Ugh, you know who I always feel bad for in any office? That co-worker who can make a room go silent just by walking in.
OK, that’s an exaggeration. But you know the person I’m talking about: the awkward colleague no one wants to spend any more time around than necessary. What’s worse, he or she never seems to have any clue how the rest of the office really feels.
Which might make you wonder: Are there things you’re doing that make others uncomfortable? While we’re assuming the answer’s no, just make 100% sure that’s the case by following these simple rules for not being that person in the office.
1. Give People Space
There are few things more unsettling than having someone constantly near you when you’re trying to go about your business during the workday. Yes, some offices seat people very close together, but that doesn’t mean you should literally breathe down your colleagues’ necks.
Give your co-workers as much space as possible. This ranges from eating lunch away from your desk, working from another part of the office (if that’s an option), and even just refraining from nonstop chatter.
Yes, you can ask how your cube-mate’s day is going. No, you cannot check in with that same question every hour, on the hour.
2. Steer Clear of Gossip
While everyone enjoys to hear a little office gossip from time to time (and hey, it can actually be good for your career), no one really likes the person doing all of the gossiping. Often times, people start to avoid the office gossip for fear of getting involved in some career-damaging rumor.
No matter how good the information is (and we know, it can be juicy), it’s better to keep anything you hear to yourself—unless it’s interfering with the company’s well-being or someone’s life.
Unsure of how to steer clear of the drama? Writer Katie Douthwaite Wolf has several really actionable tips on how to do it the right way (a.k.a., without insulting anyone).
3. Beware of Oversharing
A little office small talk is good for general morale, and most people have no problem hearing about your exciting announcement or fun weekend plans. However, you need to create a few boundaries before you embarrass yourself or bore your co-workers to death. (And yes, both are equally bad.)
Some topics that typically start off innocent, but can quickly veer right into overshare territory:
- Saturday Night Shenanigans: Your office doesn’t need to know how quickly you shotgun a beer (though it’s probably impressive).
- Personal News: Sharing engagement photos is okay. Debating wedding centerpiece arrangements at staff meetings is not.
- Stream of Consciousness: There’s simply no need to explain everything happening outside your window.
An easy trick to decide if you’re saying way too much: In any given conversation, don’t talk for more than 20 to 40 seconds at a time before letting the other person speak. This will keep you from dominating a discussion and give you more time to filter your thoughts.
4. Keep it Professional Online
Oversharing isn’t just an IRL thing; we all know those people who are a pain in the butt online, too. No one likes to deal with that person who fills the office chat room with random messages about his or her totally wasted weekend, unrelated pop culture news updates, or political rants (for more on that, check out Muse columnist Kelli Orrela’s tips here).
And, if you’re friends with your co-workers on social media, you also need to be aware of your presence there, too. One of my co-workers once launched a very personal blog (I’m talking detailed discussions of his sex life) and shared it on his Facebook page. Naturally, we all saw it and read it—including our boss. Do I even need to explain how uncomfortable the next 36 hours were for our team?
5. Stop Sucking Up
Usually, sucking up starts with good intentions: You just want to impress your boss and your colleagues in order to prove to everyone that you’re capable of doing your job (and then some). And that’s totally OK!
What’s not OK? Always agreeing with the person in charge, regardless of how bad the idea is. Or worse, jumping into action the second the idea’s thrown out there, nabbing all the important project responsibilities, and doing whatever it takes to look good.
Be mindful that you don’t overstep the line from impressing your boss to screwing over other people. For example, offering to take on a new and exciting project is a good career move; stealing the project from someone else who was already working on it is a big no-no.
6. Keep it Cool
Every office has that one person who runs around acting like it’s the apocalypse. All. The. Time. The coffee maker isn’t working? She’s hoarding Keurig cups and sending company-wide emails about how caffeine withdrawals make her loopy. You send him a presentation 10 minutes after you said you would? He’s at your desk lecturing you about how close you came to ruining the relationship with the client and threatening to tell your boss about your lack of timeliness.
The office crazy person only raises the stress levels of those around him or her. So, if you’re feeling yourself wanting to scream (even if it’s for good reason), take a moment to breathe, stretch, and collect your thoughts. Your colleagues will thank you.
Lily Herman is a New York-based writer and editor. In recent months, her work has been featured in Teen Vogue, Glamour, Refinery29, Cosmopolitan, TIME, Newsweek, Fast Company, and Mashable. You can check out her website, LinkedIn, and Twitter.
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