It may not be the big things that send people over the edge at work, it may be the little things. In his poem, The Hollow Men, poet T.S. Eliot says that “This is the way the world ends / Not with a bang but a whimper.” When asked “what bothers you the most about co-workers” in a recent survey of 2600 hiring managers conducted by Career Builder, respondents revealed a quirky litany of petty annoyances and grudges … from colleagues who “eat all the good cookies” and breathe too loudly to those with disconcerting habits like having big hair, checking co-workers for ticks or wearing bells on their shoes.

The list is amusing – it is easy to imagine the shudders and eye rolls that accompanied these statements. But are we wrong in wondering why many of these complaints seem singular rather than universal? Where were some of the stereotypical and ubiquitous cringe-worthy souls like the whistler, the bootlicking toady, the space invader, the loud talker, the loud eater, and the taker of the last cup of coffee without making more? We went looking for other surveys about co-worker complaints and found those and other petty grievances.

In a Forbes survey, noisy colleagues featured prominently in a list of top annoyances – loud office talkers, people with annoying ring tones, and those who talk on speakerphones. The kitchen is another source of contention: people eating smelly food, leaving dirty dishes or messes for others to clean up, or people who hog the best treats while never bringing in their own. In some “arm’s length” research conducted by Brianna Raymond of Pongo Blog, gossip and eavesdropping were among the top coworker annoyances, along with “gross” behavior such as publicly clipping fingernails (or toenails) at the desk or sharing too much information about medical issues. Among those commenting on her post, there seemed to be a fair amount of coworkers who tell “poop jokes,” and the consensus was that “poop jokes” are indeed annoying and don’t belong in the office.

David R. Butcher of Thomasnet helpfully categorizes these annoying people into 13 Types of Irritating Coworkers. Where do you fall on the scale of things? When people think “annoying co-worker” does your name come to mind? Take the am I the annoying co-worker quiz to find out where you land on the scale of people who drive other people crazy. A few weeks after his list of 13 annoying coworker types, Butcher issued a second list: 13 Types of Coworkers We Like, with many traits we should all aspire to. Meanwhile, if in your role as HR manager some of these crazy-making behaviors wind up in your lap, John Baldoni of CIO suggests three tips for nipping workplace annoyances in the bud – being direct and specific in confronting the behavior, asking the offender to participate in helping to identify the solution, and following up to ensure resolution.


Request a Quote