Workmates behaving badly

Office behaviour standards may vary wildly by person and workplace. No doubt your colleagues behave in a manner they consider acceptable – even if you don’t agree.

Penelope Whitson

My friends, who are numerous because I am exceedingly popular, are a positive and terribly attractive lot at the best of times. At the worst of times, they’re a whiny, sad-faced bunch who get a kick out of wearing their bitch pants. Lately, and perhaps it’s just the mid-year blues, there’s been some unhappy nitpicking about workmates and workspace. Do any of the following sound familiar?

• The workmate who reads personal emails if computers aren’t locked during lunch – because if it was private, you’d lock your computer, right?

• The workmate who believes that desks have no boundaries. Like a paper Vesuvius, they erupt most days, spreading a loathsome sea of paperwork over the desks next to theirs.

• The workmate who eats nothing but boiled eggs. Which smell bad. And result in severe badness an hour or two later in terms of air purity.

• The workmate who actively takes advantage of open-plan offices, and listens in on conversations that don’t concern them. And then comments on the topic of discussion.

• The workmate who hovers just out of your line of sight, without saying anything, waiting for you to acknowledge them and ask them what they need.

• The workmate who thinks someone else cleans the kitchen so it’s okay to spill tea and coffee and not clean it up.

• The workmate who is militant about break time: ‘It starts NOW.’

• The workmate who writes anonymous notes for the kitchen/toilet.

• Pen clickers, squeaky chair squeakers, throat clearers, loud conversationalists, deodorant rejectors and stapler thieves.

• The workmate who sniffs all the time. No one likes Captain Sniffles. Unless Captain Sniffles is a bunny rabbit.

• The workmate who thinks they’re hilarious.

This last one is a tricky one – what if they are hilarious and you’re just a jerk with a poor sense of humour?

The above issues can seem inconsequential or petty. But spending 40 hours a week with an irksome person can turn something small into a massive angry T-rex of an issue. And it’s a difficult area, deciding if you’re the one with the problem or your colleagues are (T-rex says it’s always them).

People have remarkably different ideas about appropriate office behaviour. No doubt most of your workmates behave in a manner they consider acceptable – it’s just that you don’t agree. Their version of ‘acceptable’ can bring on rage, nausea and a lip you’ve bitten though without realising.

This leads to pondering how to broach these issues without coming across as the office bitch/bastard/great big meanie. Start small with delicate suggestions? Make a joke about it? Develop a death ray stare? I would suggest not writing an anonymous note.

Personally, one of the things that irks me the most at work is that my desk is closest to the kitchen so any domestic queries are made in my direction.

‘Why don’t we have any milk?’

‘Who microwaved fish?’

‘Smell this – would you eat it?’

I rarely know the answer but I’ve been known to lie about the last query.

However, this isn’t terrible. I’ve had worse things happen, such as the hilarious bra-pinging director I encountered several years ago. Apparently this was ‘just his way’ with female colleagues after he’d had a few too many at the Christmas party.

Sometimes other people flabbergast me. If I was a T-rex I’d be waving my puny arms in dismay.