5 signs you might be a bad coworker

5 signs you might be a bad coworker

I get a lot of mail at Ask a Manager from people who are consumed with fury over habits their coworkers have — habits that I bet most of those coworkers aren’t even aware of.

Below are five signs that you might be the one pushing your coworkers to the edge of sanity:

1. You dump last-minute work on people when it could have been avoided. There will always be projects that come up at the last minute, but don’t be the coworker who sits on something and doesn’t assign it out until late in the game. You’ll come across as inconsiderate and maybe disorganized too.

2. You complain about people without telling them your beefs directly. We’ve all had the frustrating feeling of discovering that a coworker is complaining to others about something we did, but won’t bother to come talk to us about it directly. When you talk to someone directly, not only do you act more fairly by giving them the chance to know about your complaint and respond to it, but you may also learn information that makes you see things in a different light.

3. You exude negativity. Suggestions, new practices, the new guy down the hall — you hate them all and you make sure people know it. You may think that you’re showing your worth by pointing out flaws all the time, but if you find fault in every suggestion, you’ll lose credibility and eventually people will start finding ways to avoid your input altogether.

4. You bring your personal life into the office in ways that make people uncomfortable. For instance, I used to work with someone who was constantly making personal calls that involved yelling and swearing at the person on the other end. Crying wasn’t unheard of either. She never noticed that everyone around her was cringing in discomfort.

5. You’re chronically defensive. You bristle at the slightest hint that your work wasn’t perfect, or even at imagined hints, and as a result, your coworkers spend more time trying to avoid you than talking to you, because they don’t want to deal with your prickliness.

If you recognize yourself in any of the above, you might be the irritating coworker that your colleagues are writing to me to complain about. Try a one-month moratorium on the behavior and see if any of your relationships improve.

{ 21 comments… read them below }

  1. Anonymous*

    Can I suggest another? "The co-worker who won't shut up." I mean, I'm all for a friendly work environment and it's good to like the people who you work alongside, but at a certain point, I'm going to work to work, not to be your best friend.


  2. Anonymous*

    Maybe they should quit worrying about their co-worker, you live with your co-workers and your boss good or bad.

    Ronald Yates

  3. Anonymous*

    I'd like to also add one… the co-worker who will throw anyone under a bus to make themselves look good. So instead of a 2-second phone call of "Hi Belinda, it's Roxanne. Could you send me that report you mentioned yesterday?"… you get an e-mail that reads, "Neta – Yesterday you promised to send me that report and you never did. Do you even have it finished yet?" AND then cc's your boss, your co-workers, her boss and her co-workers. Good times.

  4. Anonymous*

    Loud talkers have always been a problem! They don't thnk they are loud, no matter how many meetings they have had w/ their bosses about complaints from the people in the cubicles surrounding them. The worst is when they listen to their messages ON SPEAKERPHONE! WHY WHY WHY??!!! Why do they think everyone wants to be a captive audience to every inane phone call they get? They can just as easily listen to their messages with the earpiece like everyone else, but for some reason they are too lazy to hold a phone.

  5. Anonymous*

    and I guess belinda should have had that report ready like she promised then belinda wouldn't have to worry about who was cc'd

  6. Anonymous*

    what do you do when a co worker just sits & chat & surf the internet all day. we notice that there is favoritism in our department. we already told our supervisor that this co worker is slacking & we all get the work while she gets less & less work. our supervisor makes excuses for her & we ask ourselves whether our supervisor is protecting her because she is dark skinned & the result this dark skinned worker is abusing the system. this destroys morale & we now ask ourselves why work hard when what is wrong is rewarded & doing what is right is punished.

  7. Anonymous*

    You forgot the coworker who 'mothers': "Did you go to lunch yet?" (no, I ate it at my desk, like always) and "It's almost time to go home!" (this, when I leave an hour earlier!)
    OTOH, I am the coworker who eats at my desk and crunches loudly. Ha. Go to lunch, 'Mom'!

  8. Anonymous*

    That is complete BS. There are some mitigating circumstances to every case. Sometimes people don't like you because you don't fit into their political spectrum. We live in the era of pseudo-intellectual elitism, regardless if you keep your politics to yourself, these elitists will act like children, trying to shame you into submission. Case in point, Prop 8 in CA. If you don't agree, you're automatically labeled as a "bigot" and the elitist co-workers will ostracize you from the group, making you look like you're the problem to the supervisor.
    It used to be about productivity, not about how you think politically and certainly not how the rest of the clique feels.
    We've become a society of wimps, where it's more important how you feel about your co-workers than the task at hand. Who cares if a co-worker thinks differently than the group? It's not anyone's place to decide who is worthy to fit in the workplace.
    No one ever stops to think that some people just come from different walks of life. Maybe some people are too loud because they come from the East Coast, maybe some people seem too lax because they're from the West Coast. We may be united by the same language, but there are many different sub-cultures whose normal behavior might offend others. If we wish to be truly diverse, the first step is to show tolerance.

  9. Anonymous*

    I was really surprised that there wasn't any mention that your performance or ability to finish a job through to the end.. Poor performance also makes you a bad coworker

  10. Anonymous*

    I wholeheartedly agree with the person who complained about speaker phones. Speaker phone use should not be permitted in a cubicle environment, except under rare circumstances when other people in the area really need to hear what�s being said. People tend to talk louder when speaking through a speaker phone, and I have coworkers who turn the volume of their phone up really loud and then yell back through the phone. They will also hit the �speaker� button and then spend several seconds searching for the phone number while the annoying dial tone is blaring from their phone. It�s highly distracting, especially if I�m trying to have a phone conversation myself. I have trouble hearing and focusing on my own phone conversation when there is all that yelling in the background. My previous manager wouldn�t permit speaker phone usage unless it was behind a closed door and I really miss that.

    Everybody has annoying habits, and for your own sanity you have to do your best not to let them bother you, but I also think common courtesy is especially important in the work environment. You�re stuck around each other for at least 8 hours a day. Why make each other miserable?

  11. Anonymous*

    How about belching? I've tried saying, "excuse you" and giggling nervously, but it's continuing. He's 24, single, and in a white collar job.

    Am I being a "Mom"? Or would you agree that's just gross.

  12. Anonymous*

    To Anonymous who posted on November 14, 2009 at 1:35 AM: It sounds as if *you* might be a "problem" co-worker, due to you homophobic bigotry.

  13. ketanraval*

    thanks thats a great tip.. I was looking to deal with some bad workers in my office and I found this.. it ll help to tam some people

  14. Anonymous*

    I was tired of my co-worker taking advantage of the system…i didn’t think it was fair for everyone else to be working really hard while this person was coming in late almost at 10am and leaving by 4pm and marking 8 hours aday! … I found it so unfair for everyone who works in the department that I almost felt obligated to say something and I did! Now, I kind of feel awackward about the position I am in…but our manager had entrusted her so much that she was finding it very easy to leave work or take 2 hours lunch break and would sneack thru the back door of the office… I think that was so wrong!!!….Did I do ok by reporting her Unfair bahavior?? Please Help!

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