May 20, 2010
The biggest office peeves -- and what to do about them
Ah, the office nuisance. We hate to work with them but love to regale our friends and family with stories about how horrid they are.
[Photo: Editor B]
A new survey sponsored by staffing firm Randstad looks at what annoys workers most in the office. Surprisingly, stinky sandwiches, bad hygiene, and people who smack their lips together when they eat didn't top the list.
Of the 1,000 working U.S. adults polled for Randstad's survey, 43 percent named colleagues with crummy time management skills as their top office peeve, 36 percent said they get their knickers in a twist over office gossip, and 25 percent said they can't stand messy communal spaces at work.
My personal office peeve -- loud noises, including overly exuberant talkers and obnoxious ring tones -- came in at a close fourth, with 21 percent of respondents sharing my sentiment. Among the other leading workplace nuisances cited by those polled:
- Potent scents, like perfume, cologne, food, or cigarette smoke on someone's clothes (20%)
- People who overuse their laptops or smartphones in meetings (15%)
- Conversations about U.S. or international politics (12%)
- E-mail abusers who send messages too often, overuse reply all, or have the gall to send chain letters (12%)
- Personal use of social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn during business hours (12%)
To Eileen Habelow, senior vice president of organizational development for Randstad, these survey findings make perfect sense. These days, Habelow said, people don't get their feathers ruffled over a stinky tuna sandwich or an officemate who slurps their soda nearly as much as they do over a teammate who doesn't pull their weight or is always missing deadlines -- especially if it jeopardizes your own performance.
"People are working so hard and there's fewer people doing more work. So if you see someone next to you who has time to surf the web and take more breaks, you're going to feel resentful," Habelow says.
Perhaps this is why 29 percent of workers polled said they had no problem asking their office nuisance to cease and desist. Of course, 27 percent said they'd suck it up and say nothing, and 19 percent said they'd vent about it to other co-workers (thus perpetuating office gossip, the number two peeve on the list).
If you're not among that bold 29 percent but would like to be, Habelow suggests telling the offending colleague, "I know this is just my own personal pet peeve, but it drives me bonkers when you chew with your mouth open/argue with your wife on the phone when I'm in the room/clip your toenails at your desk" (aka, "It's not you, it's me!"). Doing so helps you come off as less uptight and helps your co-worker save a bit of face. Plus, Habelow says, many people have no idea just how annoying their quirky little habits are.
But how about perpetually late or lazy colleagues whose foul-ups affect your own projects? Should you tell the boss?
Before kicking your complaint up the food chain, Habelow says, see if talking to your colleague helps -- that is, unless you're completely uncomfortable initiating that conversation. But be careful which office nuisances you do trouble your boss with, Habelow warns. If it's not a productivity issue, think twice about opening your mouth.
"Before I went to somebody's boss, I would make sure it's serious enough and not just that it bugs me," she says. "If I'm complaining about something that's only a pet peeve, I'm going to look like a fifth grader."
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
Paul Anderson helps professionals in transition find their desired employment.
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