He came by to say hello. An hour later, she learned his entire life history, career changes, his cat’s schedule and how his mother is severely allergic to soya sauce.
And, then she got no work done.
For Akriti Jain (name changed on request), a Dubai-based marketing professional, nothing annoys her more than oversharing colleagues. That’s her pet peeve. “I don’t mind talking to people at work; it’s usually fun. Yet, there are some people who just keep coming up to another person and sharing different kinds of personal details from their life. It gets even more awkward when they derail meetings with these conversations,” she says.
The oversharers seem to cause much grief with their determined friendliness. Abu Dhabi-based Ritika Lalwani has had to firmly ward off such colleagues during work hours after learning about details regarding a chaotic wedding anniversary celebration. “I mean, all I asked was for a printout. Instead, I learned about their issues with a certain caterer and how they spent days fighting for their money back,” she says rather annoyed.
Oversharing is just one pet peeve. Earlier, this year, an article in Forbes quoted a study that surveyed 1,000 office workers to determine their biggest grievances. The list of pet peeves included insensitive or clueless behaviours and things that negatively impacted their ability to work.
The survey found the top ten office annoyances and the percentage of workers who dislike them, ranked from most annoying to least, were:
Gossip and office politics – 80 per cent
People taking others’ lunch – 78 per cent
Inconsiderate co-workers (e.g., messes) – 76 per cent
Constant interruptions – 75 per cent
Loud and annoying ringtones – 72 per cent
Poorly organised meetings – 71 per cent
Overcrowded and noisy office spaces – 69 per cent
Smelly food in the office – 68 per cent
Inadequate temperature control – 62 per cent
Forced birthday celebrations – 55 per cent
Other UAE office-goers have more to share.
Please give my pen back. Please.
You know that person who borrows a pen and never gives it back? Don’t be that person.
The stationery borrowers are a nightmare for many, including Dubai-based Ayesha, a public relations professional. “I think in general, it annoys me if anyone touches my stuff, except to clean, or borrows and doesn't return it. I hate it when someone just takes things without asking because they don't think it's a big deal if it's a small item,” she says. Sometimes, pens, notepads, a book could go missing.
So in the end, you have to go and ask them to return it. “The worst part is when they say that they took it home, and forgot it there,” says Lily Brian, a British UAE-based entrepreneur.
A little space, is always nice. Try not to crowd your colleague at their desks.
Dubai-based Linda Matthews, an American expat remembers a rather particularly uncomfortable conversation with a colleague. The person in question would lean in so closely to ask something, while she was working, so she would have to tell her to move away slightly.
“Give your colleagues some breathing space,” advises Riley Gomez, a business mentor and life coach. “If you have something to ask them, stand a little at a distance and ask them. Don’t crowd them. Moreover, don’t just stand over their head, while they’re working. That just feels rather eerie,” she says.
Get the name right
Well, I feel strongly about this; my name has had so many different variations by now that I’ve lost track. This, would be after spelling it several times and explaining it to people. Still, the end result is Laxna, Lakshmana, and Lakshna. Let’s not talk too much about my last name; it has been spelt as Pilot too. Or even, Patel.
So, if your colleague has a name that is hard to pronounce or spell, ask them, first. Don’t keep getting it wrong, advises Gomez.
The ones who leave you to freeze, literally
Sometimes, the real thorny issue is the temperature of the air conditioner.
You might think it’s cool, but you might have colleagues who are a little more sensitive to colder temperatures. “For me, my pet peeve was the person who kept the air conditioner at 20 degrees. I used to freeze,” says Ananda Shakespeare, founder and CEO of PR agency Shakespeare Communications based in Dubai. “I’ve actually witnessed people arguing about the temperature of the air conditioning in office,” she says.
My pet peeve would be the person who keeps the air conditioner at 20 degrees. I used to freeze...
So, if you do notice that your colleagues are freezing and are wrapping themselves in shawls, see how you can meet them halfway, adds Neal Shears, an American UAE-based corporate wellness expert and business mentor. Have an open discussion about it, and see what’s comfortable for everyone.
Don’t leave a mess; clean up after yourselves
For some, it's when people leave wrappers around the desk. It’s quite a task to clean up every morning.
And so, keep a clean environment. Don’t litter around your desk or anyone else’s, for that matter, says Shears.
Quite often, you might find yourself in an open office, without cubicles. You might hear your colleagues having entertaining conversations. At the same time, they might also be trying to have a private discussion. “I think it’s important to give people their privacy,” adds Shears. “Everyone wants to belong -you might feel that you’re being left out of something. You think someone else is having fun, and you should be a part of it. But that’s not fair, on those having the conversation. Everyone is entitled to different interpersonal relationships and don’t like it if their privacy is invaded. So just focus on your work, even if it feels as if you have been left out,” he says.
The loud chewers
Matthews has known enough of these, as she says. It’s worse, when you share a desk, especially. They chomp on their food loudly, and then leave a mess behind. It’s a tricky situation to be in; so try using headphones, says Shears. If it’s absolutely unbearable, take them to a private space separately, and tell them gently.
Don’t dress to impress
Some people really forget that they work in an office, and not in a disco club, says Shears. You might not need to work in formals, but that doesn’t mean you go all out in glitz and glam. Worse, don’t come to work in pyjamas, because it gives the idea that you couldn’t care less about work.
How do you address someone with the most off-putting body odour? Well, you mostly can’t.
Dubai-based Ayla Abrar (name changed on request), a school teacher, has had rather “nightmarish” experiences. “I think that I almost broke out in hives, during meetings. I just carried a scented handkerchief around,” she says, adding that she didn’t have the courage to tell the person. “You can just keep subtly spraying deodorant around you, for yourself,” she adds.
Other dos and don’ts
There’s a whole range of pet peeves, ranging from loud ringtones, eating greasy food in the office space, interrupting your co-worker constantly, pointlessly, taking food from others without asking, explains Shears. Some of these can be mitigated. If there are many loud noises and discussions in your office that distract you, use noise-cancelling headphones, advises Shears.
If you have a genuine problem with your colleague and it is affecting your productivity, have an honest discussion with them in a private space, rather than resorting to passive-aggression, or snide remarks, he says. “If you don’t want to be disturbed during certain hours, communicate to your colleagues and request that they respect your boundaries. Likewise, respect your colleagues’ boundaries,” he says.