Ask The Insider columnist Ashley Lutz answers all your work-related questions, including the awkward, sensitive, and real-world ones. Have a question? Email [email protected]
I have a colleague at work who routinely clips their fingernails at his or her desk. I am all in favour of good hygiene and grooming but in my world, this is something you do in a bathroom (preferably at home) with the door closed. I don’t want to shame them. However, isn’t it just too much to have to ask this favour out loud? Do I get HR involved?
I asked because this has happened before. At another company, I worked with a guy who did a similar thing for years (and if I recall, he clipped his toenails too at his desk) but he made a big deal about how he was just going to do this and you’d have to learn to live with it. We did I guess. And that was his whole point. It was a power trip.
I am not sure that my current colleague is on a power trip. In fact, I know he or she isn’t. So how do I get the clippings off the table and end this madness?
Disgusted By My Coworker
I’ve never heard of a more disgusting office habit. Just imagining sitting at my desk hearing the clipping noises makes me cringe.
The idea that someone would clip their fingernails (or toenails!?) at their desk seems so absurd that I initially wondered if this question was real. But then my coworker reminded me of the New York City Subway ads reminding passengers not to clip their nails on the train. I guess some people really are that clueless.
If you consider this coworker to be a friend, I would just be straight up with him or her. Do it in private away from other people in the office. I’d say something like “Because I care about you I wanted to say that clipping your nails at your desk might give people the wrong idea. You are so good at your job that it would be a shame for anyone to get a bad impression.”
Even if it initially stings, he or she should appreciate your directness and honesty. It’s better for this person to find out in this fashion than hear that people have been discussing him and her in private.
If you don’t feel comfortable talking to the coworker yourself, I’d bring it up to your manager. I would mention that certain grooming habits are distracting you at work and you think that certain coworkers need a reminder of what is and isn’t appropriate. It’s your manager’s job to deal with these conflicts in a diplomatic fashion. Maybe you could move desks far away from this gross, inconsiderate habit.
Ashley Lutz is a senior editor at Business Insider answering all your questions about the workplace. Send your queries to [email protected] for publication on Business Insider. Requests for anonymity will be granted, and questions may be edited.