Why do coworkers drive us so crazy? Maybe it’s because, generally, we don’t get to pick them. Oh sure, in theory, colleagues have a lot in common, because they do similar things, or at least work toward a common goal. In practice, however … well, let’s just saying working in an office can combine all the worst aspects of a family vacation with the dullest parts of a trip to the DMV.
No wonder, then, that coworkers get on each others’ nerves. Here, for your distraction and perhaps edification, we present the three most common cubicle coworker complaints, plus some solutions that won’t get you a one-way trip to HR.
Failure to Use Indoor Voices
Perhaps your neighbor was told he could listen to his radio at a reasonable volume from nine to eleven while he’s collating. Or maybe your cubicle mate has a lot of urgent personal phone calls she needs to make while you’re on deadline. Or maybe all your coworkers have gotten together and decided that the corridor outside your cube is the living room of the office, and will be the site of all future conversations about reality TV, televised sporting events, or politics.
Whatever the issue is, failure to respect reasonable noise levels in one of the most annoying things one of your coworkers can do. This is one of those issues that goes beyond being plain old irritating, and threatens to derail your productivity.
What You’re Tempted to Do: In your fantasy world, you might imagine gesturing to your coworker’s cell phone, radio, etc., and politely saying, “Excuse me. Can I see that for a minute?” Before opening a window and throwing the offending noisemaker out of it.
What You Should Do: In the real world, where there’s no Do Over Day – and more’s the pity, because we’ve been waiting for that for years – the best thing to do is to politely ask your coworker to lower the volume.
Smelly Lunch Syndrome
Smelly Lunch Syndrome affects 85 percent of all offices operating today. (Note: Statistics are entirely made up.) Offenders include: That Guy Who Always Eats Soup at His Desk, the Experimental Chef, and Coworker Who Makes Popcorn at Every Hour of the Day.
What You’re Tempted to Do: We have heard of people filling up their coworkers’ desks with popcorn, which is hilarious in car full of cement kind of way. (I.e., funny if it doesn’t happen to you.) This isn’t a good idea for several reasons, not the least of which is, that’s how you get ants. Also, it’s just not a very adaptable form of revenge. You can’t, for instance, fill Soup Guy’s drawers full of soup.
What You Should Do: The prevalence of Smelly Lunch Syndrome has increased in indirect proportion to the American worker’s lunch hour. Want to stop your coworkers from eating their gross food two feet from your desk? Organize a group lunch outing, and eat together. It’s funny how any kind of food smells less gross when it’s being eaten in its proper setting. (In other words, not near your desk.)
The Coworker Who Has Nothing to Do
Everyone has worked with this person. Somehow, his job is getting easier while yours is only getting more demanding. You’re up to your eyeballs in paperwork; he’s got his feet up on the desk and is ready to chat. It’s not his leisure that you resent, really – although it doesn’t help that he’s so at ease while you’re toiling away. No, it’s that his light schedule allows him plenty of time to talk to you while you’re trying to get things done.
There are a few variations on this coworker. The most common is the person who never seems to do anything, and is blessed with the ability never to get caught. The other is the coworker who does all his work at home, and uses the office as social time. Neither is helping your career or your sanity.
What You’re Tempted to Do: It wasn’t intentional, at least consciously, but we had a coworker once who accidentally IMed her talkative coworker when she meant to message a friend about said coworker. The transmission: “Why, dear God, why won’t he leave me alone? No one cares about his cats.” Guess who wound up buying a bunch of cat toys and an apology card?
What You Should Do: To avoid building up the kind of resentment that creates Freudian slips, utilize the best piece of technology to ever enter the modern office: headphones. If worse comes to worse, you can always smile at your chatty coworker, gesture to your headphones, and make a shrug of disappointment. It’s almost as good as not speaking the language, and you get to listen to your favorite music while you ignore him.
Image credit: http://randomoverload.com