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Common Workplace Annoyances

June 11 2010 - The most common causes of annoyance in the workplace are co-workers with poor time management skills (cited by 43 per cent of respondents) and the prevalence of gossip (36 per cent) according to an online survey of over 1000 employed U.S. adults conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs-Randstad.

Other grievances are:

  • mess in communal areas (25 per cent)
  • intrusive noise (21 per cent)
  • smells including perfume, food or smoke (20 per cent)
  • overuse of personal electronics during meetings (15 per cent)
  • political conversations (12 per cent)
  • misuse of email (12 per cent), and
  • personal use of social media sites (12 per cent)

But one in eight (13 per cent) of respondents said that they experience none of these as common annoyances and 3 per cent typically do not work with others.

The study found that workers under the age of 35 are more likely than those over 55 to complain about loud noise (25 per cent compared to 16 per cent) and political conversations (15 per cent compared to 8 per cent). Women are more likely than men to be annoyed by messy communal areas (28 per cent compared to 23 per cent).

Among participants identifying poor time management as a major grievance, over one in five (22 per cent) said this took the form of co-workers taking excessive breaks (including long lunches, smoke breaks, and online surfing). Other aggravations in this category include co-workers who abuse sick days (11 per cent) and habitually miss deadlines (9 per cent). Disorganised meetings in various forms also proved a significant source of contention:

  • no agenda or structure (11 per cent)
  • outside normal working hours (10 per cent)
  • starting and finishing late (10 per cent)
  • attenders distracted on their Blackberry or by texting (10 per cent)

Those under 35 are more irritated by meetings cutting into personal time than their older co-workers (16 per cent compared to 7 per cent). Some respondents are most annoyed 'when the request 'have you got a minute?' turns into a lengthy meeting' (5 per cent).

The study found similar grievances raised by respondents highlighting inappropriate use of social media during work hours. These include: the amount of time wasted (28 per cent); when it results in users asking co-workers for help with their work (20 per cent); when users complain they are over-worked (11 per cent) or miss work-related deadlines (9 per cent). Only 4 per cent are concerned that social media use has the potential to reflect poorly on their work performance. Those over 35 are more concerned about time wasted in this way than younger co-workers (30 per cent compared to 22 per cent).

The most common annoyances related to email include:

  • forwarding chain emails and jokes (19 per cent)
  • misuse of 'reply all' (12 per cent)
  • lack of response to appropriate messages (9 per cent)
  • question asked that was answered in previous email (7 per cent)
  • used to solicit for personal fund-raising (7 per cent)
  • unnecessary cc's (6 per cent)
  • one-word replies (5 per cent)
  • discovering a co-worker maliciously 'blind copied' (4 per cent)
  • entire message typed in 'subjectí' line (3 per cent)

Women are more likely to be annoyed by unnecessary 'reply alls' (15 per cent compared to 10 per cent of men). Younger employees are more likely to be annoyed when asked a question that had just been answered (12 per cent compared to 4 per cent for older respondents).

Respondents tend to deal with grievances in different ways. The most common response is to speak directly to the person(s) involved (29 per cent). Other strategies include: complain to co-workers (10 per cent); raise the issue with a manager (9 per cent); contact by email (2 per cent); leave anonymous note or complain via social networking site (1 per cent). However, over a quarter (27 per cent) say that they do nothing to address their grievance. Women are more likely to complain to co-workers (24 per cent compared to 15 per cent). Younger employees also are more likely to complain to co-workers (23 per cent compared to 17 per cent); older workers are more likely to speak to the person concerned (31 per cent compared to 23 per cent).

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