10 annoying workplace communication behaviors to avoid
Few people admit to bad communication habits—much less conduct that can
cost you a job or a contract or ding your reputation.
Yet we see irritating behaviors in the workplace just about every day. Here
are 10 that can alienate colleagues, undermine your influence and ruin
1. Interruptions and/or changing the subject
Interrupters think nothing of inserting themselves into a conversation and
promptly derailing it. Do it once, and people will probably forgive you. Do
it repeatedly, and people will start viewing you as downright
Stop this annoying habit immediately.
2. Story topping
After someone tells a story—about horrible customer service, what their
bright child accomplished, how hectic their workload has been, how well
their team has performed on a key project, etc.—resist the urge to top it
with your own story. You’ve just shoved them out of the spotlight to take
your own bow.
3. Name dropping
Do you know someone who’s constantly referencing a famous colleague, friend
or client they have? It’s annoying, right?
Name dropping is meant to toot one’s own horn, but it communicates a lack
of confidence and credibility.
4. All-about-me dumping
When working with clients to craft presentations, the most frequent mistake
I see is the “all about us” opening.
It’s tempting to start a client meeting or presentation with, “Let me tell
you all about me, mine, our team and what we can do for you.” That’s the
wrong approach. People are interested in how you can help them.
That takes precedence over your credentials, interests and “core values.”
5. Listening intolerance
You’ve heard of lactose intolerance. How about listening
intolerance? You might know someone who suffers from this affliction. The
most telling symptom is a steady stream of one-way communication. The
listening intolerant might ask questions, but their follow-up actions
demonstrate that they did not hear the input, ideas and feedback that
6. Glancing around for greener schmoozing grass
You’ve probably been a victim of this incredibly rude move. We all have.
While shaking your hand or feigning attention, they’re glancing over your
shoulder to see if there’s someone more interesting in the room. They seem
eager to escape at the first opportunity to go somewhere more intriguing.
Giving someone the “glance over” communicates: “You’re unimportant to me
and actually blocking my way.”
7. The brush-off
You send a pleasant email with a couple of questions and receive a curt
response with no answers. You text a congratulatory message and get no
response at all. Perhaps you’re talking to someone at a networking event,
and they nod a couple of times to your comments and turn to engage a
passerby in conversation.
The brush-off can be subtle, but small slights can erode trust and damage
your reputation. Rudeness in the workplace almost always comes back to
Non-responsiveness shows up in several forms around the office. Among the
most aggravating is “forgetting” to respond to an email. “Forgetting” to
answer questions in an email or text is annoying as well.
[FREE GUIDE: 10 ways to help your email engagement skyrocket]
How about nonparticipation in meetings or refusal to cooperate with
policies procedures? When passive-aggressive behaviors become habitual, you
run the risk of becoming known as a “difficult” or “toxic” colleague.
That’s no way to get ahead.
9. Lack of punctuality
Habitually joining conference calls late, arriving to meetings late,
sending reports after deadlines, responding to emails later than the
cultural norm—all this communicates one of two things:
- You consider your time more valuable than other people’s.
- You can’t handle your work responsibilities.
Neither message paints a positive picture of your character or competence.
Your colleagues expect you to maintain a reasonable measure of mastery over
your moods. No one wants to deal with Delia the Dragon one day and Sam the
If co-workers call a strategy meeting with a supplier, they need to know
which personality will show up at the conference table. Habitual mood
swings make communication—and business—risky.
Good communication is the shortest distance between you and new
customers—not to mention genuine friendships. That’s the key to creating a
healthy, productive, uplifting workplace culture.