potty last night, think about the person you are talking to and how they would feel about these details.

15) Talking on the cell while in the bathroom

Everyone needs to make a personal call from time to time. But we all tend to talk a little louder when on our cell phones and those conversations can be very distracting to those around you. So please, take the conversation in the hall, a quiet space, or even outside. But not in the bathroom. Your voice is amplified when in the bathroom and besides, it’s just a little weird.

Most of us are guilty of some (or all) of these habits at some point in our careers. But we spend almost as much time with our teammates as we do our families, so it only makes sense to respect their needs and wishes. Habits are difficult to break, but if you find yourself regularly doing something on this list, make a conscious effort to remedy that. What workspace habits are your pet peeves? We would love to hear them.


Tiffany Bloodworth Rivers

Tiffany covers leadership and marketing topics and enjoys learning about how technology shapes our industry. Before iOFFICE, she worked in local news but don't hold that against her.

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