Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Co-Worker Needs To Stop Being So "Picky"

Dear Tazi-Kat:

I have a problem that I have never seen addressed elsewhere, probably because it is pretty gross and very embarrassing. I work in an office that has cubicles, rather than separate offices, and in one of those cubicles is a coworker with some very disgusting habits. I will call him "Elmer" because he is bald like Elmer Fudd.

Elmer snorts like a pig because of a post-nasal drip, and then hacks it up a few minutes after every snort. The sound effects are horrible, and I try to tune them out with music, which works some of the time; and I can deal with the sound if only because it is the lesser of two evils, the second evil being the visuals. Elmer also picks his nose, and eats whatever he happens to find in there. If someone catches him indulging in this disgusting practice, he will make a joke about it being "snack time"
and offer "a bite to eat" to whomever had the misfortune of catching him off guard. He wipes his nose with his shirt-sleeves, and my male co-workers have informed me that he never washes his hands after using the bathroom.

My biggest problem with Elmer's behavior is that I sit in the cubicle next to him, so I am exposed to this spectacle more often than most. I love my job, and when I first started working here I was excited with my cubicle placement, because Elmer happens to be the owner's son. I figured such a placement would help me to quickly move up within the company. After six months, I realized that all "newbies" get placed next to Elmer and, with seniority, they get better placement. I have been seated next to Elmer for over a year now and, being in the middle of a recession, there has been a hiring freeze so there is absolutely no chance of gaining seniority and moving to a new cubicle, far from the atrocity that is Elmer.

What should I do, Tazi-Kat? As I mentioned, Elmer is the owner's son; so I am hesitant to go to HR over this, and it is obvious that Elmer is not about to change his ways.

Getting an Earful While Seeing a Noseful

Dear Getting...:

You are right, your issue is pretty gross; and it appears that Elmer lacks the decency to be embarrassed, so there appears to be little that you can do other than approach Human Resources about this issue.

Before going to your company's HR office, you should build a case about Elmer that does not center on the yuck factor, but on the issue of general office health. Elmer's habits are spreading germs around the office, and you have a right not to be so heartily exposed to them.

With cold and flu season arriving, now is the perfect time to approach HR about instituting a campaign for the use of tissues and hand sanitizer, along with regular hand-washing. Many offices have a policy that all employees utilize these items to reduce the spread of cold and flu or face sanctions. If the policy is instilled throughout the office, Elmer cannot argue that he is being singled-out for punishment and his father cannot single-out you or the HR Manager for retaliation.

The use of tissues and hand-sanitizer may not put a complete stop to Elmer's unhygienic behaviors, but it should be enough to curb them or at least minimize the spread of his germs. Should Elmer continue to make unsolicited comments after being caught in the act, calmly inform him that his comments are unappreciated and that you would prefer he kept them to himself. By reacting in cool and collected manner, the childish thrill Elmer gets from grossing you out should vanish, and his rude comments along with it.


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