Talk to nearly anyone about their co-workers, and you'll almost always uncover a slew of frustrations, often about habits that most of those co-workers don't even realize they have. But have you ever wondered if you might be that annoying co-worker?
Here are eight warning signs that you might be pushing your co-workers to the limits of their sanity:
1. Do you dump last-minute work on people? There will always be projects that pop up at the last minute, but don't be the manager or the co-worker who sits on something and doesn't assign it until late in the game. You'll come across as inconsiderate and disorganized.
2. Do you really like to chat, even when other people are on deadline or have something else to do? This trait can be hard to see in yourself, so think about how much talking you do in the average conversation compared to how much the other person does. And remember that just because you happen to have time to talk, it doesn't mean that other people do. Be alert for cues that your colleagues might be trying to extract themselves from the discussion.
3. Are you chronically defensive? If you bristle at the slightest hint that your work isn't perfect, your co-workers will probably end up avoiding you so they don't have to deal with your prickliness. As a result, you'll end up finding that problems go unaddressed and you don't get important feedback when you need it.
4. Do you complain about people behind their backs instead of talking to them directly? If you've ever discovered that a co-worker was complaining to others about something you did but didn't bother to come talk to you about it directly, you know how frustrating this can be. When you talk to someone directly, not only do you give them the chance to know about your complaint and respond to it, but you might also learn new information that makes you see things in a different light.
5. Are you negative? If you hate new practices, other people's suggestions, and the guy down the hall, you might be the office grump. Grumps sometimes think they're demonstrating their own value by pointing out flaws, but if you find fault in every suggestion, you'll lose credibility, and eventually people will start finding ways to avoid your input altogether.
6. Do you bring your personal life into the office? If you frequently take personal calls in earshot of others (especially if they involve yelling, swearing, or crying), share details about the fight you had with your spouse last night, or complain about your toe fungus, you might be making people uncomfortable. Professional boundaries are different from social ones, so err on the side of discretion.
7. Do you interrupt other people's conversations? If you answer questions that were addressed to other people, and if you don't believe there's any such thing as a private conversation at work, you might be the office interrupter. It can be difficult to resist the impulse to interrupt once it has become a habit, but try to wait your turn and don't jump in if people are talking privately.
8. Do you pull your own weight? If your co-workers are hard at work but you're playing online or planning your wedding, you might be known as the office slacker. Slacking off won't just alienate your co-workers in the short-term; it will also ruin your reputation, references, and promotion potential in the long term.
Alison Green writes the popular Ask a Manager blog, where she dispenses advice on career, job search, and management issues. She's also the co-author of Managing to Change the World: The Nonprofit Manager's Guide to Getting Results, and former chief of staff of a successful nonprofit organization, where she oversaw day-to-day staff management, hiring, firing, and employee development.
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