coworker is constantly eating, burping and watching YouTube videos 7 hours a day … and then asks for hugs

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A reader writes:

I work as a secretary/receptionist for a small local government. I’ve held the same position for approximately 8 years. It’s a rather industrial environment and I’ve never had an issue with any of the people who I have shared my office with over the years.

Last year, the fleet maintenance coordinator retired and his replacement was appointed. This person is the most disgusting, loud, obnoxious, self-unaware human being I have ever encountered, and working with the public like I do, with their propensity to be negative, hateful and belittling, that’s really saying something. This coworker eats carrots or celery, apples and pears every hour … and I have never heard something so loud. He is overweight and has a nasal problem where he can’t breathe very well, so he eats with an open mouth, making the carrot cracking and pear slurping almost unbearable. Last week, he brought peanuts and almost all day sat with his trash can between his legs, cracking and shelling the peanuts, then pulverizing them in his mouth while he watched You Tube videos of horseshoe making … 30 minutes at a time of “Ting! Ting! Ting!” as the blacksmith pounds the metal to make the shoes.

Mind you, we all have basic desktop PCs, and all of the PCs in the office have been heavily blocked from accessing any streaming content, social websites like Facebook or Pinterest … all PCs except his, apparently. His computer screen is easily viewable to any person walking into the office, both those that work here and the general public. I walked in from being out for lunch, and he was watching a video on how condoms are made. Another time I walked in and he was watching a professional bikini contest. He doesn’t even try to hide his behavior or turn down the volume on his speakers. If some little old lady walked in to ask about her street being fixed and saw his antics, it would be disastrous for our reputation, which is already spotty because everyone always wants to say that government workers are lazy. I am not. He is.

Our boss’s office is also just a few feet away and I find it hard to believe he has not heard the HOURS of videos coming from the computer, or the constant eating, but so far this has been going on for a year. Another thing, he belches approximately 15 times a day, long, loud, wet belches. Super awesome. Oh, and did I mention that up until the last few months, he would wait until all the people were out of the office doing field work, and then come stand at my desk and ask me for a hug. Shudder.

He is generally well liked around the office, a jovial good ol boy. My office is small and I have not said anything to my boss because I would be seen as too sensitive or overreacting. I need this job. I’m a widow with two small children, and I can’t just quit because some mongrel is a disgusting pig … but it is hard to perform my duties when I have to answer the phone and help the public, while having to plug my ear so I can concentrate on the call at hand instead of the obnoxious “how to properly slaughter a goat” tutorial he is watching.

Plus, I will be the first person yelled at by a resident who calls in and is mad because they came in to do business and saw a city employee screwing off. In the odd chance that he isn’t eating and slurping, he sits with his feet splayed out and his hands clasped behind his head, leaned back in his chair watching tv. He smacks and chews his gum open mouthed so that the entire office smells of whatever he is chewing.

I’m at my wit’s end. Do you have any suggestions for dealing with this? If I could quit for another job, I would, it’s just not feasible right now. In the meantime, I’m going insane.

Honestly, start looking for other jobs. Not because of a single annoying coworker — those exist everywhere — but because you’re working somewhere that doesn’t care that people are flagrantly not working, and that’s generally incurable.

Your boss knows this is going on. With his office a few feet away, he knows. He just doesn’t care. So move on, because a boss who doesn’t care means that this isn’t going to be the last frustration you have to deal with. In fact, I’d be surprised if this has been the first. And that’s a far bigger problem than one annoying coworker.

Alternately, you can resign yourself to the situation and to the fact that your boss isn’t interested in managing, despite it being his job … but that type of resignation generally comes with bad side effects, like losing your motivation to do your own job well … which then starts affecting your own performance and reputation … so it’s typically not a great option.

Meanwhile, though, why not tell this guy to at least cut it out with the videos? Tell him that it’s distracting, makes it hard for you to hear callers, and generally annoys you. And the next time he asks for a hug, tell him clearly that that’s inappropriate and you don’t want to be asked again. (And WTF?) Speak up, set some boundaries, and make it clear that this stuff isn’t okay with you.

But really, this all says a lot more about your manager and your office overall than it does about this one gross guy, as annoying as he himself is.

{ 111 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. Anonymous

    Why should this person be compromised due to some non working counterpart. Why suffer with this, why look for another job. Say something to the offender and if it doesn’t work then to the manager and then to HR.

    Reply
    1. Anon

      Sometimes “reporting issues” doesn’t help, and might make matters worse because now the person is seen as a trouble-maker. The manager seems to know all this and just doesn’t care. The OP doesn’t have any other choices but to tolerate it or leave. It’s really too bad.

      People want to right wrongs and feel vindicated, but these jobs often aren’t going to offer that. She needs to find a more professional environment, something more on her level. These people and this place aren’t on her level.

      Reply
      1. some1

        “Sometimes “reporting issues” doesn’t help, and might make matters worse because now the person is seen as a trouble-maker. ”

        Especially in government.

        Reply
        1. Anonymous

          I dunno, they (or possibly HR, right?) should care about the hugging thing if he doesn’t knock it off after she tells him to I would think! Especially since he waits until everyone else is gone, it makes me wonder if he’s planning something! I would get paranoid.

          Reply
          1. some1

            Based on my experience in govt, they will tell him to knock it off but then punish the LW for reporting it. By changing her hours, moving her desk, making her start asking permission to leave the front desk to go to the bathroom, etc. Basically make the conditions as intolerable as possible so she quits.

            Reply
        2. Anonymous

          Local TV news loves stories like this. Call them up anonymously – or pose as an outside citizen – and get this guy featured on one of the stations.

          Reply
  2. Bryce

    You can’t be serious!

    Strong emotional reaction having taken place, I second that you need to leave and fast.

    I would tell your boss this because first, if there’s a risk that you’d quit (which there is) and leave your department in a lurch because of this sort of thing, your boss could take notice and do something about this, and second, it seems no one else is interested.

    I agree that this could backfire and have bad side effects, but doing nothing is a bad option here.

    On a closing note, it seems that places like small local government and the like seem to be magnets for these situations, most likely because the “good ol boys and gals” know/care little about good management.

    Reply
  3. Zahra

    I would be tempted to buy him headphones. Even basic computers have headphone jacks. Unfortunately, that doesn’t solve the other issues, but it’s a start.

    Reply
    1. Zahra

      I wanted to add: I had a classmate who sniffled, loudly (he seemed to have a constant cold), during class, making everyone crazy. I was particularly affected, because he sat right next to me. I finally broke down and bought travel packs of tissue. I was very, very tempted to slap them on the table the next time I heard him sniffle, but I just took them out and said “Please, help yourself.”

      Reply
    2. Anon

      Ugh, then he will definitely feel okay coming to ask for a “hug” to say “thank you.” Naw, she is a widow with two kids, she needs the money. I wouldn’t buy this jerk anything. Save the money for job-hunting. Poor woman.

      Reply
    1. Ash

      I like this. The OP could also contact her boss and say that she just had an anonymous complaint from a citizen who come into their office recently and saw the co-worker’s poor behavior. She can even add that they said they’ll write to the mayor and the city council and the newspaper and blah blah blah. Having worked in government, I can mimic the indignant outrage a lot of people have over the tiniest of things.

      Reply
      1. some1

        And, again, nothing will be done & no one will care because this guy was appointed. When I worked for the govt there was a guy who was appointed to a Deputy Manager position who screened job candidates based on race and told two of his employees they needed to marry their boyfriends instead of just living with them. Nothing was done but he was eventually transferred to a better position in another dept.

        Reply
      2. Jennifer

        Working in public government I can’t even count the amount of times we’ve laughed our buts off over people frivolously wanting to go to the media, the police chief, the mayor/governor, the president, etc etc etc. Granted, the OP’s issue does not seem frivolous, but those types of threats would actually make me care LESS, because I’d assume the person is one of the crazies that uses those accusations over being mad I didn’t thank them for yelling at me.

        Reply
  4. Eric

    How did “It’s a government job.” not factor in to the answer to this question?

    Why are governments so prone to these types of people?

    Reply
    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      I actually had a whole paragraph written initially about how this is often the price that you pay with government jobs, but I took it out because the reality is that managers CAN manage well in the government if they want to. It takes much, much longer, but it can be done.

      That said, yes, this is indeed often the price you pay for the security of a government job.

      Reply
      1. PEBCAK

        Let it be known that there are many, many places in private industry that never fire anyone either, though. I know there is a stereotype that government workers are all lazy and don’t do anything and never get fired, but in three of the three F500 companies where I’ve worked, nobody ever got fired, no matter how useless they were. They’d get shuffled off to other departments or their work would be “reprioritized”, but inability to fire someone because of bureaucracy or bad management is by no means unique to the public sector.

        Reply
          1. Anonymous (for this)

            It happens regularly at the non-profit private school I work at. They regularly hire alumns, parents, or others affiliated with the school (read: donors) and realize that they are not good workers. They shuffle them around to different positions but refuse to fire them, because they’d lose the donations they get from those sources. (Except for teacher positions: those they just keep around for years and years, unfortunately, because it’s hard to shuffle a teacher out of a particular position without it being obvious what you are doing. So right now, we have some exceptional teachers who are fed up and some really bad teachers who are just along for the ride.)

            *sigh*

            Reply
      2. khilde

        Yes! Thank you. I work in state government teaching supervisory classes and we have some really outstanding managers and leaders. And we have the slugs. But I think you could find that distribution anywhere. I will concede, though, that when the slugs are bad….they’re really bad.

        I think what you said about the reality being that managers can manage well if they want to is very true. It’s not necessarily that the system is broken or bad – it’s those abiding by the system that make it seem like we can’t do anything in government jobs. In other words, like you said. The crappy managers that don’t want to manage.

        Reply
    2. Jamie

      Just as an aside – people have this image of the government employee being lazy and skating on the fact that it’s damn near impossible to fire them. Not everyone, of course, but the stereotype is there.

      FWIW no one seems to think this about cops and firefighters, who are also government employees. And I can tell you based on the cop to whom I’m married and his friends in the SD, PD, and FD you won’t find people who work harder and put up with more crap because they believe in what they do – and because they owe it to their co-workers to hold up their end of things.

      So there are definitely people being paid by the same government whose jobs aren’t what they do but who they are.

      Just wanted to throw that out there. :)

      Reply
      1. Joey

        Maybe the public, but not fellow city workers. I was in govt for a long time and public workers believe the following about protective services:

        1. They act worse than all other city workers.
        2. They think they can break the law and call in favors.
        3. They get stipends for all kinds of stupid stuff.
        4. They think they deserve raises no matter what.
        5. They lie more than criminals.

        And that was in a city where cops were rarely on the news for doing stupid stuff.

        Reply
      2. some1

        Actually, when I worked in govt I met cops, firefighters and deputies that fit the govt employee stereotype.

        Reply
  5. Sascha

    It’s the part where others leave, and THEN he asks OP for a hug, that freaks me out. That’s just horrid.

    You need a new job. Best of luck finding one, seriously. You shouldn’t have to put up with this.

    Reply
  6. BCW

    I don’t know, your ranting sounds a bit much to me. Aside from the asking for hugs thing, which is awkward, the rest of it isn’t that bad. I mean you are made because he eats more than you would like? To me that falls into not your business. The videos, while that is another thing that isn’t your business in general, have you tried just asking him to wear headphones?

    Plus, you say everyone else likes him. So it sounds like this more about your issue with him then him really being that much of a bad employee. Usually if only 1 person has an issue, there is a bit more to the story.

    Reply
    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      I agree that the eating isn’t a big deal, and the guy can’t help the way he breathes. But the constant video-watching and not doing any work is a real problem.

      Reply
      1. PEBCAK

        Doesn’t this really depend on the nature of the work, though?

        In some roles, once your work is done, you don’t have more to do, and the amount of work can be variable by day. One time I held a job as a receptionist, and if I wasn’t answering a call or greeting a client, I had nothing to be doing.

        Perhaps the job is structured poorly or shouldn’t be full-time or something like that, but I’m not seeing evidence that his work isn’t getting done or that it somehow affects the OP.

        Reply
        1. Natalie

          But he’s watching videos with the sound on in such a way that his co-workers can hear and see them and clients can hear and see them. That’s an issue regardless of whether or not he is actually slacking on work.

          Reply
      2. Ann

        While the eating thing may seem a little petty, I get it. It doesn’t sound like she cares how much or what he eats, just that the sounds he makes while constantly snacking drive her nuts.

        I know someone who eats like that, and this is a close family member that I love with all of my heart, but sitting next to that person while they’re eating, especially when they’re eating something noisy, is enough to make me want to scream profanities at them. The crunching, smacking and slurping sounds are gross, to the point of making me nauseous. When I’m reading and they sit down next to me on the couch with a bag of chips, I have to get up and go to another room because the noise is more than I can stand. There’s a reason we teach children to chew with their mouths closed.

        Reply
        1. Bluefin

          I have this same problem with noises; the sound of someone chewing, eating a bags of chips, breathing loudly, etc…. It all makes my blood boil. I cannot figure out what my problem is but I wish it would go away…. It’s literally an uncontrolable reaction that makes me want to punch my fist through the wall.

          Reply
      3. BCW

        Again though, we really don’t know what his role is and how much work is getting done. We know what her perception is, but he may be very efficient and can do multiple things at once. Its very easy from the outside to assume you know how much work someone is or isn’t doing. Regardless, it doesn’t sound like aside from being annoyed, that her actual job is being affected by this. So yeah, ask him to put on headphones and chill out with the hugs, and just deal with the rest of the stuff.

        Reply
        1. Jamie

          Besides the hugs, I can’t say that the bikini contest visible to others would go over real well in any office I’ve ever worked in…that stuff makes HR really nervous. And maybe the condom making video – although I will admit I have no idea what that process entails.

          I think a lot of things are easy to deal with if they are singular. (Perceived) lazy but quiet, okay. Hardworking and loud chewer, okay. Irritating, but boundary respecting, okay. From the description it seems like he’s just annoying on so many levels that it amplifies everything…so the resulting irritation is so much more than the sum of it’s parts.

          Reply
        2. DeeDee

          Actually I would imagine it would be fairly difficult for her to do her job as a receptionist with smacking and goat slaughtering in the background. That actually just raises further queastions for me to be honest. How is it that even while “multi-tasking” at his given job he can take time to watch every instructional video under the sun? I work at a company with an extremely liberal internet usage policy, and even so I’d imagine after awhile they’d ask me to leave the instructional videos to my free time, and find something work related to do if I’m not busy.

          Reply
    2. some1

      And what does his being fat have to do with anything? I am a Size 2 and my jaw clicks when I eat (and there’s nothing I can do about it per my dentist and former orthodontist).

      Reply
      1. Ash

        People like to point out when someone is obese as a helpful way to have others look down on them. Like, “Oh my god not only does he chew with his mouth open, but he’s fat too!”

        Reply
        1. Anonymous

          Oh I read it more as a connection to his breathing problem. When a person gets Very large (not just a bit heavy) a lot of breathing problems often occur even when they’re not moving/active.

          Reply
          1. Jamie

            That’s how I read it – being descriptive of the breathing problem and not taking a gratuitous shot (which I would find rude.)

            And whether it’s weight or sinus problems if you know you have an issue which makes you a louder eater than normal than it’s even more incumbent upon you to try to minimize the impact on other people.

            Back when I was temping I worked with a woman who ate Doritos all day long. Literally I couldn’t count to five without hearing the crackle of that back and the chomp of the chew. To this day I can’t pass a bag of Doritos without giving it the evil eye.

            I get that people do eat at their desks and there has to be give and take with co-workers…and we all irritate others in our own ways. But I’ve never understood the need to literally eat all day long without ceasing. I’d think their jaws would hurt after a while, it just sounds exhausting.

            Reply
      2. Lynn

        I think the breathing problem is weight-related, or at least the OP thinks it is. It didn’t sound like it was just randomly thrown in.

        Reply
    3. Mimi

      I thought her description of this guy was so detailed (and funny, as someone who doesn’t have to experience this daily) as to paint a pretty disgusting mental picture.

      OP, your writing is hilarious….I know it doesn’t help your problem, and I truly sympathize, but I just about lost it when I read about this guy “pulverizing” peanuts in his mouth.

      Reply
    4. Alison

      Yeah I’m with you. Also, this guy’s been there for a year; don’t you think that if residents were going to complain about him it would’ve happened already?

      Reply
    5. Jamie

      No one else is sharing an office with him – they can afford to like him.

      I don’t think she’s overreacting at all – and her boss isn’t worth the office he’s sitting in. If he were silently eating marshmallow peeps and watching videos with headphones on – that’s one thing. But she’s having her concentration and aural space invaded constantly – it’s a wonder she can get anything done.

      I am aware that a couple of the issues here happen to be my own personal trigger which is making me more sympathetic than usual…but I really hope the OP finds a better situation soon…because that sounds like a freaking nightmare.

      Reply
    6. Anonymous

      As someone who has sat next to a gross, loud eater and had to deal 10+ hours a day of bodily noises (burps, smacks, coughs, loud nose blowing as soon as I started eating, etc, not to mention eyefulls of the half chewed food in his wide open mouth) I SO FEEL for this person. It is really miserable to sit in close quarters with someone like this. And the hug thing is just creepy. Good luck, OP!

      Reply
    7. Anonicorn

      It’s likely OP is the only one who has a problem with him because she is the only one who shares his office. Admittedly, I’m having a difficult time being objective when noises also bother me a great deal and because I know what it feels like to be “the only one with a problem.” It can amplify one’s frustration, however founded (or not) they might be.

      I would ask, though, if any customers have ever actually complained about the eating or videos. Because OP provided only hypotheticals. Even if this guy is a huge annoyance to you, he’s not really a problem until he’s the employer’s problem.

      Reply
  7. some1

    I was a receptionist in a govt office as well. My suggestion is to try to get a job in a different department or in an outside organization. In the meantime, whenever he is talking or eating too loudly (or when his vid is too loud), there is nothing wrong with going and asking him to lower the volume. I used to interrupt loud conversations that happened near my desk because I could not hear people on the phone.

    Reply
  8. kristinyc

    This guy sounds like a cartoon character…sorry you have to deal with this!

    OP – you could at least try to have fun with it if you can’t get rid of him. Start a twitter account or blog that chronicles his ridiculous behavior. People have gotten book deals on similar things…

    Reply
  9. Arci

    I had a horrible job once where I had to work with a very lazy co-worker. Additionally, he often received credit for things I did all by- myself. He got away with this because he was “buddy-buddy” with our supervisor. Luckily, our supervisor was transferred and the new one made things more fair. But the lazy co-worker walked around with sense of entitlement….and got a PROMOTION! I quit at my soon as I could!

    Reply
  10. Kat A.

    Secretly videotape him at different moments: eating with his mouth open, watching disgusting videos (do this BEFORE getting him headphones), asking you for a hug (and you saying NO!).

    Reply
    1. BCW

      Yeah, super mature to secretly video tape someone. If it was suggested that a man secretly video tape a woman, they’d be calling him a stalker.

      Reply
      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        No, I don’t think that would be the accusation in a similar context.

        Could you chill on the gender warfare stuff (as you’ve had some in comments on other posts recently)? Thank you.

        Reply
  11. Howard Deutsch

    Send an anonymous note to the head of your organization (the top person higher up than your boss) letting them know about the situation. You might also send a similar note to the head of the local government (mayor, town council head, etc.). Make sure your note does’t include details that will point back to you.

    If these things don’t work, an anonymous note to the local newspaper might work well.

    Reply
    1. Anonymous

      Haha, when I read about all of these people not doing work I have a little bit of that, but mostly a “how are those people employed?!? They should hire ME instead! Even if I ended up incompetent I’d surely be better than someone not doing anything at all!”

      Reply
  12. Anonymous & Annoyed

    Why should she have to leave? She’s been there 8 years and he’s been there a minute. This job probably is perfect for her to take necessary time off to be a single parent and probably has great hours. (Also, it’s perfect while she waits for her writing career to take off.)

    I like the idea of sending a letter anonymously. In the meantime, being passive aggressive might work here. It would be exremely hard for me not to make obvious comments like, “do you mind turning that down? I already know how condoms are made and did you happen to see the one where the co-worker got so fed up with their obnoxious cow-chewing, lip-smacking co-worker? It’s hysterical.” I’d probably spray frabreeze after every burp and say, “you enjoying that? Because we are not!” And my favorite, “can you just stop! All of it!”

    I really hope you get some resolution. I would lose my ever-loving mind.

    Reply
      1. AG

        Alison is right. Life is not fair, and sometimes you end up in awful work situations that you can’t change, and the best thing is to quit. It sucks, it’s not fair, but it’s true.

        Reply
      2. Lisa

        Her boss is also good to her, simply because he/she doesnt manage. she might not be getting time off cause its a great perk and the manager gives them work/life balance, but more BECAUSE he/she can’t manage and doesn’t care enough to enforce things that say his/her replacement would. Would she still get these perks from the company if the manager didn’t exist? If you can find a way to shame this idiot into not doing some of this stuff, like with an anonymous letter to the paper / call to mayor’s office, do it. The next time its obvious that he is watching porn or whatever AND there was a enough walk-in traffic (so that mr. smith the only that came in that day doesnt get blamed), send a letter to the paper / mayors office and claim to be a resident (you are anyway I bet) that was appalled that workers are watching porn there on the city dime.

        Reply
      1. Anonymous

        +1

        It’s not appropriate to act so angry and irritated when the issue hasn’t even been brought up with the other person. We all understand thinking those reactions (I think) but actually acting in that way would be very immature.

        I would (IMHO) let him know that the chewing and videos create a lot of distracting noise for you because he probably doesn’t realize. I’d ask him to use headphones and to possibly consider foods that make less noise. If I were to send an anon letter I’d probably address the office as a whole, since it sounds like there are larger issues than just this one employee.

        Reply
  13. Anon for this post

    “Let it be known that there are many, many places in private industry that never fire anyone either, though.”

    Oh, yes!!

    At my job, 2 coworkers are huge problems. “Bob” doesn’t come in to work, won’t call to say he won’t be in, and doesn’t complete assignments. His work is reallocated to others and the boss does absolutely nothing about its effect on others. When Bob’s work needs completed before you can do your job, the boss will reassign Bob’s work to you to complete plus your regular work.

    Our secretary never misses an opportunity to bash Bob to clients. She behaves like an unsupervised child and 1 coworker seriously asked her to please use an indoor voice. She’s very loud and enjoys describing to clients in great detail what a pain it is working with Bob. Yet, she “does everything” b/c no one else will.

    You can be in a meeting with “John”, a client, and she will barge right in. “Hey, Ray of ABC, Inc. called for you!”. Right in front of your client. Or she will walk into your closed door meeting and hand you stuff with another client’s private data on it. (We are in public accounting so there’s addresses, social security numbers, etc on forms). Asking her to refrain from such behavior or discussing it with management has no effect. Our boss (company owner- very small company) shrugs and says “Well what can you do!”

    I’ve been job searching for over 1 year now so hopefully something better will come through.

    Apologies for the long comment but I really feel for the OP. It’s awful and hopefully the OP gets a better job soon.

    Reply
  14. Elizabeth West

    I don’t know about the OP’s workplace, but I have a friend whose former partner worked for our city, and she had a really toxic, evil coworker who did nothing all day and was just mean as hell to everyone. Seriously, if the stories I heard were to be believed, I would have been afraid to be in the same building as this woman. I asked “Why don’t they fire her?” and was given a crash course in how difficult it is to do that in city government. Everything has to be documented to the nth degree, and the policies are just so convoluted it’s a freaking nightmare.

    The partner ended up leaving the job because of that woman. Fortunately for her other coworkers, Evil Toxic Lady was pretty close to retirement. Hopefully she’s gone now.

    Reply
  15. Christine

    Ewwww. Just…..ewww on all levels! I’m sure my fellow misophoniacs would heartily agree! lol.

    Haven’t read through everyone else’s responses, but what would the OP say as his/her reason to leaving his current job (e.g. on a job application, interview, etc).

    Reply
  16. JLL

    “Let it be known that there are many, many places in private industry that never fire anyone either, though.”

    This. I worked for a company where it was more or less an open secret that the office manager kept hiring temps to do the work for her team she didn’t know how to do. Every temp would come in, figure out the situation, and then either make a move to get transferred or leave. She would complain that she was swamped (and there was a ‘gentlewoman’s agreement’ among the regulars that nobody was bailing her out, since she didn’t give credit- she’d just change your initials to hers and make it look like she did the work), and hire yet another sucker to do her reports/presentations/spreadsheets etc.

    At this point, she’s been with the company (she’s still there) for close to 18 years.

    Reply
  17. De Minimis

    Although she may be taking a pay/benefit cut by leaving, unless it was for another government position. Maybe she should look into a transfer.

    Reply
  18. B

    OP – I have much sympathy for you as I am in a similar situation (thankfully no videos). But I understand the loudness and the food. And while people can say the food is not a big deal, if you sit right next to the person, and they do it for 8 straight hours every few minutes, it becomes REALLY annoying. Especially put in combination with everything else. Seriously…how does 1 person manage to slurp and chew, suck stuff of their teeth, and talk to themselves about how everything is an issue, every moment of the day. But I digress…

    My suggestion. Every time the video is on or he is loud ask him to lower it. Either because you cannot hear the other person, you have a headache, whatever the reason. And just keep asking him. Who cares if you are annoying him, he is the one annoying you. No reason for you to suffer in silence. And maybe, BIG maybe, he has no clue just how annoying he is.

    Reply
    1. Laura

      “Seriously…how does 1 person manage to slurp and chew, suck stuff of their teeth, and talk to themselves about how everything is an issue, every moment of the day.”

      You have just described my cubicle-mate to perfection. (Maybe our co-workers are twins?) Anyone who can say that this stuff is not annoying, even to someone who may or may not have misophonia, has obviously never experienced it. And there is no polite way to ask someone to eat with their mouth closed, especially if your working relationship is tense at best and your manager refuses to step in. It makes coming to work everyday, knowing you will have to face this cacophony along with the regular workday issues, much more stressful than it has to be.

      Reply
  19. Jackie

    If you are “working somewhere that doesn’t care that people are flagrantly not working” one of only two things can happen. You become like the culture or you leave before you do… Good luck.

    Reply
  20. Interviewer

    I am completely mystified by the fact that you haven’t considered speaking up yourself. Since you share an office, it seems like this would be a roommate situation, rather than a “take it to HR” situation. Since you’ve spent a year not telling him he’s annoying, he may be surprised by the sudden change in your attitude towards his “adorable quirkiness.” But with only the flimsiest reason for the request, you can start establishing some boundaries here. Just like you would with your kids, you need to tell him where the line is and stick to it. You can do it in a kind manner, but just do it.

    “Hey, that peanut crunching is really annoying while I’m on the phone. Do you think you could eat that in the breakroom?”

    “Hey, I’m on the phone here, and that caller just mentioned being able to hear your condom video in the background. Could you please use headphones?”

    I agree that you need to job search. You are working for a bad manager, someone who dares never to tell anyone they’re doing anything wrong, even when it’s this obvious. Maybe you think you’re immune to this treatment – but really, you need to consider how much your manager isn’t doing for you or anyone else in that office. I can promise you, you’re not getting any good feedback on your performance, either.

    Reply
  21. SarasWhimsy

    I almost wonder if you’re so fed up with your coworker that you’re over amplifying his bad side? You refer to him early on as overweight and that he has a nasal problem. I understand his breathing could be loud because of that, but it might not be something he can control. And he’s overweight? So what – a lot of people are. I agree that a lot in this message is odd and probably worth looking for a new job (just being asked for hugs alone would have me screaming), but I would seriously look at what’s truly irritating you about him. Just being aware of the irritants themselves might be enough to help you cope while looking for something else.

    Reply
    1. PJ

      “I would seriously look at what’s truly irritating you about him. ”

      This had me on the floor. As if the LW hadn’t spelled it out clearly enough.

      This letter sounds like it was written by somebody who has been suffering a long time and has Had. Enough.

      Reply
  22. Dana

    Ugh, I totally feel for this OP.

    I worked with a guy who refused to wear shoes in our shared space and his feet were not the freshest. (My husband picked me up for lunch one day and remarked it smelled like a Frito factory.) He too would watch videos all day, when people would comment he would say, ‘The company handbook doesn’t say you can’t watch videos’. My response was always, ‘Well, the company handbook also doesn’t say you have to wear pants, but all of us seem to understand that’s implied’. Frequently he would go to the wellness room and take naps that would last anywhere from an hour to several hours. Several times we had a last minute project come in, everyone would be rushing around like crazy to get it done and he would be completely MIA.

    There are many more stories I could share about this guy, but my fingers would be bloody nubs by the time I was done. I’ve never met anyone more intentionally obtuse before or since, but fortunately my story has a happy ending since he did end up getting fired. I found out after his departure how much other departments disliked this guy, they even had a pet name for him, ‘Socks’ since he refused to put his shoes on even for trips to the bathroom. (socks in front of a urinal…shudder)

    Reply
      1. Jennifer

        Super late to the party and therefore probably won’t get a reply, but:

        1. LOL

        2. How are frozen/defrosted fritos? Wouldn’t they get soggy? Or is that just preferable to no fritosat all?

        Reply
        1. class factotum

          If you freeze them in their bag, which you close tightly and seal with a rubber band, then put them in a freezer ziplock, they are just fine.

          I can also tell you that cream cheese frosting does not suffer from being in the freezer for three months. Of course, I keep exposing new surface area.

          Reply
      2. Dana

        LOL, I don’t mean to malign Frito, they are deifinitely tastey. I also like blue cheese, but you have to admit they both have a certain fragrance to them that, out of context, is not awesome.

        Reply
  23. Joey

    Op, Remove yourself from the torture. If you can’t do it physically at least do mentally. Tell yourself that this guy will continue to be a pig and that his days are numbered. Because they are. Even in a dysfunctional govt office with a dysfunctional manager complaints from the public rule. The question becomes “how many citizen complaints will it take before he’s fired.” All it takes is a complaint to reach the right person and his ass will be outta there. And citizens have the tendency not just to complain to the office manager, but to the county/city administrators or elected officials. Trust me, its just a matter of time before the right person hears the complaint.

    Reply
  24. Cassie

    Not sure if this applies to the OP but many government places have policies against using the internet for personal use. Her local government may have a fraud hotline where she can report (anonymously) that this person is watching non-work-related videos during the work day.

    I know it may seem petty, but I was looking through some audit reports of a metro county government and many of the audit investigations had to do with stuff like that: watching videos, accessing non-work websites, sending personal emails from gov’t email address, etc. Per that government’s policies, it doesn’t matter if the employee is utilizing the internet during break or lunch hours – it’s not permitted either way.

    It’s an option if she doesn’t feel comfortable saying something directly to the coworker (and/or manager). The inappropriateness of some of the videos (as the OP mentioned) could also be reported…

    Reply
  25. Kelly

    I feel for the OP. The guy in the cube next to mine not only has the breathing thing where it sounds like he’s snoring even when he’s awake, he falls asleep too! Today was great, not only was I treated to the snoring, but he was farting as well. How can people be so oblivious?

    Reply
  26. Tiff

    I don’t have time to read all of the other comments, but I do work for a public agency and there are some remedies besides just leaving. It sounds like you work for DOT. One of the quickest ways to get something done in government is to embarass them. Make sure that the people who are complaing to you know how to “activate” themselves. Perhaps your on-site managers don’t care much if they get a complaint from you or even from a citizen directly. They care more when they get an “inquiry” on the complaint that has come from county council and trickled it’s way down from the director’s office, to the division chiefs, etc. Don’t escalate the issue yourself, but make sure your customers know where to put their concerns so that they are heard.

    Reply
  27. Hug Hating OP

    I would like to thank everyone, especially Alison for commenting on my lengthy question. Alison, I agree with what you have advised and I think that I need to break out my resume and start an active job search.
    I will try to address some points brought up by those commenting, bear in mind, I won’t be able to hit on all of them but I will try to give a clearer picture for those who had questions. I should note that I work for a very small local government entity, as in we have approximately 15,000 residents..and we are in the southern part of the midwest. I simply can not report this guy, even in some anonymous way, without it coming back to me. Simply put, our environment is VERY small and gossip and snitching ALWAYS gets around. It’s not “fair” that I may have to leave just to get away from an unrepentant layabout, but it seems to be the only real option for me.
    I want everyone to know that most of the people who work here and in other parts of the town are very hard working and despite the negative stereotype that city workers are lazy, most here are not. We often go above and beyond because we are a small town and when Mrs. Puffandstuff calls to say her cat is in a tree, we get her taken care of.
    Headphones are not an option for any of us due to the nature of our work. We have a lot of resident and contractor face to face communication, coworkers that are always coming to the office to get equipment or advice. While I love the idea of headphones, it’s just not something that would be acceptable in our building. While I’m on the topic of face to face contact with residents and such..that is precisely why his behavior puts me in a rough spot. I am the first person who catches all the flack from someone who is mad about whatever, regardless if it has anything to do with me or not, it’s the nature of my job. It’s one thing to answer the phone and have someone yelling into the receiver that “You better get over here and fix my sewer” and it’s another thing to have a resident pepper me with rhetorical questions as to why the guy in the office was just sitting there watching videos when she came in to report that her street has potholes that need to be fixed. At that point, there is no distinction between me and him, I get the third degree from a citizen while he sits there and continues to surf ebay.
    SUrfing ebay, Facebook, streaming videos of all sorts, games and downloads are all blocked from our computers because naturally, our employer doesn’t want to pay people to do those things while on company time. They have a very sophisticated firewall and blocking software, our computers are locked down to where we can access other government related websites. Everyone’s computer except his. I think it’s a glitch and that the off-site IT people have simply missed blocking his pc. He has taken full advantage of this oversight, as I have described. They could look at his browser history and see what he has been doing for all this time, they choose not too.
    I don’t care one stinkin bit if someone is overweight, I mentioned it because I’m doing my best to describe what I see and hear before me. End of story. In the best case, he sounds like an asthmatic pug, that’s the reality.
    I did stop his hug requests after he came up to my desk, asking if I had any free hugs to give away. I said “Not today.” he hasn’t asked me again. Yes, HR would want to know about it, but, there is no guarantee that I wouldn’t end up looking like an oversensitive, artificially outraged female, who was making waves for a jovial grampa who of course, meant no harm.
    I have a position where I have downtime, inbetween answering the phone for 4 departments, assisting coworkers, maintaining spreadsheets of all types, we all have down time between tasks..this guy is not simply utilizing his down time and some how getting all his work done in the 30 minutes a day he actually spends fixing broken machinery. His job is mechanical, physical in the aspect that he is reaponsible for repairing and maintaining the company vehicles, including heavy machinery. The person who held his position the first 7 years I was here, rarely had downtime because there was always something to fix, repair, weld back together, procure the needed materials, etc. This person does none of that, instead, shoving those duties onto an assistant. Why let those duties come between you and a few more hours of random You tube videos while you snack on baby carrots?
    As far as a few who suspect that I am over reacting to an irritating situation, I offer this challenge: Come sit in my office for a week, be a witness to this person’s belches that go on and on, the sound of him using his pocket knife to scrape and trim his nails, and be entertained by the endless youtube videos featuring subjects such as lumberjack contests, asian women fixing each other’s hair, the making of various food products and full episodes of The Voice. Don’t roll your eyes when, in the middle of an especially interesting tutorial on how to properly slaughter a goat, a coworker comes to him, requesting his help, and he tells that person to wait while he finishes his video. Don’t gag when he reaches for his pear and bites into it with such abandon, that it sounds as if he would rather make love to it, but slurping is all he is allowed to do.
    At this point, the only thing keeping me semi-sane is that at lunch, I can run to my car and get on my smartphone and surf my Pinterest boards. It’s my happy place. I think I better start looking for resume writing pins, or as some suggested, twitter writing tips.

    Reply
    1. Min

      I have no helpful advice that hasn’t already been offered. I’m just here to say I really feel for you and I hope that you’re able to get out of this situation soon.

      (I’d offer you a hug, but you’ve been traumatized enough)

      Reply
      1. Hug Hating OP

        Min,
        I almost chocked on my Tic Tac when I saw you offered me a hug. I appreciate the sympathies!

        Reply
    2. Malissa

      I take it you have no employee union where you can file a grievance?
      You could be a writer with the way you describe things.
      Yes look for another job. In your small community I know this will be a challenge. Good jobs are few and far between. Good luck!

      Reply
    3. PPK

      If I were to attack something, I would go after the computer stuff (the other stuff is annoying too, of course). Is there any way to initiate a review of the computers so the IT guys could “discover” that they missed coworker’s computer? Maybe you could be concerned that an email with a virus came in and you think it might have sent itself around? Or maybe you could innocently ask the IT folks if you could get your computer opened up to some sites that your coworker surfs on — “I think my computer has too many things blocked, I wanted to watch another county’s youtube site on road safety, but I can’t view it. My officemate can view it on his computer.” Or some other blocked site that’s generally harmless, but a time suck.

      Reply
    4. curious

      This is a stretch… but perhaps you could come up with an excuse to call the IT folks? Maybe you could claim to be seeking access to a site you know is barred to you but that you could make a case for accessing on a temporary basis (a local business’s webpage?).

      Prior to the call, you could ask Mr. Obnoxious to see if it’s blocked for him (assuming it won’t be) and when the IT folks say it’s not on your list of accepted sites, you could cheerily (it’s all in the tone!) exclaim “Oh well Bob had no problem visiting that site! He gets all the goodies…”

      Reply
  28. LCL

    ‘computers are locked down to where we can access other government related websites. Everyone’s computer except his. I think it’s a glitch and that the off-site IT people have simply missed blocking his pc’

    An anonymous heads up to IT would solve this part of the problem quickly. Really anonymous, like sent from a public library computer.

    Reply
  29. Jill

    I don’t think the OP should have to find new work cuz of this guy. No way would I give up my pension and health insurance just for a slob. But having been a govt employee for 12 years, I can confirm that the discipline process is different from corporate. It takes a LOT for someone to be fired. If management is indifferent, does OP belong to a union? She should see her steward or union attorney for advice.

    Short of that, being that this is a govt office, a little public pressure never hurt. We had a guy in our City Hall that took a 15 minute smoking break every hour. And was blatant about it. Someone finally sat in their car and recorded him for several days out on his smoke breaks and leaked it to local media who ran an expose. Yea, it put our City Hall in a bad light, but it also put the pressure on management to do something about it and the union put pressure on the guy, too, lest they look foolish for defending him.

    If there’s a way to involve public pressure, that might be a good avenue….

    Reply
  30. Hug Hating OP

    Good ideas everyone, I’m hatching a plan to somehow notify the off site IT people about what’s going on without it being tracked back to me as being the complainer. I especially like the “innocent question” suggestions, I think that might actually work better than trying to remain completely anonymous. In this case, looking stupid might work in my favor. Weird, I have a quote that I love and it seems aprapo at this time, “Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence.”
    We do not have unions of any sort but that would be a good first step for someone else who may be suffering from a similar situation at their workplace and if there is such a person, may god have mercy on their soul.

    Reply
    1. Malissa

      If you don’t have a union then your boss is terribly bad for not shoving this guy out of the door. Look for the next available transfer.

      Reply
  31. Fifi

    I’d so love to read an update to this, OP!! Really hope you got to either anonymously or innocently tip off the IT guys and get them to have a look at this guy’s computer!! Best of luck!

    Reply
  32. bluestar

    I”m sitting here reading this listening to my coworker chomp on an apple just like she does every day. How do some people tear off bits of apple in such a way that you can hear the sloooooooooow peel of the fruit shearing off the main part for each excruciating bite. SO ANNOYING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Reply

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