Since we spend over 40 hours a week with our co-workers, there are bound to be a few moments where our irritation levels peak. Image Credit: Pexels/Andrea Piacquadio

The sound of nails scraping over a blackboard. Disruptive children causing chaos while you’re trying to have a nice meal at a restaurant. Someone chewing with their mouth open.

Click start to play today’s Spell It and create the word “peeves” – we all have them, even though different things may trigger us.

There are a few areas though, where most people have similar views. It’s because our brains react similarly to those sounds, according to research from the Newcastle University and Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging at University of Central London, UK, published in 2015 in the Journal of Neuroscience.

Researchers found that certain unpleasant sounds cause the auditory cortex and the amygdala in our brain to interact more intensely in order to process the negative emotions. A knife scraping against a glass bottle was found to be the most unpleasant sound for human beings, according to their study. On the other hand, bubbling water was rated the most pleasant sound of all.

In the workplace, our peeves are more complicated – they don’t depend on certain sounds, rather the interactions we have with our colleagues. And since we spend over 40 hours a week with our co-workers, there are bound to be a few moments where our irritation levels peak.

An American promotional products company called Quality Logo Products (QLP) conducted a study of 1,902 US-based employees in February 2022 and found there are three especially annoying co-worker habits that get people’s goat:

1. Interrupting

Interruptions sometimes happen in face-to-face meetings, but with the rise of virtual meetings, they have become commonplace. About 48 per cent of respondents said interruptions were their pet peeve. According to American business solutions website Make It, one way to handle chronic interrupters is to say, “Could you please let me finish? Then I’ll turn the floor back to you.” It’s a way of regaining control and bringing to their notice that interruptions are not very polite.

2. Taking credit for someone’s work

Ever worked hard on a project, only to have a co-worker or manager take credit for it? About 47 per cent of respondents experienced this issue, according to the survey results. One way to retake ownership is by finding a gracious entrance into the conversation by stating that you came up with the idea. For instance, “As [co-worker] was saying, my idea to [explain project] would result in…”. And if it’s something that could impact your performance review, it’s worth keeping a paper trail so you have documented proof of your contributions.

3. Oversharing

There’s a fine line between healthy banter and giving someone too much information. Issues ranked as the most annoying topics to discuss by the QLP survey were: politics, COVID-19, money, and relationships. They could often become emotionally charged and lead to arguments. When this happens, it’s better to change the topic, or even completely disengage.

What is your pet peeve at work? Play today’s Spell It and tell us at