Dear Matt: I’ve dealt with many annoying co-workers over the years — but I just realized I may now be the one annoying colleagues. What are the signs that I’ve turned into the office pest?

Matt says: In today’s fast-paced work environment it can be easy to make a slight slip in etiquette from time to time, says Jim Kwapick, District President of the Minneapolis branch of OfficeTeam (

“If you have a sense that those around you are uncomfortable when talking to you or openly avoid you, it could be a sign that your behavior could be considered rude or unkind,” says Kwapick.

According to an OfficeTeam survey, 29 percent of workers said they work with someone who is rude or unprofessional. Julie Desmond, a Recruiter with Minneapolis-based George Konik Associates, Inc. ( appoints out these common ways one can go from respected colleague to office pest:

• If you smoke, drink excessively on weeknights, or eat strong foods for lunch, you might have an offensive odor. If you use strong perfume, cologne, or slop lotion on at your desk, you could be offending your cube mates. Lay off the fragrances.

• Are you too loud? Most loud talkers don’t realize they’re on maximum volume. You might have to ask for feedback on this.

• Do you ever just listen? Do you ever respond with a question instead of a comment? Do you ever put yourself in other people’s shoes?

• Are you the e-mail over-reactor? Take your time when responding to e-mails and don’t hit “reply all” just to prove you are right. Take a deep breath or step away before responding.

If you do make an etiquette error — and we all do occasionally — make sure you acknowledge it quickly and learn from your mistakes. People tend to forget occasional shortcomings if you take responsibility for them, says Kwapick, who offered these additional tips:

• Get to know your colleagues. Avoid conflicts with co-workers by understanding the daily challenges they face.

• Practice teamwork. Offer to help out colleagues who seem overwhelmed with a project.

• Avoid office gossip. Never say anything about a colleague you wouldn’t say to him or her directly.

• Be considerate. When making a request of someone, take into account the rest of the individual’s workload; they have deadlines, too.

• Share credit. Be sure to go out of your way to publicly comment on the teamwork and the efforts of others that made something possible.

“Sometimes the best move you can make in your career is to look in the mirror,” says Desmond. “If you think people are avoiding you, short with you or just annoyed by your existence, that’s when it’s time to take a minute and assess your office behavior.”

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