Who are the most unhelpful people in the workplace?

In the typical workplace, just about every single department is interdependent. Working together is imperative for making everything run smoothly, but in some cases, there’s often at least one person holding things up.

PR organisations may have more reason than most to fear having an obstructive, often uncommunicative worker. Slick, effective communication is at the heart of their business; should anyone go against that, then the damage to team morale and the company’s image could be huge.

So, who are these obstructive workers and what makes them tick?

Can’t-do attitude

Known as the Workplace Can’t, a recent survey found that obstructive workers have a few things in common. Asking 2,000 office workers from a variety of industries all over the UK, the results revealed that, among other things, 19 per cent of them were likely to work in the HR department. The second most popular answer given was the finance and accounting department of a business.

Workers in the HR department were viewed by many respondents as being the most likely to turn down a reasonable request. As for the personal profile of these obstructive colleagues, it seems that the average age of a “Workplace Can’t” is 44 and, when forced to describe them in terms of their appearance, respondents said that they are more likely to have either grey or brown hair, as well as horn-rimmed glasses!

Damage limitation

These workers can cause plenty of harm, just by going on their most common personality traits. In the survey, an astonishing 65 per cent said that obstructive colleagues were argumentative, although 59 per cent said that confidence was one of their most notable attributes. 47 per cent claimed that they were a little on the deceitful side, which could prove disastrous during office arguments.

If not handled in a careful and considered manner, “Workplace Can’ts” could cause damage to all facets of a business, not least the PR side of things. Having a worker undermine colleagues or act against the best wishes of the company is never going to be good for a company’s reputation. A particular concern are workers who are client-facing who don’t reflect their employers in a positive light.

The PR perspective

If there are a few crossed wires because someone’s not pulling their weight or taking out their frustrations on others, then internal comms is likely to suffer. It is always worth finding out what disgruntled co-workers have to say, then a solution could be thrashed out and, in the end, everyone could come out of it feeling a little better.


In February, conference-call specialist Powwownow carried out an online survey with 2,000 adults in the UK. This was to find out what office workers opinions are towards the most annoying, obstructive and unhelpful people in the workplace and their attitudes in dealing with such people.

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