Many of us who go to work every day have learned that there are certain cultural norms that help us to survive and get along in this strange environment of cubicles, shared workspaces, and community kitchens. Unfortunately there are also those who have not yet learned those rules and are seemingly oblivious to the fact that they are part of a community at all.

Here’s who just a few of them are:

iPhone Ostrich  

What they’re doing: When you step into the elevator with iPhone Ostrich or pass her in the hallway, she may or may not nod in your direction, but it isn’t likely. She is too busy scrolling through her smart phone to look up and acknowledge that two people who work together are in close proximity to each other for a pleasantly short period of time.

Why avoid them: Because either yesterday’s emails are far more interesting to iPhone Ostrich than you are, or she simply has so little desire to engage in a short, polite exchange that she’d rather pretend that yesterday’s emails are far more interesting than you.

Better way to be: iPhone Ostrich should look at people when she steps into the elevator or walks down the hall. She should make eye contact those whom she knows, say hello and enjoy a brief human exchange in her otherwise busy day. It’s just nicer.

Mind you she’s still better than the guy I saw shaving in the elevator mirror the other day. It was an electric razor, of course. But still. Shaving.

Immediate Post-Email Follow-Upper

What they’re doing: Immediate Post-Email Follow-Upper will email you a request or a question and then immediately walk over to your desk expecting a reaction or a response. I’m not sure how this is physically done, but I’ve actually had the person arrive even before their email does. They’re faster than the internet.

What that says: The Immediate Post-Email Follow-Upper assumes that you were not working on anything important and that you have nothing better to do than to drop everything to address his needs immediately. The world, of course, revolves around him and you are a pawn in his progress to greatness.

Easy upgrade: He should email you. If the email is of an urgent nature and requires immediate follow-up, then it can indicate as much. (Caveat – they can’t always be of an urgent nature requiring immediate follow-up. You know who you are.) The emailer should simply explain the situation and suggest a timeline by which he may need your response, and then give you the space to read it and react accordingly.

The Long-Distance Loud Talker

What they’re doing: The Long-Distance Loud Talker is holding an animated conversation with someone who is all the way across the open office from them.

Why they’ve got to go: The LDLT seems to think that all of the people working in the space between the loud conversers who may be on the phone, concentrating on detailed work, or having conversations of their own either do not exist or are simply less important beings than the loud talkers.

Simple solution: They should walk across the office, smile and make eye contact with coworkers along the way, and politely say ‘Hello’ or ‘Hi, how’re ya’ doing?’ to people. When they reach the person they wish to meet with, they should strike up a conversation at a normal volume. This way they’ve shared the information they needed to while making a positive impression on several people – instead of just annoying everyone.

Cubicle or Open-Concept Speaker Phone Guy

What they’re doing: Cubicle or Open-Concept Speaker Phone Guy is holding a phone call, or worse a conference call, on speaker phone while he is not behind a closed door. It is nearly impossible for others to will themselves not to listen to a speaker-phone conversation, no matter how irrelevant the subject matter is to them.

Why we hate this guy: Similar to The Long-Distance Loud Talker, Open-Concept Speaker Phone Guy is simply demonstrating that he has no concern for (or no knowledge of the existence of) his coworkers around him.

What they should do: That’s an easy one. He should pick up the phone, hold it to his ear and speak at a reasonable volume into the receiver. Or buy a headset.

A subset of these last two is also the dude with the really loud ringtone on his cellphone which he always leaves on his desk when he’s not there so we can all listen to it going off obnoxiously and often.

No-Sick-Day Gal

What she’s doing: No-Sick-Day Gal simply cannot stay away from work, even when she is seriously, off-puttingly, and worse – contagiously – ill. So she comes in wiping her feverous brow, coughing and sneezing, and she toils away courageously surrounded by an army of fallen tissues. Thereby, of course, infecting her otherwise healthy coworkers.

What it says: No-Sick-Day Gal is saying that she is so important that the company would go bankrupt, democracy would fail and the sun would cease to rise if she were out of the office for a day or two. Her being there at all costs trumps the health of those who share her working environment.

What they should do: She should stay home while she’s ill. She’ll recover faster and won’t infect others. If she’s feeling a little better but isn’t sure if she’s contagious, she can call in to phone meetings and work from home for a day or two, just to be sure.

We admire No-Sick-Day Gal’s determination to keep going, but frankly sick people aren’t that productive anyway. And the net loss for the company from spreading her illness means that she’s not doing anyone any favours. Stay home. Get well.

Chronic Complainer

What’s his problem? Chronic Complainer likes to drop by your desk frequently to complain loudly about his work, the boss, or the office environment. He’s a friendly enough and funny guy, but he doesn’t like his work and doesn’t seem to mind spending a fair amount of time not doing it. He also likes to say “TGIF” every single Friday, comment that the weekend was “too short,” and grumble about Mondays.

Why you’ve got to ditch him: The danger with Complainer is not what his behaviour says so much as what others might misinterpret that it says. Because you are the recipient (although not the target) of his complaints, those around you may naturally assume that you are similarly disgruntled. This can hurt your professional reputation, as others see you as just one of the complaining malcontents around the office. Promotions and pay raises go to positive people who enjoy their work. Plus his slacking off at your desk makes you look like a slacker too. Plus the whole “I love Fridays/I hate Mondays” thing is really boring.

Fast fix: Chronic Complainer should become a positive person who enjoys his work. If this isn’t possible at their current company, then Complainer should find a new job. Life is too short and your career is too important to spend in a role where you’re miserable. And if Complainer really just wants to rant on a bad day (it happens to all of us sometimes), he should ask you to join him for a beer after work and out of the office. Good conversations and social exchanges with your community of coworkers make work-life better.

But really it is far better for your career longevity to share your work complaints with people who don’t work with you. And don’t, under any circumstances, post your work rants online. That’ll come back to bite you.

Bonus Coworkers to avoid: Don’t get me started on the guy who just heated up his leftover fish tacos to enjoy at his desk next to mine. You know who you are. Apologizing in advance does not make it okay, Fish Taco Guy.

I’ve mentioned before the time a guy offered me a ‘high-five’ at the urinal. Sorry to leave you hanging, Dude, (so to speak) but that’s so not okay.

Peter Harris on Twitter

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