Procurement · 31 August 2017

The ten most irritating office habits causing workplace conflict

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Gossiping about colleagues annoyed a fifth of UK office workers

With British workers spending around 1,740 hours every year in the company of colleagues, it’s no surprise that even minor habits can become unbearable gripes before long.

Now, a new study, undertaken by e-cigarette retailer Vapourlites has uncovered the ten most irritating office habits that employees want to see the end of. As an employer, it’s worth considering how to combat these aggravations and maintain the peace.

Bad body odour took the overall top spot. Some 40 per cent of respondents claimed poor hygiene was all too common in the workplace, and something they were not prepared to put up with.

The smell of cigarette smoke was also raised, with 12 per cent putting it on their list of irritating habits colleagues were guilty of.

Meanwhile, the findings appeared to confirm a creeping dependency on technology and smart phones. Some 15 per cent ranked sending emails instead of talking in person as one of their biggest office gripes.

Communication issues were commonly raised, with interrupting a colleague in a meeting considered most frustrating by a third of office workers.

Female employees were most likely to be irritated by communicative difficulties, while male colleagues were troubled by messy desks and loud phone calls.

The ten most irritating office habits

  1. Body odour: 40 per cent
  2. Interrupting in a meeting: 34 per cent
  3. Messy desk: 30 per cent
  4. Dishes left in the sink: 24 per cent
  5. Ignoring emails: 22 per cent
  6. Gossiping about colleagues: 20 per cent
  7. Talking loudly on the phone: 19 per cent
  8. Emailing instead of talking: 15 per cent
  9. Smelling of cigarette smoke: 12 per cent
  10. Cooking smelly foods: 10 per cent

Commenting on the study, HR professional Helen said employers should address workplace conflicts carefully, with the preservation of professional relationships in mind.

“You don’t choose your colleagues, you’re put together and must strive to work together in the best way you can,” she said.

“Approach a colleague in a friendly and open manner, taking them away from sight of other colleagues where possible. Try not to attack them on a personal level, but relate any issues as to how their habits impacts upon your work,” she advised.

“If they get defensive, demonstrate that can you can see it from their point of view and come to a compromise of some sort. It’s crucial to end any conversation it in a polite manner, so there is no ongoing bitterness which could affect your productivity at work”.

Vapourlites also leveraged the expertise of a social psychologist, who sad minor conflicts were inevitable when working daily in close quarters, and unpicked some of the more subconscious aspects of irritiating colleague habits.

“When you’re working day-in-day-out with the same people, of course conflicts will occur. You don’t choose your colleagues, you’re put together and must strive to work together in the best way you can,” she explained.

“Unfortunately, people in general are not the best listeners so communication problems are a common occurrence. In meetings, people strive to be the dominant voice; putting forward the best ideas and solutions. It’s in part due to wanting to look desirable to managers but also to assert one’s dominance and power.”

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Praseeda Nair is the editorial director of Business Advice, and its sister publication for growing businesses, Real Business. She's an impassioned advocate for women in leadership, and likes to profile business owners, advisors and experts in the field of entrepreneurship and management.

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