5 Signs You May Be a Bad Coworker

You might be the one pushing your coworkers to the edge of sanity.

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I get a lot of mail at Ask a Manager from people consumed with fury over habits their coworkers have—habits that I bet most of those coworkers aren't even aware of.

Here are five signs that you might be the one pushing your coworkers to the limits of their sanity:

[See how to handle defensive coworkers.]

1. You dump last-minute work on people when you could have avoided doing so. There will always be projects that pop up at the last minute, but don't be the coworker who sits on something and doesn't assign it out until late in the game. You'll come across as inconsiderate, and maybe disorganized, too.

2. You complain about people without telling them your beefs directly. We've all had the frustrating feeling of discovering that a coworker is complaining to others about something we did, but won't bother to come talk to us about it directly. When you talk to someone directly, not only do you act more fairly by giving them the chance to know about your complaint and to respond to it, but you may also learn new information that makes you see things in a different light.

[See 5 ways managers fail at a key task.]

3. You exude negativity. Suggestions, new practices, the new guy down the hall—you hate them all and you make sure people know it. You may think that you're demonstrating your value by pointing out flaws all the time, but if you find fault in every suggestion, you'll lose credibility, and eventually people will start finding ways to avoid your input altogether.

4. You bring your personal life to the office in ways that make people uncomfortable. For instance, I used to work with someone who was constantly making personal calls that involved yelling and swearing at the person on the other end. Crying wasn't unheard of either. She never noticed that everyone around her was cringing in discomfort.

5. You're chronically defensive. You bristle at the slightest hint that your work wasn't perfect—even when the hint is imagined. As a result, your coworkers spend more time trying to avoid you than talking to you because they don't want to deal with your prickliness.

If you recognize yourself in any of the above habits, you may be the irritating coworker that colleagues are complaining about to me. Try a one-month moratorium on the behavior and see if any of your relationships improve.

Alison Green is the author of Managing to Change the World: The Nonprofit Leader's Guide to Getting Results. She is chief of staff for the Marijuana Policy Project, a nonprofit lobbying organization, where she oversees day-to-day management of the staff as well as hiring, firing, and staff development. Her writings have been published in the Washington Post, the New York Times, Maxim, and dozens of other newspapers. She blogs at Ask a Manager.

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