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10 employee traits that drive you up the wall

Laura Johnson

The Office Life blog is back. This week Laura Johnson looks at the most annoying employee traits, which you poor managers have to put up with

Power-hungry, ruthless and unreasonable. You're a greedy, sadistic being whose daily goal is to make the nine to five of your hard-working minions utter hell. You're the conniving Mr Burns to every Homer Simpson in your office. As a boss you're probably accustomed to getting a bad rap. And more often than not, this is completely unjustifiable.

Everyone has a horror story about a manager to share, as is being proved by a recent Reddit thread that's attracting a heavy influx of comments about the downsides of being employed by wealthy bosses. The thread poses the question: 'Redditors that work directly for the super wealthy (let's say net worth $20 million and up) what are some of your best/worst stories?' From getting fired for buying the wrong printer paper for the office to narrowly escaping the boot after not feeding the dog the preferred Fiji water, the social media stream is awash with tales of boss bad practice.

But there are two sides to every story, right? We know there are plenty of employee behaviours that annoy the hell out of you managers too. So here, we turn the tables and share a few common traits of lousy employees:

  1. The toxic employee. Everyone has a few grumbles about work from time to time and it's completely natural to share these occasional frustrations with colleagues. But then there are some employees who can never see the bright side of anything. Instead the presence of this poisonous pessimist casts a dark cloud over your office and makes your work life completely miserable. Yes, horrible bosses can be responsible for killing office morale but so can rotten employees.
  2. The social media addict. They naively think you haven't noticed they've spent all morning nosey-ing around on Facebook and sharing their pointless observations on Twitter. And then have the cheek to grumble when you don't react favourably to their request for a deadline extension on a report they owed you yesterday.
  3. The heating aficionado. They complain about it being too hot in the summer and insist on wearing their coat at their desk as a blatant protest against the air con being on in the winter. Short of issuing them a personal thermostat for their desk, you can never make this sensitive soul happy.
  4. Mr or Mrs Defensive. We all know employees hate appraisals but so do managers. And its not just because of all the extra paperwork. Having to deal with an employee who bursts into tears or reacts with rage to any hint of negative feedback makes it impossible for you to do your job (or, more to the point, coach them to reach their career goals).
  5. The hide behind email type. Mild-mannered and reasonable in person but a complete Rottweiler when let loose with a keyboard. These employees fail to understand that some issues (particularly sensitive issues such as pay and employee relations) are best discussed face-to-face.
  6. The office lightweight. Babysitting a peek-too-soon party pooper really puts a dampener on a team night out. And then they rub salt into the wound by rolling into the office late and giving off a foul odour of alcohol the morning after.
  7. The office gossip. Their respect for the truth is far less than their hunger for scandal. When the sensitive news about a staff restructuring gets leaked at a greatly inflated scale or a story about a co-workers unsavoury past gets unearthed, you can always guess the source.
  8. The loveem and leaveem lothario. There's nothing like an office romance to upset the delicate balance of office life. And the only thing more annoying than dealing with the productivity fall-out of their long, lust-fuelled lunches is the cut-the-atmosphere-with-a-knife tension when his or her lingering looks stray elsewhere.
  9. The know-it-all. They've more than likely been with the company longer than you and regularly recount tales of this is how we did it in the good old days.
  10. The wannabe BFF. They invade your desk at every opportunity, flood your inbox with articles they think you might like (and then interrogate you on them) and invite you to lunch. Every day. Their well-intentioned actions make them possibly the trickiest breed of office nuisance to manage.

But true professional that you are, you bite your bottom lip, take the moral high ground and manage these bothersome traits and exasperating habits (and the emotions they provoke) in a way that doesn't hinder your leadership. It's a considerable skill of a great leader that can often go overlooked.


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