Now, here’s my unique (and totally fun!) Top 5 Worst Co-Workers List, culled from years of experience working in offices. Our region is definitely not unique in terms of office culture, but these anecdotes from being employed at many offices are almost all I have to go on.
5) The Drinker
This doesn’t necessarily refer to an alcoholic, but rather someone who takes advantage of FREE BOOZE! at company functions. Going ape s–t over complimentary cocktails is all right (as in understandable, but still not cool) if you’re working part time while in school, as you have youth and poverty on your side.
But once you’re over 21 and/or working full-time, cut that nonsense out. Do not — DO NOT — be the person double-fisting double rum and cokes at the holiday party. Do not get falling down drunk before appetizers at a company lunch or dinner. In fact, don’t get sloppy drunk at all.
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If you do get drunk at a function because the booze is free and flowing, you will look both unprofessional and cheap — especially if you make a show of your enthusiasm for free drinks.
4) The Kitchen Nazi
This topic is difficult, because a clean kitchen is important. No one wants to prepare their meal on a countertop covered in spilled coffee or bread crumbs, and no one should have to rinse or clean your dishes because you were too lazy to do it yourself. But at the same time, a little mess here and there is to be expected in a shared space and picking your battles very carefully will prevent conflict and resentment.
So, you notice someone left a little water on the counter after cleaning his dishes? Wipe it up and keep quiet. It’s not a big deal.
You notice the lady from accounting didn’t rinse the washcloth after using it? Rinse it yourself and go about your business. Confronting someone over minor housekeeping infractions makes you look unreasonable and controlling — especially if the person you’re confronting isn’t a subordinate.
If you notice something truly unacceptable –chunks of food on the countertops, rotting lunches in the fridge, stolen lunches, puddles of water on the floor — then bring the issue to the attention of your boss or HR. Anything that poses a health or safety risk should be dealt with. Just don’t accuse someone by name — even if you know he or she is responsible — if you want to keep the peace.
3) The Bathroom Nazi
This one is similar to the kitchen Nazi, but with some unique differences. In my many years as a desk jockey, I have encountered many a bathroom Nazi (and may have even been one at various points). So, here’s a list of things you can complain to the appropriate authority figures about:
– A chronically unflushed toilet (ESPECIALLY if bodily waste is consistently left on the seat)
– The tap being left running (why does your co-worker want to make David Suzuki cry?).
– Improperly disposed of feminine products (I can’t even believe I had to write that, but I could tell you stories…).
And things you need to let go:
- Someone talking on their cell phone while relieving themselves. Annoying? Yes, but it’s none of your business. Move along.
- Someone emitting unpleasant noises while relieving themselves. This is almost always involuntary, so please be kind and never speak of it to anyone ever. Ever.
- After-bathroom smell. If it bothers you, bring in some spray and give the room a few squirts before you use it. Again, this is almost always involuntary, so you’ll only end up embarrassing and offending someone if you make a big deal out of it.
- Epically long bathroom breaks. Unless your office only has one or two toilets (in that case, bringing the issue up to HR makes sense), someone’s marathon toilet sessions are, again, none of your business
2) The “I Can’t Handle Anything!” Co-Worker
Many moons ago, while still in high school, I worked at a west end office staffed by mostly kind and gracious people. There was, however, one woman who absolutely could not handle stress or disruption of any kind and her dramatics tainted the office dynamics because people were so afraid to set her off. She wouldn’t melt down or yell, but her semi-tearful “this is too much for me” speeches put everyone on edge.
A manager wanted to change Saturday hours? That wasn’t fair to her because her son had baseball/basketball/hockey/racquetball and she’d miss his games and ruin his childhood and he’d never visit her in the nursing home 100 years from now.
Someone asked her to stay a little late because the office was running behind on something? She would get a tension headache because she can only handle eight hours of work and her husband would have to tell the kids “the secret word” that meant she wasn’t fit for company due to the stress of having her schedule changed.
The truth is, no one ever wants to work late or have their schedule changed unexpectedly. It’s inconvenient.
But life is inconvenient and s–t happens and schedules are disrupted.
Unless you truly feel taken advantage of and/or bullied into accepting too many responsibilities, it’s best to deal with the stress and make it work. Making every workplace hiccup all about you and your feelings is tiresome, selfish and immature. When you say you can’t handle an office-wide change because of your schedule and your family and your headaches, you’re implying your struggles are grander and more worthy of consideration than anyone else’s. This will cost you the respect of your co-workers, so repress that noise.
If you truly can’t handle changes in your workplace, find another one.
1) The Tattletale
First off, I must say that there is a world of difference between a tattletale and whistleblower — and people often confuse the two. A whistleblower is someone who exposes serious or unlawful wrongdoing. Some examples of offenses worthy of whistle blowing include harassment, theft, anything illegal or unethical, or any behavior that could unduly hurt a company or person’s reputation.
A tattletale is not a whistleblower. A tattletale’s goal is not to save a company from ruin or halt serious wrongdoing; it’s to get people in trouble. And sometimes tattletales really do think what they’re doing is noble — that they’re simply enforcing “rules” so that everything is “fair.”
Now, refraining from wanting to correct rule-breaking can be hard. For someone who shows up on time every day, who never takes a minute or two to peek at Facebook or Twitter during office hours, and who would never dream of taking a sick day to recover from a hangover or go to a super-fun summer event, seeing people breaking rules can be tough.
The co-worker who runs to the boss to report someone’s personal phone call or extracurricular Facebook creeping or extra-long lunch or semi-regular tardiness might really think he or she is just doing right by his or her company or employer.
Seriously, not so.
Your boss may very well think you have too much time on your hands if you’re able to monitor everyone else’s Internet use and vacation time. He or she might think you’re sucking up and find your teacher’s pet act childish or unprofessional.
The bottom line is that it’s not your job to ensure that everything is fair and that everyone is following the rules when you’re not the boss.
When you were little, your constant reports to adults about another kid’s outdoor voice or lack of sharing quickly fell on deaf ears. You were told “no one likes a tattletale.”
And you were told that because no one does. No one likes to be watched, recorded and reported on for minor transgressions. It curdles relationships and creates a suspicious, resentful environment where no one trusts anyone — least of all you.
Because believe me, your co-workers will find the rat who’s telling the boss about everyone’s supposed wrongdoing.
“But Susan’s Facebook time hurts the company because she’s not doing her work!”
“But Bob’s lateness puts us behind schedule and hurts the company!”
“But James’s extra-long vacation made people angry and hurt morale and it wasn’t fair!”
Those mean adults who shut down your tattling also said something else to your proclamations that Jessica’s gum- chewing in class Just Wasn’t Fair. They said “Life’s not fair.”
And it’s not, so stop expecting swift and severe punishment for all the gum chewers out there.
If your co-worker’s rule-breaking transgressions are indeed hurting productivity, it’s your boss’s job to find out and deal with it. It’s not your problem.
Really. It’s not.
These people’s actions — if they are consistently problematic — will catch up to them without your help. There’s a good chance your boss already knows about Amy’s personal Internet use and Sam’s long lunches and is dealing with it without your interference.
Do the best you can do and let everyone else worry about themselves.
So, fellow Halton-dwelling desk jockeys, what co-workers can you not stand? Let us know your experiences at work by leaving a comment!