Did you ever stop to think that your coworkers, their stories, and the space you inhabit are in essence a microcosm of society as a whole? Because most of us will spend significant portions of our lives with our coworkers — not to mention meeting potential clients — it is imperative that we abide by basic rules of human decency.

You won’t find anything in this article against wearing Hawaiian shirts outside of the Aloha state. What you will find is a list of no-nos that you should never dare try at the office … like wearing said shirt, but dirty.

A word of caution: This article may not be suited for those who get queasy from reading about nail clippings. You’ve been warned! 

fridge

 

10. The smelly monster in the fridge

We’ve all been there: opening the shared office fridge door to look for our leftover pizza when the smell hits you … hard. While bringing your lunch to work is a good way to save money and watch the calories, leaving it to become a moldy and smelly mess in the fridge is not a good idea. Someone has to throw it out, eventually. Plus, do you really want to anger the office gods?

How to stop it:

Leave yourself a sticky note or set a notification on your email inbox: “REMEMBER: FOOD IN FRIDGE.” Take it home and eat it for dinner. That way, you won’t waste any food.

If you’re the one reminding everyone, set up a calendar notification of when you’re going to clean out the fridge, so it happens on a regular basis.

donut

9. The food thief

There’s nothing worse than going to the kitchen and finding out that your lunch is gone, Tupperware and all. Well, there is something worse: complaining about your stolen lunch, suspecting everyone, and then having a Facebook page set up offering a ransom in exchange for the stolen Tupperware.

The bottom line is that stealing is never a good idea.

How to stop it:

If you’re the thief, be a decent human being, do the right thing and bring in your own lunch. If you can’t do this, then you’re doomed for life. All thieves are eventually caught, especially now with the advances in security and itty-bitty cameras that aren’t visible, but that are definitely capable of documenting you grabbing that bacon PB&J that is not yours.

If you’re the lunchless, label your lunch. You can also buy anti-theft lunch bags (yes, these are real) to try to deter thieves. Or play a nasty prank on the thief: send out an email that the food they ate was recalled by the company who made it, which according to this Bloomberg article, has only worked once.

nail

8. Clipping both finger and toe nails at work (ew!)

Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse…yes, there are people who decide that their offices are nail salons.

How to stop it:

Have a private conversation with the “clipper” coworker and let them know that it bothers you, or ask your boss to send out an email about office etiquette and be specific about what’s accepted and what’s not tolerated.

makeup

7. Ladies putting on makeup at their desks

OK, so having a small mirror and lipgloss handy by your desk isn’t an offense, right? Yes, it is. Worse still is bringing the whole makeup bag or box to work. This is part of a grooming ritual, just like clipping your nails, and should be kept private, says the queen of etiquette, Emily Post.  

How to stop it:

This one can also be addressed in that office-wide email that your boss will send about workplace etiquette. If you’re one of the ladies that does this, wake up earlier to put on your makeup or go au naturel. (We are all beautiful anyhow!)

body odor

6. Poor hygiene

If there’s one thing that really gives a bad impression, it is poor hygiene. While we won’t get into the details as to why one should always be clean and have no weird body smells, having poor hygiene can even get you in trouble with human resources

How to stop it:

There is absolutely no excuse for having poor hygiene in public anywhere or any time. If you went to the gym to work out in the morning, make sure that you shower before hitting the office. Your coworkers might like you, but that doesn’t mean they have to stand your “natural musk.” We’re not in the Middle Ages anymore.

If you need help with how to handle this issue, this website has some good tips.

perfume

 

5. Lots of perfume or cologne

While having poor hygiene is a big no-no, smelling like the perfume department at Macy’s is another one. Leaving a trail of perfume in your wake only seems to work in cartoons. 

How to stop it:

You know the type of coworker who does this: there’s a trail of scent down the hallway or in the area surrounding their office. While some may think this is preferable to poor hygiene, others can be allergic to strong smells. To resolve this problem, talk gently to the coworker or include it in the workplace etiquette email. Yahoo also offers some really good advice on this one.

brush

4. Brushing your hair at the office

You want to always look your best, but that doesn’t mean that you have to start brushing your hair at work to get in the recommended 100 brush strokes per day. This is another grooming practice that should be left for when you’re at home. 

How to stop it:

We get it, Marcia, but this is just plain gross. Plus, shedding like a cat everywhere is messy and inconsiderate.

barefoot

3. Walking around the office barefoot

Sure, you have wonderful feet! It’s why you never miss a pedicure appointment. Still, there’s something very icky and unprofessional about walking around barefoot in a place of business.

A Fast Company article that quotes a survey from Adecco says that 40 percent of those surveyed aren’t OK with people going barefoot at the office. If you’re part of that 40 percent, keep reading. 

How to stop it:

If your shoes are too tight or bothering you, maybe you shouldn’t wear them. It’s not good for circulation or your feet. Fast Company recommends wearing thinner soled shoes, so that it feels like you’re barefoot (but stay away from the flip flops).

smoking

2. Smoking and then bringing that smoke into a closed space

While this is a very touchy subject and we don’t want to offend anyone, the truth is that smokers do bring the tobacco smell indoors in their hair, skin and clothes. For many people, this is a major offense. 

How to stop it:

While some people have vices they can’t kick, it doesn’t mean that we have to join them. If you’re a smoker, make sure to do it in a well-ventilated area or at least spend a few minutes outside after you finish, so that the cloud of tobacco doesn’t follow you indoors. We’re not living on the set of Mad Men, you know.

sick

 

1. Going to work sick

For those who breathe, live and work in the cubicle farm, having a front-facing or next-desk neighbor who is coughing up a storm is just one more reason to protest the trend of open concept modern offices. There’s nothing that anyone hates more than sharing a sweet Spring cold or, worse, strep.  

How to stop it:

Sometimes workers run out of sick days; sometimes they think that “powering through” their cold or flu is going to help them get better faster. While we feel sorry that you’re sick, we also don’t want to partake in the germs. Stay home if you can, or, if you’re sick, maybe put up a “quarantine zone” sign nearby or let your cubicle neighbors know not to get too close. And keep the coughing and sneezing inside a tissue or your elbow. 

See also:

Citizenship and work habits: Do your job — all of it!

15 of the worst office pet peeves

10 bad work habits that you’re doing right now (and how to stop them)