We’re all creatures of habit; some good, some bad. Day after day we troop into the office, settle at our desks, and begin the day’s work… of annoying our colleagues. We’ve all been there, so here are the top office offences and how to put them right.
Offices are hotbeds of miscommunication, politics and friction, no matter how well-designed the space, and no matter how good your own intentions. So, what are the most common blind spots we develop when sharing that space with others?
1. Being a constant critic
Your client has changed their requirements yet again. Lots of stuff is happening to you outside of work. The news! The trains! The tube! The traffic! Yes, we know. If the first thing out of your mouth is a complaint rather than ‘hello’ when you get into the office, and you’re griping until you clock off, then we hate to break it you: you’re a whinger.
How to fix it
Nobody can be a super-optimist all the time, but you can be mindful of the negative, passive-aggressive phrases that creep into your daily conversations. If you’re using them with colleagues, then chances are you’re using them with clients and customers, which can chip away at trust and your company’s reputation.
SMS marketing provider SlickText have a great list of negative phrases you can start cutting from your vocabulary, and simple substitutions that are all about outcomes, not passing the buck.
When it comes to criticising colleagues, take a more thoughtful approach. Don’t just bend the ears of your colleagues, either take direct action by raising issues with HR, or turn direct criticisms into constructive guidance.
2. Being inconsiderate
Food tends to be a sticking point in a shared space – it gets stolen, it smells, and it gets left on the desk as an after-hours buffet for the office mice. Personal hygiene is also an issue, especially for those who sit near runners or cyclists. Then you have the actual office equipment. Who hasn’t slunk away after seeing the ‘toner low’ notice, hoping someone else will fix it?
Also, the space itself can be hotly contested, particularly when shared among contractors, part-timers and new staff who don’t know the etiquette. We’ve heard of instances of unwitting workers rudely being thrown off their desks, or having nowhere at all to sit.
How to fix it
Take responsibility for the food you bring in. Make sure it’s covered and, if it’s left out, not easily raided by greedy little critters who leave ‘presents’ over your colleague’s desk, not yours. That’s why they’ve been shooting you daggers all day.
Clean up your stained mugs and your rubbish, and give your dirty desk and laptop/PC a wipe every now and again – it’s a haven for all sorts of germs. If someone needs your desk when you’re away or ‘OOO’, it’s not a good look to leave it covered in stuff – and marks you out as an office jerk.
If you come across any health and safety or general office issues, report them as soon as you can. Chances are that you’ll need the printer at some point, or that dangling wire or broken chair will sabotage your presentation.
If you enjoy a brisk run or cycle into the office or on your lunch break, make sure it’s a place where you can freshen up; avoid treating the whole office to the smell of your deodorant by nipping into the toilets.
Tread carefully when it comes to space. Avoid spreading yourself or your equipment over your neighbour’s desk, and negotiate the best way of sharing limited desks. If it’s not your territory, you can’t afford to get territorial.
However, if allocating limited space is within your control, there are strategies for planning ahead so that there aren’t any clashes.
3. Being distracting
We love the energy that collaborations and friendships bring to the office; they’re the key to avoiding working in silos. However, don’t let the pursuit of ‘bants’ or banter get in the way of your colleagues’ wellbeing, or forget that there’s such a thing as an ‘indoor voice’.
Do you urgently need to send that meme? Is it necessary to share your seemingly thoughts on what so-and-so said in that meeting? Must you give your desk neighbour the drum-and-bass treatment through your headphones? Probably not.
Does your neighbour seem to be gritting their teeth every time you tap out an email? It could be that you sound and feel like a dinosaur thundering through Jurassic Park.
Is there any way you can have that conversation with the door shut, at a lower volume, or in a less confined space? Yes, there probably is – the only person who needs to hear it is the person you’re speaking to.
If you’re naturally booming of voice, finding a discreet way to have (rather than broadcast) your conversations will keep irritation to a minimum – as will going a little easier on the keyboard. It’s not a percussive instrument.
How to fix it
Save intense non work-related conversations for breaks, dive into an empty meeting room or take a walk around the block (availability and weather permitting) for those phone calls. Avoid long periods of venting (see above) which holds the other person up from doing their own work.
Also bear in mind that positivity breeds positivity. Sure, sharing interesting stories from your day is a tried and trusted bonding exercise, but use your powers of chat for good.
Spread messages of appreciation and recognition rather than bitchy remarks and you’ll help create an environment of trust and collaboration. A glance at sites like Glassdoor shows how important those values are to employees. With every interaction, you help build your company’s reputation.