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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Work Relationships

How to Deal With All the Small Office Pet Peeves That Drive You Up the Wall

After going through the whole job search process and landing an awesome position that you start settling in at, it happens.

The co-worker sitting beside you starts chewing gum. Very loudly, I might add. It’s distracting you from getting your tasks done (and, frankly, it’s pretty gross to listen to all day long). Looking around, no one else seems to have issues with it. Would I seem mean if I ask her to stop? you ask yourself. She’s such a nice person to work with—I wouldn’t want to seem high-maintenance.

So you suffer in silence.

If this sounds familiar to you, you probably know what it’s like to have a few pet peeves in the office. And while you might think these are tiny details in the bigger picture (at least you have a steady job and livable wage), it’s ultimately better for your health (and sanity) for you to confront these small irritations and do your best to mitigate them.

So, here’s a list of all the things that ever bothered you at work—and how to get over them accordingly.

Inappropriate Co-worker Behavior (at Least by Your Standards)

A large amount of office problems can be attributed to the lovely people you see and share space with every day: your colleagues. Some of the less-than-lovely things they might be doing with their time include:

  1. Clipping their nails
  2. Eating pungent food
  3. Wearing strong perfume or cologne
  4. Whistling, humming, or singing
  5. Chewing gum
  6. Complaining (incessantly)
  7. Wearing clothing that’s too casual
  8. Making personal calls
  9. Taking their shoes off

How to Deal

The good news is that while these activities seem like they last forever in the moment, they usually do end. So, the best thing you can do is remove yourself from the environment—either physically to a new space or mentally with some headphones—to get a breather.

If some of these seem like more repeat offenses, it’s OK to recognize how they may be negatively affecting your ability to work. Don’t be afraid to bring up the annoyance to the person or raise the issue with a supervisor to see how best to go forward. It can be as simple as saying, “Listening to people chew gum is one of my biggest pet peeves, do you mind chewing a little more quietly. And, if there’s anything I’m doing that’s bothering you, please don’t hesitate to tell me.” Keep in mind: Tone is everything in these conversations.

More often than not, the offender in this case doesn’t realize his or her habits are affecting anyone else—meaning he or she will go out of the way to rectify them.

Communication Mishaps

Unless you’re a communication wizard, you’ve probably faced some of these irritating things:

  1. Long email chains
  2. Hitting reply all
  3. Awkward phone calls
  4. Meetings that perpetually start or end late
  5. Unnecessary CC-ing
  6. Basic grammar mistakes
  7. Not responding after repeated follow-ups
  8. Interrupting

How to Deal

Let’s just start by saying that these small things tend to bother most people (if not all). How to handle it? Trial and error: Ask politely to be excluded from chains, gently point out recurring issues, or try to find the root of the issue and remedy it. For example: Are people always running late for meetings because they have back-to-back meetings? Yes? Try moving your weekly check-in to a different day then. Or, if a lot of team members seem to be struggling with the same issue, bring it up to your manager to see if he or she wants to address it.

But remember, at the end of the day, everyone slips up with mistakes like these (including you), so try to take a deep breath if it’s a one-time thing. Also, as annoying as this fact is, things like awkward phone calls are simply a part of being a working professional.

Work Environment

Here are a few things that happen in the office that you aren’t exactly in control of:

  1. Too hot or too cold temperature
  2. A really loud working environment
  3. Disorganized shared workspaces
  4. A fridge stuffed with old leftovers
  5. Cluttered desks

How to Deal:

While any one of these can certainly be annoying working conditions, a lot of it is out of your control. The good news? That means you don’t have to put in a whole lot of effort toward changing it—all you have to do is bring up your concerns with a supervisor or an office manager. Odds are he or she will have some kind of solution on hand (since you aren’t the first person to be “too cold” in an office).

With that said, even if a solution isn’t offered to you—you can often find a workaround; headphones for a loud office, an office sweatshirt for high AC days, and so on. Ideal? No. But a fix? Yes.

And, if it’s something more communal, like end-of-day kitchen messiness that you always end up dealing with because it bothers you so much, you can also be proactive and organize a team of like-minded individuals who are willing to volunteer some time to tidy up. That way, you can all put in five minutes into cleaning up, rather than doing it all yourself. Plus, it should send a friendly reminder to the rest of the office.

As with most pet peeves, especially ones you encounter often, the common options are: to face the problem or to get over it. Just be careful how you decide to confront someone—don’t be accusatory or hostile. Sometimes the best way to get people to understand where you’re coming from is to be honest and speak from your own perspective. No one (hopefully) wants to be the “annoying co-worker,” so addressing the issue head on can often be the solution you’re looking for.

And if any of these pet peeves resonate with you, then you can rest assured that you’re not the only person whose co-workers are driving you crazy.

What are your minor office annoyances? Tweet me @caroqliu and let me know!

Photo of annoyed person courtesy of Hero Images/Getty Images.