10 Annoying, Irritating, And Absolutely Unbearable Co-Worker Behaviors That You Deal With Every Day

Oh look, your coworker’s changing his pants in his cubicle again.

Last week we asked you to share the worst things about working in an open-office. But we also threw in a bonus question:


What annoying co-worker behavior are you forced to tolerate?

In total, we received nearly 200 submissions from fed up readers like you. Many of those (which focus strictly on a dislike of open-offices) have already been featured in an article, published earlier this week.

But what about your co-workers? Those people you are forced to work along side of regardless of how high your cubicle walls.

If there’s one thing we learned from your answers it’s this: If you trim your toenails at your desk you need to stop. Now. Seriously.


Here for your enjoyment are your most common gripes, distilled into 10 categories:

1. Sighing, whistling, humming, throat clearing, and foot shaking

Donny Downer: He sits a few open desks away from me, and I swear he sighs deeply *every* time he gets an email, as if the very task of working really cuts into his day. He also likes to mumble and use breathy exclamations like “Really?!” and “Maaaaaaaaan.”

Humming. I had no idea how much people hum until this job.

Whistling. Dear God please make it stop…

2. Nail clipping

The nail clipping. Yes, nail clipping. I don’t know if he had some sort of compulsion, or the fastest growing fingernails known to humankind, but everyday I would hear the inevitable *clip* *clip* *clip.* On a good day, clippings wouldn’t fly onto my desk or into my hair. On a bad day..well…

I get hear my co-workers clip their finger nails . . . and toe nails (yuck). I have had someone change their clothes in the cubicle behind me even though we have a secure quiet room.

About once a week, I have to DUCK because my co-worker (who sits approximately 6 feet away from me) decides it’s perfectly normal to CLIP HIS FINGERNAILS at his cubicle. I can hear the little nail-bits ricocheting off of various surfaces around our work-space…

3. Eating Smelly Food, And Smelling In General

The disgusting scent of fish at lunch time. We still haven’t been able to figure out who the culprit is but I hate them.

The smells in my area are really bad. We have smokers, curry eaters, and nasty farts.

The oppressive smell of the food they eat, almost always something unhealthy.The noise and smell of their various bodily functions.

4. Being A Noisy Eater

Loudly chewing potato chips. Shaking their salad containers for 5 minutes to distribute the dressing.

It is amazing to me how loudly some people eat. Chewing with your mouth open is obvious, but it drives me nuts to be able to to hear someone chew or swallow or slurp.

5. Talking–on the phone, to co-workers, to anyone.

There is a co-worker who knows she is a loud talker. She’s admits it yet has no inclination to try and control the volume of her voice. She also strikes her desk for emphasis when she’s feeling strongly about something. It is like a monster movie where you look at your cup of water it is rippling to signal danger.

Twiddle-Dee-Know-It and Twiddle-Dee-All: These two sit in desks next to each other. They know all the latest breaking news from TMZ to Huffington Post. Sometimes they share their knowledge with the whole room intentionally, but mostly they just talk among themselves–with megaphones, apparently.

The woman next to me who thinks it’s ok to ask questions all day via gchat then poke me on the arm when I don’t respond, then rolls her eyes when I have a question.

Talking to significant others on the phone. Scheduling doctor appointments on the phone. Fighting with their kids on the phone. Checking voice messages on speakerphone.

6. Playing Music Softly In The Office, Or Blasting It Way To Loud In Headphones

There’s always this guy that pushes our policy to bring your own headphones to its limit by listening heavy metal at max volume. Since he’s technically complying to the rules, so he’s free to ignore us when we say anything about it.

Headphones with music turned up so load I can hear it, all of it, and end up singing along because I can’t concentrate anyway.

Someone has music blaring from headphones so loud I can hear it across the room.

7. Not Doing Work

Trying to work while a five-person Call of Duty battle is underway behind you, trying to research as your co-workers discuss the latest developments in their friends’ romantic entanglements, being forced to listen to your coworkers’ gossip/crushes/rants when you just want to finish work and go home.

Colleagues cue up videos on YouTube and turn their laptop around to let you watch, too, as you’re trying to get some work done or meet a deadline. Close cousin of the YouTube clip is music — office-wide exposure of crap music.

Bros talking about deadlifts while clipping their toenails, throwing balls over cube spaces, dart tournaments between cube hallways and explaining the nuances of Walter White in a volume three times louder than the sound of keyboard typing, air conditioner fans and 6 phones ringing at the same time.

8. Desk Pit Stops

It is too common for people to stop by my desk through out the day to talk about absolutely NOTHING.

Impromptu meetings right next to my cubicle. They block the walking areas and force everyone around to pretend they’re not listening. It’s rude. Additionally, an open-office environment somehow convinces people that any desk that doesn’t have someone sitting in it right then is up for grabs. How many times have I walked in to find someone making themselves at home at my desk?

9. Not Wearing Pants

The “not wearing pants.” At my first professional position as an administrative assistant, part of my job was to deliver the mail to all the cubicles. One of them was kind of hidden away in a corner, occupied by a woman who had “worked” there for the past 35 years. I walked in on her standing in front of a fan, in panties. She said she was “airing out.”

10. Screen Spying

People walk by my desk all day on their way to the printer and they look at my computer screen on the way there. I like to work without spying eyes.


About the author

Former Editorial Assistant Miles Kohrman helped run Fast Company's homepage and completed miscellaneous tasks around the newsroom. He is a 2013 graduate of The New School.