How to Deal with Annoying Colleagues (And Keep Your Job)

How to Deal with Annoying Colleagues (And Keep Your Job)

Read Time: 10 Minutes


26 Apr 2019

On average, UK office workers spend 34 hours and 26 minutes at work (Accountancy Age). That’s over 34 hours a week spent with your colleagues – and love them or loathe them, we bet you can name every single one of their annoying habits.

With our recent survey of 800 UK office workers revealing that 96% of people get annoyed at work (56% on a regular basis!), we wanted to know: could colleagues’ bad habits be to blame? Of the 96%, over 99% claim their annoying colleagues affect their work life negatively, with 1 in 3 respondents stating it reduces their productivity. This in turn can have a drastic impact on your business.

In revealing our survey results, we want to help you identify and put a stop to annoying colleagues and the plummeting productivity that ensues.


Annoying Habits You’ll Definitely Recognise in Your Office

Our first aim was to find out what kinds of bad habits annoy people the most in the office. And our respondents were more than willing to share! When asked to rank a range of common bad habits, office workers revealed that these as the winning (if you can call it that) five:

  1. Poor personal hygiene
  2. Someone eating smelly foods at their desk
  3. When people take multiple smoking breaks
  4. When that one colleague won’t stop whistling
  5. When people are late – to work, meetings and everything in between

Really paints a picture, huh? We’re sure this list has conjured up a load of real-life examples for you, but we didn’t want to stop there. 
After pooling together a list of skin-crawly, cringe-worthy, over-used office phrases, you told us that these were the absolute worst ones to hear from your colleagues:

  1. “Regards”, as opposed to ‘kind regards’ in a passive aggressive email
  2. “It’s on my radar”
  3. “Ducks in a row”
  4. “Move the goalpost”
  5. “Hit the ground running”

Are you guilty of using any of these? If so, it might be time to change your own habits – and save your colleagues’ gag reflexes. You never know, it might even boost office productivity levels!


Who is the Most Annoying Colleague?

Now we’ve outlined some key bad habits, it’s time to identify your most annoying colleague (we know this will definitely be easier for some!). 

The Most Annoying Department





At a whopping 30%, our survey revealed that Senior Management is the most irritating department, followed by Customer Service (17%) and IT (13%). With 40% of all respondents never having challenged or confronted the annoying person in question, it could be that they just don’t want to upset the senior management team!

Need some time away from your annoying colleague? Why not go and visit the Finance or Design department? At just 3%, Design were voted the least annoying team, with Finance closely behind at 7%.


Men vs Women

Is the annoying person you’re thinking of male or female? If you answered male, you’re in the majority. At 56% men were voted more annoying to work with than women (40%). 

We also wanted to know the name of our respondents’ bothersome colleagues, for both men and women. And it turns out, Johns and Sarahs are the most annoying people to work with! Here are the top 10 annoying names for each gender:


  1. John
  2. Dave
  3. Paul
  4. Mark
  5. Chris
  6. James
  7. Steve
  8. Richard
  9. Peter
  10. Alan



  1. Sarah
  2. Jane
  3. Alison
  4. Karen
  5. Sally
  6. Lisa
  7. Ashley
  8. Claire
  9. Kat
  10. Diane

Bad Habits in Each Region

Interestingly, our survey also revealed that bad habits vary from region to region. Here’s a map uncovering the most frequent bad habits according to region.  




We couldn’t publish the results of our survey without including some of our favourite bad habits people revealed to us from all over the country. From the wacky to the just plain hilarious, here’s some of the stuff you guys have to put up with in the office:

“My colleague flirts with the customers”

“Always whistling an inane tune, such as ‘bippity, boppity boo’”

“Heating smelly fish in the microwave!”

“They called me Christine. My name is Kim.”

“Ate half my chocolate bar, and then barked when I was on a business call”

“Leaving their smelly socks on the floor”

“My boss rushed a meeting so he could get back to the golf course”


What the UK’s Most Annoying Colleague Looks Like 

Our forensic artist combined all of this to create a profile for the most annoying colleague – you know, to help you more easily identify them.


Crimes: eats microwaved fish at their desk, hasn't taken a shower this week, always on a smoke break



Why is it Important to Manage Employees’ Bad Work Habits?

Annoying habits can be detrimental to the workplace in a number of different ways. Namely, productivity levels. 

In 2018, productivity levels in the UK dropped to an all-time low (Workplace Insight), with a quarter of workers admitting they were are unproductive for up to two hours a day, equating to a staggering 40 million hours in lost productivity across the UK every week. With 30% of our respondents claiming annoying colleagues in the office reduces their productivity, putting a stop to bad habits could be your way of bucking the trend.

Although 60% of people would confront someone who was being annoying in the workplace, a staggering 40% would say nothing. Without adequate training, the 60% who would confront them could be challenging this behaviour in a way that’s negative for the working environment.

As a business owner, it’s important to manage bad habits in a professional way, otherwise your workforce could be at risk. As well as reduced productivity, 29% claim annoying colleagues make the day feel long and 23% are stressed out because of them. Worryingly, nearly a third of respondents stated they are likely to leave their job due to an annoying colleague.

‘Why is the Aircon on in Winter?’ And Other Facility-Based Annoyances

Ready to kick bad habits to the curb and boost staff morale and productivity? Some office annoyances are easier to control, and we recommended starting with facility-based ones first.

Here’s what annoys UK office workers the most about the office facilities:

  1. When the work kitchen microwave isn’t clean
  2. Flickering Office Lighting
  3. The office printer that's broken... again
  4. Unpleasant toilets
  5. Meeting rooms being double booked
  6. A fridge that isn't big enough for everyone's lunch
  7. Nowhere to take a lunch break away from your desk
  8. When the air con isn't set to your optimum temperature
  9. An untidy kitchen
  10. Limited car parking space


Here at instantprint, we have an annual survey as well as monthly Q&A sessions with the management team to make sure our employees’ workplace niggles are noted. This has led to a lot of change in the office, such as having the aircon set at an agreed temperature setting and flexi-time for appropriate departments.


7 Annoying Workplace Situations and How to Overcome Them by Sean Kachmarski

We asked our Trainer, Sean, for his top tips on handling annoying situations and people at work, without risking your job! Here are his seven tips for handling real responses we received.

  1. “My colleagues leave coffee rings on my desk”

    This is a really common annoyance, but isn’t such a big issue that it warrants sitting down and having a discussion with your co-worker – or about your co-worker with your boss – especially as that could cause even bigger tensions.

    Coasters, along with a chat about office policies, are a great way of resolving this issue in a subtle way. You could get a whole set printed for your office, so no one has to deal with coffee rings ever again!

  2. “Last minute cancellations”

    It’s easy to get frustrated at this in the heat of the moment, but there are ways of overcoming this without getting angry at your colleague. I recommend having getting the canceler to reschedule the meeting immediately. Pick up the phone or visit them to get them to commit to
    your meeting. 

    If you’re still having trouble getting some time in the diary ask them to suggest someone else that could meet with you in their place.

  3. “People taking my food out of the fridge”

    Ah, a problem we’ve also had here at instantprint. We’ve printed a small magnetic sign to go on the fridge that pokes fun at this kind of situation, but also works to remind people that if it’s not yours, don’t touch it! It works a lot more effectively than sending a passive aggressive email to the entire office, as tempting as that can be.

  4. “When something hasn’t been communicated properly”

    If lack of communication is an ongoing issue, this can affect your performance in the long run and isn’t something that should be ignored. 

    The best way to deal with communication breakdown is by put in place some preventive tactics. Don’t be afraid to go and ask the questions you need answers to in order to conduct your tasks effectively. You could even ask, “If I need to ask anything else should I come to you or is there anyone else that could help me if you’re not free?” 

  5. “Leaving the toilets untidy”

    Sometimes, others’ toilet habits can be pretty gross. From not flushing the toilet to letting toilet paper clog up the sinks, this is a common complaint.

    One step you can take to make people think again about the state they leave the loos in is to use posters. Pop small ones in the cubicles or larger ones on the wall by the sinks or hand dryers reminding employees that these are shared facilities.

  6. “Not answering emails”

    The first thing to do when someone isn’t answering your emails is to assess the situation. It can be hard not to jump to conclusions, especially if the person in question is sat in the same room as you. Think to yourself – could they be busy? Will they reply later when they aren’t as busy?

    Rather than sending strings of emails hoping for a response, we’d recommend getting up and going to talk to them face-to-face or picking up the phone and checking in with them.

  7. “When people use my mug”

    When people steal your mug, it can only mean one thing: you have great taste! To avoid staff disputes over mugs, we recommend getting a set of branded mugs so you’ve always got some in the kitchen cupboard.


Although it’s easy to make light of office annoyances, they can dramatically affect your employees’ performance and job satisfaction levels. We hope that by identifying the top bad habits in UK offices, you’re able to stamp out the kinds of behaviours that bring your workforce down – in a completely professional manner.

Vicki Russell

About the Author

Hi, I’m Vicki. I’m Head of HR at instantprint. I use my knowledge and experience to help business owners implement strong human resource practices and procedures.