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.