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Annoying office habits lead 40 per cent to consider leaving jobs

Big problems in employment relations - such as discrimination, gross misconduct, bullying and harassment - are usually dealt with through policies, procedures and legislation.

But it's the little niggles that more regularly upset the day-to-day running of the workplace, and they are often among the hardest things broach, sometimes flying below the radar and demanding precision-point management skills to put right.

Late, lazy, messy, smelly and noisy

The most irritating office habits are regularly being late, constant moaning and eating strong-smelling foods, according to a survey by Viking.

Fifth and sixth on the list were deliberately being slow at tasks or taking too many cigarette breaks, suggesting that any kind of tardiness, time-wasting or laziness is likely to get your colleagues' dander up.

Other annoying traits hinge upon low self-awareness or social skills: bad personal hygiene, being too loud on the phone, spraying deodorants while at the desk, being untidy, invading personal space, humming and whistling, clicking pens and tapping, and forgetting to make the tea round.

Only one in nine respondents said that their colleagues didn't annoy them in any way - which suggests that most of us spend our days fuming about our neighbours' behaviour.

Putting it right

Do we do anything about it? Women were more likely to suffer in silence, with 35 per cent preferring to avoid conflict, compared with 26 per cent of men.

Almost two in five men took action (compared with 27 per cent of women), either by informing a senior colleague (11 per cent) or telling the culprit to stop in person (29 per cent).

Some 40 per cent of respondents said they'd considered changing jobs because of bad habits, and one in twenty had actually done so.

Regular conversations between employees and with managers can help make people become more aware of how certain behaviour can upset and irritate colleagues.

It's not easy for managers to have conversations with staff about personal issues, particularly if they lack the skills to do it with sensitivity.

But failing to manage bad habits early and quickly will make it much harder to resolve differences in the long run. And workplace conflict lowers staff morale, knocks performance, and increases sickness absence and employee turnover.

The informal, flexible and voluntary nature of mediation is often an effective way to find a solution to interpersonal disagreements and even breakdowns in relationships.

Acas publications and services

Acas are the experts when it comes to Resolving workplace disputes and can help you with all aspects of Mediation.

Acas people can visit your organisation, help you build effective working relationships, and introduce an internal workplace mediation scheme. See Disputes and mediation: how Acas can help for more information.

Practical training on essential Skills for supervisors, Handling difficult conversations, Mediation and Conflict management can assist your managers in resolving internal disputes early and effectively.

Acas can help you develop your own workplace mediation scheme with guidance on how to integrate mediation into your organisation. This can include training your own workplace mediators and accrediting them with the Certificate in Internal Workplace Mediation (CIWM).

For free, impartial advice and guidance visit Acas Helpline Online.

Visit the Acas Training Courses, Workshops and Projects area for more information.

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