What Are Your Office Etiquette Pet Peeves?

Office etiquette issues are mostly behind me, but before I fled cubicle hell for coffee shops and other freelance hangouts, I shared workspace just like (almost) everyone else, so I’ve dealt with the quirks of toxic coworkers — and they’ve had to cope with mine. One cubemate was deeply disturbed by the sound a plastic water bottle makes when you try to squeeze out the last bit of water. Another couldn’t stand the sound of an office chair swiveling back and forth as one coworker twirled absentmindedly.

My biggest workplace etiquette peeve? I’m annoyed by loud phone talkers. You know the type: people who make personal phones during work hours and then act as if their acid reflux or marital problems are the most fascinating and important topic on the planet. That’s why I always made a point of slipping away from my desk when I needed to make a non-work call (let’s face it: we all occasionally need to make calls between 9 and 5) and scheduling time in the conference room when I had a lengthy work call scheduled.

What about you? Are there habits you’d prefer to do without?

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Susan Johnston is a freelance writer/blogger who has contributed to publications including The Boston Globe, Mint.com’s blog, WomenEntrepreneur.com, and Yahoo! HotJobs. Her own blog, UrbanMuseWriter.com, covers tips on productivity, brainstorming, and more for fellow writers.


  1. Josh Arguello on the 4th August

    My cube-mate sighs in an exaggerated way very loudly when he’s under deadline stress etc… I don’t think he even knows he’s doing it.

  2. Oscar the Grouch on the 4th August

    I never thought that laughing could make me angry, but I work next to a person who giggles very loud and in a very high pitch all day. She giggles when she’s nervous or confused and she uses giggles as punctuation, so it’s constant. Imagine working next to Glinda from Wizard of Oz all day and that is what it’s like. Please send help.

    • Paul W. on the 4th August

      You better send that beotch back to munchkin land. 😀

    • Oscar the Grouch on the 4th August

      LOL! Believe me, I restrain myself from it each day. 🙂

  3. Paul W. on the 4th August

    OMG, just talking about this topic makes me want to cry. Here are a few coworker annoyances I endure:

    – nail clipping
    – lip smacking
    – farting
    – back stabbing (figuratively)
    – bi-polar co-workers (need I say more)
    – 80+ year old computer users (strangle me)
    – Walkie – Talkies (People walking all over hell talking on a cell phone)
    – People holding meetings in a hallway, especially by me

    There are a so many more to list but this is starting to depress me so I am stopping now.

    • Paul W. on the 4th August

      By bi-polar I mean the people that are nice to you one second and can become complete assholes the next second.

    • Josh Arguello on the 4th August

      That’s funny Paul
      mine is a literal version of the Walkie-Talkie’s – half the staff here has Push-to-Talk and they walk around with those things on FULL volume so its like a fire alarm every time they get beeped… then I have to hear the whole convo (both their sides)

  4. Fred on the 4th August

    I will take a little different tack with respect to loud phone talkers. I hate when they call you and you can hear them out of BOTH of your ears. I have a colleague down the hall from me that insists on calling me from his office that is only four doors down from me.

    • Paul W. on the 4th August

      I agree. It was once a problem for me but that person was relocated.

  5. Lynsey on the 4th August

    Nail clipping is NUMBER 1! Others would be stinky food and loud out-of-tune humming.

  6. John Vermaes on the 4th August

    Erm … where do I begin? LoL

    Seriously though, I think my two biggest pet peeves are:

    * Loud, personal phone calls not being taken in an appropriate place (break room or outside)
    * People using my desk when I’m out of the office and not putting things back where they found it

    There would probably be more if I sat here and thought about it, but this was a good start.

  7. Patrick on the 4th August

    Can’t stand it when there’s a family of birds living in the air duct just next to my desk. Whenever the mommy bird comes back with a big juicy worm for the baby birds, they all start cheeping madly, and making crazy scratching noises. Goes on for ages. I’m sure this has happened to everyone at some point, right?

  8. Becky on the 4th August

    Every once in a while, one of my co-workers plays her music so loud that I can hear it over my own (even with my headphones).

  9. Quik Hit on the 4th August

    Fake, stupid guffaws coming from the salesman across the hall…Does anyone buy this schtick?

  10. Johnny on the 5th August

    I actually hum and tap a lot as I work. :-/ I try to catch myself when I know I’m doing it. Badass music calls for some humming and tapping LOL.

    I hate it when people call me at work, just email me. It’s like REALLY!? do you not work during the day? Use a more subtle form of communication.

  11. Paul Irvine on the 5th August

    Individuals (and it’s always the same people) in the office that natter loudly across the office floor rather than get up and go over to the person they’re aiming their dialogue at and discuss it respectfully. Grrrrrrrrr.

    When everyone’s really busy and we’ve all got our chores – there’s some tool who has nothing better to do than laugh and gab aloud about issues that have no time or place for discussion in the workplace i.e. trivial shopping dilemma of which shoes to buy. WTF! HELLO!

  12. Melanie Brooks on the 6th August

    I worked at a large newspaper in grad school where the entire floor was just hundreds of desks with very little partitioning. One guy a row away from me used to clip his fingernails at his desk and it drove me CRAZY! Not only is in loud…it’s gross!

  13. Beverly on the 30th August

    When I worked in a cube farm, someone (who arrived late) had their speakers up full blast and when they booted their computer every morning, there was no stopping the Windows start-up music from overpowering every other noise. I would literally have to pause any conversation on the phone or in person when this happened. How this person could not perceive how interrupting & annoying this was to his co-workers is beyond me.

    When I had a proper office with doors, I would close my doors (and lock the one that had a lock) as an indicator that I did not wish to be disturbed or when I needed confidentiality (human resources). One coworker took it as a challenge instead and she literally relished to me how much she enjoys overcoming the boundaries I set up to keep people out when I was busy. (In essence, was quite proud of her rudeness.)

    Another coworker would simply walk in when I closed doors for confidential phone calls and help herself to my files, ignoring the loud hint of “I’m sorry, I cannot continue this conversation right now. I no longer have any privacy.” Seriously people?

  14. Sandra K. on the 19th October

    Loud phone talkers! There is a woman who works right across the hall from me and a large part of her job is talking on the phone with customers. The rest of the time, she is on the phone with her 94-yr-old mom who lives with her and can’t hear … so she has to talk very loudly! And she never shuts her door. I try to keep headphones in and music playing, but as an editor sometimes I would just appreciate so quiet! (Close your door when you’re on the phone!)

  15. Dina H. on the 31st October

    RINGTONES! some of my coworkers will leave their desk for a few minutes and their phones will ring nonstop, loudly, with the silliest ringtone out there …. sometimes i feel like throwing the phone out of the window.

    Playing music loudly. Seriously? why do i have to like ur taste in music? I do not force my taste on you … why can’t they be more considerate!

  16. Captain O on the 7th February

    I’ve got a guy that sits on the otherside of the cube wall who rubs his hands together all day long. Love that.

    I used to work across from another guy who used to snack on nuts every morning for an hour or two. I don’t know what kind of nuts they were, but they were loud and crunchy, and he’s never learned to eat with his mouth shut. How do you tell another adult to eat with their mouth closed?

    A lady about five cubes down from me has the most obnoxious laugh ever. She likes to laugh, and she has a voice that carries really well – it drives right into your ear. She starts off with a deep throated cackle, ends with long drawn out wheeze, and punctuates with a squeek. What a friggin’ production!

  17. Steve C on the 2nd August

    When someone is alone in their office on their speakerphone with the volume maxed for no particular good reason.

    Hey Chuckles, you’re not in the cone of silence … at least close your door!

  18. Kally on the 26th August

    My office pet-peeves would have to be close-talkers and passive-aggressive note-leavers. Close talkers would have to be the worst though…I’m not by any means anti-social but seriously – personal bubble!! You don’t have to be practically sitting on me to speak to me D:

  19. TCI_AZZYANN on the 6th October

    List in order of annoyances:

    1. Constant Complainers
    2. Take no responsibilities or accountability for own actions
    3. Banging the keyboard
    4. Double standards
    5. The ‘do-no-work’ and ‘hide-behind-cubicles’ kind of Team Leads
    6. Loud phone talkers

  20. Cappy on the 17th April

    Since my office is two doors down from the break room, I have to listen to people socializing all day. And if that weren’t bad enough, they’ll leave the break room to go back to their own offices, yet will stop directly outside my office and go on for another 10 to 15 minutes. Sometimes it’s a triple whammy. I’ll get the stop by before the break room, hear the goings on while they are in the break room, and then get the stop by after the break room. This makes me feel like the area outside my office is both first and third base! I always get up after awhile and shut my door…this subtle hint is never noticed/received. :/

  21. Christopher on the 11th May

    My pet peeve is there is one co-worker who eats very loudly whenever he eats (and he eats all day)! I am a man and work with mostly men in a techie environment so I guess it doesn’t bother anyone else because they are all single men who are used to watching football and loudly tossing back Corn Nuts. There is nothing wrong with that at home, but at work most of us are in a single, open office area and I find it very distracting, esp. when I am hungry but trying to work. I mean normally the guy sits a little over 25 feet away and I hear his crunching (yes, among other things, he does eat Corn Nuts at his desk), but it is even worse when he is sitting in the break area almost 50 feet away and I can still hear his eating clear as day.

    For point of reference, to give you an idea of how loud it really is: Search on Google for eating/chewing sound effects. Crank up your computer speakers fairly high (don’t blow your ears out, please) and then play the sound effect. That is what it sounds like AT my desk, only the guy is 25, sometimes 50 feet away, and I can still hear it. I am a manager but I don’t want to officially say something because nobody else seems to mind and he is a good worker otherwise, but I have actually put on earbuds and cranked Metallica up (to the point where I cannot hear copiers going or people on the phone closer than this guy, and I can STILL hear him over heavy metal and other sounds! Other managers at our company have offices with doors to close or sit around the corner, but I am supervising the people out on the floor, so I have to be out on the floor as well….

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