Are you a difficult colleague?

In the workplace, you’ve probably never considered yourself a ‘difficult co-worker’. After all, you don’t slack on your work load. You don’t gossip about colleagues. How could anyone not like you? But lately you’ve noticed you’re getting dirty looks after meetings. Nobody’s invited you to go out to lunch in more than a month. And when you ask for a little help on a project, suddenly everyone’s ‘too busy’.

If this sounds familiar, it might be because you’ve been alienating your co-workers. It’s not that you’re an unlikable person or a bad employee. It’s just that your behaviour during one or two situations, such as an office retreat or training session, has tainted your reputation.

Fortunately, you’re not the only one who mishandles work situations, according to Robert Orndorff and Dulin Clark, co-authors of The PITA Principle: How to Work with and Avoid Becoming a Pain in the Ass.

“Let’s face it: all of us have problematic areas where we annoy our co-workers now and again. And on any given occasion, with the right set of circumstances, anyone can be the dreaded co-worker,” they say.

Here are five such occasions that tend to bring out the worst in employees and problematic behaviour to avoid.


Don’t become easily distracted. Think back to the last meeting you attended. Were you glued to your mobile? How many times did your cell phone serenade co-workers with a loud ring tone? Rather than offending colleagues with a seemingly apathetic attitude, try looking them in the eye and asking questions throughout the meeting. And yes, leave your cell phone at your desk.

Don’t come unprepared. A sure-fire way to frustrate co-workers is to skip doing the research required to move a meeting forward. People have plenty of excuses for not getting their work done, but very few of them are worth forgiving. Try checking with co-workers before a meeting to make sure you’ve done the work and have the materials needed to be prepared.

Performance reviews

Don’t become overly defensive. The point of the review is not to scold or belittle you for errors you’ve made throughout the year. It’s to offer constructive guidance on how you can improve your performance and make yourself an asset to the employer. Rather than defending yourself and becoming agitated, try listening more than talking and expressing a willingness to improve.

Upon a good review, many employees mistakenly believe they’re entitled to a raise or promotion. You may feel like you’ve earned these rewards, but for one reason or another employer isn’t ready to offer them to you. Rather than hounding your supervisor or whining about how you’re being treated unfairly, ask him/her, what steps you still need to take to advance at work.

Group projects

Don’t adopt a ‘my-way or no-way’ attitude. We can all remember a group project gone awry. This occurs because someone in the group is a know-it-all and refuses to acknowledge their teammates’ suggestions. To avoid being this type of colleague, try waiting to hear team members’ ideas before offering your own.

Just as there will always be people who go above and beyond their responsibilities, others will try to get by doing the least amount of work as possible. It’s easy to be annoyed with these types of people, rather than pointing the finger of blame, focus on being grateful to those who do put in the additional effort.

Happy hour get-togethers

We’ve all heard the horror stories about the co-worker who got too drunk at a party and started bashing his/her boss and co-workers, spilling secrets no one was meant to hear or behaving in any other rude and inappropriate manner in front of colleagues. Remember that just because things are said and done outside of the office, doesn’t mean the consequences won’t carry over into the workday.

Don’t sulk in a corner. So maybe hanging out with co-workers after hours isn’t your idea of a great time. In times like these, it’s best to just grin and fake it, rather than showing your colleagues how irritated you are to spend time with them.