The Gossiper. The Guy Who Comes to Work Sick. The TMI Guy. Here’s how NOT to stand out at work.

Every office has one (or more) of them: The Guy Who Eats Other People’s Food in the Fridge. The Woman Who Won’t Stop Showing You Pictures of Her Cat. The Guy Who Over-microwaves His Popcorn Every Single Time and makes the whole office smell like burnt hair.

These people get on our nerves, ruin our days, even make us dread coming in to the office at all.

But what if you’re “that guy” to your co-workers?

Don’t think it’s possible? Check out this list of common workplace annoyers and see if any of them sound familiar:

The Guy Who Comes in to Work Sick. Yes, you’re a dedicated little trooper for dragging yourself in sniffling and hacking. But think of your poor, defenseless co-workers. Showing up when you’re sick only makes you feel worse and exposes all of your co-workers to your germs.

Stay home, have some soup, and keep that flu to yourself, please.

The Gossiper. I know; you’d never gossip. Most of us don’t think we do; we know it’s mean and childish. But anything you say about someone who isn’t in the room with you qualifies as gossip. Few of us launch secret campaigns against our co-workers, but plenty of us say things like “Guess who took another vacation day?” and “Did you see what Sheila’s wearing today?”

One simple rule to follow: If you wouldn’t say something to someone’s face, don’t say it behind their back.

The Guy Who Made the Dress Code Necessary. Here are some things you should never display at work, no matter how “business casual” your office is: cleavage, Crocs, holes or tears, sweat pants, jean shorts, tiaras on your birthday (or any other form of overdressing/teenage regression).

There are no exceptions that make these things OK. Just Say No, we all beg of you.

The Guy Who Acts Like a Wannabe Celeb. Unless you’re Tom Haverford from Parks and Recreation, you are not being cool and charming by using phrases like “broseph,” “OMG,” or fist-bumping in normal office conversation. Actually, even Tom Haverford is charming only because he’s so ridiculous he’s funny. Take a look at him; he’s a great sitcom character, but would you want to be his cube neighbor 40 hours a week?

The Guy Everyone Else Has to Pick Up After. If the copier runs out of paper on your project, refill it for the next person. Clean up your spills in the break room. It’s common courtesy. Don’t make us tape up the cheesy “your mom doesn’t work here” sign.

The One-Upper. Empathizing with someone’s situation creates camaraderie. We all like to hear that someone knows what we’re going through. But if you find yourself wanting to counter your co-worker’s story about her awful mother-in-law with a story about how awful your family is, reign it in. It’s small talk, not a competition.

The TMI Guy. Have people in the cubes around you asked about your fight with your girlfriend — when you never told anyone about it? It might be a sign you’re not using your “indoor voice” on the phone. And that you might want to conduct sensitive personal calls on your own time.

The Awful Emailer. It’s Email 101: Don’t put the contents of an email in the subject line. Don’t “reply all” at whim. And please, for the love of god, no pink italic inspirational quotes in your signature block. (I trust I don’t even have to mention emoticons.)

The Antisocial Guy. Most of us don’t love grocery store birthday cake or giving long accounts of our weekend activities. But you should at least show up now and then, say hello, or ask how someone’s hobby/family/etc. is going. (If you can’t think of one single hobby, family member, or other personal detail about your co-worker, that’s a good sign you might be this guy.)

You don’t have to be BFFs with everyone, but you spend most of your time with these people; why not at least be friendly and pleasant? It makes the time go by faster — and it makes you easier to work with.

Aack! I Am That Guy!

Are you guilty of any of the above annoyances? The first step to getting better is realizing you have a problem.

You don’t need to find another job or start baking cupcakes to entice your co-workers to like you again. (Another common peeve is people who bring in goodies and throw everyone off their diets, so I’d steer clear of that one.) You just have to be a little more considerate.

Try to be the kind of person you’d want to work with. It’s not that hard, and it’s never too late to start over. At least you’re not Crazy Cat Picture Lady.

Kelly Gurnett, a.k.a. “Cordelia,” runs the blog Cordelia Calls It Quits, where she documents her attempts to rid her life of the things that don’t matter and focus more on the things that do. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.


  1. Anonymous

    Great list! I would add: Don’t be the guy/girl who waits until the very last minute to ask someone for something (especially if it’s right before they’re trying to leave at the end of the day).

    • Cordelia


      We definitely have “that guy” that leaves a rush project until 4:00 (conveniently, when they leave for the day), then dashes into a secretary’s office saying “get this out by 5:00!” before flying out the door.

      Do not be this guy, people. Your coworkers would be eternally grateful.

  2. Elayna Scott

    I will add: don’t be the guy that doesn’t turn their phone on scilent. Listening to bling, bling texts and loud country music themed ring tones should be banned.

    • Cordelia

      That was actually on my list when I first drafted, but it had to be cut due to word count limits! Definitely worth a mention; this is one that bugs tons of people.

  3. Shaughnessy

    You forgot being the noisy food and drink consumer.

    • Cordelia

      Another one that was on my initial list that had to be cut due to space constraints! “Eating etiquette” also ranks high on workplace annoyance lists.

  4. Chrysta Bairre

    Great list and what I really appreciate about this article is it focuses not on other people, but on ourselves. I see many articles on bad work habits, poor work relationships, and “that guy” at the office that are focused on everyone else.

    The truth is only I am responsible for my own happiness, my own well being, and my own behavior at the office! When I spend too much time and attention on what everyone else is doing, it’s a sign I’m not focused on doing MY best.

    But I have to say- What? No tiara on my birthday?! It’s my birthday and I’ll wear a tiara if I want to.


    • Cordelia

      Excellent point, Chrysta. I think a lot of people do focus on the faults of others at their job without considering what sort of faults they might have themselves. You can’t control other peoples’ actions, but you can control yours. Everyone contributes to workplace harmony.

      And I will grant you the tiara. But only because I know you, so you get a pass. 🙂

  5. captwasabi

    “(I trust I don’t even have to mention emoticons.)”

    Uh…didn’t you just?


    • Cordelia

      Touche. 🙂

      • Timsa6

        The reference was to professional emails sent to coworkers/peers i believe. In the blog commenting world, emoticon away!! 🙂 🙂 🙂

        • Cordelia

          I have to confess a weakness for it myself in the blogosphere. I try to restrain myself, but it keeps slipping through anyway.

  6. Susan Fignar


    The examples are so true – I love it that you are able to say what most people are thinking about “that guy/gal”! The sad thing is that they are the ones who lack awareness and have little or no intention of changing these behaviors.

    Thanks, I already posted it and will refer to this list in my training programs (and source YOU).

  7. Anonymous

    You forgot the don’t be that guy or girl, who brings in really smelly food for lunch. For instance, I love tuna and Indian curry as much as the next person, but both of these foods have the ability to stink up an office like no other.

    • Cordelia

      Very true!

      And also, don’t throw out food in an open garbage can next to your desk, in a conference room, etc. Throw it in the covered can in the kitchen–no one wants to smell the bananas peel you tossed away four days ago. 😛

  8. Marian Schembari

    I ADORE everyone in my office. We’re like a little family and I’m really lucky to have them. However, there is a point where you can be TOO social. Don’t be the person that interrupts every social conversation, looks over your coworker’s shoulders and says, “Wait, what did you say?” when even the hint of a conversation perks up 20 feet away from you. You can love your coworkers without being in their face every five seconds. Let’s just say I’ve been there 😉

    • Cordelia

      That’s an excellent point. You need to find a happy middle ground between being the office recluse and being the overly friendly person that makes everyone groan when they see you coming. 🙂

  9. Kathy

    As much as these things are annoying, and some of them should just be common sense (cleaning up after yourself, etc.).

    The fact that, we feel, we need to stop people from being themselves just to suit our needs, just proves how dead on ‘The Wall’ (by Pink Floyd, for those who don’t know) was. We’re all expected to be this cookie-cutter employee in Corp America. Even our students are expected to “fit a certain mold” or they’re labeled with ADD, ADHD, etc. And that to me, is just plain sad.

    Why do we need to keep our personality outside of the office, outside of our school system, outside of any place where people can’t accept us for who we are?

    Do I like a gossiper? No, but I let them know “Hey, that’s not my bag. Let’s chat about something else.”

    Do I like it when people come into the office sick? It doesn’t really bother me, as I have a very strong immune system. And most companies only allows for so many days off, and maybe said person is having a tough time.

    “The Guy Who Acts Like a Wannabe Celeb” Really? That’s his personality, and this is discrimination. So are a few others.

    Hmm…you just gave me a great idea for a blog article. Thanks! 🙂

    Let’s not forget empathy, and try to understand what that person might be going through, or how they were brought up, that makes/made them who they are today.

    • Cordelia

      You come at this from an interesting angle.

      I am by no means an advocate of fitting people into boxes or adhering to a cookie cutter standard. Anyone who knows me can verify that’s 110% against everything I believe in.

      I’m not arguing that anyone needs to keep their personality outside of the office; simply that people need to be aware of how their habits and quirks affect the people they work so closely with for 8 hours a day. These things absolutely *should* be common sense, but I think anyone who’s worked anywhere (or lived in the world) can attest to the fact that often people overlook the things that ought to be common sense. 🙂

      This post wasn’t an attempt to “judge” people or (heaven forbid!) “discriminate” against them, and I’m a little disturbed that you read it that way. It’s a humorous means of pointing out common things that people do, often without realizing it, that can negatively affect their working environment.

      I would never *not* talk to someone, “discriminate” against someone, or judge someone based on quirks like these, and nothing in this post advocates doing that. I sincerely trust that with the empathy you promote (a worthy attitude and an important reminder to people), you can take this article as it was meant to be written and not take offense from implications you are reading into it.

      • Kathy

        You might not have meant it to come across that way. But how will your article affect those that say “OMG” (giggle), “broseph”, fist-pump, etc.

        Those that have to come in sick, because they’ve run out of sick time, and have a family of 6 to support and can’t afford to lose their job?

        The woman whose life, is her cats?

        The person, who thinks her “pink italic inspirational quotes in your signature block” are encouraging. And maybe they did encourage someone that day?

        As much as you don’t want these things to be judgmental, they can very much be construed that way. And will be to those that fit these descriptions.

        Now again, for those that don’t clean up after themselves, eat other peoples food, etc. That’s just wrong, and yes, they should handle their business. But the rest of it…I just don’t agree with.

        We all have our quirks, and those quirks are either beautiful or offensive to another. If they’re offensive, just walk away.

        Here’s my response to your article:

        • Brennan Miller

          Hey Kathy,

          I enjoy your take on this article, but I think you are reading too far into this. As Cordelia pointed out, this is a humorous article to make light of the quarks that are present in the office.

          I see this article as a moment to sit back and reflect on the effect I may have on my office. Some people annoy me for whatever reason, and there is nothing I can do about that, but I have to take a second and think “is there something I do that may irritate the people that I spend most of my time with?”.

          In regards to your comment about someone who may have used all their sick days and has to feed a family of six. Well, if you’re in an office you generally have an idea about the persons family, or situation, and therefore can be empathetic. But (and I’ll use the sickness example as it’s very relative to my situation) my office neighbor has been sick for an entire week, and very sick. Now, I am headed to Mexico in three days and yesterday I had to take a sick day because if I did not, it would only get worse and then make a trip that I’ve planned for months miserable. I would appreciate if this individual took some time off to rest – as it would certainly help. I am in no way discriminating against her. I rather like her. But these little quarks make office situations unbearable at times.

          And Kathy, I think that people who emit these qualities, on a flamboyant/regular basis, can seriously affect the office environment in a negative way. A frequent gossiper, for example, can RUIN an office. Whereas a woman who has cats and they are her family, it may be cute and entertaining for the first bit, but can be extremely annoying and distracting if persistent.

          I guess I am just refuting that fact that you say “if they are offensive, just walk away”. If you are in a small office environment, call centre, etc it’s not as easy those who have the flexibility to work elsewhere. Everybody has to conscious about how they are perceived in their office because it will ultimately determine how functional that office is.

          • Kathy

            Hello Brennan,

            Thank you, and I can understand why you feel I’m reading too much into it. But how many more, might see it the same way? How many are already at a breaking point due to our economy?

            Sure, there’s humor in it. But I just think it went a little too far. Specially when there’s an eager HR team dying to implement something new. (Yes, maybe a little far-fetched. But get my drift?).

            In regards to sick people in the office. I am against it, but the office and the office policies are to blame for that. Not the person. I’m quite sure they’d love to be at home, in bed, feeling miserable. But there’s always the pressure of having to perform, being at the top of your game, etc. and then of course, end of year reviews. All these things make those that should be home, come into work.

            And yes, I agree that some of these things can affect the office environment. But “pink italic quotes in an email”, not-so-much. And the cat lady (I worked with one), you just gently tell her you have a deadline. They generally get the drift.

            So are these the real elephants in the room? Yes, they may be. But being passive-agressive doesn’t help the issue either. Speaking up quickly, mindfully, and with empathy will nip most of these things in the bud. Or again, bring your iPod and headset. That would solve most of the issues right there.

            And no, you don’t always get to physically walk away. But you can take your break and cool off. Or again, bring an iPod and escape.

            But again, if it’s really that bad…talk to the person, and again, have empathy. If your team is like family, have an intervention and make it fun (think HIMYM). But take note, “you” could be next. 😉

            So yes, we all have to be conscious of our environment. I’m just suggesting we have empathy.

          • Angie B

            Dear Kathy – lighten up!

          • Kathy

            Hehe…I’m a very light-hearted, jovial, and gregarious personality.

            No worries, I’m light. 🙂

          • kenid

            You’d make an ideal person to work in a rehab or private school that caters to rich people’s children.

          • Kathy

            As much as I’d like to say you’re correct, I can’t. I don’t have children, don’t want children, and never wanted to “babysit” anyone else’s children. But I do applaud/respect those that work in rehab centers (my mother was a Social Worker), or schools of any kind.

            I’m much more interested in working for a gaming company. That’s what I call fun! 🙂

  10. Marty Lake

    I’d add The Bodily Noises Guy. My cube neighbor is a 60 year old hermit-looking dude who burps and farts throughout the day. Doesn’t seem to phase him in the least bit.

    • kenid

      I cannot accept this and would seek a transfer or change of seating arrangement. You are so tolerant.

    • Cordelia

      That’s a real shame. He may not even realize he’s doing it, but it can be extremely distracting (and unpleasant) to nearby coworkers. The challenge is tactfully approaching him (or HR) about it. Rather “personal” issues like that are always touchy.

  11. Jrandom42

    Here’s the annoying guy I’ve been:

    I’m the one who points out all the pitfalls, things that aren’t addressed, and things that could go wrong, and was eventually proven right when everything crashed around the designers and implementers.

    • kenid

      Now, that’s one I’d love to work with.

      • Jrandom42

        I’ve been the “killjoy” and “buzzkiller” of so many pie-in-the-sky IT projects, that my nickname at one company was, “Gloomy Gus”.

        The fact that I was proven right when the project failed to deliver on its promised benefits, soaked up millions from the department budget, and generally caused grief to everyone tends to be forgotten.

    • Cordelia

      Same here. Many offices aren’t too welcoming to workers who take initiative and try to proactively point out issues or ways to do things better. Head-down, stick-to-your-job-description workers are nice and quiet and un-bothersome.

      It’s a shame your coworkers didn’t appreciate your feedback. Sounds like you cold have saved them some real issues.

  12. kenid

    Thank you for an entertaining read.

  13. Chethana

    have to admit… am not sure why it’s bad to put email content in a subject line… doesn’t that help people read something faster?

  14. Petar Pan

    I sure have this guy in my workplace: The Guy Who Acts Like a Wannabe Celeb

    He is the one always know everything, always trying to cut you off in the middle in your sentence. I guess the point of the post is that you find yourself into those examples and stop acting that ways ASAP and i have to say i dont feel i belong in any of those. The idea is great anyway, it might help lot of people think what they are doing.

  15. insitedesignlab

    Haha luckily I work alone from home. Although I may be a few of those “guys”, no one is there to notice 🙂

  16. Pitch

    I love this list, and would love some of the ‘real life’ stories behind these characters contributed to my blog:

    Please share your funniest and most absurd co-worker anecdotes.

  17. Anonymous

    The guy who comes to work sick reminds me of where I used to work. People were so afraid of losing their jobs that they came to work sick and then got everybody else sick. They definitely should have stayed home. For those of you who are out of work I am putting together a list of commonly asked interview questions. You can see it here

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