In every office, there are plenty of little things that mildly annoy us from time to time, like someone calling a last-minute meeting, running out of milk for coffee, and having to toss someone else’s Coke can from a meeting room. But then, there are those things that make working with one another downright difficult and effectively kill collaborative working. You know, the stuff you secretly Skype with your buddies about or keep close to your vest for coffee breaks and lunch circles. Here are five big ones.

1. ADHD music

Not everyone has the same taste in music—we all know that. There are the Journey fans, the Daft Punk fans, the country music fans, the American-Idol-style fans—you know what I’m talking about.

Although, it’s tempting to want to please everyone when is comes to the airwaves in the office, the opposite is usually the outcome—you end up pleasing no one. Just look at “easy listening”, a genre of music specifically designed to not offend anyone that’s impossible for most of us to listen to. It can drive your coworkers to comments like, “What’s up with the music today?” “I hate this song” or “Who has control of the music?”

The point is, it’s distracting and one by one people will start putting on their headphones and zoning out to their own soundtrack. So why is this bad? Because if you want to chat, ask a question, or get a quick opinion, you have to first get someone’s attention, then make them take off their headphones, and then pretend that you didn’t see a hint of them being mildly annoyed. Because of the ordeal surrounding it, you’re less likely to engage with them again while they’re jamming out—which is a collaboration killer.

What you can do about it: Try picking one theme or genre and play it all day. Movie soundtracks, jazz, indie rock, oldies, whatever. Or try playing one awesome band for the entire workday—like the Rolling Stones (insert hand-horns). Rotate new bands, genres, and themes in periodically to gage everyone’s reaction and add/delete accordingly. If it starts to grow legs, your work mates will start expecting their Beatles Monday or hip-hop Friday—and that’s awesome.

2. Office breath

Halitosis. It’s a living, breathing, snarling monster set loose in the office, and it’s looking for you right now. About 1 in 5 people has it, so odds are it’ll find it’s way to your desk or the empty chair next to you in the conference room very soon. We don’t need to get into the reasons why bad breath kills face-to-face collaboration. It’s pretty obvious. And it’s one of those things you can’t really tell a coworker outright, unless you’re really, really good friends with them.

What you can do about it: Keep a pack of mints on you. When the monster arrives, pass them out like holiday candy. It helps if you hand them out to more than just the one person with stinky breath, and also take one yourself, so it doesn’t come off as you’re singling one person out. And in the unfortunate circumstance that everyone’s always offering you mints, a tongue scraper, lunchtime brushing, and flossing religiously works wonders.

3. The energy vampire

This is the person who seems to be kind of annoyed by everything. It’s tough to talk with them, because for every piece of good news you have, they have a pessimistic piece to counter it. Instead of showing up to meetings with brilliant ideas, they tend to list all the reasons why everything won’t work. They’re hard to be around and even harder to collaborate with.

What you can do about it: Try to avoid this person if you can. They will drain the life force from you if you let them. Don’t go to lunch with them, don’t sit next to them in meetings, and for the love of everything that is beautiful in the world, don’t let them corner you at the holiday party.

4. The self-proclaimed guru

Being knowledgeable is great and is tremendously helpful in most situations. But when self-proclaimed gurus try to be a one-person team, it defeats the purpose of the team dynamic. Dismissing talent and expertise of individuals on a team can ultimately harm the project you’re all working on by limiting your options. No one person knows everything, nor should anyone expect them to.

What you can do about it: Keep a sharp eye out for the strengths ever team member brings to each project—everyone has at least one. And be prepared to call on them for their best opinion and work in this arena. While not all projects will run perfectly, you want to increases your chances of getting the best possible result and reduce your risk of everything falling on one person’s shoulders. When everyone participates (and brings their A-game), everyone celebrates success—and that’s great for building bullet-proof teams.

5. The incredible mutating project

At some point or another, we starting working on a project that needs several iterations that are broken up into bits and pieces of emails, IM messages, stop-and-chats, and conference room suggestions. Collaborators are left scratching their heads, wondering which version has all the most-recent updates and if they are, in fact, the “right” updates. And the bigger the project, the bigger the confusion.

What you can do about it: Find an easy-to-use, collaboration tool, preferably in the cloud (likeHuddle), that pulls all the requirements, comments, decisions, and iterations into one place. Make sure it’s accessible from anywhere, by everyone that’s working on the project, so one person doesn’t get stuck repeating the same answer to the same question all day. It helps if there’s a chronological timeline so you’re absolutely sure you’re working from the right version all the time.

Did we miss one? Drop us a comment below. We’ll include it in our next article.



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