– Rukmini Iyer, Director, Exult! Solutions
(Published at Rediff.com)
With most of us spending 10-14 hours at work everyday, our workplaces have become our second homes. As a result, even the slightest of hindrances here tend to blow up into vexing issues, particularly if they are not tackled in time. Very often, these issues relate to our colleagues’ behaviour. It can get a little awkward when it come to addressing some of these directly, as a lot of them concern subtle aspects of behaviour that are difficult to articulate.
Let’s take a look at some of the most annoying aspects of workplace behaviour and what we can do about them.
This is by far the most annoying aspect of a workplace.
“It can absolutely turn you off,” says Revathi M, assistant manager – sales, with an IT security company. “It takes a heavy toll on productivity because, if you don’t belong in a certain group, you tend to feel left out. Then, you don’t enjoy going to work anymore.”
The snide remarks and covert glances that result from groupism are not only thoroughly unprofessional, they can also result in emotional hurt which is often difficult to express. It eventually leads to frustration and may result in people leaving their jobs.
“The most irritating thing at the workplace is groups of women chatting endlessly about clothes, cosmetics and jewellery. Some of them even trade in these items at work. I think it’s really unprofessional,” says Purnima Gupta, a teacher at a reputed Mumbai school.
While casual conversations are fine when one wants to make small talk, one needs to realise extended chatter at the workplace disturbs other people. It also looks unprofessional.
This is widely touted as being omnipresent and is universally detested.
Sugary sweet behaviour in front of a person and backstabbing comments behind their back are known to prevail in virtually every kind of human interaction. The natural fallout of hypocrisy at the workplace is lack of trust, which greatly affects work relationships and productivity.
“When we are angry with something our boss does, we try hard to control our emotions and behave in a subdued manner. However, if a peon goofs up even slightly, a lot of us don’t think twice before yelling at him. Is this justified?” wonders Revathi.
Dignity of labour and respect for all kinds of work is a prerequisite for a healthy work environment. We must appreciate that people at all levels provide value with whatever work they do. It can be discouraging if they are not treated with dignity, considering they work to the best of their ability, given individual constraints.
Messy cubicle partners
Another trait that can really upset people is messy surroundings. Eating at the workstation and dropping tidbits of food, or having heaps of papers and files that spill over to your neighbours’ desks can be very bothersome.
A lot of people are fussy about cleanliness and are used to a certain standard of hygiene around them. If those standards are not met at the workplace, it can be very demotivating.
While it is common for colleagues to turn into good friends over time, a certain level of formality is expected while one is at work. When this formality is breached, not everyone may take it well.
“When colleagues are unduly concerned about where I went the previous evening, with whom, why, etc, I really feel like telling them it is none of their business. If I wish to share personal thoughts with someone at the workplace, I need to be comfortable with that person. It has to be voluntary. The concept of personal space and privacy is rather alien to our culture,” observes Purnima.
It is but natural that we want to be appreciated for the work we do. However, since most of the work we do in an organisation is team effort, it is important credit is accordingly shared.
“When it comes to getting work done, the higher-ups often give pep talks on how team work is important. However, when the results come in, each individual and department wants the credit. Typically, in any organisation, the frontline sales people take away the appreciation. The back-end operations group is conveniently forgotten, even though they contribute significantly to the success. This can be extremely frustrating for the people who have worked behind the scenes,” says Revathi.
“I wish some people had silencers fitted into their throats!” says Purnima exasperatedly. “At work, one must realise formal, subdued behaviour is called for. Etiquette demands we keep our voice low so others are not disturbed. The most annoying bit is when people excitedly almost yell over their phones for no reason. I’m sure it’s equally annoying for the person at the other end of the line.”
Talking loudly is often associated with rustic behaviour that lacks sophistication. It is advisable we keep our tone and pitch low when we are around colleagues.
Tackling annoying behaviour
It is indeed difficult to keep your cool and focus on productivity when behavioural factors affect performance at work. But it is necessary to be assertive if one has to solve the problem.
Of course, assertiveness is different from being accusatory. Assertiveness is all about talking in a factual manner without being judgmental. It involves conveying facts and their possible repercussions without getting emotional, or rude, in the process. Though it is easier said than done, professionalism demands one remain objective while dealing with such situations.
At the organisational level, the HR department – and managers and supervisors as welll – need to have a keen eye for observing team dynamics. Active intervention and counselling go a long way in smoothing ruffled feathers.
Avoiding annoying behaviour
As individuals, there are a few things that may help us avoid being in the bad books of our colleagues:
At the workplace, never discuss a person in his/ her absence. This simple rule goes a long way in maintaining a healthy environment.
If you think a colleague has been shying away from you for a while, casually enquire to find out if your behaviour has upset him/ her. If that is the case, patiently listen to your colleague’s feelings without getting defensive. Once the person has opened up, it can be easier to resolve the issue.
Imagine the situation if the entire housekeeping staff goes on strike. We often take a lot of people for granted simply because they may not demand attention. But that does not mean their work is any less important.
A lot of your colleagues may become good friends over time. However, work ethics dictate you remain sensitive to the feelings of everyone at the workplace. Hence, over-friendly behaviour ought to be avoided.