Business People

Seven coworkers we can do without (and how to fix them)

Peter Harris|

Many of us who work in offices have learned that there are certain cultural norms that help us to survive and get along in this strange environment of cubicles, shared workspaces and community kitchens. Unfortunately there are also those who have not yet learned those rules and are seemingly oblivious to the fact that they are part of a community at all.   

Here’s who a few of them are:

Blackberry Blind  

What they’re doing: When you step into the elevator with Blackberry Blind or pass her in the hallway, she may or may not nod in your direction, but it isn’t likely. She is too busy scrolling through her smart phone to look up and acknowledge that two people who work together are in close proximity to each other for a pleasantly short period of time.

What it says: It says that either yesterday’s emails are far more interesting to Blackberry Blind than you are or that she has so little desire to engage in a short, polite exchange that she’d rather pretend that yesterday’s emails are far more interesting than you.

What they should do: Blackberry Blind should look at people when she steps into the elevator or walks down the hall. She should make eye contact those whom she knows, say hello and enjoy a brief human exchange in her otherwise busy day. It’s just nicer.  

Immediate Post-Email Follow-Upper

What they’re doing: Immediate Post-Email Follow-Upper will email you a request or a question and then immediately walk over to your desk expecting a reaction or a response. I’m not sure how this is physically done, but I’ve actually had the person arrive even before their email does.

What it says: The Immediate Post-Email Follow-Upper assumes that you were not working on anything important and that you have nothing better to do than to drop everything to address his needs immediately. The world, of course, revolves around him and you are a pawn in his progress to greatness.

What they should do: He should email you. If the email is of an urgent nature and requires immediate follow-up, then it can indicate as much. (Caveat – they can’t always be of an urgent nature requiring immediate follow-up.) The emailer should simply explain the situation and suggest a timeline by which he may need your response, and then give you the space to read it and react accordingly.   

The Long-Distance Loud Talker

What they’re doing: The Long-Distance Loud Talker is holding an animated conversation with someone who is all the way across the open office from them.  

What it says: It says that all of the people working in the space between the loud conversers who may be on the phone, concentrating on detailed work, or having conversations of their own either do not exist or are simply less important beings than the loud talkers.

What they should do: They should walk across the office, smile and make eye contact with coworkers along the way, and politely say ‘Hello’ or ‘Hi, how’re ya’ doing?’ to people. When they reach the person they wish to meet with, they should strike up a conversation at a normal volume. This way they’ve shared the information they needed to while making a positive impression on several people – instead of just annoying everyone.

Cubicle or Open-Concept Speaker Phone Guy

What they’re doing: Cubicle or Open-Concept Speaker Phone Guy is holding a phone call, or worse a conference call, on speaker phone while he is not behind a closed door. It is nearly impossible for others to will themselves not to listen to a speaker-phone conversation, no matter how irrelevant the subject matter is to them. 

What it says: Similar to The Long-Distance Loud Talker, Open-Concept Speaker Phone Guy is simply demonstrating that he has no concern for (or no knowledge of the existence of) his coworkers around him.

What they should do: That’s an easy one. He should pick up the phone, hold it to his ear and speak at a reasonable volume into the receiver. Or buy a headset.

No-Sick-Day Gal

What they’re doing: No-Sick-Day Gal simply cannot stay away from work, even when she is seriously, off-puttingly, and worse – contagiously – ill. So she comes in wiping her feverous brow, coughing and sneezing, and she toils away courageously surrounded by an army of fallen tissues. Thereby, of course, infecting her otherwise healthy coworkers. 

What it says: No-Sick-Day Gal is saying that she is so important that the company would go bankrupt, democracy would fail and the sun would cease to rise if she were out of the office for a day or two. Her being there at all costs trumps the health of those who share her working environment.

What they should do: She should stay home while she’s ill. She’ll recover faster and won’t infect others. If she’s feeling a little better but isn’t sure if she’s contagious, she can call in to phone meetings and work from home for a day or two, just to be sure.

We admire No-Sick-Day Gal’s determination to keep going, but frankly sick people aren’t that productive anyway. And the net loss for the company from spreading her illness means that she’s not doing anyone any favours. Stay home. Get well.

Complainer

What they’re doing: Complainer likes to drop by your desk frequently to complain loudly about his work, the boss or the office environment. He’s a friendly enough and funny guy, but he doesn’t like his work and doesn’t seem to mind spending a lot of time not doing it. 

What it says: The danger with Complainer is not what his behaviour says so much as what others might misinterpret that it says. Because you are the recipient (although not the target) of his complaints, those around you may naturally assume that you are similarly disgruntled. This can hurt your professional reputation, as others see you as just one of the complaining malcontents around the office. Promotions and pay raises go to positive people who enjoy their work.

What they should do: Complainer should become a positive person who enjoys his work. If this is not possible at this current company, then Complainer should find a new job. Life is too short and a career is too important to spend in a role where you’re miserable. And if Complainer really just wants to rant on a bad day (it happens to all of us sometimes), he should ask you to join him for a beer after work and out of the office. Good conversations and social exchanges with your community of coworkers make work-life better.

Oh, and don’t get me started on the guy who heated up his leftover fish tacos to enjoy at his desk next to mine. You know who you are. Apologizing in advance for the smell does not make it okay, Fish Taco Guy.

Have you had some coworkers in the past that you could do without? Share them with us in the comments.

Peter Harris on Twitter


Category: Life At Work,