Got an annoying colleague? Join the queue

Ever thought writers could create an episode (or season) of The Office based on your colleagues' annoying habits? You're not alone.

There are lasting consequences for those workers who attract the wrong kind of attention, says etiquette expert Anna Musson, of The Good Manners Company.

Having poor etiquette is like having bad breath … no one will tell you, but eventually it will define you and you will be left off guest lists, promotion lists and any kind of shortlist,

“Having poor etiquette is like having bad breath … no one will tell you, but eventually it will define you and you will be left off guest lists, promotion lists and any kind of shortlist,” Musson says.

Fellow expert Jodie Bache-McLean, director of June Dally-Watkins Education & Training, says business clients are becoming more aware of how workplace behaviour affects the bottom line.

She says an increasing number of companies are engaging experts to “bring back the importance of how we treat each other” in order to improve everything from turnover to general workplace esteem.

“I love this saying: 'your product will bring me into your business, but how I am treated will decide if I remain',” Bache-McLean says.

Sound familiar?

Musson says examples of bad workplace behaviour range from sexual innuendo and crude jokes (either spoken or circulated by email), being drunk at a work function and swearing, to talking loudly or stealing food from the fridge.

Some poor behaviour is less overt, such as an “inability to be completely present”, Musson says. For example, texting while someone is trying to talk to you, checking your phone during a meeting or typing while you're on the phone.


Bache-McLean says basic people skills are often lacking in today's workplace.

“I think one of the most relevant issues in the workplace today, is when work colleagues arrive at work and make no attempt to engage in a good morning, hello or even a nod of the head,” she says.

“This is such important part of rapport and connection with your co-workers as it establishes a sense of mutual respect, and quite simply, consideration.”

Mind your manners

Common courtesies help unite the motley crew inhabiting the close confines of a workplace. Anna Musson says general rules that should always be observed include:

• Speak well of others whenever possible – situations can change quickly

• If you are with someone, ask if they mind if you take a call before you answer – this shows thoughtfulness

• A couple of photos at your desk are fine, but a photo wall can be off-putting

• Introduce yourself and others with full names i.e. "Good morning Jim, allow me to introduce one of our key executives, Maria Jones”

• If you are sick, stay home

• Dress well – there should be little crossover of work and weekend clothes

• Be punctual – it's the habit of successful people. Being late demonstrates arrogance - ie. you believe your time is more valuable than others

• Let others go before you in the lift and through doors (the business environment is gender neutral – show courtesy to those senior to you by position).

It's all fun and games … until someone notifies HR

We've all told tales and laughed in private about colleagues who push our buttons. But it can be a sad story for the office clown.

“It's amusing because we know it's damaging and we're glad it's not us,” Musson says.

“People who display poor etiquette demonstrate to management that they are not suitable for a promotion.

“Would you share your valuable clients with the office joker?”

She says the consequences of poor etiquette could include missing out on promotions and sales, or being fired and unemployable.

Having serious indiscretion/s permanently recorded on your employee file – or worse, published in a newspaper and/or court list – is hard for potential employers and/or clients to overlook, Musson says.

“(For example) Tim from Company X was fired for making a pass at their top client/swearing in the workplace/coming to work drunk. Would you employ that person?”

This reporter's top 10 office gripes

• Adjusting the central thermostat to suit yourself while everyone else freezes or sweats

• Talking loudly on the phone so that those within earshot can't concentrate

• Eating noisily and/or letting smelly foods permeate the office

• Taking your shoes off so others have to smell and/or look at your feet

• Volunteering too much information - for example telling everyone about your digestive issues or badmouthing your ex-husband/wife/partner

• Smoking in communal areas and/or returning to your desk reeking like an ashtray

• Taking the office newspaper with you to the loo

• Filing your nails, brushing hair or passing wind

• Body odour – if you're going to ride to work, bring a change of clothes

• Clogging the printer with massive documents without checking if others need it first