What should I do: Annoying co-worker disrupts productivity

A TechRepublic member writes in about an annoying co-worker who is so bad he's causing those around him to lose productivity. Read his horror story and advise him on what he can do to remedy it.

A TechRepublic member writes in about an annoying co-worker who is so bad he's causing those around him to lose productivity. Read his horror story and advise him on what he can do to remedy it.


This week's What should I do? blog is inspired by those annoying co-workers who cause distress and distractions to everyone within earshot of them. A TechRepublic member writes in about one of his co-workers who is seriously driving him crazy. Because the e-mail was so entertaining, I present it in its entirety:

"I've been with this company almost 12 years. I am currently in a situation (for going on 7 months now) where a co-worker has become such a distraction that it has significantly impacted my ability to get work done. I haven't missed any deadlines yet, but I should be much further ahead on this project than I am.

Myself and others within earshot of this employee can tell you who calls him, and who he calls, at what time the calls occur, day in and day out. We have to listen to him blurt the F'bomb to his mother every day between 11:15 am and 11:30. We can tell you that he eats two apples per day because we have to listen to 20 minutes (each time) of excessively loud crunching, then (the most annoying noise) the sucking sound of him sucking the pieces of apple out from between his teeth. Then sporadically throughout the day, we get to listen to him laughing out loud at some website or email that he obviously finds amusing. This isn't just a quiet giggle, it's LOUD laughter. Apparently he isn't aware of how loud because he is usually wearing headphones as he's laughing.

Try performing complex job tasks (as I often have to do, as do others who sit around me) when your concentration is constantly being shattered!

Oh yes, as I'm typing this email, I'm reminded of yet another annoyance...whistling! I said WHISTLING! I can't fathom who in their right mind would think it is ok to sit there and WHISTLE WHILE YOU WORK in an office for crying out loud. I'm sure he must have heard the song 'Whistle While You Work,' but IT'S A SONG! They didn't mean for you to literally whistle while you work, especially in an office setting! Over-the-road truckers, go ahead, whistle while you work, but office workers everywhere, I have a message for all of you: 'DON'T YOU DARE WHISTLE WHILE YOU WORK!' It's annoying!

And I haven't even mentioned the pointless conversations that we're inflicted with. Anything from how much he likes chocolate, to explaining to his son (who is ready to graduate high school mind you) how to properly do laundry. Everything from which spin cycle to use to how to properly add the detergent to the washing machine. This kid isn't mentally handicapped! But yet he is told how to park his SUV at school (next to the curb and by the light pole so that nobody puts a ding in the doors), how fast to drive, how to clean the windshield, and oh yeah, he must call good ol' dad when he leaves school, when he arrives at Starbucks, explain what he's getting at Starbucks, call when he leaves Starbucks, and don't forget to call when you get home. Just yesterday, we had the pleasure of hearing a riveting conversation on black olives.

After about the 3rd month of being annoyed, I really honestly took a step back and looked at myself. I asked myself whether or not I might be being oversensitive, whether or not these activities are truly annoying. 'Is it just me?' I asked myself. The answer is to a certain degree, yes. It's just me and the others who sit around this buffoon who are annoyed. I will say this: I require a work atmosphere that is relatively quiet and without major distractions. Apparently, others who sit around me do as well, as they are just as annoyed as I.

Things were quiet here before this person was moved into the cubicle next to me. More work got done. It was enjoyable to come in, sit down, and do my work. Now, it is a struggle to complete tasks that should not take near the time nor energy to complete. I've recently asked to be moved. Of course, my bosses asked why. As annoyed as I am, I really tried not to throw anyone under the bus. I simply told them that my work atmosphere is no longer conducive to getting things done and that my productivity is being affected due to the current seating arrangements. They know what's going on, as I've heard complaints from those who used to sit by this person. Strange too...this person has been with the company somewhere around 20 years. I couldn't imagine being anywhere near sane after 20 years of this...."

Boy, do we feel your pain! Let's help this poor guy out and offer some advice for dealing with this co-worker from Hell.

Got a career scenario of your own? E-mail it to us here. We'll post it anonymously, and see what kind of feedback your peers have to offer.


Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

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