After Hours

The 10 most annoying employees

Certain behaviors are almost guaranteed to drive your boss crazy. Unfortunately, you might not even know you're doing it -- until the day you're shown the door.

These days, we've got heavy competition for our products and services and even stiffer competition for our jobs. The one thing none of us needs is to make matters worse by shooting ourselves in the foot.

Over the years, I've noticed a number of behavioral attributes that really annoy the heck out of managers, especially senior executives. We're not talking light-hearted annoyances, like constant interruptions or incessant whining. We're talking career-limiting behavior that's bad for business and bad for the organization and that far outweighs whatever benefits you might bring to the party.

When he was annoyed with someone in a meeting, one CEO of a large technology company would imagine the person's compensation -- dollar sign and all -- emblazoned on the person's forehead and decide right then and there if he or she was worth it. Cold-blooded, I know, but a true story nevertheless.

I've seen otherwise bright, capable people dig deep holes for themselves when they thought they were doing the right thing. They weren't. And while I've typically been on the annoyed side of the equation, I have to admit, I've been on the annoying side once or twice myself -- and really, really wished I hadn't. So be forewarned. Here are the 10 kinds of employee you don't want to be.

Note: This article originally appeared as an entry in BNET's Corner Office blog. It's also available as a PDF download.

1: "Trust me"

If you're a star performer who has proved your worth time and again, you're one of an elite group of trusted individuals. But if you're not in that category, saying "trust me" or "don't worry" to a skeptical senior executive sends up a red flag a mile high. Just don't do it.

2: Fearless risk-taker

People mistakenly think that entrepreneurs, executives, and VCs are huge risk-takers. They're not. They're calculated risk-takers. Their job is to minimize risk for their stakeholders in a risky environment. When they see someone dive into the deep end without looking, they don't just get annoyed, they get rid of him.

3: Know-it-all

Everyone hates a know-it-all, but it's particularly annoying to senior executives who didn't get to where they are by not knowing what they don't know. And they know you don't have all the answers, either. Know what I mean?

4: Teflon guy (or gal)

Nothing sticks to the Teflon guy. He won't engage and he won't be held accountable. You tell him over and over to take the bull by the horns, and he says okay, but it never happens. When you follow up, all you get are excuses. And the worst thing about it? The crap he won't deal with ends up on your plate, and that just ain't right.

5: "I can do anything you want"

For some reason, some employees think that no matter what you want or need, all they have to do is smile and say, "Sure, I can do that" -- whether they can or can't. They mistakenly think that's a "can-do" attitude. It's not. It's promising what you can't deliver. I call that "can-say, can't-do."

6: Star-struck "yes" person

Say what you will about bosses wanting employees to kiss their butts and kowtow to them. Sure, they exist, but they're the weak ones. Successful executives want to know the truth, and they want it straight. To them, sugar-coating "yes" people are worthless, period.

7: Talk, talk, talk, never shut up

Most executives are pressed for time. They want you to tell them what they need to know, listen to what they have to say, and get the hell out. If they want to chitchat, you'll know it.

8: Drama queen

It's always something: a personal saga, a coworker's out to get them, or a litany of excuses. Whatever it is, it's more important than getting things done. Excuse the gender reference; it's just an expression.

9: Bureaucrat

This type responds to every request with a boatload of inane reasons why he or she can't do it or arcane things that must happen first. The opposite of a flexible, can-do attitude.

10: "This is how we did it at XYZ company"

It's one thing to apply your experience to new situations. But you can't just blindly assume that because it worked there, it'll work here. Every situation is different; there are lots of ways to do things, and one size rarely fits all. Besides, it's really annoying.

Those are my top 10. What employee behavior annoys you the most?

24 comments
RB1955
RB1955

I agree that _always_ referencing XYZ company as the-place-to-emulate may be a reputation impairing tactic, but what is a good way to bring up "What really worked", vs so many companys' NIH (Not Invented Here) mentality. Case in point: former employer associates in a meeting debating an internal kanban situation (the current version was seriously flawed due to personnel shortcomings and the way the kanban was improperly *attempted* (that as nice as I can state it in a civilized term)). I mentioned that they were not using any Heijunka Scheduling (part of the improper attempt). The other meeting participants who had been with the company a lont time wanted to "go back to the previous way they did kanban. I had seen Heijunka methods in practice (highly successful), and realized that those meeting participants had not. They basically were advocating going from a seriously flawed system (due to reason stated previously) to a system that they originally ran-from due to its gross ineffectiveness and inefficiencies. So after not getting anywhere with my attempt at adding the needed-but-missing Heijunka component to their system, I just shut up. I knew they'd be having the same "What went wrong?" meeting pretty soon. Fast forward six months, I was watching the same problems plaguing production... all due to incomplete/inadequate implementation. I gathered the data and designed the necessary system and presented it to my manager. He knew the current system was riddled with work-arounds. He pushed my version into operation and it saved the company $50k in ONE MONTH. Not surprisingly, he took complete credit for it. When I mentioned that I was the system designer, he developed amnesia, and labeled me "Not a team player", and eventually fired me (5 week later). Lesson learned.

czah01
czah01

Muzungu anikonde

ginno_freeman
ginno_freeman

Working for a decade, now as a senior software engineer, in Greece, I'd like to deliver you the boss-way attitude in my workfields. Unfortunately, they're these ten employee annoying features, CEOs actually admire. People I've observed or worked with, with a little power on hand, and they get launched. If you as an employee don't pocess any of the features of this decade, you're just another unsuccessful smart aleck. One more feature to add, don't try to be dedicated, responsible, or caring, so that to overtake more responsibility than normal. You're soon fired!!!

Juanita Marquez
Juanita Marquez

The Poison Apple might be an otherwise good employee, even exceptionally skilled at what they do, but they can't help but spread negativity at every turn, wearing down even the sunniest of coworkers and eventually getting them stuck in the tar pit through continual complaints about the company, malicious gossip, or backhanded "compliments". The Pretender changes his tune whenever the boss isn't around. He works hard and puts on a good show when supervised, but in the company of his peers he finds creative ways to slack or do the bare minimum to get by, leaving more conscientious workers to pick up where he leaves off. The frustrating thing is the boss never sees the problem because he is so adept at covering his tracks.

Jboy74
Jboy74

#11 It couldn't have happened, it's not possible #12 That should be fixed (but it isn't 'cause I didn't bother checking if my fix worked) Both happened today!

RClementM
RClementM

The employee that doesn't take instruction because they know better and never, ever do anything wrong, just ask her.

sreespace
sreespace

I have seen many so called 'Teflon guys' around and even to some extent i become one rarely. Good Notice that

v r
v r

I agree with this one. Early in my career I was highly competent (modesty aside) in my role and thought the results spoke for themselves. I was coached to say more and put comments in the context of the task to which I was assigned. Lession learned too well. When people's eyes were glazing over as I spoke, I realized that the best approach is to deliver the message concisely and ASK if the executive (now my position) wants more information.

bplander
bplander

I think you named eveybody

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

No matter the question, the answer is always "Can't so-and-so do it? I'm really busy right now..."

Tigger_Two
Tigger_Two

I would never suggest that all problems aren't real. The employee that really gets to me is what I call the "Chicken Little" employee. This person is so invested in doom and gloom you hate to invite them to meetings. All they see is problems and those problems are EVERYWHERE. Your Risk Management plan ends up swamped in trying to plan for all the problems they see. One on one counsel with this person generally proves that they are just trying to make sure that everyone can see- and therefore mitigate- all the potential show stoppers. Perhaps they are. But generally, I don't see the potential for thermo-neuclear holocaust as a risk point that I can mitigate. I completely agree that the guy who goes blindly taking unnecessary risks is a problem. But so is the guy who sees tragedy around every corner. His first cousin? Mr (or Miss) CYA. They aren't invested in the good of the project, they are invested in making sure that if something DOES happen, they can't be blamed.

ICan2
ICan2

The Brown-Noser This person has no conscience at all. They are out to get themselves as far as they can go with this company only to jump ship (thankfully) when a position with a bigger title comes up elsewhere. They don't care who they steamroll, they are shamefully 2 faced and they tell upper management anything they want to hear making them the golden child of the department. The first one picked for projects (they can't do but they'll take the credit if it goes well) NO ONE is immune from this ones wrath including the upper management they suck up to. If they think they've got a chance to get a position in the higher ranks they'll step directly on the manager they've been romancing up to this point. They have no accountability, everything is always someone elses fault.Innocent people get fired because of eople like this and it seems that upper management never learns. They get sucked in by all the butt kissing and adoration. Meanwhile the rest of the department loses more and more respect for the foolish manager that eats it up. .

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Ones who inject irritating anounts of reality into the wishful BS you disguised as a plan.

aeiyor
aeiyor

Good Day All. I would say its the No responsibility person.. This is another type of employee that's hard to work with. It involves a person who doesn't take responsibility or accept responsibility. They usually are quick to point fingers and quick to make judgments without properly accessing the situation. Another one that's a cousin to this is the sniveling - back stabber. They are apt to do whatever it takes to climb the ladder and even go back on their word or shirk responsibility. They are not trustable but provide an air that appears trustable. Another cousin to the No-Responsibility is the spineless critter that is unable to take a stand or provide support for projects or people. This is not a cousin to any of them but another hard to work with employee.. War-Mongers. They are quick to look for problems and complications without seeking resolution or solutions. They like the fight aspect and are the ones who like to be RIGHT -- at whatever the cost. Sincerely, Satori.

bcgumbert
bcgumbert

I have found over the years and working at more than one company that the xyz comment is not very accurate. Most things are the same everywhere and even if the situations are not exactly the same they are close enough to take methodologies from one company to another they will work. Closed minded people just do not get that. That goes for the same group of people with MBA degrees that after taking a basic course in management you learn more as you study more. I have found that after management 101 all the other management classes I took were really a waste of time because I was not learning anything new. The comment you made is interesting but is only accurate if you do not have the capacity to systems think which is also something else most people struggle with. Every managerial problem is not unique to the company all companies have the same issues and if someone who has seen the problem somewhere else can give you a solution if they know what will work. Most managers just do not have the ego capacity to realize that.

mfeldhandler
mfeldhandler

If you don't see anyone who fits the profile, it's YOU!

K_Green
K_Green

Though not always successful, I've tried to apply this rule of thumb: - direct peers/teammates: full details / core dump - indirect peers / highly vested stakeholders: 3-4 sentences, more if they seem interested - 1st level managers: 2 sentences - 2nd level managers: 1 sentence - Directors: powerpoint-style sentence fragments - higher: yes & no, wait for them to ask for details and keep those at Director level

BlizzardWoman
BlizzardWoman

When problems arise, this person has already figured out how to deflect the attention way from his mistake (often mission critical) to another team member. Because he already has upper management's heart and is the untouchable Golden Boy, he never gets caught. The rest of us scramble to clean up his messes and end the end he comes out smelling like a rose. The Deflector too will take the glory for the angst he has caused his team mates who solved his enormous mistakes. This is the worst person to work with. AKA Rhe Prohibitor to Progress

sweeney.martinj
sweeney.martinj

The writer is addressing annoying behaviors. Of course if you're hired with any experience at all, you're expected to bring prior knowlede to your position. I believe what's being referred to is an individual who continually refers to the practices of a previous workplace as some sort of ideal benchmark, even when there's no problem being presented to them or solution solicited. I don't think the implications was to not share ideas learned, just don't annoy people with endless descriptions of how things were done at 'XYZ'. I know personally it makes me think "Gee if things were so great at XYZ, why don't you go back there"

Spitfire_Sysop
Spitfire_Sysop

I was sad to see this on the list as well. I often try to rework solutions I have seen in the past and make them work in new situations. Perhaps we just need to be careful how the idea is presented. Instead of saying where you got the idea you could act like you made it up. Then you will be helpful and not sound annoying. This is something I need to work on. I always want to suggest something helpful but I don't want to be guilty of the know-it-all either. I think it would be cruel to sit back and watch your co-workers struggle with a problem that you have the solution to.

Flyers70
Flyers70

In the past and now, I like knowing how other companies tackled similar problems. Most of the times, I see resistance to "We did this at Company XYZ" from people who have been at the same company for so long, they've become personally invested in the process or solution as it exists today rather than investing in a better solution.

JStroud
JStroud

This is exactly what the author is referring to. They are not talking about when there is a true problem or solicitation of input. The basis of the article is annoying employees. In this case think of someone constantly criticizing current processes, procedures, equipment, etc by throwing out there how other places they have worked do or had it. All to many times people try so hard to bring past experiences with them that they fail to capitalize on the new experiences they are being presented with. And there's a lot of generalizing going when someone says no companies have unique experiences/issues. Companies in the same industry can have different issues and those in different industries will especially. Don't just think management. There could be IT technical differences that cause solutions for one not to work for the other. This is TR right? So thinking that company A, B, & C can all be managed and maintained with a cookie cutter approach from company XYZ is just not always feasible. And although I know TR likes lists of 10 ... I think this issue could have used an 11th. This thread of responses typifies it. No offense intended but the 11th most annoying employee is the one that misinterprets and goes on and on about it. It makes having logical, intelligent conversation pointless because they are discussing against a point you don't even support.

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