- Bad breath. Work environments involve prime breath-smelling distance with coworkers and clients on a daily basis. I’ve come to understand two primary causes of smelly breath: poor oral hygiene and eating halitosis-inducing foods. Make sure to practice good oral hygiene. I’m going to assume you brush your teeth twice daily and visit the dentist every 6-12 months, and I’m also going to assume you’re a lot like me and forget to floss more than you’d care to admit. Let’s both prioritize nightly flossing. As for food, I’d suggest skipping garlic and onions in work-day breakfasts and lunches. (Even though this makes me sad, as I could eat onions in every meal.)
- Incessant chatter about me-me-me. Think about your most recent week of work. In casual workplace conversations, did you talk about more than just your life situation, insane workload, and upcoming weekend plans? Did you ask how others were doing and find out their upcoming weekend plans? If you recognize your conversations were lopsided (as I frequently recognize in my own conversations), don’t wallow in embarrassment. It’s never too late to correct this common social error. Read Communicating on the Job and develop a few relevant goals for yourself.
- A dirty work space. It’s generally understood that some desks are organized and others define “organized chaos.” There’s grace for the somewhat-messy, typical-artist desk. On the other hand, it’s not generally accepted that it’s okay to leave a desk, office, office kitchen, or communal space truly dirty. Wipe off the desk from time to time to remove crumbs and dust, promptly discard all trash, make sure your guide dog’s shed hair has been vacuumed at least weekly, and clean up after yourself particularly well in communal or shared spaces.
- Eating another’s food from the communal fridge. If you’re looking for free entertainment, just browse the Internet for fridge-raiding-in-the-office stories. It’s that prevalent. And it’s also highly maddening. Unless you purchased that frozen meal or soda can, leave it be! If you are blind or visually impaired and want to be sure it’s truly your food or drink you’re grabbing, go ahead and label it. You can add a braille label or write your initials on food packaging; you can place rubber bands around your drinks. Labeling will also help deter fridge-raiders, though some refuse to be thwarted by a label. (Y’all, some refuse to be thwarted by a half-eaten lunch. Seriously.)
- Lacking follow-through. If you say you are going to resolve an issue, make a phone call, or assist with a project, go on and do it. Otherwise, unreliability is extremely frustrating and disrespectful to coworkers and supervisors. We’re human; we forget or get interrupted. Anticipate that you will forget and implement a system that enables you to remember and prioritize your commitments. Read How to Improve Your Organizational Skills on the Job and utilize the strategies.
- Unwillingness to Solve Problems. The printer is jammed again. A frustrated client calls. You were asked to create a spreadsheet document, but you don’t understand the process. Instead of handing the problem to another, learn and use problem-solving techniques. You may need specific training in technology or job processes in order to solve problems independently—don’t hesitate to seek training opportunities.
This list could really get long if I let it. I could include coming to work while noticeably sick, picking your nose or toes or teeth in plain sight, wearing strong perfume or cologne, having a consistent doom-and-gloom attitude, forgetting to verbally appreciate others, acting too touchy-feely, using off-color humor, or failing to respond to emails. Okay, you get the drift. Avoid common workplace annoyances and focus your attention on developing positive work habits and exceeding employer expectations over time.