Trapped in Co-Worker Hell

ByABC News via logo
September 15, 2006, 1:59 PM

Sept. 16, 2006 — -- For millions of Americans in the workplace, the stress of sharing an office with an annoying co-worker can get pretty serious.

It's dealing with that one quirky person every day -- people like the all-chat-and-no-work Karen from "Will and Grace," the off-center Milton from "Office Space" or the overly boastful Ted Baxter from the "Mary Tyler Moore Show."

Just like on TV and in the movies, annoying co-workers are everywhere.

"Theoretically, you can have an office where everybody likes everybody else," said Jodi R. R. Smith, author of the "Girl's Guide to Social Savvy" and president of Mannersmith Etiquette Consulting. "But the reality is there is always going to be at least one person who rubs you the wrong way."

From having a messy office to having an ear-shattering laugh, some days your office mate just makes you want to say, "I quit."

A recent online survey by a job-search Web site found that co-workers' annoying habits are the No. 1 source of stress in the workplace.

Nearly 60 percent of the 2,200 respondents said their co-workers' bad habits have negatively affected their work relationships, while 40 percent said that they have led them to seek a different job.

The most commonly cited annoying work habits include listening to voicemail on speaker phone and invading personal space.

"Having an annoying co-worker can absolutely affect daily activity because what happens is people start to do end-arounds," Smith said. "They try to work around the annoying person to avoid interaction and it detracts from productivity in the office."

One way to get the message across loud and clear is through the Web site The site allows people to click on whichever annoying habit their co-worker has and anonymously e-mail that person their complaint.

Even if you don't think you're annoying anyone at work, it may pay to do a thorough self-inventory before you end up on the receiving end of one of those e-mails.

"People should really think about what's going on in their office environment and what their corporate culture is, so they can think about how not to be the annoying co-worker," Smith said.