burping employees

A reader writes:

I am a manager of a two small departments. I have asked on numerous occasions for the employees to not belch. I find it to be unprofessional and rude. This one particular employee does it constantly throughout the day. They aren’t loud belches, but ones that are heard loud enough to get under my skin. What would your next step be?

I have to admit that I’m posting this in part because it cracked me up.

First, realize that some medical conditions make people burp uncontrollably. If that’s the case here, you’ve just got to live with it.

But assuming that’s not the case and you just have employees who enjoy burping audibly throughout the day: If we’re talking about once a day or something like that, let it go. If it’s truly a constant thing, and you’re determined to stop it, well, you’ve got authority. Rather than trying to cajole them into stopping, instead figure out what you’re willing to do about it. Maybe you want to tell them that their behavior creates the perception that they’re unprofessional and is disruptive when people are on the phone or trying to focus. Maybe you want to tell them that their performance reviews and raises take professionalism into consideration, and this will play into that. Maybe you want to lay down the law and tell them the juvenile antics need to stop, period, and consider it insubordination if they don’t stop. Or maybe you want to do nothing.

But frankly, it’s so hard for me to imagine professional employees intentionally burping “constantly” throughout the day that I have to wonder if this doesn’t speak to a larger issue with them.

{ 10 comments… read them below }

  1. HR Godess*

    I thought this was hilarious. I’d like to say that I was laughing because I’ve never had to deal with something like this but that’s not the case. Like AAM said, sometimes there is a medical reason, sometimes people just don’t think! I’ve experienced both.

    It is always amazing how people act when they think no one is watching!

  2. Becky N.*

    I’m the burper! Actually, the sneezer. I have sensitivities to dust and the days our cleaning staff doesn’t vacuum I sneeze in fours, rather loudly. It’s embarassing for me and unfortunately there’s not really anything I can do about it. When I try to contain the sneeze people just laugh at me because it sounds squeaky and is equally distracting. I imagine for the burper it’s a similar situation. Perhaps try offering them a day to work at home (if it makes sense) to allow them to burp without disturbing their coworkers, or putting up some kind of noise barrier to limit the noise at large. As a coworker you could definitely confront them and say please try to be quieter because you are disturbing my productivity, but as a manager I think that would be perceived as seriously negative feedback or even threatening. Heavy handed managers are rarely appreciated or respected and will often have other issues managing their employees because of actions like that.

  3. Susan*

    Here’s the problem. If it’s a medical condition, that’s one issue. If it’s behavior chosen by the employee and is annoying and distracting to others, you have a potentially hostile-feeling work environment. Employees depend on managers to address behavior that makes them uncomfortable at work.

  4. Anonymous*

    ok, so I plead ignorance to the types of medical conditions that could cause burping. But what if you asked this employee if their burping was medically related? What if it were medically related but they didn’t want to tell you? That could be personal information they didn’t feel comfortable or want to share with their boss. That would put them in an awkward position, and you as well.
    But then again they might be oblivious (like me) that it could be the result of some medical condition, who knows?
    (I’ve got to admit, I laughed at the post, and even more so at the first comment!)

  5. Anonymous*

    one of my coworkers burps on purpose throughtout the day. He takes great delight in doing so. He likes to annoy others in the office. I find his behavior rude and inconsiderate.

  6. Anonymous*

    I am currently dealing with this exact situation! I’m separated by a half cubical wall from a closed mouth burper. The problem is, closing your mouth does NOT make the burp silent! I recently got moved next to this person and I am seriously considering asking my manager if I can move somewhere else. It’s disgusting. How do you teach manners to grown woman in a professional work environment?!

  7. Anonymous*

    I used to sit next to someone who burped constantly. I believe it was due to their Celiac disease (I Googled). It drove me crazy. He also ate all day long and chewed with his mouth open. I was so relieved when he moved but now I sit next to another open mouth chewer/nose blower/takes-off-shoe-and-scratches-foot-er. I think it’s just what happens when you are jammed next to a bunch of people in an open office situation–someone is bound to have weird habits that drive you crazy.

  8. Anonymous*

    I kept reading and thinking, “I feel your pain!” Except in my case, it’s the BOSS who belches. No physical issues. Just doesn’t care. A really smart person, but absolutely NO grasp of any of the social graces. Smacks gum with mouth open, and makes other sounds that I will not mention in polite company.

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