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Workplace Pet Peeves Return as Offices Re-open

Work place pet peeves cartoon by Scott Adams
Credit: Scott Adams

What is a workplace pet peeve?

A workplace pet peeve, often the source of employee complaints, are the little or big things that annoy, aggravate, and hinder you from doing your job as well as you otherwise would. This is because peeves are distracting. They might hinder progress on a project or special assignment, or they may simply create an unpleasant work environment. At their simplest, workplace pet peeves are disruptive. They often interrupt our flow, limit productivity, and sometimes drive us completely crazy!

With this in mind, I smile when I hear leaders wanting to create workplaces that are a family. Could you imagine speaking to a colleague with an annoying habit like you might do with a sibling? Curt, lacking empathy and to the point, perhaps with volume to match (given that you probably waited until it really irritated you to speak up). Now that could make for an expensive lesson in workplace etiquette! Obviously, this is not an appropriate strategy to take, whereas addressing it properly is important for everyone’s sake.

Let’s consider a couple of common examples:

  1. Co-workers that come into the office sick
  2. Meetings that could have been an email (or vice versa emails that should have been a meeting)

Typical workplace pet peeves

Unsurprisingly resolution depends on the nature of the issue. Some things require a lot more tact and sensitivity than others. For instance, what if the issue is one of poor hygiene? This topic may touch on cultural norms, economic issues, or a personal lack of awareness. Sensitive areas are best addressed through the company’s policy on personal care, or through the Human Resources team themselves.

Going into the Office Sick

Returning to our common scenarios – let’s address the decision to go into the office unwell first. This single decision has numerous implications:

  • It shows a disregard for the health and wellbeing of co-workers (and as a by-product that of their family).
  • If/when others become unwell, productivity within the team will decline further.

So, how do we deal with this case tactfully? There are a few options, including alternatives that might include:

  1. Taking a wellness day so the individual can focus on resting and recovering.
  2. Asking them to work from home, assuming they will not take a wellness day.
  3. Working from home yourself if they cannot or will not stay home.
  4. Working from another location, such as a meeting room or hot desk area until the person recovers.

These options each require an empathetic approach; that is an open mind and a compassionate and supportive tone. The bottom line is we have an obligation to our own health as well as the health of others. We may well see a change in this historical behaviour post-pandemic, time will tell.

Misuse of Emails or Meetings

Let’s dive into the second example. Avoidable meetings or unavoidable short meetings. The implications of this behaviour are equally interesting:

  • It suggests the person initiating the email (or meeting) does not recognize team workload dynamics.
  • It may also shine a light on communication weaknesses of the individual (or team members if it is a back-and-forth email string).
  • Or it may indicate a lack of common sense on the part of the sender, particularly if they could have done a quick internet search for possible answers.

This type of issue is more about efficiency and effectiveness than meeting vampires, where individuals tend to suck the energy out of the room. 

Some simple tactics in dealing with meeting inefficiencies are:

  1. Encourage others to hold only meetings that are necessary. If/when meetings are proposed, ask about the purpose and value it adds.
  2. Ensure that all scheduled meetings have a clear and specific agenda outlining the topics and objectives.
  3. If an email string is going back and forth without resolution, suggest a short meeting to get alignment and close the issue.
  4. When self-solvable questions surface and time is limited, suggest a solution and explain how to find it themselves next time.
  5. When time is not limited in answering a question, point them in the right direction and let them do the work themselves.

In these scenarios, confidence and clarity of communication are key skills in managing these pet peeves. The bottom line is we have an obligation to protect our own wellbeing by preventing information overload, which often creates “out of kilter” workdays to make up for lost daytime productivity.

What skills do you need to manage these moments?

These pet peeve examples result in interruptions, and studies show it takes around 23 minutes to refocus after an interruption. The implication to the study is that a 5-minute interruption is, in fact, really a 30-minute interruption.

There is thankfully something you can do to help yourself. In coaching I refer to it as “not taking someone else’s monkey on your back” – it is a simple visual to help a person recognize the importance of setting boundaries and managing expectations.

It is important to speak up if something bothers you and disrupts or affects your productivity, why? People around you cannot read your mind, so they won’t know that something needs to change if you don’t say anything. Remember to assume the best about others so you avoid taking anything personally. Even if you might sometimes think the behaviour is done just to annoy you. It really isn’t!

Your turn

With a few carefully chosen approaches, workplace pet peeves become a distant memory when you improve your ability to speak in a clear, confident, and empathetic way.

Sign in to the Community Member Area or comment below to share your views, tips, and tricks on how you successfully deal with workplace pet peeves.

Give it a try!

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