All of us have issues. It’s impossible to be perfect all the time, and working with the same people in an office provides plenty of opportunities for each of us to be the awkward coworker. If you’re not sure whether or not you fit the awkward description, here are some bad habits that could be making your co-workers cringe.
1. Hygiene habits.
I’m not talking about whether or not you showered this week – that should be a given. But let’s say you forgot to clip your nails – toes or fingers – and decide to do it at the office. Not cool. But let’s not stop at nail clipping at the office. Other hygiene things to steer clear of: picking at things on your face, burping (especially in the cube environment…those walls are not soundproof), or picking your teeth. The good news is that hygiene moments like these don’t have to be an issue. You can either do this stuff in the comfort of your own home OR hike down to the bathroom and take care of things. It’s a lot less awkward to see a coworker brushing or flossing their teeth in the bathroom than it is at their desk.
2. Annoying sounds.
For those with sensitive hearing, it can be really hard to tune out excessive pen clicking or tapping or even finger/joint cracking throughout the day. Whether you’re in a meeting or at your desk, resist the urge to tap or make repetitive noises. Invest in a fidget toy if need be.
3. Over the top personality.
Every office usually has at least one of these types. They might laugh loudly at their own weird jokes or do crazy hand motions when telling stories or anything else that makes others in the room just a wee bit uncomfortable. Everyone uses a ‘work laugh’ for this coworker’s stories and jokes.
4. Overly chatty.
It’s a balancing act. You spend a lot of time at work, and you do develop varying levels of relationships with your coworkers. But then there’s always at least one coworker who is a real talker…about everything in the office. They chat with you when they don’t like an assignment. They swing by when they have a new piece of gossip to share. Or, they drop in with every additional assignment in order to verbally process it with you. Chatting about office life or work assignments is fine, but when someone stops you from working multiple times throughout the day, it starts to affect productivity. Open door office policies are great until no one is getting any work done.
5. Food FAuX Pas.
Food is a tricky component of the office. Whether you eat someone else’s food or blow up your food in the microwave….or stink up the entire floor with your lunch….or chew loudly – food adds an interesting dynamic to office life. Everyone has to eat at some point in the day, but it creates its own set of rules. Make sure you eat your own food. Leave the microwave as clean as you found it. Keep your food low on the stink meter. And keep your mouth closed while chewing…that should keep you out of trouble.
Quirky or bad habits can affect office productivity, so it might be time to talk to the employee about the offending habit. Each situation will present itself differently, so there is no one perfect approach to awkward office conversations. However, there are some basic what not to do rules:
- Don’t hang up passive aggressive signs around the office or leave anonymous notes on someone’s chair.
- Don’t cover the issue in a team meeting – unless there are multiple people committing the awkward and annoying habits.
- Don’t gossip. It’s tempting to talk about the nail clipping, the bad food smells, or roll your eyes behind the back of the loud and effusive co-worker, but gossiping destroys teams.
- Don’t speak loudly enough in vague terms about the issue in hopes the offending employee will get the hint.
- Don’t write an email to the offending employee – if you’re going to speak up, do it face to face.
A good rule of thumb is to just ask yourself first if you’re responding in a passive aggressive manner, and if the answer is yes, then skip it. The other easy test is to consider how you would want to be treated if you were the office socially awkward employee, and then respond accordingly.