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May 23, 2019 | 12:11 PM
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26.11.2013Revealed At Last: 15 Things You Do That Drive Your Colleagues Crazy

I've collected a sampling of office fouls that can undermine the reputation of even the most talented worker.


Rob Asghar, Forbes.com

Having consulted a number of managers and worker bees, I’ve collected a sampling of office fouls, infractions and petty crimes that can undermine the reputation of even the most talented worker.

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Of course, it’s clear that no one could be more beloved or conscientious than you. It’s just, well, some of your, um, colleagues that we’re worried about.  So feel free to print this out and leave it in plain view for them to see, sparing you the awkwardness of a brutally honest chat about their shortcomings.

1. You use email to preemptively go over someone’s head. Be reluctant to cc the boss of the person whom you’re writing to when making requests. The recipient will recognize that cc’ing her boss is your “subtle” way of implying that she needs extra prodding to get anything done. But there are more decorous ways of handling a colleague who’s not able to do what you want on your timetable. I’ll admit I’ve been the badgering boss-cc’er at times, and I’ve usually gone on to regret it. The benefit is rarely worth the cost.

2. You schedule important meetings after 3 p.m.  It’s fine to schedule meetings at any point in the day—but schedule only the most unimportant ones after 3 p.m., preferably ones which involve just mindless socializing. Studies repeatedly confirm that most of us are a cerebral and emotional catastrophe a few hours after lunch (except in those enlightened societies that truly embrace the siesta). Later in the day, we either become too stubborn or too compliant in our decision-making—unwilling to be talked into a good idea or too willing to okay a fatally nutty one.

3. You abuse the office microwave. Misconduct in this area range from culinary misdemeanors (overcooking the popcorn) to full-out felonies (reheating fish). You have been given a great culinary tool. Don’t abuse it.

4. You say, “Sorry I’m late, traffic was horrible.”  Really? How many commutes do you actually need to make before you realize that you should factor gridlock into your schedule? Show some respect for the intelligence of the listener, and only trot this one out after a snowpocalypse.

5. Everyone in the office can hear you on the phone. In fact, sometimes you talk loudly enough on the phone for the other person to hear you, even if he weren’t using a phone.  But there’s no need to bellow. If the other person’s phone is working well, he’ll be able to hear you just fine. Bear in mind that we subconsciously start to talk louder if we can’t hear the other person well or if we get excited. But take a deep breath and remember not to let your voice bore a hole through the heads of your office-mates.

6. You tell the employees of your subordinate, Johnson, that you’re grateful for the fantastic job that Johnson’s doing. They’ll interpret this as you giving Johnson all the credit for all their own unsung labor.  They’ll see you as the typical pointy-haired-boss who doesn’t understand who really does the work in any hierarchy.  Instead, tell them, “Johnson tells me that you’ve all been doing a great job.” You’ll help yourself and Johnson and improve morale all in one shot.

7. You thrust your child’s fundraising responsibilities upon your colleagues. You’re putting us all in an awkward spot: How can we say no without creating lasting enmity? And while we’re on low-carb diets, you’re placing boxes and cartons of cookies and chocolates in front of us, with a “please help my child” envelope. Thanks for nothing but a thousand calories.

8. You lament how people spend too much time on Facebook or Twitter. Employees now conduct their personal lives during work, and they work from home on weekends. That’s our new reality, and we should accept it, as long as the employee is getting her work done and adding real value. And besides, it’s not as if they’re wasting time on Google GOOG +1.38% Plus.

9. You text your friends from your workstation. Does this seem like a contradiction of the previous point? Not really. You can’t do much messaging on a smartphone while looking like you have the gravitas that merits a promotion. Instead you look more like the hostess at the Ruby’s next door.

10. You start chatting up your colleague the minute she walks into the office in the morning. Offer a 15-minute courtesy zone. Let her get a cup of coffee. Let her check her email and her calendar, and yes, her Facebook account. Only after providing that safe zone should you descend upon her with your review of Jack Osbourne’s foxtrot on last night’s Dancing With the Stars.

11. You walk into someone’s office or workspace, take a seat and launch in on a conversation.  Start by saying, “Are you free? I can come back if this isn’t a good time.”

12. You use the word paradigm. If you want to look smart, act interested in others’ lives. If you want to look like a gasbag, tote the top buzzwords of 1994 to the office.

13. You impolitely (or even politely) ask if someone can replace the water bottle or make a new pot of coffee. If you do it yourself, even once in a while, you’ll be seen as a team player in a way that you could never pull off at a dozen work retreats.

14. You complain about being overworked or underpaid. Have a good attitude. Pitch in cheerfully. And then go test your market value quietly, rather than complaining passively about your martyr status. You, and your peers, will have more respect for you that way.

15. You hit “Reply All” when All doesn’t need or want to hear from you. This needs no explanation, really.


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