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 started a new job six months ago. I noticed my coworker would suck up his mucus and while doing so make a loud snorting noise. At first I thought he was just sick and would get over it. Well, he shows no signs of stopping. A coworker sent him a message asking him to stop and he did — for all of 15 minutes. We confronted him a couple more times but the last time she said something to this person, the response was “I’m dying.” (He really isn’t dying). It seems to be some kind of allergy symptom.
It is hard to eat when you hear that gross noise, but it is also distracting me from concentrating on work. Other coworkers also say they find it disgusting. An owner of the business mentioned he and any other owners need to be careful with confronting him because they could get in trouble legally for singling him out for a health condition.
How can we get this to stop without being rude? Everyone in the office wears headphones to drown him out. It isn’t fair we have to have our work and day disrupted when he could easily go into the bathroom and blow his nose.
Fed Up With My Coworker
Dear Fed Up,
In a way, I admire your coworker’s thick skin. While most people would be mortified that their peers at work were disgusted by their behaviour, this knowledge only seems to empower him.
Your vivid description of his loud snorting made me cringe. Even if you have terrible allergies, being that loud and obnoxious in the office is inexcusable.
Unfortunately, you’re in a tough spot. Your company has essentially done what they (legally) can to confront this guy. If he has a medical condition, a more serious talk could result in allegations of discrimination.
Years ago at my former company, I had a coworker who chain smoked cigarettes all day. He’d often come back reeking of smoke, and a few people in our row told our manager it was giving them headaches. My boss’ solution was to move the coworker out of our row and away from others.
Would it be possible for your bosses to take similar measures with this coworker? You mentioned that some people have private offices and can close the door. Have a conversation with your bosses explaining how exasperated you are and suggest this solution. If possible, it might be good to move this coworker to a more secluded area where his sounds will be more muted.
And never underestimate how lazy people are. It’s likely he is doing this because he doesn’t feel like getting up. Place several tissue boxes on surrounding desks, and trash cans underneath the desks. Maybe if the tissues and places to dispose of them were readily available, he would actually blow his nose.
At the very least, you should stop eating at your desk, where the loud sounds are spoiling your appetite. Try eating in the kitchen, or find a nice outdoor spot on warm and sunny days. Taking a break for lunch will help you recharge and feel less stress throughout the day.
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.
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