7 Kinds of Coworkers You Never Want as Cubicle Mates

by Salary.com Staff - Original publish date: January 12, 2015

Avoid Them at All Costs

You’re presented with a choice by your employer. You can work at home, where you may be distracted by children, laundry, dogs barking or the neighbor cutting his grass. Or you can work at the corporate office in that most glorious of settings - the cubicle.

Invented in the 1960s by Robert Propst, the idea was to give individual workers an autonomous workspace. The reality? Well, that’s something very different.

There are few things that evoke fear in the hearts and minds of workers like those geometrically-connected, modular desk units that are the model of office efficiency. There you sit, three walls surrounded by co-workers tapping on keyboards and yapping on phones. Whether that cubicle experience is tolerable depends a lot on who happens to be on the other side of that fabric-covered 4½ -foot wall.

Here are the seven co-workers you don’t want to see when you peek over the side.

7. Old Yeller

She has email. She has instant messaging. She has a desk phone. She has a cell phone that texts. Yet when she has a question for the boss, who sits on the other side of the room, she doesn’t use any of that technology at her disposal. Hell, she doesn't even use her feet, for that matter.

Instead, she stands up, leans over the wall and shouts across the office in a deafening tone.

It doesn’t matter that you’re on the phone with a customer. She cares not that you’re meeting with another co-worker at your desk. Because she has a question and she wants that answer now, which is more important than having courtesy for everyone else she's disturbing.

6. The TMIer (Too Much Information)

Not to be outdone by Old Yeller, he gets on the phone and you’d swear the person on the other end of the line is deaf. He’s talking so loudly that the person you’re talking with on the phone thinks he’s suddenly in on a conference call.

It’s distracting. It’s annoying. And there is no escape until he hangs up. You wish there was a button underneath the veneer desk you could hit for a privacy screen. But, alas, you’re going to hear his conversation whether you want to or not.

Even worse, it’s usually not a business call that makes him his loudest. No, those are saved for those personal calls. Bonus points if it's a call with his doctor and the office gets wind of the mysterious rash he's having treated. There are some things you can never unhear.

5. Old Smeller

Ooh, ooh that smell.

It’s one thing to eat fish at home or out at a restaurant. It’s another thing to fire up the office microwave and heat up last night’s halibut. There’s only one way to put it, it stinks.

Fish and other aromatic foods aren’t the only scent-sation that makes working in a cubicle unbearable. There are body smells, to put it politely, and even perfume and cologne can provide a whiff of desperation in the air.

It creates a nostril (oh yeah, I've got plenty more) working environment that even a double shot of Febreeze can’t help.

4. Workis Interruptus

Her native habitat is the cubicle and her modus operandi is to tell you everything about her children’s latest milestones. Yes, we know, kids walk eventually and, yup, they even go potty on their own. No, I didn't need to see a picture of the potty afterward.

How about the co-worker who shares every play of every game that helped him win his epic Fantasy Football matchup on Sunday? Or the guy who is going to admonish you for the 467th time about not having seen Breaking Bad yet. You get the idea.

They have no regard for that pile of work you have on your desk or the deadline that looms. They are there to share, and to bother.

3. The Mumbler

You hear the noise, but you can’t quite make it out. It’s just loud enough to annoy.

Almost as bad as the co-worker who shouts everything from the mountaintop, is the mumbler. The person who sits at her computer and complains about everything and everybody, except you can’t hear a word she’s saying.

She opens an email. Mumble, mumble.

She hangs up the phone. Mumble, mumble.

She looks at a memo. Mumble, mumble.

The worst part is, you never know if she's talking to you (since you're the only one around), so you're constantly following up her mumbles with "I'm sorry, did you say something?"

2. The Slob

It’s hard enough to work in the, ahem, generous space of a 25-square-foot cubicle, but it’s even more difficult when the person in the next unit is a slob.

Everyone can have moments when they’re untidy, but this person has papers stacked so high it looks like the leaning tower of folders is going to collapse on you the next time the boss slams his door. The dust has collected to a point where she’s building a dust elephant instead of a dust bunny.

And you don’t even want to be around when it’s cough and cold season. No amount of hand sanitizer will help the amount of used tissues sitting on the desk and the bits of food and crumbs that live in every crack and crease.

1. The Lazy Boy

He’s right there under your nose, day after day, doing little and getting paid for it.

Doesn’t show up on time. Doesn’t take on new projects. And all the while the boss keeps tapping on your shoulder instead of his when there’s something he needs done. The only time he shows a little hop in his step is when it’s time to go home for the day. You don’t want to get in his way at the exit after he’s punched the clock.

Don't Be Annoyed by Salary Negotiation

Your annoying coworkers are unfortunate, but what would be even more unfortunate is you not getting paid more than your terrible cube neighbors. So make sure that doesn't happen, using Salary.com to help you get paid fairly what you do.

The first thing you should do is research, so you're able to come to the table armed with the knowledge of what your job is worth. Use our free Salary Wizard below to find out what's a fair salary for your position. You can enter your location, education level, years of experience and more to find out an appropriate salary range before you negotiate.

Good luck.