The Exchange

The Jobs With the Worst — and Best — Co-Workers

The Exchange

Would your workday improve if you could get rid of that loudmouth in the next cubicle?

Many would answer yes to that question, which is why compensation-data firm Payscale recently analyzed which industries have the most and least objectionable co-workers. When Payscale conducted a poll asking what workers would change about their jobs if given a single choice, the vast majority — 72% — said they’d like to earn more money. Changing your boss, your commute, your schedule or your co-workers each earned a single-digit response. Still, since the quality of our working relationships can directly affect both personal and company success, the collegiality of our colleagues matters a lot.

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Payscale found a surprising inverse relationship between the way people feel toward their co-workers and the extent to which they rely upon them. “The jobs with people who hate their co-workers the most are also the ones who depend the most on them to get the job done,” says Katie Bardaro, lead economist at Payscale. So if you’re not a people person, you might be happier in a field that requires more isolation than teamwork.

Payscale analyzed 21 occupational fields by comparing the portion of workers who said they’d like to get rid of some of their co-workers against the average for all fields, and computing a multiple of the average for each field. So a multiple less than 1 indicates a field where people get along better than average, while a multiple greater than 1 reveals a higher than average level of discord.

It’s worth pointing out that, if you don’t like your co-workers, chances are they don’t like you either. So the industries with high levels of co-worker dislike are probably ones in which all workers tend to be disagreeable. Here are the five fields with the crabbiest workers:

Installation, maintenance and repair (where workers are 1.48 times more likely than average to want to ditch their co-workers). This category includes plumbers, electricians, contractors and others who often depend on a team to show up at a job site on time if they want to get paid.

Food preparation and service (1.45). Cooks, waiters and baristas apparently get in each other’s way as much as they help each other out.

Manufacturing (1.42). There’s at least one weak link on every assembly line.

Building and grounds maintenance (1.4). If the other guy forgets to take out the garbage, it’s your problem.

Doctors, nurses and medical technicians (1.4). If one person screws up, it could have life-threatening consequences.

Not every workplace is a snake pit, of course, so here are the fields in which workers get along best with each other:

Community and social services (0.56). People who work in nonprofits typically feel the work is important, while associating with like-minded colleagues who prioritize the job itself over other concerns.

Education, training and library science (0.56). Teachers, instructors and librarians tend to work more with students and “customers” than with colleagues.

Architecture and engineering (0.65). In these fields, your co-workers help you build stuff, which is usually a source of satisfaction.

Arts, design, entertainment, sports and media (0.70). These disparate fields have one thing in common: Opportunities for personal achievement make working as part of a team less important.

Sales (0.73). If you can sell, you make money, with less reliance on colleagues and teams than in many other jobs.

With a job market that’s still weak, many people can’t be too picky about where they work, so there may not be much recourse if you have lousy co-workers. If you're lucky, maybe they'll retire some day. Or you will.

Rick Newman’s latest book is Rebounders: How Winners Pivot From Setback To Success. Follow him on Twitter: @rickjnewman.

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