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Annoying coworker


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Author Thread
CB4S2K
Junior Member


Joined: 01 May 2005
Posts: 30

Post Fri Dec 28, 2007 2:06 am

Annoying coworker    Reply with quote  

I have an issue with a coworker (she is female, I am a male). We are both temps and started at the company around the same time, so we were placed in an office together in November. She is driving me insane! She tends to cough and clear her throat incessantly throughout the day, to the point where the office has become completely unhealthy to be in, not to mention the noise is really distracting. Even more distracting is her tendency to sigh really loudly, as well as talk to herself. She also brings food with bad odors into the office during lunch. The office itself is very small, and the windows do not open, so it becomes very stuffy and hard to concentrate when she brings these foods in (soups, stew's, noodles, etc).

It's become an issue with me because I have gotten sick twice in the last three months, in addition to getting headaches at work due to the smells.

Is there an effective way to alleviate this issue? I am ready to tell my boss about it in order to move to a different cubicle/area, but I really like the office (it's quiet and away from everyone). Should I tell this girl about her annoying habits, in a nice way? If so, what if she reacts negatively to it? Is there some psychological way to approach this?

Any advice would be appreciated.

Thanks!
  
European.girl
Full Member


Joined: 28 Dec 2007
Posts: 108

Post Fri Dec 28, 2007 7:41 pm

   Reply with quote  

I don't think you should say anything to her as it would sound unreasonable to say "can you stop coughing it really annoys me", instead of trying to control your environment why don't you try controlling your reaction to it, Im sure that deosn't help but I kinda sympathise with the girl coz she's only eating her lunch and coughing which she has no control over. I think your being a bit OTT sorry
CB4S2K
Junior Member


Joined: 01 May 2005
Posts: 30

Post Fri Dec 28, 2007 8:32 pm

   Reply with quote  

quote:
Originally posted by European.girl
I don't think you should say anything to her as it would sound unreasonable to say "can you stop coughing it really annoys me", instead of trying to control your environment why don't you try controlling your reaction to it, Im sure that deosn't help but I kinda sympathise with the girl coz she's only eating her lunch and coughing which she has no control over. I think your being a bit OTT sorry


I don't know what OTT means, but I think you're wrong in that she has no control over her actions. Coughing without covering your mouth is something a child would do, not adults in a work environment. It spreads germs and causes illness. Clearing your throat in a loud obnoxious way (again without covering the mouth) also fits into that category. It's avoidable, distracting, and unnecessary. Making personal calls, talking to yourself, and sighing endlessly are not results of any diease as far as I know; they are actions completely dictated by the person doing them.

How does she not have control over these actions? If she urinated in the office, would I be out of line by calling her out on it, even though it's something "she has no control over"? Where do you draw the line? I have been sick twice in the last three months, which coincided with me working with her. It's not a coincidence. When I have a cough/cold, I cover my mouth. I bring cough drops. I go to the bathroom, blow my nose, and then wash my hands afterwards, etc. Am I a germ freak? No. I'm simply couteous to other human beings.

She HAS control over these actions. That's the whole point. I eat my lunch in my car or in an open seating area everyday (and I usually only eat sandwiches). She doesn't have to bring a powerful odor into the room at lunch. Bringing a sandwich, or bagel, or something along those lines is perfectly fine. But bringing something into a small poorly ventilated environment that she knows will cause a foul odor is her choice. Me getting a headache because of that is NOT my choice. It's an end result of her actions.

If she was just annoying, then you would have a point, and I'd suck it up and deal with it. But when she's making me sick and causing me headaches (literally) IN ADDITION to the annoying stuff that distracts from my work, what other alternative do I have? I've had people in two different companies come up to me and say "I didn't even know you were here" on many different occasions. That's the best compliment any worker can get, IMO. I'm quiet, keep to my business, and do the work. I'm not perfect, far from it, but I try to avoid doing unnecessary things that may distract or cause illness to others. Why is that not the standard to judge all employees?
Lakotagirl
Preferred Member


Joined: 06 Dec 2005
Posts: 454

Post Fri Dec 28, 2007 10:36 pm

   Reply with quote  

If I were you I would bring it up to the boss. I would tell my boss that I love my office and I don't have anything personal against her but some of her actions are causing me to become distracted from my work. I would bring up that she coughs without holding her mouth and brings in food that causes my stomach to feel ill. I would also bring up the fact that since you've started working there that you have fallen ill more than once and that by you missing work due to an illness could cost the company to lose money. I don't think she should change her diet but I think that there should be a fridge where she could put her food in.

I would also tell the boss that you are concerned about her and wonder if there is anything going on at her home because she is constantly mumbling or talking to herself.

I think that all of these are important topics to bring up.
PsyChris
MVP
MVP


Joined: 23 Dec 2007
Posts: 1452
Location: Brooklyn, NY

Post Fri Dec 28, 2007 10:46 pm

   Reply with quote  

I think you have some valid issues here. Unfortunately the bulk of these issues seem to be personal ones not professional.

Clearing her throat is a learned habit. Everyone has annoying little habits that others either have to deal with or remove themselves from the situation.

Coughing with your mouth open is bad social etiquette but it is also not good for you to correct her. Heavy sighing is along the same lines.

Bringing in food with bad odors is subjective. It smells bad to you, not to her. Most people have the courtesy not to bring in things that have a strong smell but there is such variety in food that you never know what will upset people. I for instance am allergic to onions therefore the smell of onions is very unpleasant to me. However, I am in no immediate danger from smelling onions so I can not really correct my co-workers.

Because these habits of hers are affecting your work your boss may be sympathetic in moving you or her to another location in the building. There is also the possibility he/she could be like my boss and just tell you to deal with it. You mentioned that your position was temporary. That may add some weight to the fact you should just tuff it out and add this one to a list of life experiences.
European.girl
Full Member


Joined: 28 Dec 2007
Posts: 108

Post Fri Dec 28, 2007 10:49 pm

   Reply with quote  

OTT = OVER THE TOP


well I do think it's manners to cover your mouth but Im just saying that it sounds like you don't like her and that may be the problem. Can you not just say it to her then straight that you have been sick and that she should take time off work when she is sick as it spreads germs around and that you cant afford to be sick again. I think the rest you will have to just deal with unless you wanted to say to her when she was having her lunch that the smell was really over powering or something?? I don't know but its a tricky one coz you might look a bit highly strung if you say everything to her at once, are you sure it isn't that you dont like her?
CB4S2K
Junior Member


Joined: 01 May 2005
Posts: 30

Post Mon Dec 31, 2007 7:14 pm

   Reply with quote  

Thanks for the responses everyone. I appreciate the feedback.

I don't really have a personal issue with her. She seems like a nice person, and we get along fine in the office. If she wasn't making me sick and bringing odors into the room, I probably wouldn't have an issue with her at all. I understand we all have annoying habits, and I have some too I'm sure, but when it reaches the point of being hazardous to other people's health, it shouldn't be ignored. I am already taking 750 mg of medication twice a day for a seperate medical issue, and it really becomes annoying having to take cold medication on top of that, which is why I've become increasingly angry with her lately.

My biggest hurdle is approaching my boss about it. He's a very nice calm guy, so I'm sure he'll listen and take it into consideration, but I don't want to seem unprofessional or high maintenence. I've put up with annoying coworkers before, but this is really a rare/special case. It's a shame too, because my current desk is in a fantastic spot.

I get the feeling that I'm going to have to "suck it up" for the time being, but that's becoming harder to do as the days go on.
Gresslette
Junior Member


Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 30

Post Fri Jan 04, 2008 1:00 am

I do sympathise    Reply with quote  

I sympathise with you that it is a problem for you, it's just hard to know how to approach it.

Whilst what she is doing is certainly poor etiquette on a personal level, when it affects the professional level it is a little different. If you can somehow show that you were ill because of her behaviour then it can become a health and safety issue and be considered a professional issue. This doesn't mean falling out with her or being nasty, just that her behaviour is, well, antisocial Very Happy and is affecting your ability to do your job. It is affecting you there is no denying that, and it will continue to the longer this situation is not resolved satisfactorily.

The problem is - do you approach her or your boss first? I hope others have an idea of which to do cos I have no idea!
To me, you can't just ignore this - it really is bothering you isn't it Shocked
3/4's hope
Junior Member


Joined: 22 Aug 2007
Posts: 61

Post Sat Jan 05, 2008 11:47 pm

   Reply with quote  

We get this alot with cologne and perfume or just poor hygiene in general.

It's not tolerated. People sneeze and sniffle when someone walks in wearing dollar-store perfume. And we can't have someone reheating cabbage Shocked or catfish Shocked while we're in the middle of a presentation.

I would speak up. But I say that knowing my boss wants to hear it. Are other people bothered by her behavior? Look at how other people are dealing with it, people that have been there a while. If they're not stressed, then? Is she apt to quit, take another job? Can you just wait it out? Will you or she be moved eventually anyway? Can you just get used to it (suck it up::I know, not the most helpful suggestion)? Headphones?

We've got an individual that is purposefully talking loud, laughing loud, slamming drawers, etc., because she wants to move and is hoping everyone around her will get annoyed enough to expedite her wishes. What she should do is go talk to the person she wants to swap places with and get it worked out.

If you do go to your boss, couch your concerns in a way that leaves no doubt your productivity will improve as your situation improves. There has to be some positive benefit to the disruption. Also, hope that wherever you move or whoever replaces her is not a repeat of your earlier situation or worse. How do you approach your boss twice with the same concerns?

As far as the sneezing and coughing, that's discouraged as well. If you're hacking, stay home. Someone will generally send out an email reminding people to wash their hands, cover their mouth, or stay home, when someone comes in misting a cold.

Similar emails go out for peeing on the seat, leaving dishes in the sink, etc.

Hope it works out for you Smile.
CB4S2K
Junior Member


Joined: 01 May 2005
Posts: 30

Post Sun Jan 06, 2008 10:36 pm

   Reply with quote  

quote:
Originally posted by 3/4's hope
I would speak up. But I say that knowing my boss wants to hear it. Are other people bothered by her behavior? Look at how other people are dealing with it, people that have been there a while. If they're not stressed, then? Is she apt to quit, take another job? Can you just wait it out? Will you or she be moved eventually anyway? Can you just get used to it (suck it up::I know, not the most helpful suggestion)? Headphones?


Only one other person has voiced their displeasure (to me at least). That person was a woman in her late-30's who trained both me and the "annoying coworker". She constantly gets agitated when having to approach the "annoying coworker" because of the coughing, and even told me to "feel free to take (disinfectant wipes) from my desk any time you need them". She also got a cold last month and blamed it on sitting so close to A.C during training. That's the only person, to my knowledge, who has openly complained in my presence about annoying coworker. The only other time something resembling a complaint came up was when another woman (in her 70's) walked into the room and said "why does it spell like paint in here?" Turns out annoying coworker warmed up some oatmeal that morning, and let it sit there for hours, leaving the odor. If there were any more complaints, I wouldn't know. No one else has approached me about it.

It's easier for others to overlook the situation because the annoying coworker is at her desk most of the time, so only the people in the room (i.e. ME) will get to feel the brunt of her contagious/odorous habits. I honestly don't know how to avoid her because she's right in there with me. It appears that both her and I will get hired full-time this month, so I don't think waiting for her termination will be too smart a move on my part.

On Friday, I was fighting a sore throat the entire day (3rd time since October), so I've just about had enough of my situation at work. I am going to approach my boss tomorrow and hope he has a resolution. I'm going to be completely honest with him and not leave out a single detail. If there is a better way to approach the boss, please let me know, as I've never done it before.

Thanks again for all the comments. They have really helped!
CB4S2K
Junior Member


Joined: 01 May 2005
Posts: 30

Post Tue Jan 08, 2008 5:36 pm

   Reply with quote  

Is it OK to voice this complaint via email? My boss wasn't in yesterday, and I have yet to see him today. I have everything written down, but I don't know if it's proper to send it by email without talking face-to-face about it.

Any suggestions?
3/4's hope
Junior Member


Joined: 22 Aug 2007
Posts: 61

Post Thu Jan 10, 2008 4:25 am

   Reply with quote  

Face to face.

I wouldn't do it with email. It creates a record of the situation. That would bother me. But I worry about things like that.

Also, make sure the job is had before you voice your concerns. It'd be terrible if you were looked over because of this. You don't want to be perceived as a malcontent right out of the gate.

::

::

::

Hell, it's wednesday Shocked Rolling Eyes.

Hope it went well.
CB4S2K
Junior Member


Joined: 01 May 2005
Posts: 30

Post Wed Jan 23, 2008 3:28 pm

   Reply with quote  

quote:
Originally posted by 3/4's hope
Face to face.

I wouldn't do it with email. It creates a record of the situation. That would bother me. But I worry about things like that.

Also, make sure the job is had before you voice your concerns. It'd be terrible if you were looked over because of this. You don't want to be perceived as a malcontent right out of the gate.

::

::

::

Hell, it's wednesday Shocked Rolling Eyes.

Hope it went well.


I had the email written out, but I got second thoughts right before sending it, for the exact same reason you said (I'm just a temp). Now I'm more confused as ever as far as when/if I should tell my boss about this. Waiting until I become permanent makes sense (it could be anyday now), but the problem hasn't gotten better, and it's making me more angry as each day goes by. This woman is completely ignorant to what she is doing, and it's frustrating seeing how oblivious people can be to their own actions.

It's strange. That day I built up enough courage to confront my boss about the issue, but when he wasn't there for 2 straight days, the courage kind of frittered away. I'm not the type of person who usually does this (telling an authority figure about someone else's disruptive behavior) so I feel very uneasy about it. I can't seem to shake that feeling off. Plus, my boss is in a cubicle, so I can't speak to him in front of others about this. I kind of wish I ran into him in the bathroom or something so I could just get this over with.
baby_face
New Member


Joined: 24 Jan 2008
Posts: 6

Post Thu Jan 24, 2008 1:59 am

   Reply with quote  

Hi,

Have you tried responding to her habits with humor? This way you could point out her behavior, while preventing a negative backlash. Make a joke about the smell of her food, respond when she's talking to herself and sigh even louder after she sighs. This might be enough to make her more self-aware of her actions. (although as someone who talks to myself quite a bit, I would leave that one lie. Wink )

You could also ask her if she is OK when she coughs. Mention that she seems to cough a lot, and ask if she has been to the doctor. If you ask this every time she coughs, she might be annoyed enough to tone it down.
PsyChris
MVP
MVP


Joined: 23 Dec 2007
Posts: 1452
Location: Brooklyn, NY

Post Thu Jan 24, 2008 10:01 am

   Reply with quote  

If they are going to make the decision to make you a permanent employee that is a good time to voice your concern over your co-worker. You don't have to explain the entire situation to your boss. I think it would be better to just request that you be moved somewhere else as you find your co-worker distracting. If they say OK then you don't have to worry about saying all the right things when you have to voice a full complaint.

If they want you to elaborate don't be afraid to provide details. Your boss should not look down on you for trying to be comfortable and more productive at the same time.
  

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