For the most part, you don’t pick your co-workers. Even if you did, it’d be hard to see through the veneer of professional behavior most folks put on for a job interview, and sniff out the future popcorn-burners and nail trimmers. Worst of all, unlike with irritating personal acquaintances, there’s no avoiding the people who drive you crazy at work. If you dodge their calls and emails for too long, it’s your career that suffers.
(Photo Credit: Travis Isaacs/Flickr)
No wonder, then, that we got such a whopping response to our Facebook post, asking people to write in to describe the most annoying things their co-workers have ever done. Here, in no particular order, are the top (or bottom) 15:
1. Nail salon, office park … six of one, half a dozen of the other.
Who clips their nails at work? Everyone, it seems. Several people wrote in to describe this oddball co-worker behavior.
“I also had a coworker who would clip his nails in his cube,” writes Jessica. “My friend who sat near him would find little flung clippings on her desk. Yuck! This same guy also looked at questionable material on his computer, for all to see.”
So that’s the real issue: first it’s fingernails. Then it’s treating the company computer like the laptop in your man cave. Of course, sometimes it’s worse than just clipping the nails.
“Clipping nails, sure,” writes Danilo. “But one time I moved into the office previously occupied by the nail clipper, and found the little pencil tray in the center desk drawer full of his nail clippings.”
Bonus points, as well, for Nancy, who wrote in to say that her co-worker clipped his toenails at his desk. That’s some next-level co-worker grossness.
2. I can haz new co-worker?
“I had a co-worker who spoke only in meme,” writes Sarah. “Seriously, it was all, ‘I can haz’ and ‘let’s go get some noms.’ I kind of wanted to punch her on a daily basis. Also, one guy who only ate tuna for lunch. Every day. And put it in the microwave. In an open-plan office. And let’s not forget about the one guy who wore a hat every day. That guy … never used the Oxford comma.”
The lesson here: don’t annoy the editor. She is judging you.
3. Two tickets to the gun show.
“I worked with a guy that would walk around and flex his muscles for everyone to see,” writes Tim. “Not in a sly way — there’d be gym stories to accompany his inappropriate calf exhibition.”
Gym stories. Possibly the only personal anecdote less interesting than a story about a dream you had, that doesn’t involve the listener.
4. Blah, blah, blah.
Several people wrote in to say that they were over co-workers who talked when it was working time.
“Just too much talking,” Jessica writes. “I’d say someone who talks too much is worse than anything. No, I don’t want to hear the backstory to the story you’re going to tell me about this thing that happened to your friend’s sister’s cousin.”
Cynthia mentioned co-workers who followed her into the office first thing on a Monday morning, ready to talk shop … before she even had a chance to put her purse down.
5. Co-Worker McGee, Unlicensed Private Detective.
“I worked with a guy who read through my computer after I left for work … told our shared assistant that she could no longer work for me … and much more,” writes Susan. “But I got even: I got him fired.”
Sometimes, the issue isn’t as much snooping as it is lack of respect for boundaries. Kimberley writes that one of her co-workers “used her master key to let herself into my office when I had a do-not-disturb sign posted and she could see through the window that I was on a conference call.”
“I had to listen to my superior, who was getting paid much more than me, do nothing but plan his wedding and new house for six months while he did no actual work for work,” writes Lisa.
7. Because he’s happy.
“We’ve got this ambassador of happiness jackwagon who rolls through the office loudly whistling the Mickey Mouse theme song,” writes Bryce. “He stops at EVERY EFFING DESK and won’t leave until you ‘give me a smile.’ I’ve taken to calling my cell phone and sitting there, office phone to ear and apparently engrossed in my computer screen when I hear the rodent music coming. Once, he caught me away from my desk and playfully poked me in the ribs. I wished dark things upon him that day.”
Bottom line? “My happy is not your happy, Chuckles! Move along.”
8. Stinky food.
A few folks cited smelly lunches among their co-workers’ worst crimes. The winner?
“Hot broccoli and tuna salad for lunch,” writes Scottie. “Almost every day. No. Just, no.”
Karen adds that gross-smelling food can be worse, depending on the situation of the person who’s smelling it.
“[A co-worker] once ate lunch at his desk right next to me when I was in the very odor-sensitive part of being pregnant,” she says. “Fried octopus. Yup.”
9. Do you ever get that feeling like you don’t even exist?
“My desk was right next to the conference room, so whenever they needed an extra chair, they would steal mine, if I wasn’t at my desk,” writes Doris. “It was all different people at different times.”
10. You make a better door than a window, but we’ll use you as a window all the same.
“Open plan offices make people into inconsiderate [bleep-bloop],” says Chris. “People routinely decide that meetings are to be held next to my desk. Some people on each side, speaking over/through me.”
11. Who needs privacy?
A few readers wrote in to say that their co-workers had sensitive conversations about their health and private lives in the middle of their open office.
“I once worked near someone who would constantly have conference calls on speaker with his door open,” says Molly. “Dial tones are now a trigger for me. I also sat next to someone who would loudly make personal phone calls all day — doc appts, etc. I heard his credit card number so frequently I was tempted to use it. The best call, however, was when he broke up with his shrink. I don’t think I can work in an office ever again.”
12. I guess this cube is his territory now.
“A co-worker smuggled her puppy into the office every day for about a week,” writes Jenn. “The puppy was still learning to pee outside, and it decided that my cube (about 10 feet from hers) was sufficiently ‘away’ from hers to use as a toilet. When I pointed this out to her, she laughed.”
13. Work time is her time.
“I had a co-worker who was very into reverse telecommuting,” writes Elizabeth. “That’s where you go to work to do all your personal chores. I’d listen to this person loudly open envelopes in the morning with mail brought from home and then spend a good chunk of the day on a series of personal calls.”
14. Air pollution.
“I once had a coworker who applied perfume in a massive cloud of stink,” says Elizabeth. “I could tell the exact spot where she sprayed it on. I had to walk through that spot to get to my desk. Gag.”
Then again, one of Cynthia’s top complaints was that her co-workers said her perfume gave them asthma. Can perfume/non-perfume sections of the office be far behind?
15. Safety first.
Finally, this list of co-worker crimes should make office workers feel better about perfume wars and too much chitchat.
“I work in construction, so it’s hard to find the ‘worst,'” writes Joshua. “Was it the guy who showed up black-out drunk at 9:30 a.m. and almost shot someone with a nail gun? Was it the plasterer who used to give me unsolicited art advice in between fighting and speaking high-school level French to his girlfriend/assistant? Was it the racist electrician? Was it the guy who played the best of Van Halen on his jobsite radio EVERY DAY FOR WEEKS? They’re all winners!”
Tell Us What You Think
What co-worker behavior drives you crazy? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.