The New Rules of Office Etiquette

H.R. expert reveals what employees need to know about their rights

AnnoyedA new survey of 2,000 employees has revealed that 100% of people say that their coworkers are annoying.  Simply put: We all have a coworker that gets on our last nerve. The most annoying behaviors in the workplace include: loudness, gossip, bathroom/eating habits, and email/meeting behavior.

Rob Wilson, President of Employco USA, and human resources expert, says, “It makes sense that loudness tops the list of most annoying behaviors, because many offices are now embracing an open-floor plan. As a result, it can be difficult to retreat from noise or find peace and quiet to do your work.”

Wilson also says that tech-based missteps also rate high on the list. “People who hit ‘reply all’ when it is not necessary to do so, or who send kissy-face emojis or use text speak in their emails (such as ‘LMK’ or ‘TTYL’) tend to get under other people’s skin,” he says. “It shows a lack of professionalism and an assumption of familiarity that can feel invasive.”

Another new issue that many employees are facing is related to allergens, such as a person who might have a sensitivity to certain fragrances, yet they are sitting close by a coworker who douses themselves in floral perfume every morning.

So, what are employees’ options if they find their coworker annoying?

“When it comes to a small matter such as an issue with a person’s speaking volume or if they have a habit of eating smelly tuna at their cubicle, the best thing to do is to approach the person one-on-one. Keep it light, and you can even be a bit self-deprecating,” says Wilson. “Mention that you have a health issue which makes your nose sensitive to fragrance and can even lead to serious migraines, or explain that you struggle to concentrate when music is playing.”

But, if the employee won’t compromise, you are going to need to speak to H.R., says Wilson. “If you have a suggestion box or an anonymous form, you could select this option if you are concerned with anonymity. Some offices now even have an online suggestion box where people can send in anonymous questions and comments to H.R., and these can be very invaluable. Human Resources can often easily find a solution, whether it’s moving your cubicle farther away from a loud-talking employee or instituting ‘quiet hours’ or allowing noise-canceling headphones.”

Ultimately, Wilson says, some annoying behavior from coworkers is unavoidable, but for the most part, employees can work together to create an enjoyable and pleasant environment for everyone.

For more on this topic, please contact Rob Wilson at