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The UK & US cities with the worst co-workers

They’re the talk of the office watercooler. Their name is on the lips of everyone in the boardroom. Colleagues fear working with them on group projects. Few things will lower company morale more than a bad or toxic co-worker.

While businesses strive harder than ever before to hire people that fit their company culture, new colleagues can still disrupt team dynamics with their behaviour. In some cases, conduct can be easily dealt with. Maybe a nervous colleague sucks up to the boss too much to try and fit in. Sometimes, colleagues just don’t gel together, and differences of opinion may lead to tension or a colleague being perceived as bad or difficult to work with.

In more severe cases, a co-worker’s toxic behaviour can shatter morale, hamper productivity and intensify conflicts in the workplace. It can make life very difficult for colleagues who work with these people, as they are unable to control who they work with.

In a study of more than 58,000 workers, research from Harvard Business School found that 1 in 20 people was ultimately fired for toxic behaviour. It found that overconfidence and narcissism were the most common qualities of bad co-workers, and their conduct hurt productivity in the teams they worked with. But where are you most likely to come across difficult colleagues, and how do you deal with their behaviour at work?

Please feel free to jump straight to whichever section is of interest to you using the links below.

What we did

To find out which places have the worst co-workers in the UK and the US, Brother UK has analysed more than 1.3 million Tweets and used the Hugging Face sentiment analysis AI tool to find out whether posts about colleagues were positive or negative. We grouped the posts by location to see which areas have high proportions of negative sentiment towards co-workers.

We then created a detailed infographic to help you spot the signs of a bad co-worker and how to take action should a colleague start affecting your day-to-day work.

Key findings

  • The Essex coastal town of Southend-on-Sea has the UK’s worst co-workers, with negative sentiment in 30.3% of tweets.
  • Mesa, Arizona, has America’s worst colleagues. 41.6% of tweets about co-workers in this suburb of Phoenix are negative, more than Detroit, Michigan (40.6%) and Tulsa, Oklahoma (39%).
  • Three local authority areas in the Glasgow area – South Ayrshire (32.9%), Inverclyde (32.8%) and West Dunbartonshire (32.7%) have the highest proportions of negative Tweets about their co-workers anywhere in the UK.

Workers in Southend-on-Sea have the worst colleagues

Bad co-workers exist in all corners of industry in the UK. Ricky Gervais captured many of the stereotypes in the hit TV series ‘The Office’ – a satirical take on life in a mundane office job. A survey of more than 1,000 office workers found that dishonesty and laziness were the qualities people hated most in their colleagues.

Infographic: 'The UK cities with the worst co-workers'

Our research shows that Southend-on-Sea has Britain’s worst co-workers. 30.3% of tweets about people's colleagues featured a negative sentiment. Located 40 miles east of Central London, this seaside town has among the lowest wages of any city in the UK.

Telford in Shropshire also has a high proportion of workers unhappy with their colleagues, as 30.6% of tweets about them included a negative sentiment. The area has a slightly higher than average rate of people in full-time work compared with the rest of the UK.

Workers in three Glasgow-area local authorities have the worst colleagues

When looking at Twitter data at the county level, one trend popped out at us. It seems workers in the Glasgow area can’t stand their colleagues. Three council areas within the old Strathclyde region – South Ayrshire (32.9%), Inverclyde (32.8%) and West Dunbartonshire (32.7%) are the most negative when it comes to tweeting about their co-workers.

Infographic: 'The UK counties with the worst co-workers'

While South Ayrshire locals may be wound up by their colleagues, it seems people in North Ayrshire get on much better. Just 15.1% of tweets in this local authority area contain negative sentiment – the third lowest in our dataset. While South Ayrshire has an older, more conservative demographic, North Ayrshire has the highest unemployment rate of any area in Scotland.

Bad co-workers are feeling the heat in Mesa, Arizona

Whether we like it or not, the workplace has transformed dramatically since 2020. The ‘great resignation’ and a shift in working patterns have led to higher staff turnover, meaning you’re likely to find yourself working with more people.

Infographic: 'The U.S. cities with the worst co-workers'

Of the 50 largest cities in the U.S., our research shows that workers in Mesa, Arizona, have the hardest time with their colleagues, with negativity in 41.4% of Tweets we found. Regarded as America’s most conservative city by experts, Mesa has a lower unemployment rate compared to the rest of the state.

With one of America’s most uneven workforces, Detroit locals like to complain about their co-workers too. 40.6% of Twitter posts from Motor City contain negative comments about others in the workplace.

Alaskans airing their grievances with colleagues online

A Zippia survey found that more than half (57%) of workers in America have considered quitting their job because of a bad or difficult co-worker, and more than a quarter (29%) have followed through and resigned.

Surprisingly, our research found that Alaskans were the most negative. 43.2% of Tweets about colleagues contain negative sentiment. Wyoming, with a similarly sparse population, was also negative – 39.5% of posts were critical of co-workers.

Infographic: 'The U.S. states with the worst co-workers'

Tessa West, a psychology professor at NYU, rejects the idea of there being ‘good’ and ‘bad’ co-workers, instead arguing that we all have our inner ‘work demon’ that can be misunderstood and, at times, disruptive to our colleagues.

Managing these relationships and judging people’s behaviour has become more of a challenge with the rise of home working. Behavioural studies have shown that remote teams can be more static and siloed, leading to more disparate communications and a blurring of lines between behaviour of colleagues that may have been clearer when teams worked together in person.

How to deal with six types of bad co-workers

Whether you’re dealing with innocuous office gossip spreading harmless rumours or a toxic workplace bully, managing relations with troublesome colleagues can be difficult. Office politics always have their part to play in any workplace, and how you deal with a bad co-worker can define your role and how others see you in the business.

To help identify key patterns of behaviour that can be problematic in the workplace, we’ve created a helpful infographic with expert information on how to deal with them appropriately.

Infographic: '6 types of difficult co-workers (and how to deal with them'

The places with the worst co-workers

From office gossipers to brown-nosed sycophants and manipulative micro-managers, we’ve all worked with a difficult colleague at some point in our careers. Want to find out how people in your city or state felt about their co-workers? The full data set can be found in the table below.


Difficult colleagues, whether they intend it or not, can be mentally draining for even the most resilient of team members. Most people spend a minimum of 40 hours a week doing their job, so spending it with co-workers who drag others down can be soul-destroying.

The strongest people in any workplace are able to set boundaries for themselves around their work, setting a line from which a colleague’s behaviour becomes unacceptable. It’s important in any case to keep focused on yourself and the things you can control in the work environment, and escalate any toxic behaviour to managers if things become particularly overwhelming.

Methodology and sources

To create these tables, we pulled 4,850,385 tweets which contained a reference to co-workers or colleagues and obtained the users' locations.

We limited the number of tweets to 10 per user as a maximum and kept only the tweets located in the United States or the United Kingdom, leaving us with a dataset of 1,341,459 tweets.

We then used the HuggingFace sentiment analysis model and assigned tweets as negative if the returned value for 'negative' is 0.5 or above; and as positive if the returned value for 'positive' is 0.5 or above.

Finally, we grouped tweets by different region types and ranked the locations inside each group. For the city level, we used the 50 most populous cities and towns in the United Kingdom and the United States, US states, and UK countries' subdivisions.

To subdivide the countries of the UK, we used the official local governments. Thus, for England, we took unitary authorities that can be either county or district. Scotland is presented by council areas; Wales – by principal areas that can be either county or county borough; Northern Ireland – by districts. We only kept counties with at least 100 tweets.

The data was collected in June 2022.


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