10 Rude Things You Can Do to Your Co-Workers


When you sit next to a co-worker at work, you get a first look into their habits and quirks. Unfortunately, not all of us like what we see, hear or smell. Usually, you can subtly distance yourself from an irritating colleague in general, but it’s more challenging to ignore or tune out your co-workers sometimes. For example, some co-workers might leave potato chip crumbs in a shared area.

Rude office behavior centers around insensitivity toward other people. It varies from the oblivious to the malicious. Unrefined co-worker habits can be incredibly infuriating in open office spaces where you can’t shield yourself from the sounds and smells of people nearby. However, what’s rude to you might be normal to your co-worker. Here are some of the most disrespectful things you can do to your co-workers.

Coming to work when you’re sick.

One of the most disrespectful things you can do is show up to work coughing, physically ill, sneezing all day and calling it “allergies.” Whether your cough indicates a deeper health issue or is innocent, most people are sensitive about getting sick and taking time off work, especially during the holiday season. When someone comes to work physically ill, it’s a sign that they don’t respect other people’s feelings and health. When someone is visibly sneezing and coughing, and you see particles in the air, you can’t help but feel a little put-off and irritated.

Leaving your things on other people’s desks.

Storing work items and moving materials in others’ devoted workspace is rude because there’s an assumption or attitude that all office areas are 100 percent available and accessible for everyone’s use, even though those areas are dedicated explicitly for another’s use. Even if a workspace isn’t enclosed by a physical door or wall or is in close quarters, storing and moving items on a shared cubby, cubicle, or desk is the same as opening someone’s closed office door.

Playing music without headphones.

Your co-workers don’t want to hear your music because it’s distracting. Also, everyone’s music taste isn’t the same, so forcing your co-workers to listen to a music genre they don’t like is rude and torturous.

Making bodily sounds or sharing gossip.

Unwanted sounds from colleagues are one of the most common complaints of office workers. Whether it’s radio talk shows, music, conversations with other co-workers, telephone calls, or bodily sounds like heavy breathing and chewing, unwanted sounds in your work area make it challenging or impossible to concentrate.

Most times, the content of what you’re hearing can be irritating, like a colleague who gives colorful descriptions of their gastric issues or a co-worker who fights with their spouse on the phone using foul language. Noise-canceling headphones can be an excellent investment for blocking out unwanted noises.

Then there are the more egregious forms of rude co-worker office habits, like bullying people and gossiping. For example, male colleagues might discuss women in the office within earshot. In offices where incivility rules, it’s not uncommon for people to try to undermine others by talking about them.

Tuning out people trying to talk to you.

Wearing earbuds with the volume too loud is also rude. Work is supposed to be interactive, and sometimes your co-workers need to talk to you. If the volume of your headphones is too loud, you can’t hear your co-workers. Nothing is more annoying than talking to a co-worker and constantly repeating yourself because they can’t hear you due to the volume of their headphones. It isn’t polite and makes everyone’s job more challenging.

Treating the office space like your kitchen.

The most disrespectful thing a co-worker can do is treat a shared workspace as their personal kitchen or office. Some co-workers might host Zoom presentations at the highest volume, take personal calls on speaker phones, eat microwaved fish in the office, or leave their used papers and dishes spilling into their neighbor’s workspace. It’s a rude distraction and ultimately impedes a co-worker’s ability to function. The personal space mindset overlooks neurodiversity and signals that their needs are the only ones that matter.

Barging into private conversations.

Because someone sits next to you and hears you, that doesn’t invite them to add to your conversation when you didn’t ask them into the conversation. Giving unsolicited advice or opinions or correcting you after they misheard a discussion can be frustrating, condescending, and embarrassing.

Using too much perfume or cologne.

Some people are very sensitive to scents, so your perfume or cologne may be offensive and distracting. When going into the office, it would be best to wear only one spritz of perfume or cologne if you have to wear any.

Not acknowledging the energy you bring into the workplace.

Going through life is hard enough without having to deal with the potential day-to-day negativity, humiliating remarks, and killjoy complaints from your co-workers. We shouldn’t expect everyone to have rose-colored glasses every day. However, having a co-worker who brings negativity everyday to the workplace through their actions and comments can be draining, creating an unpleasant work environment.

Forming cliques with other co-workers.

Cliquey behavior was terrible in high school, but it’s even worse when it occurs at work because you feel like your colleagues should be past this behavior. If work feels like high school, it might be time to consider finding a new job. If the office reminds you of high school with gossip about you or cliques you aren’t a part of, you’re being disrespected, which isn’t nice.

Having to deal with rude co-workers is something that no one wants to deal with. Their behavior makes work impossible, leaving you to feel like you can’t get any work done. If you’re dealing with rude co-workers, it might be worth conversing with them about their behavior. Some people may not see their behavior as rude. If the conversation isn’t successful, it might be time to talk to HR about what’s happening. Ultimately, what you want to avoid is discussing their behavior with other co-workers, which will only make things worse.

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