by Brooke Howell
Most office workers are reasonable enough not to expect silence throughout the workday, but excessive or repetitive noise gets annoying fast. Think “listening to voicemail on your speakerphone in a cube environment,”
You may not realize it, but there’s a good chance you’re doing at least one thing that drives your co-workers nuts.
“That’s their problem,” you may think — but it’s yours too say management experts and advice columnists.
“Working in close quarters with other people is always an adjustment. But if you’re constantly distracting coworkers, it makes them edgy and resentful and corrodes camaraderie,” says Karla Miller, who writes the @Work advice column at The Washington Post. “Also, certain habits may make you seem unprofessional and cost you opportunities.”
Are you guilty of engaging in any of these insanity-inspiring habits at work?
- Making an unreasonable amount of noise. Without fail, the first annoying office habit that every expert I interviewed mentioned was making too much noise. Most office workers are reasonable enough not to expect silence throughout the workday, but excessive or repetitive noise gets annoying fast. Think “listening to voicemail on your speakerphone in a cube environment,” says Johanna Rothman, author of “Behind Closed Doors: Secrets of Great Management.” Talking too loudly on the phone, popping gum, crunching ice, munching on chips, singing and noisy tics such as throat-clearing, were other annoying examples experts mentioned.
- Causing chaos on conference-calls. A subset of making too much noise is being the source of distracting background noise during a conference call or remote meeting. People can hear if you’re pulling pretzels out of a crinkly bag, says Rothman. She recommends getting a high-quality headset instead of using speakerphone to go hands free because it will pick up much less background noise. “There is a difference between a $30 headset and a $100 headset. Don’t scrimp,” she warns.
- Being a source of strong smells. Your family may beg for more of your extra-garlicky recipes and your girlfriend just loves the smell of your cologne, but “your colleagues probably don’t feel the same, and so are greatly irked” when you bring those smells into the office, says Anita Bruzzese, author of “Things You Do That Drive Your Boss Crazy. . . and How to Avoid Them.” They also won’t be happy if you neglect your personal hygiene and bring body odor to work, says Miller.
- Engaging in excessive chit-chat. The office is first and foremost a place to get work done, and co-workers can get annoyed if you spend too much time engaging in small talk instead of concentrating on the task at hand. “Watch people’s body language,” says Carolyn Hax, who writes a syndicated advice column at The Washington Post. “When you’re telling that hilarious story about your weekend, are your colleague’s eyes on you, or drifting over to her computer screen? If it’s the latter, cut yourself off, apologize for getting carried away with your saga and say you’ll finish it later. Then, don’t finish it later unless your colleague specifically says, ‘Hey, you never finished telling me that hilarious story about your weekend.'”
- Doing things that gross people out. This could be coming in when you’re coughing and sneezing like crazy, clipping your fingernails or toenails, or picking your nose or fingernails and then touching a piece of shared office equipment. “Even if I was not ick-factored out, I would get germ-factored out,” says Rothman.
- Touching too much or in unwanted ways. “Touchy-feely types” who poke, hug, tickle or grab their fellow employees or who reach out and touch or pat pregnant bellies commonly drive co-workers crazy, says Miller. Remember your co-workers aren’t necessarily your friends and even those who are may not enjoy being touched.
- Invading others’ personal space. “Space invaders burst uninvited into cubicles and “borrow” office supplies without asking,” says Miller. Even though cubes don’t have doors, they do constitute personal space, so remember to be considerate. You also want to be thoughtful when you’re collaborating around a single computer. “I don’t like people putting their fingers on my monitor,” says Rothman. “I point to the monitor with the back end of my pen to avoid scratching or damaging the monitor.”
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