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3 ways annoying coworkers kill productivity

Sharon Florentine | Aug. 3, 2016
That guy in the next cube playing Slither isn't just getting on your nerves, he may be causing your productivity to plummet and your engagement to drop to zero. Here's why you shouldn't suffer in silence.

"She constantly snaps her chewing gum while talking on the phone all day to her friends."

"He eats yogurt every day, and even when the cup is empty, he continues to scrape the bottom with a plastic spoon."

"She wipes her nose on her sleeve."

"He has a bizarre style of laughing, and seems to laugh at everything."

These are real complaints about real people's coworkers sent to career coach, author and speaker Ford R. Myers -- and boy, do they sound annoying.

"This is definitely a hot-button issue. I get more emails about annoying co-workers than I do about any other topic -- people have a lot of pent-up frustration and anger about these behaviors, but they don't feel they have any outlet. What can they do? They want to vent and be heard, even if it's not necessarily a firing offense," Myers says.

You might not be able to fire someone for "digging wax out of [their] ears with the end of a pen" or "[humming] the same tune over and over for days on end," -- two other real-life anecdotes sent to Myers about annoying co-workers -- but you shouldn't just suffer in silence, either.

The fact is that these types of colleagues can actively destroy productivity, engagement and others' passion for the job. It's important to understand just how costly and damaging these kinds of behaviors -- and the people that exhibit behaviors like these -- can be to your company, your workers, and your ability to attract and retain talent, Myers says. Here are three ways these obnoxious habits are impacting your workplace, and what you can do about it.

Productivity plummets

"If the annoying behavior doesn't stop, it will definitely decrease your productivity. You'll do just about anything to avoid the annoying person, which can keep important work from getting done. You'll be distracted and frustrated and grow more unhappy on the job, so you'll probably arrive at work later and leave earlier than usual, just to get away from it, which diminishes productivity," Myers says.

First, recognize that most complaints of this type are about actions and habits that are subconscious; it's best to give these co-workers the benefit of the doubt and assume they don't mean to be annoying. So, your fist step should be approaching them diplomatically and tactfully, Myers says. Focus not on the offending behavior, but on the overall outcome and impact those behaviors are having on productivity and the ways it's preventing others from getting their jobs done.

"Many of these habits are so personal, and so individual -- like the person who wrote to me complaining that their co-worker's poor hygiene caused her to smell, but no one knew how to tell her -- that bringing it up can seem like a direct hit to someone's self-esteem. They're very sensitive topics. So, make sure you're explaining that no one's in the office for fun, and that you're all trying to meet the needs and requirements of the job but that behavior is getting in the way of that," Myers says.


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