How to Be the Worst Co-Worker Ever  

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Everyone has had a co-worker that makes going to work a miserable experience:  There’s the person who spends all day taking personal calls, the one who eats fish sandwiches with extra onions at his desk, or the “visitor,” who stops by to chat 17 times a day but never really says anything.

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These co-workers are certainly annoying, but they aren’t necessarily harmful to your career. In most cases, they don’t really keep you from getting your work done. They don’t cause measurable harm to the department or the company. They’re irritating, but you can ignore them.

It’s harder to ignore other types of co-workers, though. Their insidious antics can actually harm your career or your company. They slowly chip away at morale, shifting the company culture from one of productivity and excellence to one of negativity and mediocrity. In short, they make people miserable.

So if you want to earn the respect of your co-workers and be liked at work, avoid the behaviors that will make you “the worst co-worker ever.”

“I’ll Just Do It Myself”

Your boss hired you because you bring a unique skill set to the table. You have an MBA degree from a top program, you have experience that can help the company move toward its goals and you know how to implement your knowledge and talents in fresh ways.

Yet when it comes to working as a team, you play your cards close to the vest. You wait to share your ideas until the last minute — or worse, never share them at all and then blame your co-workers for not getting your input when things go wrong. Or, when co-workers ask for help, you take over, and instead of showing them how to accomplish things, you do it yourself instead. In short, everything is about you, because you fear that if you show your hand, you’ll no longer be indispensable.

Security? It’s Handled

When you hear about data breaches in the news, you worry about your own financial information — but do you ever stop and think about where those breaches start? Often, massive security breaches start with a careless employee: Someone opens a phishing email, sends information over an unsecured network or leaves their computer or mobile device unattended. Next thing you know, criminals have access to the network and sensitive data is at risk — and the company has to spend millions of dollars to try to limit the damage.

Of course, if you want to cause your company to potentially go under and put everyone out of a job, or at the very least, hurt your employer’s reputation, you can continue to thumb your nose at security protocols and do whatever you want on your work computer.

Drinks on the Lido Deck!

Everyone loves a fun workplace. After all, all work and no play makes for a dull life, right? And no one will mind if you spend half the day designing flyers for the upcoming office potluck  — and ordering the T-shirts for the softball team that no one wants to join — and organizing the lunch time walking club. No one really needs your input on the client report that is due by 5 p.m. anyway. Your talents are best put to use ordering leis for the company picnic.

Save the Whales! And the Vending Machine!

You never met a cause that didn’t spur you to action. So much injustice, so little time! Whether it’s the starving child in Botswana that you want your department to sponsor, or the fact that the maintenance department changed the brand of toilet paper in the restrooms, you are ready to fight for the little guy.

Even if that means spending most of each day circulating petitions, scheduling meetings with anyone who will listen and generally pestering people who are trying to get their work done to care about something that really doesn’t matter to them.

The Sky Is Falling

Every article about the industry changes means your company is days away from folding. Your boss requests a staff meeting, so you’re all being fired. You see two co-workers having a conversation and automatically assume it’s about you. In short, you’re paranoid, suspicious and neurotic, convinced that everyone is out to get you and/or you will be out of a job by the end of the day. You exhaust people with your endless worry, when a better use of all of that energy would be doing your job.

At the end of the day, if you’re a team player, do your work and follow company policies, your co-workers most likely won’t hate you — unless, of course, you keep bringing that fish sandwich to work for lunch.


About the Author: Karen Lee Whittier has worked in human resources for nearly 25 years, and in that time, she’s seen it all when it comes to bad employee behavior.  In addition to blogging about careers, work life and human resources issues, she regularly presents workshops and seminars on career success and management.