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10 Office Faux Pas

September 24, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

1. Don’t! Be the Office Downer

You don’t want to be such a buzz kill that people arrange their desks away from you.

That’s what Caroline Melville, owner of virtual administrative service VirtuallySorted.com, had to do after hiring an accountant to work with her small team.

In the mornings, when Melville asked how he was doing, he would respond with a deadpan, “I am not dead yet.”

If the company booked a new client and the office was celebrating their success, he would pipe in with, “Ah, I don’t know. I don’t know. He might leave.”

The eternal optimist didn’t stay long. He resigned when his wife got a new job and needed to move. But Melville didn’t complain.

“It was quite a sigh of relief for me, actually, because it was quite stressful having someone like that in the office.”

2. Don’t! Microwave Fish in the Office

Tuna sandwiches are banned from some offices, but fish dishes in the microwave are absolutely off limits.

“I never knew who the culprit was because the kitchen area was not near my desk,” says Casey Corrigan, a media strategist at a New York City PR firm. The smell would waft through the office gently at first, and “then you would feel it more pungently.”

You don’t want your cube mates wishing you would sleep with the fishes.

3. Don’t! Go Barefoot

“Everybody wants to wear really cute shoes, and they go out and get five-inch tall Christian Louboutin shoes,” reports a tipster who asked to remain anonymous because she feared she would lose her job for outing co-workers.

“If you cannot walk in them, you should really go for a more sensible shoe.”

Resorting to kicking off your stilettos under the desk is permissible at the end of a long day, but “walking around the office barefoot is really gross.”

4. Don’t! Set Your Ring Tone to the Jonas Brothers

Keep your phone on vibrate. Your officemates notice your ring tone — especially if it’s particularly loud and annoying.

“You would see five or six people who sat around her look at her and roll their eyes,” says Richard O’Malley, remembering a former receptionist whose ring tone for her boyfriend was a Jonas Brothers song.

At the sound of the boy-band melody, the woman would leave her desk to take the call. “It wound up working against her because everyone knew that she was slacking off,” says O’Malley, who now runs his own event-planning business, The O’Malley Project

Eventually she was let go. And even though her ring tone wasn’t specifically at fault, it didn’t help. “There were several minor things that built up,” says O’Malley.

“If you are the person who has the stupid cell phone ring, everyone has noticed it already. Turn it down.”

5. Do! Save Smiley Faces for Mom

Sherry Kerr, the owner of a small public relations agency, hired a recent college graduate to be her assistant and was confronted with an acute case of smiley face overload.

They were on the picture frame, clock, mouse pad, screen saver and a decoy on the monitor. “The desk space itself was really dreadful,” says Kerr.

But it didn’t end there: She also put smiley faces next to her initials and every single place she signed her name — including the company’s tax forms.

Kerr tried to talk to the assistant about presenting a more professional manner in person and on paper. Her response? “She looked at me with these big round smiley face eyes and said, `It is a part of my signature,'” Kerr remembers.

Kerr eventually had to let her go, for unrelated reasons, but, Kerr says, “I have to confess that I was happy about not seeing smiley faces anymore.”

6. Don’t! Be the Boss’ New BFF

“People who are worried about being laid off end up going overboard to prove that they are indispensable, and that ends up making them seem so obnoxious to people,” says Tina Lewis Rowe, a professional development coach.

Rowe consulted at one firm where she watched an employee try to position himself as the boss’ right arm. “At every staff meeting he would try to take the meeting over and ask employees report to him to get approval.”

Instead of becoming the main man’s right-hand, Mr. Sycophant just annoyed the entire office. His co-workers don’t have much use for him, and his managers see right through his tricks, Rowe says.

And while he is still at the firm, “he is on shaky ground,” she adds.

7. Don’t! Read Your Emails Out Loud

Keep a lid on it, neighbor. One wife complained — on her husband’s behalf — about a coworker who reads her emails out loud. And listens to her voicemails on speakerphone. Seriously.

“My husband works right next (as in their desks are connected with no real divider, like Dwight and Jim on “The Office”) to a woman who does all of her work, all day long, out loud,” says the woman, who wanted to remain anonymous to protect her husband.

Now her husband has to take any serious reading home and do it at night because he can’t concentrate in the office.

8. Don’t! Give Yourself a Mani/Pedi

“I had a boss who would clip his nails at his desk,” says Michelle Poteet, who now owns Reclaim Order, a San Antonio-based life-organizing company.

“The next position I was at, the guy across from me would clip his nails at his desk, and to me it is the worst sounding thing in the world.”

“It would be one thing if you waited until there was background noise, but it always seemed to me that people, would do this when it was dead silence. Getting rid of a hang nail would be fine, but it is another thing if they are giving themselves a complete manicure.”

9. Don’t! Steal Food

Keep your mitts off other people’s frozen lunches. One anonymous reporter out in the field says that her Lean Cuisines disappear from the freezer on a regular basis.

“It has happened pretty much every where that I have worked,” complains the office worker in distress.

Not even writing her name in black Sharpie across the box deters thieves. So instead, the lunch lady keeps her thawing Lean Cuisine in her desk.

Yum.

10. Don’t! Crank the Russian Folk Music

Headphones, people.

There is no faster way to top “cube rube” status than to crank your music.

“We had one person who was playing Russian folk music all day long,” says Megan Slabinski, executive director of The Creative Group, a California-based staffing agency.

The constant drone of Russian folk music got so draining to a freelancer the Group had placed, one of the employees had to ask the company to curb the staffer’s habit.

Oddly, management was reluctant to address the issue, reports Slabinski.

“Ultimately, we encouraged them to say, could you please put on a pair of headphones?”

You may think that you are all by your lonesome in your cube, but don’t forget about your proximity to others. And if the spirit moves you, and you must have a bit of your motherland’s music to get you through your day, headphones, people.

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