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Is Your Office Infected? How To Handle 3 Types Of Annoying Co-workers

Every office harbours staff with irritating afflictions – the loud-chewer, the scent-sharer, the voice-projector, the foot-tapper, the sink-clogger – but what if you had a real office disease? I’m not talking a small case of microwave messing here; I’m talking about something terminal. It might even be the reason you have felt yourself heading towards office exile.

Annoying co-workers are a universal complaint, and no doubt, whether you suffer from any of these diseases or not, you will find it cathartic to direct these definitions to your long-suffering comrades. And you shouldn’t feel bad if you do: a study at the University of Amsterdam found that not only are offices rife with gossip – it makes up 90 per cent of conversation! – but that it is essential for productivity and camaraderie to talk about each other’s shortcomings. 

So whether you’re a victim of the disease or suffering from the fallout, to hell with doctor–patient confidentiality! Share this around, have a good vent, and then get down to treatment, because these are productivity’s top killers.

Is your chatter driving the office mad?


  • It took less than a month for you to work the cubicle rounds into your routine
  • You’re guilty of pulling up a chair, hanging over partitions and taking a squiz at others’ monitors unannounced
  • You don’t require responses from people when you talk; you know they’re interested/amused simply because you are interesting/amusing
  • You hate silence (and let’s face it: the work that generally goes with it)
  • You wonder why your co-workers scan their monitors when you’re talking


  • Try to limit interruptions to your co-workers by designating a social time that works for everyone – weekly trivia, monthly drinks, a regular coffee break – or if that’s too forced, utilise that lull before a meeting starts where you’ll have a captive audience for your pep talks and personal connections
  • Ask if it’s ok to interrupt them before you storm into their space, not while you’re doing it
  • Look out for body language, if your subject has stopped looking you in the eye, and they’re fiddling or even typing while you talk, then it’s pretty clear that you’ve outstayed your welcome

 Cure your co-worker:

  • Create boundaries on social swoopers by removing extra seating (or covering it in paperwork/your handbag)
  • Suggest a rain check on conversations that aren’t your priority right now, and if they are about work, organise to send them a meeting invite
  • Be social at other times – in the lift, the kitchen, the conference room – to reduce the need for social visits

Are you guilty of hiding behind your computer?


  • You don’t like confrontation and if things start to feel difficult you use your keyboard as a shield
  • You don’t mind an email debate as it gives you a chance to get people on your side in between replies
  • You are 100 per cent confident that your way is the only way
  • You see no need for meetings, and wish the workplace would operate entirely via Outlook


  • Pry yourself from the keyboard and talk to your co-worker face-to-face. You will be able to better gauge what they are thinking if you can hear their intonation and see their facial expression
  • Front up to meetings, whether you have already decided on the outcome or not – and challenge yourself to change your mind
  • Speak first, email later – even if you have just sent the email equivalent of throwing a cat amongst the pigeons, make sure you soften the blow with a quick phone chat to let them know where you’re coming from

 Cure your co-worker:

  • Rather than reaching for your caps lock in frustration, be as polite to the written warrior as possible and suggest a follow-up meeting to discuss the email
  • Make sure you remain approachable by being polite and accepting criticism or other points of view calmly

There's no 'I' in team


  • You believe deadlines are a bogus construct to be broken down with each passing day
  • You keep as many details to yourself as possible; your co-workers don’t need to know about things until the big reveal
  • You don’t believe in delegating what you can always do better yourself


  • The more trust you gain, the more freedom you will get. So turn up on time, make it clear that you are putting in the thought and the hours, and you will be asked to report in less
  • Understand what each of your co-workers could bring to the project and find a way to involve them on a level you’re all comfortable with
  • Just because you ask for help doesn’t mean you’re incapable of doing your job. Putting your hand up and asking for assistance actually shows that you are working for the benefit of the company rather than yourself, so be open about what you’re learning along the way

 Cure your co-worker:

  • If you have a lone wolf on your hands, it’s best to make them feel trusted, but also responsible to the team. If you can work out a system of reporting in consultation with them then they will need to state their commitment from the outset, including meeting times and deadlines
  • The ‘reply all’ button is a good immunisation against this affliction as it keeps a written trail of compliance
  • Make it clear that you won’t be concerned if they have questions or need advice, highlighting areas of expertise that they don’t currently have. If they know the team is knowledgeable and non-judgemental, then they will be more likely to engage with them

Know of some other diseases infecting your workplace? Let us know in the comments below! 

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