A reader writes:
My coworker’s husband comes in every day between 3:30 and 4:30, depending on when he gets out of work, and sits in our open concept, 468 square foot, 6-person office until my coworker is ready to leave around 5. They do not ride into work together.
Sometimes he stands beside her hugging her while she works, and they are always whispering to each other. My desk faces them and it’s distracting to me. Am I wrong or is this inappropriate, and if so how can I ask my coworker or my boss to reduce this visitation?
Eeuwww. Yes, it’s totally inappropriate.
Honestly, it would be a little weird to have this guy in your office for this long every afternoon even if he were just sitting quietly in a corner, keeping to himself. But the whispering and the extended hugging? And she’s supposed to be working while he snuggles with her? It’s not professional and it’s not considerate of others. (Or of basic decorum, for that matter. And it’s making my skin crawl a little.)
I can’t imagine why your boss is okay with your coworker being distracted that way or with the rest of you dealing with the distraction they pose. Does she know it’s happening with this frequency?
In any case, if you’re up for it, you could certainly say something to your coworker, her husband, or her boss, although how it goes over with the first two will depend entirely on how reasonable each is, and how it goes over with your boss will depend on how savvy she is about handling stuff like this.
To the coworker: “Do you think Frank could sit over there (somewhere far from the rest of you) when he meets you here, or even wait downstairs some of the time? I end up getting distracted when he comes in and talks to you every afternoon, and I’ve noticed it makes it harder for me to focus.”
To the husband: “Hey, Frank, could you wait over there? It’s pretty distracting to have you canoodling with Jane while we’re working. Thanks.” (I actually prefer this option to saying something to the coworker, since the husband is the one committing the actions you object to … although ultimately your coworker is the one responsible for not allowing visitors to interfere with the rest of you.)
To your boss: “For the last few months, Jane’s husband has been meeting her at work every afternoon and spending up to 90 minutes hanging out in her space while he waits for her to be ready to leave at 5. It’s pretty distracting, because he stands there whispering and hugging her while the rest of us are working. I feel awkward saying anything to them because I don’t want to strain my relationship with Jane, but it really is distracting and making it hard to focus. I wouldn’t care if it were occasional, but it’s every day. Could you maybe ask her to have him wait for her somewhere else so it’s not interfering with our work?”
If you doubt that speaking to your coworker or her husband will have any effect and so you know you’ll end up needing to say something to your manager next, it might be better to just skip that and jump straight to your manager — since otherwise it’s going to be quite clear to your coworker who instigated the manager’s intervention.
If that intervention comes, of course. Some managers are laissez-faire to the point of neglect, and if you’ve got one of those, then you might end up just needing to live with an hour-plus of inappropriate cuddling and whispering every day. My sympathies if so.