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Geraldine Ogwe: 12 Work Place Behaviours To Avoid



By virtue of my official position, I manage dozens of employees attached to several firms. Through this experience, I have come across scores of toxic behaviors that push people away from each other. And I have witnessed the devastation these behaviors cause – to relationships, to personal and professional growth, and to the general well-being of both the individual behaving negatively, and to everyone in their lives.

Our behavior is a little thing that makes a big difference. Most of us aim not to be rude in the workplace but sometimes, the line is thin between adorable quirkiness and just plain annoying.

Certain attitudes are not to be exhibited at all, especially at the work place. When you exhibit such attitudes, you may end up pushing people away from you. If you are observant, you will only notice that people avoid you but you may not know why. As a manager, I don’t have the privilege to avoid people. I can only caution and correct.

I have outlined a few of the negative attitudes below:

Passing The Buck
Blaming everyone but ourselves. The cleaner is responsible for the dirty office. Who littered the papers on the floor in the first place? The co-worker is responsible for the failed project. Einstein, your silence was deafening. How come you never suggested anything? Maturity means taking responsibility. It’s okay to take the blame even when you are not directly responsible for the fault. Let’s not leave it to Akon alone.

Lack of Focus on Current Task
Some people do not concentrate on the present and people standing in front of them since they are always looking for the next adrenaline rush. Virtually or physically. They offer one person’s solution to another person’s problem. In Pharmacy, this is dangerous. You can imagine prescribing a levonorgestrel to a woman who needs a gonadotropin. A lady cashier was once very busy in her juicy gossip with her colleague that she overpaid me without realizing it. I tried to draw her attention by dropping the excess pay on her slab. She wasn’t even paying attention. She just paused to thank me for the “tip”. Others lose focus based on their current emotional state. A man who was offended by his wife just before leaving the house should be mature enough not to let that distract him at work.

Taking Everything Too Personal
People are toxic to be around when they believe that everything happening around them is a direct assault on them. It’s far more productive and healthy to let go of other people’s good or bad opinion of you, and to operate with your own intuition and wisdom as your guide. Don’t turn any conversation into a story about what happened to you, regardless of the topic at hand.

Not Knowing Your Job
When I went for US Visa interview, the Consular asked a young man why he wanted to visit Atlanta. The young man replied, “Atlanta is my favorite country”. What a blunder! How can you not know where you are travelling to? The same with your job. You should know your job description and also devise more ways to improve on your job. Nobody wants to associate with a clueless co-worker. You should justify your salary.

Screen Spying
I always halt colleagues who enter my office and come straight to “inspect” my activities on my computer as if there was an announcement that I was the one pulling down the company. Don’t be an unpaid unsolicited spy. Even if you pass someone’s desk to another location in the office, you don’t need to consciously or unconsciously stare too long at their screens.

Office Gossip
Don’t live exclusively for stories about the private lives of other people. Gossiping in the office during working hours is an act of joblessness. If that gossip is not about making more money for the organization, make it brief. Gossip has the added bonus of possibly causing those you’re gossiping about to eject themselves from the workplace. You do not want to be looked at as the one to have driven employees away – especially by management.

Having a Bad Sense of Space
You don’t need to stand on the step right behind me going up the escalator when there are other empty steps. Standing on my shoulder in the elevator will not get you to your destination faster. That I compliment your colour combination skill doesn’t mean I want to see you each time you look like a circus performer. You can send an email or a text message. Give people their personal space to be happy, or at least, productive employees.

The Glory-Taker
Be the glory-giver instead. Whenever someone (especially management) says something complimentary about your work, bend over backwards to publicly give credit to everyone who helped or contributed in even the slightest way to your success. You’ll be amazed at how willing people will be to help you. If you usurp glory all the time, people will naturally not want to help you. We all need help at some point and we all want to be appreciated when we help someone.

Positional By-Pass
Give honour to your immediate superior. You don’t need to meet the Managing Director if your superior, the Marketing Manager, can handle the present challenge. Don’t make your superior look stupid before his own superior. It is not wise to directly or indirectly show your superior that you have no regards for him. If you always cover your superior’s shame before his higher authority, he will always protect your job.

Dominating Group Conversations with Interruptions & Interjections
Don’t be the type to interrupt conversation all the time. Some people just barge into a conversation and ask, “What happened?” If you wanted to know what happened, you would have arrived earlier. If you missed a point, you can ask questions later or interrupt politely and less frequently. Don’t always throw in jokes during serious discussions. We need to lighten up but let’s not confuse a Board Meeting with an AY Show.

Eating in the Office
It is not wise to eat flavored and spicy foods in the office during working hours, especially if you share office with others. Don’t eat foods that people can guess you are eating. Everybody should not know that you are eating roasted plantain. It does not portray a good image of the organization to visitors, unless your organization is advertising the health benefits of roasted plantain. The one that irks me is eating and attending to clients the same time. This is not the ideal way to multitask.

Withholding Information
Don’t withhold information just to maintain an advantage over others. Some co-workers would not spare a supplier’s phone number but would go behind to call the supplier. They would not suggest ideas to execute a group project but would cunningly present such ideas to Management.

We spend a lot of time at the workplace. There is no reason why that time should be spent displaying or condoning any of the listed behaviors. Be someone everyone wants to work with, not avoid.

What co-worker behavior do you find the most annoying and how do you deal with it?

Photo Credit: Dreamstime | Bobby Deal


  1. Emem

    September 24, 2014 at 11:00 am

    Wow!!! This is extremely helpful!!!

  2. Dids

    September 24, 2014 at 11:06 am

    Stuck-up much….. *runs*

  3. TomatoJos

    September 24, 2014 at 11:28 am

    Speaking your native dialect in the office, when there are some people that do not understand it. I once worked in an office where we were three ladies, two were from the same place, as were the cleaners and most drivers. They clucked away in their mother tongue while at work. not minding that they were sharing the office with others. I had drown them out with my headpiece most of the time because even when three of us were having a conversation in English, one of them would switch to their dialect and that left me looking like a third leg most times. I think its very disrespectful to speak strange languages in front of people who do not understand it, and also make loud and long personal calls in the office. thank God I was moved to another dept/office. it was quite irritating.

    • chu

      September 24, 2014 at 12:14 pm

      What of when the ‘natives’ of that land speak in their mother tongue, not caring whether others understand it or it? I work in Lagos and my colleagues speak Yoruba all the time. They only speak English when addressing me. Iv’e learnt to shut them out, and as a sharp waffi girl you can’t outsmart, no matter what language, lol.

    • Rich

      September 24, 2014 at 12:49 pm

      I feel u tomato jos…speaking a different lang where there are non speakers of the lang is termed rude by me…the other office behaviour I frown at is when someone comes to my work station and am on the phone and you stay put there even when I have signaled that am on line In case eye dey pain am) and u still refuse to get the cue and still stand like I ve got the keys to heaven . Another is people who meet the toilet clean and live it messy for the next person… beats me.i had to put a sign in my office toilet one day that d cleaners are human being like everyone of us.

    • Ceetoo

      September 24, 2014 at 1:30 pm

      If you are making a personal call during work hours and your boss comes to your desk (that shows it is important) you are expected to cut the call and attend to him or her. even if they are not your boss if the call is personal once a coll who might be your internal customer shows up you have to end that call right away and attend to them. it is only here I have seen people chatting away to family and friends meanwhile office matters and issues are waiting to be attended to and when they bring it right to your desk or your station you have the effrontery to continue. I queried one of the guys that report to me about this. She just kept on talking and talking meanwhile I had a work related issue she needed to attend to. And she was speaking her native dialect which she assumed I did not understand…. *roll eyes* . in some organization aboard keep ur personal phone and calls till after work hours… finish

    • onye

      September 24, 2014 at 2:57 pm

      people should not even be using your mobile phone to make personal calls in the office

  4. AAA Events & Design

    September 24, 2014 at 11:31 am

    That was nice.

  5. ammy

    September 24, 2014 at 11:40 am

    Speaking in their native dialect- YORUBA people like to do that thing always, very rude.

    • I_I

      September 24, 2014 at 12:55 pm

      Well, well – don’t let’s raise the tribalistic flag just yet – the Igbos in my corporate financial services office cannot get through an hour with reverting to Igbo. It cuts across all.

    • Valerie

      September 24, 2014 at 1:22 pm

      Really!!!! It’s only the yorubas that speak their language in an office environment. Could we please stop making general comments towards a particular ethnic group. We should have grown beyond that, it’s just natural that people from the same area/region tend to have lots in common.

    • Amina

      September 24, 2014 at 2:32 pm

      Your comment is very biased and unreasonable, no offence. Every tribe does it! I hate when people pick on a particular tribe. I am Hausa and I used to work in PH (thank goodness I left the damn place). My boss was Yoruba and all my co-workers were Ibo and Ikwerre, ALL THE TIME my co workers will speak Ibo when they clearly knew I didn’t understand Ibo. Whether it was official, gist, anything. So bad that I started to understand the language a bit. They’d even abuse my boss that he was neat for a Yoruba man, imagine? So my dear, get your facts right and do not attribute that behavior to Yoruba’s alone.

    • Sengledish

      September 24, 2014 at 3:15 pm

      If you have a problem with Yoruba being spoken please get the next available flight to your region. Indigenous language should be encouraged. In the north, no matter how learned a Hausa man is, he speaks his language. So why generalise and blame it on Yoruba’s. Its only when u r guilty u will feel u r being talked about. I enjoy speaking in my dialect and am proud of it cus not every word has a direct translation in English.

    • Bullet

      September 24, 2014 at 2:59 pm

      Your statement lacks intelligence..and it seems you just came from he village…., this cuts across every tribe all over the world……………….and generalising this across a single tribe is also quite very rude of you!!!..How about your tribe people always lousy in my office environment?……oes that mean all people from your tribe are lousy?..Instead of you to pick the one that applies to you and change….you going on the defensive……You will get high BP and diabetes on top this YORUBA this ,Yoruba that matter.

    • Sengledish

      September 24, 2014 at 4:22 pm

      Its you that will get a cardiac heart attack on the Yoruba people cus I v no probs with people speaking their language. Being lousy is not peculiar to a particular tribe rather individual personality’s. I have a Igbo colleague who sings about his China trips to everyone’s ear.. So it is an individual trait. If you are in Lagos Yoruba “shall” be spoken and same applies to every other region. So get used to it or go get a job in ur underdeveloped region. Lol

    • NGOZI

      September 24, 2014 at 7:29 pm

      Another illogical comment from Bullet. Nigerians sha, instead of them to learn from this article, they’ve turned it to tribal war, how you can call a tribe lousy is shocking to me. Pack your bags and go to your home town where people aren’t lousy, ngwanu?

    • NGOZI

      September 24, 2014 at 7:20 pm

      Me I don’t understand how we Igbos and other tribes will come to Lagos and be accusing Yoruba’s or we go to Abuja and forever complain about Hausa, we must sha complain. Ngwanu let’s go back to Awka, Sapele, Onitsha, Owerri, Uyo and Enugu now? As in even though I’m not Yoruba the thing annoys me.

    • May

      September 25, 2014 at 6:29 am

      and how is Sapele an Igbo town?

    • NGOZI

      September 25, 2014 at 12:43 pm

      Maybe if you opened your eyes when reading you’d see where I said Igbos and other tribes.

    • Sem

      September 24, 2014 at 7:55 pm

      This is the same issue the article is talking about. Face the point and stop unnecessary generalizations. Say what you don’t like and move on Jeezzzz…Have you taken a head count of all the Yoruba people in all the business organizations for you to determine that all Yoruba people do that. Its people like you that would probably attack a person instead of attacking the issue…You better read the article again to understand what its saying and use the message in it…

    • TK

      October 15, 2014 at 2:20 pm



    September 24, 2014 at 11:43 am

    most of the things written here are soo true and most co workers are incorrigible.

  7. Sifonde

    September 24, 2014 at 11:44 am

    thank you BN for featuring this article. people need to rethink their purpose of being in a cooperate environment. WELL SAID TOO


    September 24, 2014 at 11:53 am

    This is so nice.I Can relate and i have learnt a great deal from this master piece.

  9. abby

    September 24, 2014 at 12:20 pm

    This writeup is just for me….learnt a lot,I have even put down some points as regards what I shouldn’t do at work. I just rounded up my Nysc some months ago and currently working with a small establishment, having issues at work just because of my attitude at work…thanks Geraldine…. Hope to put these to work!

  10. Amdi

    September 24, 2014 at 12:57 pm

    Don’t tell me what to do and what I shouldn’t do. Workplace rules are enough. Kindergarten…that’s where this dos and donts of yours are needed. Good on you though.

  11. Chloe

    September 24, 2014 at 12:59 pm

    Does eating Corn and pear in the office classify as spicy food?

    • Ogo

      September 24, 2014 at 1:21 pm

      LMAOOOOOOO!! Hactually, it doesnt!! Ride on sister…

    • ada

      September 24, 2014 at 1:27 pm

      hahahaha @ corn and “ube”

  12. Gloria

    September 24, 2014 at 1:04 pm

    Am so posting this on facebook, this is so educating! Interesting piece..

  13. deb

    September 24, 2014 at 1:19 pm

    @ my former law firm, this lady with 5 kids (a senior colleague) will come to me and check the tags of my shirt/dress forcefully, asking “u mean it’s from your makeup business you get money to buy these expensive things”. A lot of people don’t have manners, respect and self esteem, the best I [email protected] is ignore irritating people. I don’t discuss myself and I know my limits with my boss.

    • Tru

      September 24, 2014 at 4:52 pm

      Thank you oooo….so annoying when some folks think they have the right to make you feel guilty or ashamed for what you own or what you have achieved, just because they may be older or married(and you’re single). And because you have to act like a well-brought up girl, you have to stay silent. Lord give us strength.

  14. MissW

    September 24, 2014 at 1:22 pm

    Well said!

  15. ada

    September 24, 2014 at 1:28 pm

    sending this to my HR. so inspiring

  16. efe

    September 24, 2014 at 1:34 pm

    Very useful tips and to add to the list. It is so so annoying when you go to the restroom,knock no response ,open and to find someone there who has not taken time to lock the door and even respond when you knock at the door. Common with the male folks in my workplace.

  17. Ephi

    September 24, 2014 at 2:18 pm

    One other behavior that seems to cut across all boundaries is A**-licking/Eye Service. Those that do it might think they are being coded and no one else realizes what they are doing but people can read such behaviour like a book.

  18. lizzy

    September 24, 2014 at 2:22 pm

    fantastic guidelines and very helpful .

  19. azzy

    September 24, 2014 at 2:31 pm


  20. Amina

    September 24, 2014 at 2:32 pm

    Your comment is very biased and unreasonable, no offence. Every tribe does it! I hate when people pick on a particular tribe. I am Hausa and I used to work in PH (thank goodness I left the damn place). My boss was Yoruba and all my co-workers were Ibo and Ikwerre, ALL THE TIME my co workers will speak Ibo when they clearly knew I didn’t understand Ibo. Whether it was official, gist, anything. So bad that I started to understand the language a bit. They’d even abuse my boss that he was neat for a Yoruba man, imagine? So my dear, get your facts right and do not attribute that behavior to Yoruba’s alone.

  21. wunm

    September 24, 2014 at 3:00 pm

    I find forming alliances, Eye service alias see me “I dey do”& office politics very irritating. It kills team spirit. I see it happen a lot in my work place but I simply ignore such people though hard & give my best to my job. I don’t need acknowledgement from man but from God.

  22. rich

    September 24, 2014 at 3:33 pm

    @ceeto….guess i should have explained better…..what i mean is when am on a business call and a colleague that needs either tipex or one office stationery that can wait or the other comes to my desk .as a matter of rule. I rarely take personal calls at work. As I prefer sms t but if I have to take calls eh,I sometimes take it in the restroom or drop the call once someone is in front of me

    • OmogeNaija

      September 24, 2014 at 4:04 pm

      @rich, I appreciate the maturity you displayed in your response

  23. Personal Assistant

    September 24, 2014 at 4:22 pm

    Good article. Please add these to the list
    Long throat or begi begi colleagues or those ones who put their hands into your food/snack, whether you are there or not, invited or not. One dude in my office will still drink any drink he finds on your desk, whether opened or not. Even if its urine in a bottle, as long as he finds it on your desk, in a bottle he wants to drink.

    Cleanliness. How do you try to talk to a colleague who wears same shirt three consecutive days in a week. (Please i know he doesnt have 3 of the same shirt). I cant imagine how his underwear will be.

    • Sengledish

      September 25, 2014 at 10:03 am

      My dear count urself priviledged. Food that u will eat and excrete at the end of the day. That u v excess dosent mean all can afford it.

  24. Kukks

    September 24, 2014 at 4:37 pm

    Nah that screen spying PAIN ME PASS! My bosses are found of doing it all the time. I just had to be calm about it cause i’m the youngest in the office.

  25. Tru

    September 24, 2014 at 4:40 pm

    “Atlanta is my favourite country” ROTFL ROTFL ROTFL. Choi, maka why???

  26. Kukks

    September 24, 2014 at 4:41 pm


  27. Kukks

    September 24, 2014 at 4:42 pm

    *fond #typo

  28. Anon

    September 24, 2014 at 5:37 pm

    The looking at computer screen part speaks to me haha. Wish i could tag my colleagues here

  29. The LeftOvers

    September 24, 2014 at 6:11 pm

    Screen spying happened to me although it was not so much a computer screen as a private application I was filling out. This was not on company time or on the company’s premises. It was at a coffee shop after work hours and I was certain none of my coworkers would notice. Only to have one walk up to me and plant himself beside me. Before I could cover up what I was doing, he’d already spied the application and asked me about it.

    I have always had the suspicion that the lack of success with that particular application was JINXED by this person spying on it. What could I do, I had to send it out that day in order to meet the application deadline.

    (painful) SIGH.

  30. anonymous

    September 24, 2014 at 6:14 pm

    OMG..d screen spying part irritates d hell out of me..almost all my colleagues are guilty of dis- altho there is one irritant that takes d cake. I once had 2 call out a friend/colleague on dis issue; and it went very badly as she warned me never in my life 2 say such to her again. I dnt care sha, if I see peeping @ my screen. I go yab u. Shikena

  31. Sem

    September 24, 2014 at 7:59 pm

    One of the things I hate the most is when people are in my personal space…OMG that thing not only irritates me it also pisses me off especially when they start breathing on you…Also when you try to move a bit from them to create space between both you they still come closer with them thinking you wanted them to be near you. I remember one time travelling with a colleague and she kept invading my personal space, I will move to try and create some space but she would still come closer. I finally had to put my hand luggage directly at my back to create some permanent space…Jeez people sha…especially when they smell na die…

  32. Akpo 'Diddie Uyeh

    September 24, 2014 at 8:10 pm

    Wow..thanks for the tips.They were very insightful.. I’m saving them for reference

  33. Seyi (

    September 24, 2014 at 10:43 pm

    God bless you …

    ‘It is not wise to eat flavored and spicy foods in the office during working hours, especially if you share office with others. Don’t eat foods that people can guess you are eating.’

    People really need to understand this. It is irritating…

  34. sefi-ann

    September 25, 2014 at 12:25 am

    I wont lie, I’m guilty of screen-spying. I don’t do it intentionally but if I am walking past your desk, my eyes automatically avert to your screen especially if your screen is facing me while your back is towards me. Its really hard not to look, sighh.

  35. BlueEyed

    September 25, 2014 at 6:48 am

    Nice article, people need to read this and learn this basic work place ethics. I work with women and I’m impressed at how they conduct theirselves in the work place, however it is some of the men who surprise me , I call them out immediately cos I’m very professional when it comes to work.
    On a different note, one of my colleagues (from another unit) invited me to her wedding, automatically assuming I was single and didn’t need to bring a plus one, she even emailed me about it. I was offended no lie.

  36. Miss Pee

    September 25, 2014 at 10:55 am

    @ Geraldine, I agree with the other points, but I disagree with your second to last point, I work in an office where bole or roasted plantain, yam, sweet potato is the only food I eat in a day, more over we don’t have a lounge in my office, what should someone like me do in such situation?

  37. A Bili

    September 25, 2014 at 2:08 pm

    mine is playing music while at work, especially where the person works in an open office environment. if you must play music at work please get an ear piece. it is just N200.
    the other is eye service!!!

  38. Miss Anonymous

    September 25, 2014 at 6:15 pm

    Nice article. That personal space one is so true. I have this colleague (in fact he’s sitting beside me right now) who must ALWAYS touch you when he’s talking to you. He”ll be like “ehen, have you seen that memo?” touches my shoulder* please take a look at it” *touches my hand*.
    I had to warn him when Ebola was rife to stop touching me. Now people aren’t so scared of the virus, he has reverted to his touching ways! *side eye*

  39. African Salon Dubai

    September 25, 2014 at 6:34 pm

    Ladies – please learn to distinguish between office and night club dress codes (including make-up and hair). Glitter eye shadow and talon nails are not for the office!

  40. office etiquette

    September 25, 2014 at 8:31 pm

    Chimoooo… where do I start from.
    (1) Placing yourself behind me like you’re my personal greek statue. Mbanu, stop it. Stop staring at my screen and no, its not funny to think you just startled me.
    (2). Office gossip. I (let me write this word in capital letters to show the level of my disdain) HATE office gossip (s). Its not cool at all. And if you must, please keep your voice level to a minimum.
    (3) office idle chatter. You all have that one friend at work that you havs to gist about your weekend escapades/sexcapades. Please, save the rest of your coworkers the gist, especially if you have hearing problems. Some people just have hearing problems and cant tell they are talking rather quite loud. This is my motto: the level you normally speak at, tone it down 3x, thats the level you should speak in the office. Annoying laughs is in this category. Some white folks and their laughs, its like a locomotive coming to a grind.
    (4) personal space! Oh how important. You save yourself the embarrassment. You know when you talk and that one aborted, shameless saliva/spit decides to leave its habitat and land on the other persons face or lips. Yes those people, the say it dont spray it folks, see why personal space is important. I dont allow anyone (I dont care if you are obama) to get away with the grasshopper saliva deal, ill call you out on it straight-up, it may be jokingly, but you will still be humiliated by me for that gaffes.
    (5) sexual innuendos/inference at work. Some Nigerian men can so do this, its disgusting. Wait until after hours before your swinging on chandeliers/sex conversation unleashes.

  41. office etiquette

    September 25, 2014 at 8:43 pm

    Before I forget this very important one… (10) lovers of crisis. Every project meeting, all you come up with are problems but you have no solution. I tell my employees, its ok to bring issues forward, we can all think about it and come to a solution before it affects schedule and profit, but bring a solution with your problem. That is what you’re paid for, your brain and ability. if we all had problems with no solutiins, the company would simply run out of business.
    (9) Those people that strategically places several knives in your back to climb up the professional ladder. Yes, all you backstabbers at work. It never works. It only works for a while and then others would see you for what you really are and then the office politics begins. It is a disease, stop it.

  42. derhmy

    September 26, 2014 at 1:21 pm

    nice…buh d consular wud not be the one to interview a visa applicant! the Atlanta is my favorite country cracked me up tho

  43. SAP HCM

    September 29, 2014 at 5:53 pm

    1. In my office, the one wey dey pain pass na this #teamiammarried,#teamdishingoutadvice. For crying out loud you don’t know why we are single. It just hasn’t happened for some of us and then the advice starts rolling in. Like seriously, its so intrusive.

    The next time someone is approaching your screen just press ( windows logo + L). They want to know where you are applying to?, which email is that?, what website are you looking at ? So you order things from this store ?#ghostmode immediately

  44. feggy

    October 16, 2014 at 2:37 pm

    #Almost fell off my seat laughing when i saw the roasted plantain# That’s our IT dude. Nice 1 i’m making necessary changes already.

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