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Why Pet Peeves Are Killing Your Team, And What To Do About It?

Why Pet Peeves Are Killing Your Team, And What To Do About It?

Could you be happier at work? Could you be more effective in your job? If you answered yes to either of these questions, there is probably someone or something that is affecting your happiness and effectiveness. Your ability to do your job is not holding you back. It is your ability to get along with others. Most people have no idea the affect their behavior has on others. Over time, our workplace quirks accumulate and chip away at goodwill.

Pet peeves in the workplace initially produce only a mild annoyance, but over time can produce a much more negative emotional response, in turn greatly affecting your happiness and effectiveness. Research from the International Association of Administrative Professionals into workplace pet peeves divided their finding into social and environmental annoyances.

Topping their list of social pet peeves were coworkers’ irritating habits and disruptive office gossip, while uncontrollable room temperatures, noise and unacceptable air quality topped the list of environmental concerns.

Here are the top 5 social pet peeves in the workplace.

  • Co-worker’s Irritating Habit: 36%
  • Office Gossip: 25%
  • Overbearing/Difficult Boss: 25%
  • Foul Language: 18%
  • Speakerphones: 12%

Further research in the Journal of Social Psychology found that of the co-workers irritating habits, the top frustrations were smacking gum, mumbling, not listening, complaining, uncleanliness, and being late.

Shawn Stratton

© PROJill Erickson

The major problem with fixing these social pet peeves is the person performing the annoying behavior, in most cases, has no idea their actions are bothering you. Sadly, your behavior is probably affecting someone else as well and you have no idea.

To see more common workplace pet peeves check out this list of hilarious and sarcastic ‘Rules for Work’ that would drive just about anyone nuts. You can find the full list by clicking here:

Without the person knowing the effect of their behavior on others, it is likely they will never change. This brings me to the one question that will solve or at least address the frustration causing behavior. The question is:

If you had a magic wand what is one behavior you would like me to change?

Shawn Stratton

© Matt DeTurck

That’s it. If we only had the courage to ask the people we work and live with this one question, so many of our frustrations would be off our chest and into the head of someone who can do something about it.

I have underlined behavior in the questions because too often people expect someone’s personality to change but according to most personality type theories, the individual’s type is inborn and does not change. What you can do is indicate the effect their behaviour has on you and suggest ways they could alter their behaviour using Feedforward (read post on feedforward).

If the thought of asking this question of your co-workers scares the heck out of you, I recommend you start with asking your spouse or best friend (someone who has unconditional love for you). My wife and I actually did this last week while on a backpacking trip. I wasn’t shocked by what she told be but it was a good reminder for me to be aware of a certain behavioral pattern I have and the effect it has on her.

Awareness Is the First Step to Change

It is usually a good practice to balance out constructive feedback with positive feedback. When asking the question of a peer, it is nice that you follow it up with two or three positive behaviors you admire or appreciate about them.

Your action this week is to ask one person you live or work with daily “If you had a magic wand what is one behavior you would like me to change”?

When you ask the question, let me know if you learn any insights to your behaviour.

Until next week… Embrace the Adventure!


Shawn Stratton is an international leadership and team building consultant, professional speaker, bestselling author, Ironman competitor, and expedition guide.

Click here to learn more about how Shawn can help your organization.


  • Kowalski, R. M., Allison, B., Giumetti, G. W., Turner, J., Whittaker, E., Frazee, L., & Stephens, J. (2014). Pet Peeves and Happiness: How Do Happy People Complain?. Journal Of Social Psychology, 154(4), 278-282.doi:10.1080/00224545.2014.906380
  • Pet Peeves In Today’s Officeplace.(1996). Secretary, 56(7), 4.