I originally wrote these observations with the intent of making some kind of HR Top Trumps game out of them. I thought it would make a nice leave-behind gift for recruiters, but as I am no illustrator I stuck to the verbal descriptions.
Let’s face it, From the person who stinks the office out with their lunch, to the colleague who hijacks the office diary to sneakily block book dates for the coming year's vacations, to the very helpful character who leaves guidance notes everywhere just in case you forget to do your bit, the workplace is full of, for want of a better word, 'characters'. Here I present my definitive list of irritating co-workers. Maybe see if you can spot your favourites!
No matter what they eat, The Slurper can do a very passable impersonation of a dog trying to eat a rather large toffee. They can chew jelly, they can crunch lettuce, they can make a noise akin to your toothless grandmother trying to suck the remains off a chicken bone. Most annoying of all though, they are oblivious to the fact that they’re driving the rest of the workplace crazy.
One of every workplace's favourite characters, Microwave Fiend subjects all those around them to the most hideous smelling food. It's almost as if something has died, crawled into their fridge and hidden under some tin foil hoping never to be discovered. It's a rotting carcass in cling film, a putrid meat pie, last nights leftovers from a particularly potent curry. Whatever it is, it's popped into the microwave and guaranteed to stink out the entire floor within seconds.
The craftiest of all, this person sneakily books annual leave around holiday periods like Christmas and Easter, without telling any of their colleagues. Then, months later, when everyone else starts thinking about making their own plans, they discover that the time they wanted off has already been block booked. Worst of all, when confronted, this person will, in mock innocence say 'oh didn't I tell you' or 'I am sure I emailed everyone to check it was OK'.
THE CHANGE GRABBER
This character is forever borrowing money from their colleagues. Just the odd bit of change here and there to make up the money to buy their sandwich or their fare home. It's only a trivial amount but, over the course of a year, they are raking it in and you are unwittingly sponsoring their lunchtimes.
This person will be charming to your face then off round the office telling everyone what a fool you are as soon as you are out of earshot. They would sell their own grandmother if it meant getting to the top, so don't be misled by their sweetness and light whilst they are within earshot. It's out of earshot you need to worry about.
This is the person who you end up sitting next to who looks and smells like a bag of dirty laundry and is seemingly totally oblivious to the fact. In their world, anti-dandruff shampoos, deodorants and washing powder are like a cross to a vampire at daybreak. Expect to endure the daily waft of B.O. and garlic that emanates from their general direction.
This character's desk looks like a small child's bedroom. Teddies, gonks, little pictures of celebrities or pop stars plastered all over the place. Grow up! You're almost menopausal, not 10 years old.
This person drives the rest of the office crazy with their 'ailment of the week' in the lead up to taking some time off. They also tend to invent the demise of family members in order to get compassionate leave. One guy I know even had a grandfather who died at least four times in the space of three years.
PAINT STRIPPER BREATH
This person would be bearable were it not for the fact that they either tend to perch themselves on your desk, lean right into you and ask you a favour, or you get stuck next to them in a meeting that goes on and on and on. And, if they don't get you in the workplace, you'll find yourself face to face with them in a crowded lift or on a bus or train, where you'll have to pretend you're wincing because 'I’ve pulled a muscle in my back'.
TUNE WHISTLER (AKA THE HUMMER)
This is the person that hums or whistles a monotonous tune all day that you can then not get out of your head. It wouldn't be so bad if you could even play ‘Name that Tune’ along to it, but no, it's an inane drone that goes on forever and it will come back to haunt you at night, probably just as you’re about to go to sleep.
THE BOX CLUTTERER
This person just doesn’t seem to grasp the fact that people don’t in fact want to clutter their inboxes with pictures of cats dressed as Victorian ladies, redneck mansions in the form of a group of caravans or an image of the Queen made entirely out of cleverly arranged typewritten letters.
NEEDLESS INFORMATION MAN
This character reveals far too much of their personal life whilst on the phone to family and friends. Listen, not everyone wants to know that your baby's poo-poo is the consistency of modelling clay, that your dog has a weeping sore on its backside or that your friend's daughter has chlamydia.
As the titles suggests, this is the person who comes to work full of germs. Can they not grasp the fact that no one wants to sit next to them when they are constantly sniffling, sneezing and spluttering all over the place, whilst bemoaning the fact. If you're sick, do us all a favour and stay home!
This character will happily take the last dregs of water dispenser or use up what remains of the tea or coffee supplies then just leave it like that, so that when the next person comes along they have to sort it out. Not a major crime, but one of the most irritating when you are busy and gasping for a drink.
This is the person who is forever "checking in," with their partner. This process lasts forever and invariably either ends in a row or whispered sweet nothings, baby talk and round after round of 'you put the phone down', ‘no, you put it down'. Listen, just put the phone down and get on with your work.
This character endears themselves to their colleagues by never being able to make it on time to early morning meetings. The situation isn't helped by the fact that whilst they sip on their skinny frapuccino, munch on a chocolate croissant and play catch up, the rest of their ‘team’ have to make do with water and drinks machine coffee in plastic cups.
This is the person who leaves the workplace early because their mum told them there have been problems on 'their line' and that their journey home might take quite a bit longer tonight. It's as if they have their own personal travel news service, except they fail to mention that your line is also suffering from heavy delays, so it takes you 3 hours to do a 30 minute journey.
This person thinks nothing of going out and buying an overly expensive gift for a colleague's birthday without consulting anyone and then cheerfully reveals that their generosity has cost you and the rest of the office ten pounds each. Nine times out of ten it also turns out that you don't even like the person they have bought the gift for, so it's a bit of a double whammy in so far as it ends in tears when you refuse to hand over the cash.
This person is one of those annoying people that borrows your stapler, pen, Tippex or other small office item only for it to never be seen again. Not the most terrible thing that will ever happen to you in the workplace but extremely irritating nevertheless.
Every office has one - the person that forgets to take home or wash the container that has the remnants of their stinky lunch in. Instead they leave it festering in the kitchen for days in the knowledge that sooner or later someone else will clear it up. Louis Pasteur would have had a field day!
This person is still living in the days before the workplace went electronic. Their philosophy is simple - there is no need to learn how to send a fax or fix a paper jam in the printer just as long as there is someone else around to do it for them.
This extremely irritating person plays their favourite tedious track very loudly on their supposedly personal stereo over and over again, usually whilst you are trying to focus on something important. As much as you try and ignore the tinny buzz and the rhythmic popping that fill the air, eventually you will crack and want to kill them.
THE PRIZE GIVER
This person, usually a 'team leader' or 'manager', often decides to hold impromptu competitions to boost morale and performance by offering a 'mystery gift' to the individual who performs the task best. Invariably the prize is a bottle of wine that's been knocking about in a cupboard somewhere, a five pound gift voucher for a shop you wouldn't normally be seen dead in, or a cheap bar of chocolate. Can someone not tell these people that unless it's a car, serious cash or a holiday we're not interested in their petty mind games?
THE SNACK THIEF
They are always there, whenever you open a bag of snacks, trying to snaffle a few for themselves, yet do they offer you any of theirs when they can be bothered to go out and get some? Do they hell. They can hear the rustle of the bag and smell the contents before you've even managed to put your hand in and take one for yourself. Also known in the trade as food tightwads.
In this day and age of leaving yourself open to a charge of harassment, this person is playing with fire. Too 'touchy-feely' for comfort, they walk round the workplace patting colleagues on the shoulder or slapping them on the back like they are some kind of sports coach or motivational speaker. Hands off you pervert. This is my space. Don't invade it.
This is the ever so dull character that asks if you have 'got a minute' and then spends ages telling you something really crass, boring and meaningless. The sort of person that you just wish would finish speaking and go back to wherever they came from. Even the pause between their words starts to irritate you, together with the way they breathe.
THE LAZY MAILER
This is the person that emails or phones you from a desk less than twenty yards away to tell you something inane. Likely to ask 'have you listened to your voicemail?' only for you to do so and find they have left a message saying that they would like a meeting with you. Their rationale defies belief.
This character can often be found talking to themselves. The trouble is they just happen to sit next to you and you are never quite sure if they are addressing you or simply telling themselves they have a meeting in ten minutes or that they need to go to the toilet. Guaranteed to drive you to despair sooner or later.
This person has an amazing memory for the trivial and will happily relive every detail of a show from last night's television, even though you didn't see it and have very little interest in it. "Oooooh, did you Big Brother last night? Wasn't it terrible?" And as for the constant updates about soap operas, get over them. They are not real. It's just pretend.
THE SARCASTIC WELCOMER
This particular type of person is guaranteed to say 'good afternoon' in the most annoying and sarcastic tone when you get in a couple of minutes late in the morning due to the traffic or the trains. They will then go on to tell you about how the office was really quiet when they themselves arrived at 7am. Get a life you sad, insomniacal fool.
THE TROTTING HORSE
This is the person who wears flip flops into the office during the entire summer. If you can keep your eyes off their skanky, pollution ridden feet, the one good thing about them is that you can hear them coming from miles away as they emit a sound akin to a horse trotting along a road as they flop their way to their desk.
THE FANCY DRESSER
No, not the person who is the height of elegance, rather it's the one who uses any excuse to wear fancy dress into the office. They like to consider themselves the life and soul of the party as they do their bit for charity but are invariably totally miserable bastards when they are not the centre of attention. After they have rattled their bucket in your face for the umpteenth time you'll find yourself wanting to shove it and their cheery smile somewhere where the sun doesn't shine.
This is the cheery person who, because they consider the rest off us to be half-wits, spends their time posting signs around the workplace, particularly in the kitchen or toilets. Little bits of advice like 'please wash up when you are finished' or ' replace the toilet roll if you use the last piece'. You'll end up wanting to write a big sign across their forehead in biro saying 'I have no life'.
We've all met one. The person that has a knack for pretending they are really busy, when they are actually surfing the net all day. They minimise their web browser whenever anyone comes within ten yards of their desk and are often seen frowning and furiously scribbling notes in order to make it look like they are up to their eyes in work.
THE FASHION GURU
This person, whilst being no oil painting themselves, is never short of a word of general grooming advice for the rest of the workplace. Probably because they spend their whole day reading those crappy fashion and celebrity magazines instead of working
THE WEDDING PLANNER
This person spends months on the phone planning their wedding to the point that you know every arrangement down to the colour of the bridesmaid's dresses and how many tiers are on the cake. Then, a fortnight before the event, despite you being supportive and covering for their non-work related activities, they tell you you're not invited because of a mix up with numbers.
This character, on the rare occasions you ask them for help, is either just going on a break, just back from a break, going to the toilet, heading off on a half day or doing something for someone else. Ironic really because they seldom take no for an answer when trying to palm off some of their own work onto someone else's desk.
This person relates the same story over and over again to anyone that will listen because it raised a small laugh the first time they told it. The trouble is, you have already heard it ten times and, if you hear it one more time, you may have to beat them repeatedly around the had with a stapler.
THE CONSTANT MOANER
This person complains non-stop about how much work they have to do and then, rather than do it, spend an eternity on the phone telling their friends and family exactly the same thing they have just told you and anyone else who they think is listening.
This character has a tendency to just invade into your space and talk to you about last night's match, their weekend, or their relationship problems. No subject is taboo, but every one is guaranteed to bore you senseless and stop you from getting on with your job.
THE PHONE CALL TERMINATOR
This character cannot wait for you to get off a business call, no matter how trivial their interruption turns out to be. They will stand there making gestures, writing on post-it notes and waving frantically so that you feel obliged to hang up, only to find it's to hear some mindless celebrity gossip or personal stuff that could have waited...forever.
The irritating person who spends their whole day clicking the button on their pen, oblivious to the fact that it irritates the hell out of everyone around them. it makes you feel like going over an snapping their fingers like breadsticks.
This weird character prints out every one of their emails, even the spam. They don't seem to have grasped the fact that the point of emails is that more often than not, you don't need to print them out at all. They think that the paperless office that they have heard talk of is one where they don't have a selection of magazines in reception for visitors.
This person wears garish ties, drinks out of a superhero mug and generally considers themselves to be a bit of a joker when they are in fact reckoned by all of their colleagues to be a total alpha geek with no life.
WHERE'S THE PARTY?
High heels, boob tubes, short skirts. This particular colleague dresses as if they were heading off to a nightclub rather than coming in to do a decent day's work. Loved by their male colleagues, loathed by the females, their success will be down to whether their boss is a lecherous man or a jealous woman.
As it sounds, it's that irritating colleague who either drums or taps their fingers on the desk, usually when you are trying to take a call or focus on something important. Worse still, they can't even hold down a simple 4/4 beat.
This character wears perfume/after shave that could overpower a small tribe, let alone several colleagues. With smells ranging from essence of lavatory cleaner and old ladies handbag, through to rancid urine and freshly laid compost, at least they keep you guessing which particular smell you have to look forward to tomorrow.
THE CHILD PRAISER
This person spends all day boring you senseless with never ending stories of what their children have been up to and how bloody perfect they are. Listen, if I wanted to know your children so well, if I really wanted to see pictures of them, if I really gave a shit, I would be married you, not merely happen to work in the same office and get stuck listening to you droning on about how clever they are for their age.
This character has the annoying habit of talking unnecessarily loudly non-stop while they can see that you're trying to concentrate. Whether it's an important phone call, a tricky calculation or a delicate task you're trying to perform, you can guarantee that this clown will be blaring out in the background.
Up there with the most annoying of them, this character has the latest technology clipped to their ear so that they can be hands free in conversation. Presumably this is so that they can play with themselves whilst bragging about how 'with-it' they are. A word of advice – it looks like a top of the range hearing aid.
They insist on sending huge, meaningless attachments with their emails and 'cc' it to everyone in the company, then wonder why the network is so slow. They do it so often that even though you opened the last half dozen only to find that they were totally pointless, you open the latest one just in case it is important.
This person works all the hours that God sends and can't resist letting all of their co-workers know about it. They'll sigh and say "Oh looks like another long night for me. I'll probably just get a pizza delivered or something". Why? Why is it that it takes you so much longer than the rest of us to do exactly the same job?
MORNING AFTER MOTH MARTYR
The person who, the morning after they have been in the office late, has to let everyone know about it with a little yawn and a resigned cry of "Oooh, a bit tired this morning. I was was here til 11 last night". Well whoopee-do! I tell you what, we'll have a whip round for you next time and see if we can't buy you a wooden cross, a crown of thorns and some nails.
Every workplace I’ve ever been in has one. The person who, at going home time for the majority of the workforce, pipes up sarcastically "Half day is it"? No, I just don't feel the need to work ridiculously long hours to cover up for my total incompetence like you do.
This person is always too hot one minute and too cold the next and goes on and on about it all day, every day. Bring an extra layer of clothing into the office you freak!
This is the person who has their radio blaring out all day, every day, despite being told to turn it down. (I worked with someone like that. It drove the rest of us crazy, so one evening when he went home we cranked the volume, bass and treble up as far as they would go and when he came in the next morning he blew the speakers up turning it on!)
This person spends their day flitting from desk to desk, talking rubbish and appearing oblivious to the fact that the rest of their 'team' are busy. Go and do your job you lightweight!
Has a tendency to sidle up to your desk and ask in a voice that no one else can hear "Are you busy?" like they are about to send you on a top secret mission. They sometimes mix it up a bit by enquiring "How are you fixed"? Either way, it's a sure fire sign they want to dump something on you.
This person makes a habit of cutting and filing their nails in the office. If you're not busy trying to avoid little shards of fingernail winging about the place, you'll be enduring the scratchy scrapey sound of them filing away for what seems like forever until you have to leave the room to go and punch something or someone.
Amongst the most annoying off all workplace characters, The Sniffler has a bad case of the sniffles all day but never blows their nose. Either that or they will emit an irritating throaty cough every few seconds or cough up phlegm and swallow it right back down again like it's a man-made oyster.
This character is so negative all of the day, every day that it is almost enough to make you want to go out and find the nearest bus to throw yourself under. They will literally moan about anything and everything. It's too hot, it's too cold. The copier has a paper jam. The fax isn't working. They even get pre-emptive with their moans as in "I bet if I go to the water dispenser it will be empty' or 'what are the chances that it will rain next Wednesday because it's my day off'?’ These people have lost the will to live and if you're not careful you will soon join them.
THE MOBILE DESERTER
A particularly common and annoying character, they are constantly leaving their mobile phone on their desk unattended to ring and ring and ring. As well as having a really loud and annoying ring tone, the phone is invariably not diverted to voicemail, so it will just keep going until he returns to his desk or someone dumps it in his coffee or throws it out of the window.
This character hits their keyboard really hard like they are using one of the first typewriters ever invented, trying to get a note out of a broken piano key or attempting to squash an insect. Their whole desk shakes and people come out of their own space to find out what the noise is. The energy they create just typing a simple email could run a small country for a fortnight.
This is the person who insists on having the sound switched to ‘on’ on their computer, so that every time they power up or get an email or any kind of alert, it gives everyone around them a heart attack, whilst telling the world that they are popular.
This character spends all day making personal phone calls, having lots of cigarette breaks, messing about on the web and generally staring blankly out of the window. Then, when Friday afternoon comes round they will go on and on about what a tough week they have had and how they desperately need a break.
Make all their phone calls using speakerphone and only ever turns it off when its answered, thus subjecting everyone else in earshot to a monotonous, distracting and seemingly never ending ring tone. If you're really lucky, they will put it back on to speakerphone whilst holding, thus treating the rest of the workplace to an elongated blast of some hideous hold music.
This character listens in on your conversations with others and then can't resist making their own unsolicited observations. They often also have a tendency to finish off your sentences for you, or answer questions not directed at them, on your behalf.
Email Geek revels in their ability to write whole emails in the subject line, or type the entire subject line in caps and follows it with about a hundred exclamation marks when they consider it to be a matter of urgency. I can read, Iet me be the judge of whether it needs actioning or not!
Well-versed in the art of constantly belching and/or passing wind, Windy takes great pride in his ability to do so. He goes about it as if he has discovered the cure for cancer, invented some futuristic looking gadget or gone out and bought himself a brand new toy that he can't wait to show off to his colleagues. And I say ‘boy’ because, as we know, women don’t pass wind – ever!!
This character talks really loudly on the phone, usually to their mates and often to arrange their social life for the coming weekend. 'Yes OK, no problem, I'll call John and let him know. Oh and Gary too, yes alright'. 'Oh, we need a referee? Yes I'll make a few calls and see what I can do'. And the thing is, no matter how much it drives you to despair, no one is ever brave enough to say anything about it.
Recognise anyone from your workplace? If you have any comments or I have missed anyone out, please let me know! AlasdairDMurray@aol.com