“Behavior is the mirror in which everyone shows their image.“—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, German writer and statesman.
In recent months, I’ve conducted Q&A surveys via my Productivity Pro® newsletter, collecting the results using the SurveyMonkey app. If you’re a reader, you’ve probably seen them; you may even have responded—thank you if you did! I’ve learned some interesting facts from my readers, most of which have direct application in any workplace.
One of the first questions I asked my readers was, “What bugs the you-know-what out of you?” Given the wording, I expected some blunt answers, and that’s what I got. Most respondents listed their greatest pet peeve only, but some listed several. They came down to three broad categories:
- Lack of Organization
All on the part of others, all in the vein of cautionary tales that suggest what not to inflict on your coworkers. Let’s take a brief look at all three.
Lack of Organization
This category accounted for about 28% of the responses. Those who responded hate it when the people they depend upon for work can’t get their acts together—and why shouldn’t they? Who wants to fix what others have dropped the ball on? Or sit around twiddling their thumbs when they should be doing productive work? Management got the least slack in this category. One person expressed annoyance at having to redo projects because multiple managers weren’t on the same page, reminiscent of Peter Gibbons in the movie Office Space. Another decried the coworkers who always require more and more analysis and could never make decisions. And then there’s the micromanager who was struggling in his personal life, so he comforted himself by nitpicking at others’ work; something of a too little/too much dichotomy in the same person.
All of the above examples also steal time from us. Colorfully referred to as “time sucks” by one of my respondents, this category netted about 36% of the total. Meetings featured prominently, specifically (a) wasteful “pre-meetings” to determine whether you even need a meeting; and (b) those who fail to show up to meetings on time. Ditto for those who fail to attend their posted office hours. “Got-a-minutes” and drop-ins”—people who come by for a quick question and stay for half an hour—really bug some respondents. They said they’d prefer someone got on their schedule, so they could plan around it instead. Sometimes people fail to update their Outlook calendars, so when a meeting is called, it appears the person is open. However, once a meeting invitation is sent out to a large group, the person only then declares a conflict. On the “not enough time in the day” front, one person complained about having to spend too much time and energy on remote employees.
Another 36% of my readers complained that rudeness really bugs the you-know-what out of them. One respondent was bugged by their supervisor talking down to them, but most of the rudeness cases involved coworkers: the nosy person who grabs your papers off a shared printer and reads them; excess and disruptive socializing; snarky digs from coworkers in the presence of superiors; and negative tones of voice and general sarcasm from others.
Time Thieves and Distraction Drivers
I don’t want to leave you with the impression that American offices are hotbeds of discontent. That generally isn’t the case; remember, I asked for the stuff that bugged people. However, I do think my survey responses offer a glimpse of those things that can easily go wrong in an office, especially when coworkers and teammates fail to respect each other. At some level, all the categories and specific answers here involve stolen time. Some scholars have claimed that the biblical Ten Commandments boil down to “Thou shalt not steal,” whether the thing stolen is life, property, respect, love, reputation, and so on. If a Business Ten Commandments existed, it would likely boil down to “Thou shalt not steal time.” Even rudeness leads to distraction and aggravation, wasting other people’s time as they deal with the emotional ramifications. Ultimately, their work suffers.
You can’t really control what other people do, unless you’re the team lead; and even then, you can’t rule with an iron fist in the modern business environment. You will suffer from all of these behavior-based time sucks inflicted on you by others. The one person you can fully control is you, however, so keep that in mind the next time you arrive late and unprepared for a meeting, drop by to chat with a colleague under a time crunch, or let fly with a sarcastic comment. Every time you refrain, you could be impacting your team’s productivity for the better.
© 2015 Laura Stack. Laura Stack, a.k.a. The Productivity Pro®, helps professionals achieve Maximum Results in Minimum Time®. For nearly 25 years, her keynote speeches and workshops have helped professionals and leaders boost personal and team productivity, increase results, and save time at work. Laura is the author of seven books by large publishers. Her newest book, Doing the Right Things Right: How the Effective Executive Spends Time, hits bookstores in January. Widely regarded as one of the leading experts in the field of performance and workplace issues, Laura has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and USA Today. Connect via her website, Facebook, or Twitter.