What Irritates You in the Office?

21 Aug, 2019 Bob Wilson


We just came across a survey that was conducted of 1,000 people last year that disclosed what the top ten irritants tend to be for people in the workplace. It turns out that the primary irritant for people on the job is other people on the job. Beyond that, it broke down in the following manner (with of course, my commentary towards same): 

10. Wearing the same clothes.

Interesting. I hope this survey wasn’t someplace that requires a uniform, such as a police force or in a hospital. In those cases, the same clothes every day kind of make sense. The author of the Inc. article that was my source for the story conjectured this was more of a hygiene issue, which would make more sense. 

9. Cooking smelly foods.

I hear them here. We used to have an employee who liked to eat healthy, natural food. More accurately, he liked to eat healthy, natural food that smelled like a failed septic system when exposed to the electronic pulses of the microwave oven. More people volunteered to go in and clean up Chernobyl’s failed nuclear reactor than would go into our kitchen after he had fixed his lunch. 

8. Smelling like cigarettes.

This is a serious one. People who smoke have no idea how pervasive the smell is when they come back inside from a break. The smell of stale smoke literally fills a room; unless, of course, someone just nuked healthy, natural food in the microwave down the hall.

7. Talking loudly on the phone.

Guilty as charged. They say there are no secrets in my office, mostly because everyone in the building can hear me when I am on the phone. In my defense, the people on the phone are a long way away, so naturally I should speak up. Unfortunately, my voice tends to carry. I could get up and close the door (we do not have one of those new-fangled and essentially useless open office plans). That would require me to stand, however, and there is only so much I can get done in the day. 

6. Staying in the toilet too long.

Some people apparently spend up to 30 minutes in the bathroom stall. There is a simple solution to this. Move their desk in there with them, and make it their permanent workspace. Another alternative is to place the microwave in the bathroom. That healthy, natural food will definitely smoke them out.

5. Interrupting.

Women named this particular issue with much more frequency than men did. Or they would have, if men hadn’t continually interrupted them during the survey.

4. Messy desks.

What the hell’s wrong with a messy desk? They are not annoying at all. Some people think they are a sign of greater brilliance. My wife is not one of those people, but some people think that way – at least that is where those of us with cluttered desks like to hang our defense.

3. Not washing up.

This was a survey conducted in Britain and refers to cleaning up the break area after use of it. This is a major pet peeve for those of us in the US, I assure you. Nothing is worse than leaving dirty dishes on the counter or in the sink. Even worse, if one of those Whole Foods Natural and Healthy burritos explodes in the microwave, you’ll need a hazmat team to perform the cleanup. Ironically, the aftermath looks very similar to the failed nuclear reactor core at Chernobyl. 

2. Ignoring emails.

This is really a problem if you work with a lot of attorneys. They excel at either ignoring emails, or only reading whatever is in the very first line. I probably shouldn’t start every email message to them with “I am not paying you a quarter hour to read this email.”

1. Offensive body odor.

No doubt, this one is a stinker. It can be a major problem, and for supervisors one of the most embarrassing things to have to deal with. I’ve had to confront more than one individual during my career about their personal hygiene issues. I find there are subtle things a supervisor can do to help ease the brunt of the message. Wearing a clothespin on your nose during the counseling session helps get the message across in a subtle manner. You can also try walking into their work area and yell loudly, “Something here stinks, and the good news is it ain’t the report you wrote!” That is particularly effective in one of those open office arrangements, where everyone gets the delicate reminder that you are indeed addressing an issue. Another option, of course, is to make sure everyone is microwaving healthy, natural food in the kitchen, and that would supplant any personal hygiene complaints. 

And what, pray tell, are your office pet peeves? Feel free to let us know in the comment section. Who knows, you might end up as the subject of another blog post…..

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