Study: How Not to Be an Annoying, Paranoid Coworker

Science offers advice for navigating the rocky shoals of office politics.

Rule #1: Don't be the office spy.

Something to make the paranoid among us even more paranoid: Being paranoid about co-workers talking about you behind your back makes your co-workers more likely to talk about you behind your back. Yeah, we know—it sucks, doesn’t it? But new research at the University of British Columbia shows that even if you’re 99.9 percent sure that bitch in Marketing stole your yogurt out of the office fridge, you should just clamp your mouth shut.

The researchers performed a trio of experiments. In the first, they found that workers who tend to interpret others’ behavior in a negative way are more likely to try to counteract that behavior by snooping and spying. The second study found that workers who snoop and spy to gain information about unfair behavior by others anger their co-workers and make themselves targets of rejection. And in the third, researchers found that workers prefer the company of those who keep conversations focused on business to that of those who express concerns about unfair treatment.

Says lead author Karl Aquino, “It may be better to ignore impulses that tell you you’re the victim of office politics.” He advises keeping office interactions positive—even when it comes to that bitch in Marketing.