What Drives You Mad About Office Communications?

What Drives You Mad About Office Communications?

Modern workplaces rely on email, mobile phones and web collaboration to function — but that doesn’t mean they always function well. What are your biggest bugbears when it comes to electronic communications at work?

Picture by sharynmorrow

We’ve covered how to fix plenty of workplace technology hassles in the past, from how to print confidential documents safely to making your out-of-office message actually useful. But that still leaves plenty of other potential annoyances. Here’s a sampling: ridiculous email storage limits; company-mandated mobile phones that no-one wants to use; collaboration systems that don’t work; firewalls that block you from relevant work content.

Which electronic communications options aren’t pulling their weight in your office? And where do you think real answers could come from in future? Share your frustrations and ‘big questions’ in the comments.


  • I’m a consultant (telco industry) and deal with different businesses every day. The reliance some businesses still have on faxes and photocopiers drives me crazy.

    Scan to PDF and email, then keep a local copy and an offsite backup. It’s really not that hard.

    The paperless office exists… in my home office.

    (Oh and large corporate systems that are only IE compatible – BOOO!)

  • One. People emailing me and turning up at my desk 10 minutes later, asking “did you get my email”?

    Two. People expecting email to be answered within a few minutes.

    Email is asynchronous. That’s the whole point.

  • 1. This’ll sound grouchy, but when you’ve emailed someone to let them know you’ve done whatever they asked, and they send a reply with a single line of new content, “Thanks”.

    I’d appreciate it more if you didn’t send another email that interrupts my workflow just for politeness sake.

    2. People that send you a long chain of email discourse they’ve had with someone else, with no explanation as to why it is pertinent to me – I’m expected to read through a torturous chain of replies and try and figure that out for myself.

    I always leave these until the end of the day and then bounce them back with a “Please summaries or explain why you forwarded this to me.” (Actually, any piece of communication I get which is unclear is left to the end of the day to respond to – it saves cluttering my day and after a few times communications start coming in clearer.)

    I actually had one colleague get annoyed at me because I don’t have instant messaging on, and they know I don’t always read emails immediately, so they had to – get this – walk across the hall and talk to me. I sympathised to the point of suggesting they could use the phone next time, which didn’t seem to mollify them much.

  • When I worked in “cubicle chaos” land it was:

    1. The idiotic / obnoxious / loud mobile phone ringtones co-workers inflicted on each other.

    2. Having to listen to every word of the local half of phone conversations (which being personal mobile phones were often not even work-related) from everyone within a 10m radius.

    3. Gripe #1 that would go on… and on… ‘cos the owner had stupidly left said “mobile” phone on his desk when they went walkies.

    • @OzTardis

      One good trick I’ve heard of is to change a commonly occurring sound event on their computer to be the same as their mobile’s ringtone.

      Causes all sorts of consternation to the phone owner, and plenty of amusement for the onlookers.


  • Communication overload is horrible, when you can be contacted by IM, SMS, phone calls and email all at the same time.

    As a coder I am trying to concentrate and you get an IM about an email, or phone call in the middle of trying to work out some complex logic.

    And there is a belief in peoples minds that as soon as they communicate with you, they need a response for the smallest issue.

  • As seems to be a theme amongst the other comments, my gripes are not with the technology itself but the mis/disuse of it.

    In my last job I was asked to give a presentation to my co-workers on ‘how to write good emails’. The tips were supposedly common-sense things such as using spell check and being concise.

    I often think if we have to put up with all the fire evacuation training etc there should also be mandatory ‘office communication skills’ training.

    You’d be surprised how uncommon the use of ‘common’ sense skills are, and that experience and position within an organisation are no barrier to bad communication.

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