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13 Types of Irritating Coworkers

Jun 23, 2009

Whenever you isolate many different types of people into one workspace, chances are you'll have some personality clashes. Some behaviors, such as those listed here, are annoying but not necessarily toxic.

It is important to not only approach irritating colleagues carefully, but also to remind ourselves to avoid situations that make us difficult to work with.

We all have our pet peeves. Do you see yourself in any of these?

(Disclosure: The author of this post is sometimes guilty of three four of the following workplace transgressions.)

The Forgetful Borrower

This person borrows staplers, highlighters, tape and other things from others' desks and forgets to return them. Worse, he or she may not even ask to borrow them.

The Slacker

There always seems to be one team member who is content to let everyone else do the work, but is always there to take the credit. Nothing motivates a team more than seeing someone loudly and publicly praised for a halfhearted effort. Part of the joy of teamwork.

The Martyr

"Doesn't anyone else work around here?" "If I don't complain, no one will know how much I'm doing!" "No one understands me anyway, so why bother?" These are just a few common "martyr-isms" as explained by career expert Nicole Williams. Don't be that coworker.

The Passive-Aggressor

Though not openly complaining that someone else isn't working as much, The Passive-Aggressor still can't resist mentioning how late he or she stayed last night or commenting on his or her "insane" amount of work. The Passive-Aggressor may also leave vaguely threatening notes on the office fridge or in the bathroom.

The Drama Queen/King

"The term 'drama queen,' or less frequently, 'drama king' is usually applied to someone with a demanding or overbearing personality who tends to overreact to seemingly minor incidents," WiseGeek explains. "Psychologists might describe a drama queen or king as a neurotic personality with histrionic tendencies, meaning they tend to become needlessly dramatic whenever order is disrupted." Needless to say: not fun to work with.

The Indiscriminate E-mailer

Whether it's a document relevant only to a few people in the department or yet another "hilariously cute photo" of his or her cat sticking its head out of a box, The Indiscriminate E-mailer doesn't consider how necessary the message is before CC-ing everyone in the company or forwarding it to coworkers.

The Suck-up

The Suck-up can't wait to find a new way to be recognized by the boss. This coworker is always there to remind the boss just how wonderful he or she is, even if it's at the expense of others. There is a fine line between "playing the game" and brown-nosing.

The Know-It-All

There are at least two variations of this workplace character, according to Lynne Eisaguirre's book Stop Pissing Me Off!: The Detail-Oriented Know-it-All, who relishes pointing out minutiae while missing the whole point; and The Fixer Know-it-All, who "insists on solving your problems for you, even if you don't want them solved, or, in fact, don't think you have a problem at all."

The Gossiper

The Gossiper always seems to have the dirt on colleagues in the never-ending shuffle of staff — and thrives on sharing this information. In a Randstad USA survey of nearly 2,500 workers, gossip was listed as the No. 1 biggest pet peeve in the office for 60 percent of respondents.

The Noisemaker

This coworker is oblivious to how he or she is interrupting officemates' focus with various sounds: whistling, singing, humming, knuckle cracking, cell phones not set to vibrate, speakerphone conversations, music without headphones. . . and then there's the food crunching and lip smackage of chips, carrots, apples, granola bars and gum, etc.

The Nose Offender

Under-deodorized or over-perfumed, this coworker doesn't make it easy to approach. In the aforementioned Randstad survey, 42 percent of staffers reported they were sick of inhaling their coworkers' perfumes, colognes, stinky foods and tobacco stench (Top Pet Peeve No. 4).

The Buzzwordsmith

Robert Half International/Yahoo! Hotjobs puts it best: "Whether speaking or writing, this person sacrifices clarity in favor of showcasing an expansive vocabulary of clich├ęd and often meaningless business terms. This ineffective communicator loves to 'utilize' — never just 'use' — industry-specific jargon and obscure acronyms that muddle messages." Though it does make for fun during meetings.

The Complainer

No matter how good things are, there is bound to be something to complain about in this coworker's mind. This disgruntled employee — justified or not — is a drag to work with. Worse, chronic complaining is a contagious habit, which can result in a highly negative working environment.

Noticeably absent from this list are the workplace jerk and bully, who are more than simply irritating — their behavior sucks the energy out of a group, creating a toxic vacuum of hostile or empty effort.

For more on coworkers who exhibit these behaviors and how to deal with them, check out CareerBuilder (1 and 2), Small Business Online Community,, BusinessWeek and LifeScript.

UPDATE: See 13 Types of Coworkers We Like


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