10 Annoying Employee Work Behaviors and What to Do About Them

It’s that time of year, when employee evaluations are due, where we evaluate the behaviors in employees that annoy us the most and try to figure out what to do about them. Below are ten behaviors that experts all over the world have identified as irritating, problematic, or counterproductive along with a proposed solution to the problem. The ten are in no particular order, but each one has its own set of circumstances which impact a company’s productivity or morale in some way.

Promotion and/or Pay Raise Seekers Who Haven’t Earned Their Stripes

“If you want something different or better than the position you’re currently in, then do the work, serve the role, earn the job and make it evident to everyone around you that you deserve it (without blowing your own horn every five minutes). The easiest promotions come when it’s blatantly obvious that someone is already doing the job and capable of carrying it. The worst situations come when someone gets promoted to a job for which they aren’t qualified. Everyone suffers in that scenario,” says Dick Hoffman, Owner of Hoffman Management Consultancy based in the Netherlands. “When someone pursues a title, promotion or raise so relentlessly that they make everyone around them miserable, then it’s usually time to recommend that they exit the current situation and pursue another job.”

Falling Asleep on the Job

Sometimes employees simply don’t get the proper rest, but it’s unacceptable to nod off during the work day or meetings. Companies aren’t paying their employees to take a siesta on their dime. This is not only a hindrance to the company itself, but it genuinely upsets other employees. A Research Associate in the San Francisco area recounts a recent sleeping on the job incident where the outcome will always have two behavior altering options: “If sleeping on the job became a frequent problem with the employee, I would cite safety issues (which are applicable, as we work in an engineering/laboratory environment) and give the employee the option of a) getting immediate help (and I would have to see documented proof that he/she was actually getting some help) or b) face termination.”

Pardon the pun, but it’s hard to sleep on this one–quick and decisive action is required to save face and improve productivity. A general consensus seems to suggest that the best solution for your company is an immediate termination if you catch someone frequently sleeping on the job or during meetings. It’s not the company’s responsibility to cater to employees which don’t get the proper rest.

Teaming Up in an Attempt at Getting a Co-Worker Fired

This makes our list for the simple reason that executives and managers should be entrusted to ensure that the right people are “on the bus.” No amount of employee revolt against one employee will benefit anyone therefore it is best to keep the lines of communication open between all parties. If a riff is sensed among the constituency, hash it out to the best of the team’s abilities as a team. If a mutiny is inevitable, attempt to satisfy everyone’s concerns by attempting to restructure the team in such a way that promotes functionality above personality differences. If push comes to shove, someone may need to be terminated as a last resort to permit the business to move forward.

Not Understanding the Business

Ram Charan, a popular business author and former CEO of Honeywell, mentions in his book What the CEO Wants You to Know, “when you come right down to it, business is very simple. There are universal laws of business that apply whether you sell fruit from a stand or are running a Fortune 500 company.”

If you’re an employee, take the time to truly understand how your employer makes money. If you’re a business executive, invest some of your time to explain how your company makes money so that everyone has the basic fundamentals down. This is the least you can do to improve your likelihood of long term success.

Being a Know-it-All

No one enjoys being subjected to criticism or one-upsmanship from co-workers especially if that person isn’t the boss. There are no employees at any company, including the CEO, that know every answer to every conceivable problem. That’s why there are people in various roles within the company. If there is a “know-it-all” among the group, the best solution is to confront that person and hash out the differences as a group. Be careful not to make it appear as if you’re ganging up on the guilty party though. If the person provides a valuable set of skills to the organization, your goal isn’t to eliminate the employee–it is to discourage the behavior while continuing to capitalize on their unique strengths. Conversely, if the person is no longer providing tangible benefits to the organization, perhaps it’s time to encourage the problem child to seek employment elsewhere.

Eating at Your Desk

Nothing short of instituting a “please eat in designated areas only” policy will correct this problem. Businesses should consider implementing this policy if for no other reason than to protect company assets such as the computer, keyboard, monitor, desk, chair, and phone at each person’s work area. Grease can penetrate those objects and wear them down over time not to mention the unsightly grime and residue build up. If you have carpet in your office, it’s doubtful you desire to replace it frequently because of repeated mishaps. While most people are careful not to spill things, accidents are bound to happen so why not take the steps to limit them to areas better equipped to sustain them?

Dave Gullo, Owner of Snowboards-for-sale.com based in California, puts a humorous spin on this, stating “the sounds of mastication are annoying. Worst case is an employee who is eating KFC and working at the same time touching your monitor leaving rainbow marks.” Indeed!

Always Playing the Victim

If bad things are supposedly always happening to someone around you or even to you, it’s time to confront the guilty party. Complaining all the time without presenting viable solutions aggravates everyone in little time. Life isn’t always a picnic for anyone, but a consistent negative outlook is demoralizing to say the least. “Victim behavior is disruptive because victims create drama, they are constitutionally incapable of taking responsibility for the choices they make which means they are intractable and incurable. Prevention is highly recommended through careful screening,” says Jane Plank, Sr. Executive Vice President of Human Resources at Equity Consultants in Richfield, Ohio.

Plank suggests quick corrective action, “when an employee’s choices become more problematic than the benefit added to the company, it is time to coach them up or out.” Preeti Kalra, an HR Manager at Dilithium Networks in India, encourages one-on-one sessions, “Have several one-on-one sessions with employee and talk about things that bother him/her, explain why things are the way they are and if the complaint is genuine fix it. If you religiously follow this practice you might be able to change employee’s approach.”

Arrogance and Control

It’s extremely difficult to deal with employees or bosses which exhibit an attitude that they are somehow above the rules yet also desire to control those around them. When those situations arise, crap usually hits the fan quickly. To survive and grow from these sticky situations, Kathleen Erickson, Director of Sales & Business Development at Massively Parallel Technologies in the Denver area, suggests that there needs to be a culture of open communication that “when two people respect each other enough to say what’s on their mind and work through the issues or clarify the misunderstandings…things go pretty well.”

Once the air is cleared, the relationship can grow and the organization can continue to thrive. “If we can humble ourselves enough to let creativity flow and appreciate the true talent and untapped potential in one another, amazing things can happen right before our very eyes. Everyday heroes are all around us…even in the workplace.” Erickson says.


Simon Harriyott, Founder of Sussex Geek Dinners in the UK, points out that someone with a hard head is problematic to him, “coming to a discussion with a fixed decision in mind, and refusing to listen to or consider alternatives. It’s much worse when they’ve reached the wrong conclusion. It’s a hard one to fix, but sometimes gently asking questions will get them to think about their solution more deeply, and they may see flaws in their original decision.”

Said Hmaidan, Senior Information Officer at International Finance Corporation, The World Bank Group in the D.C. area, agrees, “As communication is the foundation of all conflict resolution and team building, people which such behavior tend to create a negative atmosphere and bad vibe among the team.” He suggests this potential solution: “there are several ways to remedy this but the most effective is by acknowledging the point the person made and create a new possible scenario placing the person into that scenario to attract his/her attention. When the person becomes attentive, then it is easier for him/her to see others point-of-view.”


Ah, who could leave out the annoying employee that simply doesn’t want to work or refuses to apply themselves? David Benjamin, Direct Placement Recruiter at Variant Partners near Detroit, gets bothered by “the efforts and creativeness of lazy employees always making excuses of why the company or they can not be successful. They come up with the most creative ways to spend their time to demonstrate their point instead of using that time wisely to become a success.” In problematic situations such as this, it’s best to help the employee seek out employment elsewhere, perhaps another department within your organization, because it’s doubtful they will ever be happy in their current role.

What the Issues Have in Common

In all of these cases, most experts agree that open communication can alleviate a lot of problems. Some even suggest a more proactive and self centered approach such as the one Joao Trindade, International Manager at Wisse Financial in Trinidad, utilizes, “What I’ve always tried to do, was to understand that person’s motivation and try to change the way I worked with them, in order to take the best part this person had to give to the company (if the mountain doesn’t go to Moses…). I would say that after some time, people understand that are being treated differently and they will try to understand why. Sometimes, when they figure out why, they change by themselves, which I believe is the best method.”

Ray van den Bel, an Independent Consultant in the Netherlands, points out that sometimes people will just have to agree to disagree. “It depends on your own communication style which is most annoying because some styles do not interact with other styles. Expressive people and analytical people are thus often opposites.”

While there are no definitive sure fire fixes for annoying employee behavior, opening the lines of communication seems to be the most popular elixir many experts suggest. If you openly communicate with your employees, and there are still major problems, it may be time to go in a different direction in order for both parties to be happy and content.