SURVEY SAYS: What's Your Workplace Pet Peeve?

October 6, 2011 ( - :  Recently we reported on a survey that purported to chronicle the biggest workplace pet peeves.   

This week, I asked readers which behavior(s) bug you most – and which might actually be attributed to YOU.

There was a surprising (to me, anyway) amount of diversity in reader selections.  Gossip was the most commonly cited peeve, but by a mere 13.8%.  Loud noises were cited by 12.9%, just ahead of the 12.1% who named “potent scents” as a pet peeve.

Poor time management skills were the peeve of “choice” by 11.2%, while 10.3% named the overuse of personal electronic-devices in meetings. 

Just under 7% named “messiness in communal spaces”, while “personal hygiene (or lack thereof), political conversations, and misuse of email garnered the “support” of several.

However, the mathematically oriented will notice that those don’t add up to 100% – and that difference went to the “other” category – which I will return to in a minute.


Because it CAN be so hard to narrow your pet peeve down to a single entry, I did ask readers to name their second-most “favorite.” 

Gossip topped this list as well, cited by 16.2%, though in this case it tied for that “honor” with “messiness in communal spaces.”

12.6% cited the overuse of personal electronic devices in meetings

 9.0% - poor time management skills

 9.0% - loud noises

 8.1% - potent scents

 5.4% - personal use of social media sites during work hours

 3.6% - political conversations

 3.6% - personal hygiene (or lack thereof)

 1.8% - misuse of email


Now – as for those “other” selections – here’s a sampling:

Business buzzwords!!!!! (ala your survey from the other week)

People taking credit for other people's work


Meeting Attendees who bring their work lap top to meetings and continue to work, including meetings with outside vendors, and

Not practicing good hygiene during pot lucks!

Associates who speak loudly during calls at their desk being inconsiderate of all the other associates in the area.

Those that elect to chew gum and incessantly keep popping it.  pop snap pop snap!

Horrible, guttural, throat clearing by those with sinus/post-nasal drip problems - we have a number of these people!

Depending on co-workers to do their work for them while they do things like surf the web.

Dropping work on me or my group with no or very little notice

Individuals who believe that the normal office rules just don't apply to them.

People who constantly have their face in their blackberry's!  I could be naked and these people would not notice!

Co-workers fishing for an answer they like from various other co-workers


People carrying around there crackberries, like if they let go of them, their heart will stop beating

Loud conversations in workplace nearby my cube.

Leaving coffee pots empty and not making a new pot

Incompetence and laziness

Entitlement --- I'm good just because I show up

Smell of smoke from the manager that is allowed to smoke in his office even though we're not supposed to.

One of my bosses continues to work on her computer and blackberry while we have our 1:1 meetings - she claims this is multi tasking - I claim this is disrespectful.  She does not agree.

Starting meetings late - if you schedule it at that time--then start it at that time or reschedule!

Constant, ceaseless, and undeterred use of jargon.  And the inability to define said terms when confronted.

Others who don't pull their weight or don't show initiative and then ask others to essentially take care of things for them.

Always trying to find errors in others' work and putting them in an email and Cc:ing the boss while never noticing the mistakes she makes herself or blaming them on others.

Not responding to a simple 'Hello' or 'Good Morning'  (is it really that hard to say 'Hello' back?)

People who don't read beyond the 1st sentence of an email - and then think they've read enough to know everything you were asking or documenting.   Just plain dumb!!

toxic behaviors, negativity

coworkers who spend half the day chatting while everyone else works extra to get their job done.

non business chat.....just plain talking too much!

Sloppy grammar - especially "seen" (Oh, how I hope you bite your tongue on that faux pas)



Excessive use of acronyms and management jargon.   Doesn't anyone speak plain English anymore?  There are two people in my office who are particularly bad offenders.  By the time I am done translating the first sentence, I have missed the second one completely.

People who have discussions outside of your office instead of their own office


Related to the first - leaving food in the office fridge to rot

political correctness (i.e. the sustainability policy, diversity initiative, and United Way campaigns which are mostly for show)

Meeting attendees who are constantly checking or responding to email on their crackberrys!

ringing personal cell phones, especially with loud/annoying ringtones; those answering the phones in the office (or running out the door) for an extended period to have a private personal conversation during work.

Constantly making distracting noises during meetings, such as clicking pens, tapping on tables, etc.

Co-workers who walk around the workplace with their wireless ear piece talking out loud so everyone can see how important they are (NOT)!

clicks in the office it causes hard feelings


Gum chewing and popping

Employees who are always on the phone with personal calls

When you file your nails - even your toenails - in my presence I find myself wanting to scream.  Loudly.

Putting people down and saying you're "just kidding." This is especially aborrhent from people in leadership positions.

Leaving an empty coffee pot on a hot burner.

Ego trips

Others who show lack of consideration for my time and commitments.

Poor spelling - remember "i" before "e" except after.....

Sports Talk


I also asked readers to share any thoughts they had on pet peeves, your pet peeves, or the pet peeves that others might have about them:

I confess...I have pretty strong feelings on a lot of topics. But hey, everyone's entitled to my opinion!

I once worked with a man who very loudly prayed with his 4-year-old son via the phone in his office EVERY morning.  He managed to combine several pet peeves - loud noises, poor time management, and religious conversations.

Nobody is perfect, we all have our faults. Spending so much time together year in and year out tends to diminish our tolerance for normal human foibles. As we all are expected to do more with leaner staffs, in a continuing poor economy, I think we all are getting on each others' last nerve more often.

Gossip and poor time management skills REALLY get to me- but working in an office on the Hill, I guess I kind of walked right into that one, huh?

One co-worker always sticks her used fork / chopsticks and even (gross factor warning) her licked fingers into a communal dish - pretty much ruins it for everyone else.  When reminded, she always says, "I know, I forget!"  Drives us all crazy.


I get along with most people, so am not sure what most annoys people about me.  I am absolutely sure there is something!  I find that some days, things bother me more than others, and not always the same things.  I guess what that really says, is that my "pet peeves" are more a reflection of my state of mind at the time, than a distinction of "peeviness" attached to the the other person....

My biggest pet peeve is meetings that don't start on time. Happens far too often around here.

As an HR professional I believe in absolute consistency in the way everyone is treated. I do not believe that there are different standards for different people or groups of people. I have adamently fought for this my whole career. So my pet peeve may be my inability to create morale issues by treating one of my managers pets differently.

I appreciate the coworkers who are skilled in running an efficient, organized meeting.  If I sit quietly in a boring, unprepared meeting, really I'm just enabling.

Management only telling certain people of the department information that the entire team should know

I don't always chat; once I'm in I get to work.  some may say that's anti-social, though I make a report to chat and ask about my staff member's day.

I work with a lot of great people right now, so I'm not really bothered by any of these at this point.  But I have worked at places with Refrigerator Raiders.  Missing lunches, etc.

I don't understand why the 80% of employees who do a great job don't try to oust the 20% who are terrible employees and suck out productivity, resources, money, time and other business assets.  I'm not talking about boss favorites and other kiss-ups who are there by supervisor largesse, but the ones who don't know what they're doing and create extra work for everyone else and seem to coast through the workday and laugh on the way to the bank.


We have a guy in the office whose breath is just about the foulest, most offensive stench on earth. Fortunately, I don't have too much interaction with him because he's in a different department. When I do need to speak to him, it's all about the emails and phone calls! But I just shudder when I have him on the phone and he suggests, "Let me just stop by your office and we'll talk about this further." Dear God, no!

Oh how I could go on about pet peeves, as the list really could be endless.  If I had to talk about one in particular, it would have to deal with those individuals who act like they know everything and can't admit if they are wrong.  They are sure to be loud enough for all around them to hear their phone conversations because they believe they know everything.  Unfortunately, those of us who suffer through the torture of listening, often can't believe what we are hearing.  But they would never admit they are wrong....even if pointed out to them--they just blame it on someone else.

If your phone messages and email are more important than the meeting, don't come to the meeting.  I cannot tolerate being in a meeting with people who sit there playing with their phones. Pay attention or decline attending.  For all I know they're playing angry birds - not doing anything productive.  And, if it's necessary that you have your phone with you at all times during the day, turn the volume to vibrate.

I hate how acceptable it has become to put a person down and then tell that person they should get over it because the people making the remarks were "just kidding." Grow up.

Another source of irritation is when someone delegates something to or asks for assistance from me (generally things which they should really be doing themselves) and then questions and/or micromanages how I am handling the issue.


"My pet peeve is all the time the managers spend talking sports and then they turn around and

criticize other workers when they take a break."

"We're no longer office based, but the messiness got me the most when we were office based. Folks would go to the cafeteria, get a lunch tray, and cart it all the way back to their desk...and then leave it by the coffee it would grow legs and walk back down to the cafeteria.

The playing of loud music got to me as well...especially folks who assumed I loved their gospel, funk, rock-n-roll, country, or whatever.  Did you ever hear of headphones?  And they'd get insulted when you said something. I don't miss any of THAT by working at home, but I do miss being able to talk over issues in person with colleagues. I think that will hurt us in the end."

"When I seen I wasn't no longer indyspencesuble my hole atlitude worsered." I submit that this covers it all for me.

If you don't want me to give you an answer, you should not ask me a question.   You should especially not ask me to "be honest", if that is not what you really want.    I am puzzled when people get upset at me when I did exactly as they asked.

I can't stand when  a company wide email is send to everyone as a FYI.  There are always a dosen people that have to hit "reply all" to add their two cents. 

I did also ask readers to share a moment of (potentially) painful clarity – to name which of those pet peeves would their coworkers most likely say about them.  “Political conversations”, cited by 15.5%, topped this listing, just ahead of “poor time management skills”, which was noted by 13.6%.  The rest of the list looked like this:

6.8% - messiness in communal spaces

5.8% - Loud noises  

5.8% - Gossip

3.9% - Personal use of social media sites during work hours

3.9% - Misuse of email

1.9% - Potent scents

1.9% - Overuse of personal electronic devices in meetings


No one admitted to issues with personal hygiene (or lack thereof).  There were, however, a large number in the “other” category, including:

Impatience with interruptions when trying to focus on time-sensitive tasks

loud phone conversations

I would say "eating at my desk," but no one can see me unless they step into my isolated cubicle.

Unlikely to get the jokes of your coworkers

Too persnickety

Have short personal discussion before getting down to business

Messy office - but I know where everything is.

Too dependant on processes


I'm perfect, that's why I can complain!  Actually, I do have poor time management, I am always behind the gun.

That I'm not social 'enough'...


What can I say -- I do not have any of these bad behaviours!

Messy desk to the point that no one else could find anything on it.

Probably getting crabby at other people for their bad behaviors!

I don't know, but I'm quite sure it's none of the above.

None of the above.  I'm damn near perfect!

Too picky

Regular need for workplace flexibility

I cannot imagine what they would say!


Messy office

Too much time devoted to personal issues such as family and community involvement

Because I type so quickly, it can get very loud near my desk.  I think that tends to annoy people.

Goofing around in meetings.

Don't always respond back as quickly as they want me to.

Messy desk and occasional delay in finding things

Going on too long to make a point.

I can get pretty excited - and my voice will carry - to the other side of the building.

Notice too many errors

Likely the possum references

Lack of drama

I tend to use email for communication rather than phone calls, primarily so I have a readily accessible trail of communication for documentation and follow-up.

My chair squeaks every time I move so it probably annoys eveyone else- it definitely annoys me!

Messiness in own office space


messy office desk

late to the office!

Too much like a high school English teacher

Mood Swings

I believe they would say that I am too forthright.

My refusal to be tied to personal electronic devices.  I use them in the course of business but will not let them rule my life.

Messy desk

But this week’s Editor’s Choice goes to the reader who said they might be faulted for “Giggling while reading Plansponsor's Friday Files! Those are the best”.

Thanks to everyone who participated in our survey!