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7 Harmless Habits That Are Slowly Killing Your Coworkers

We all know to avoid the big, unquestionable offenses that will definitely make you enemies at the office—spreading rumors, stealing food, and disrespectful outbursts can all be found near the top of the list. What about those little things that seem harmless but, over time, slowly wear away at your coworkers’ patience and good will?

Here’s a list of seemingly harmless habits that may be bugging your work buds.

eating at desk

Eating at Your Desk

Oh, desk diner, so much can go wrong here. Smelly food, noisy chewing, slurping, spills… We’re all pressed for time, which makes lunching over your keyboard a popular option. But, if you’re within close proximity of your coworkers you might be driving them crazy right around 12:30 every day. Do everyone (including yourself) a favor and step away from your desk to eat your lunch in the kitchen or breakroom.



Your Fragrance

Maybe Calvin thinks you smell like Euphoria, but anyone in your office with allergies or asthma will beg to differ. While perfumes, colognes, and scented hand lotions may boost your mood, they can trigger headaches and respiratory issues in those with sensitivities. For days spent in the office, go with unscented products and skip the spritz.


free food

Your “Free Food in the Kitchen”

There’s nothing wrong with those last few uneaten mini muffins and ham sandwiches from your client meeting, and there probably are a few folks in your office who haven’t had time to grab lunch yet. Generous though you are with the leftovers, letting a plate of stale pastries sit in the kitchen overnight just means that someone else has to clean up your mess. Make sure to check the kitchen before you leave for the day and toss anything that hasn’t been eaten.


bathroom counter

Flooding the Bathroom Counter

There’s enough bathroom etiquette content to warrant its own post, but we’ll stick to the sink for the purposes of this one. Ever lean against the bathroom counter only to step away with a drenched shirt? That’s because someone before you used the sink like a model in a Neutrogena commercial and didn’t wipe down the counters. Save your coworkers’ clothes and handbags by taking the time to clean up after yourself.


dying plant

The Dying Plant on Your Desk

Live plants are an eco-friendly way to brighten a space and filter the air. But dying plants or fermenting flowers smell like compost and are a bummer to look at. Make sure your plants get adequate water and sunlight (sometimes this means giving them an hour or two outside to get their photosynthesis on). And, if they’re simply past the point of no return, toss ‘em.



Your Nervous Twitch

I once sat across from someone who alternated between tapping his feet, snapping his fingers, and crunching the ice from his iced coffee. By 11 a.m. I was ready to tear my hair out. As open office plans become more popular, we have no choice but to become more familiar with our office mates’ ticks. Be mindful of any nervous habits that may be distracting to others and do your best to squash them.


brain storm

Impromptu Brain Storms

When brilliance strikes, do you schedule time to chat with coworkers ASAP? Or do you immediately race over to your colleague’s desk and launch into your idea no matter how busy they look? While your energy and enthusiasm are great, you may be interrupting time-sensitive work with your disruptive approach. Next time you have a light bulb moment, make sure to confirm with your coworker that it’s a good time to chat.

So, what’s the verdict? Feeling guilty? Here’s the good news: while it’s easy to slip into each of these bad habits, it’s just as easy to give them up. So, sit on your hands, toss the wilted sandwiches, and use the meeting function on your calendar. Your coworkers will thank you.

What’s the most annoying “harmless” habit in the workplace?


  1. Thank you! Especially for the one on fragrance. There are times when I know if someone has come in the building before they’ve reached the office.

  2. When people put their calls on speaker phone. Or leaves their cell phone volumes on, even when they step away from their desks.

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