Surprising Ways You May Be Grossing Out Your Co-workers: Real Life Horror Stories

In today's open plan offices, employees are expected to get along like one big, happy family: eating together, sharing a bathroom and kitchen, and overhearing the most intimate details of each other's lives. Unfortunately, most co-workers can't tolerate the kind of casual, sloppy, and even disgusting behavior that may be acceptable in the privacy of one's home. "Your mother doesn't live at the office," says Diane Gottsman, national etiquette expert and founder of The Protocol School of Texas. "Clean up after yourself, don't scream into your cell phone, and if you take the last cup of coffee, refill the pot." Gum chewing and popping and any other repetitive noise is also a no-no.

Gottsman says the bottom line in office etiquette is that you should try to make the work environment pleasant for others and avoid detracting from their productivity. "In this tight economy you can't afford to be annoying." She also emphasizes that polite behavior is especially important for bosses. "When you are in a position of power you might think you have more liberty, but actually you are the role model and need to be super vigilant."

She points out that many people are "living in their own heads" and oblivious to their own rude behavior on the job. But, their colleagues aren't. From discovering long hairs coiled in the bathroom sink to listening to endless graphic updates on a colleague's medical condition, Gottsman says every one has a pet peeve. Another common complaint she hears? "No one wants the office to smell like popcorn when an important client walks in."

Yahoo! Shine polled employees in a wide variety of industries to find out which of their co-workers' behaviors were making them cringe. Speaking of popcorn…

"Every single day one of the other teachers pops a bag of microwave popcorn in our communal kitchen, eats it, and then rips open the bag and thoroughly licks out the inside." -Adrian, Middle School Teacher

"I often work until at least 8 o'clock and at around 6 pm, there are almost always gobs of toothpaste with little pebbles of food streaking the bathroom sink from some aggressive tooth-brusher who thinks its okay to cleanse their mouth and not wipe out the basin. Not to mention the white flecks on the faucet and handles that you have to touch to turn on the water! Eew!" -Jamie, Web designer

"Putting your feet on someone else's desk or chair or on the table in the conference room. Not only is it rude, but who knows what you are dragging in off the dirty street?" -Sofia, Marketing Specialist

"I work in a big chain restaurant. I estimate that 50 percent of my male co-workers go into the bathroom and wash their hands BEFORE they unzip. Another 40 percent do a quick little splash after without soap. I guess in theory they are following the 'employees must wash hands' rule." -Nick, Restaurant Host

"Clipping your fingernails during a meeting! My boss runs a pretty successful hedge fund, so he thinks he can get away with it. But it makes me shudder!" -Margie, Executive Assistant

"My office mate interrupts me by breaking wind and then interrupts me again to joke about it." -Paul, Real Estate Attorney

"One of my co-workers, who happens to be a clean-looking, pretty young woman, apparently feels so rushed she frequently takes both her computer and food into a bathroom stall. You can hear her in there chomping on an apple, typing, etc." -Alice, Grant Writer

"Its gross that people leave their lunches in the fridge way past the expiration date. They also fail to clean out the microwave after something explodes or extrudes food inside. But the worst are people who sprinkle on the office toilet seats. Hate, hate, hate it!" -Linda, Journalist

"Flossing. I don't care if it's in your cubicle or in the bathroom. Don't do it." -Rich, Civil Engineer

"A scientist working in my lab was pretty lax about personal hygiene, never wore any deodorant, and stunk. We had a grad student from China assisting us, and when Mr. Stinky was in his "prime l'odor," the poor student would literally have to run out of the room and vomit! I advised him to put Vicks VapoRub up his nose so he could tolerate it." -Pam, Lab Manager

"Getting ready to go out on a date after work by putting on some mascara and lipstick is one thing, but my co-worker shaves her legs in the ladies' room sink!" -Elizabeth, Medical Assistant

"I really miss the days when people went out to lunch. It's nauseating to watch people eat at their desks-especially finger food like fried chicken, falafel, hamburgers, and French fries drowning in ketchup." -Dan, Editor

"Please don't be lovey-dovey and recap your previous night's escapades with your boyfriend or girlfriend over the phone. You might think no one gets it from your side of the conversation, but the rest of us want to gag." -Jon, Systems Analyst

"The worst are people who show up at work sick. They sneeze, cough into their hands, and touch the cash register and the merchandise. They leave their dirty tissues lying around. Please go home." -Laurel, Sales Clerk

Do you have any pet peeves about your co-workers' rude behavior? We invite you to share in the comments below.

Related links:

5 Office Etiquette Rules You Need To Know

Smartphone Etiquette-What Would Emily Post Do?

Bosses Reveal Worst Wardrobe Don'ts