employee keeps inviting himself into my conversations, nose-blowing coworker, and more

It’s four answers to four questions. Here we go…

1. My employee keeps inviting himself into my conversations

I am currently having an issue with an employee on my team who reports directly to me. Every time someone comes to speak to me at my desk, he injects himself into the conversations and turns it into a kind of group discussion. Sometimes it’s our director who wants to speak to me about work, and this person rolls around his chair and starts joining in by nodding and agreeing with what’s being said. The other day, he even went so far as making a suggestion of something I should do for the team in front of my director when the director had come to talk to me.

I have only been a manager a short time, so I don’t have a lot of experience in positioning these types of criticisms to people, but I know I need to do something. I don’t want to be too harsh with him, as I can tell that he isn’t trying to do anything, only look interested and show that he’s engaged, etc. It’s just a basic lack of common sense on his behalf, so I’m trying to think of how to approach this from a managerial standpoint. I thought about organizing a one-to-one with him and giving him some good and bad points on how he is doing in the team so far and bringing it up this way. Or should I just approach it directly as a standalone issue? And how to you tell someone to butt out in a diplomatic way?

Hopefully you’re having regular one-on-one check-ins with him, and making feedback a regular part of those. If you’re not, start doing it now — because when you already have a regular forum established for feedback and you’ve made it a normal part of your routine, it’s much easier to bring stuff like this up. So if that’s not already happening, start that now (with all your employees, not just this one); that’s going to make your job easier in the long-run and will make you a better manager.

As for how to say this, just be direct: “Bob, I’ve noticed that when someone comes to speak with me at my desk, you often join the conversation. It’s great that you’re interested and invested in your work, but I need to be able to have one-on-one conversations with people. So I need to ask you not to join those conversations unless you’re asked to.”

2. Coworker blowing her nose at lunch

How would you go about asking a coworker not to blow her nose during lunch?

I don’t think you can. Yes, etiquette says that she should leave the table before blowing her nose, but etiquette also says that it’s rude to correct someone else’s etiquette. Plus, if she has a cold or allergies, it’s not realistic to continually get up and leave the table during a limited amount of time for lunch. If it’s grossing you out, your best bet is to eat somewhere else.

3. Treating everyone differently because of one bad employee

If a coworker is doing the wrong thing, e.g. not showing up on time, too many days off, and not performing in their role, can the manager put us both on performance management so the slacking employee doesn’t feel like they are being targeted?

In theory she can, but it would be really, really terrible management. The slacking employee should know that she’s being targeted because of her performance and that she needs to change her behavior. Hiding that message is the opposite of helpful here. Plus, it’s awful for the morale of the other employee.

It sounds like you have a manager who really doesn’t want to do any of the even slightly difficult parts of managing (like telling someone, “Hey, you’re not doing what we need and X needs to change”).

4. Do I need to be paid for this increase in my commute time?

I am a non-exempt employee, and for the last three years, I’ve only worked at my company’s main office. However, my manager recently told me that I’m going to start working at a client’s office one day a week. Do I need to be paid for the time that it takes to travel to the client’s office? It will add about an hour each way to my regular commute (so about an hour and a half one way), and I will be going from my house directly to the client site.

Maybe. This is tricky. Federal law is clear that if you’re occasionally asked to travel to a different-than-normal work site, you must be paid for whatever additional travel time that adds to your commute. However, it doesn’t address a situation like this where it’s going to happen regularly. If it’s becoming a regular weekly part of your job, my hunch is that you might not need to be paid for that travel time (because now that work site is becoming part of your normal job, as opposed to an aberration) … but I could be wrong and you’d need an employment lawyer to tell you for sure.

{ 165 comments… read them below }

  1. Kate

    #3: I agree this is really terrible management, and it’s really frustrating as the “good” employee to feel like your being punished for the behavior of a bad employee, but I also see it as a CYA move. At a previous employer, I had a terrible coworker who routinely didn’t show up, saying he was working from home or in the library (we worked on a college campus), and he rarely completed projects. Boss did address his performance issues with him, but he felt she just didn’t like him for all reasons not relating to his terrible performance. So in turn she became more of a micromanager to all of us requiring frequent updates on projects as well as making us report to her how many hours we worked and from where each week (not actually unreasonable, but a new level of check ins for us). This was especially ineffective in that the problem employee decided the new rules didn’t really apply to him, so he didn’t provide the requested information. When she finally let him go though, she was able to say, “Look, I asked all my employees to do these specific tasks, and problem employee is the only one who refused.” If a place makes it difficult to fire an employee, I guess this is a way to show 1) you communicated your expectations for the position and 2) you communicated them clearly enough that other employees understood.

    1. Veronica

      Thanks Alison for answering my question, so when do managers become accountable? This particular manager could have nipped the situation in the bud earlier but let it go and now the employee continues with the same behaviour because she knows she can get away with it. The reality is the professionalism of the good employee is questioned by others who witness or have knowledge of the performance management. How long should a good employee put up with bad management?

      1. Zillah

        I don’t think there’s an easy answer to that question, bc IMO, it depends on a lot of variables, including:

        How long have you been at this job? If it’s only for three months, you might want to try to stick it out so you don’t look like a job hopper. If it’s for three years, you might want to start casting a line out, bc it’s a decent timespan to leave anyway.

        How in-demand are your skills? If you’ve got a skillset that’s in high demand, you probably have a little more latitude to push back or leave.

        How adversely is the bad management affecting you? If something is just annoying, you might decide it’s worth sticking it out. If it’s actively harmful or makes you feel unsafe, that might tip the scale in the other direction.

        How badly do you need the job? Someone who has a year of savings put away likely has a different than someone who’s living paycheck to paycheck.

        Etc. It really, really depends.

        (All general you – I can’t tell whether you’re the good employee or not.)

        1. M-C

          Sorry Zillah, but if you’ve been somewhere this bad for only 3 months, you don’t “stick it out so you don’t look like a job hopper” – you quickly get another job and erase this one from your memory and especially from your resume. No harm, no foul, no point in needless suffering.

          1. Ask a Manager Post author

            But it depends on the factors Zillah listed: How in-demand are your skills / how many options do you have? How adversely is the bad management affecting you? And how badly do you need the job?

            Otherwise you risk running into more bad management at the next job, and the next … and you can’t just up and leave every single time.

      2. Colette

        The manager is accountable for the performance of her team. How that’s measured is up to her manager. Making good performers jump through hoops because of something a poor performer isn’t doing likely won’t be measured directly. Instead, it will be measured by lack of productivity when the good performers find jobs elsewhere.

    2. JM in England

      This sounds just like my schooldays, where the whole class was put in detention for the misbehaviour of one or two students!

  2. Artemesia

    I am always puzzled by the nose blowing thing. Do people really get up and leave and go to the bathroom every time they blow their nose? If I had a big honking sinus infection with grotesque green slime –and the dulcet tones of a goose in flight — well yeah, but for anyone with a bit of a drippy nose due to allergies, dry air etc — well if you have to absent yourself every time you dabbed at your nose people would be wondering why you were spending so much time in the bathroom. I have never dined or lunched with people who leave the table for a quick nose dab or blow. Perhaps I have always been surrounded by clods?

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      I tend to think just angling your body away from the table is reasonable, unless there are going to be terrible noises accompanying it.

    2. Mookie

      a big honking sinus infection with grotesque green slime –and the dulcet tones of a goose in flight

      Pure poetry, that is.

    3. Erin

      Yeah, it’s a case-by-case situation. A real honking blow would require you to leave the table. That’s it though. If it’s smaller than that, we can all let it go. :)

      1. Anna the Accounting Grad

        Yeah, there’s a qualitative difference between a one-off noisy gooey nose-blowing and a repeating little dry allergic one. One’s gross and the other’s just a side-effect of allergy season. (Of course, anyone with a repeating big gooey thing is probably sick and shoul stay home!)

        1. Sibley

          Not necessarily… I have a repeating big gooey thing that is 100% allergy/sinus issues, no infections required. In fact, one of the ways I know I’m getting a cold is that nothing is coming out of my nose. I do everything I can to control it, but am stuck. Year round.

          1. M-C

            Yeah, yeah, but even if I had a big gooey thing from my allergies, if I had to leave the room every time I need to blow my nose I’d be on disability, because no work would get done. Really, people need to lighten up, kleenex are not grossly un-hygienic.

    4. The Cosmic Avenger

      I love spicy foods, so I often get a runny nose while at a restaurant. I’ll dab my nose with a tissue, but I always go to the men’s room before blowing, since it’s never just a dry allergic clearing as Anna the Accounting Grad mentions below. But this is at restaurants, not a break room, and certainly not my office. A break room would be kind of borderline IMO, it probably depends on who is in there with me.

    5. Beezus

      If there’s clearly a large volume of stuff that needs to be cleared out, I go to the bathroom to do it. I survived a recent bout of flu by dabbing my nose at my desk frequently, and going to the restroom for a good honking 4-5 times/day (it was the kind of flu where I didn’t sound too bad in the 3 feverish days I spent at home, but the better I started to feel, the worse I sounded for 4-5 days after that).

    6. Augusta Sugarbean

      Not to dismiss the question because everyone has things that bother them legitimately but it could be worse – the person could just sit there and sniff constantly. I have a co-worker who does that. You are a not a child! Get up and get a tissue for heaven’s sake! I don’t know how people don’t get annoyed by their own sniffing. I hate when I don’t have a tissue handy.

      1. Mephyle

        And then there are people who were brought up not to blow their nose (whether this was their family culture or national culture) but with no taboo against snorking it back into their sinuses. That is the worst!

        1. Grapey

          I’d rather snork it back (while making reasonable sounds)…repeated tissue wiping really irritates my nose.

          1. some_guy

            Best of both worlds – snot rocket it into the bathroom sink. Or pavement if you’re not self-conscious. But also wash it down once its in the sink. IDK if this is superstition or not but I believe that snorking it keeps me sick longer.

    7. NoseBlower

      I have gustatory rhinitis. That means, whenever I eat, my nose runs. Whenever I eat spice food, my nose runs. Whenever I eat bland food, my nose runs.

      Asking me not to blow my nose when I eat is akin to asking somebody else not to breathe or blink during meal time. It’s part of eating for me. I’m guessing it is partly hereditary since my grandpa also had this.

      I’m with the others…if I have to clear out mucous so that you actually hear the mucous, I’ll leave. Generally, it’s just a few droplets. It’s a runny nose…not a mucous fire hose. At home, I keep a tissue box on the table by my spot. If I had to leave every time my nose ran while eating, I’d never be able to finish a meal before everybody else was ready for their next one. :)

      1. Anxa

        This is what I came to say.

        I don’t seem to have it with all foods, but I have with many foods outside of the typical soup/spicy/steamy realm. I think I generally have better than average table manners, but I still would dread a lunch interview for this reason.

        My mom is not a stickler for etiquette or fancy, but she believes ’tissues belong in the bathroom.’ I think she thinks they’re unsightly and ruin her decor (even, maybe ESPECIALLY the fancy tissue holders). Everytime I put a box of tissues on the nightstand or near the dining room table, I end up running to the bathroom 5 times or so until my food gets cold :(

        I have been tempted to come out with a roll of toilet paper and stick it on the table, but we rarely have a wrapped, back up roll in the house and it’s just a petty fantasy.

        1. Anxa

          (Also, I think it kind of ruins the point of decorating and cleaning for company. I tend to value function over form, but she’s more of an artistic and really does have a beautiful home. When we host, she tends to do a lot of the decorating and cleaning and meal planning, and I tend to do more of the checking to see if the bathroom’s stocked, make sure people have a place for their coats, etc.)

        2. The Cosmic Avenger

          Can you buy the pocket packs of tissues so you can keep them on you but hidden? I stocked up on those when my minion was a toddler, and now that she’s all adult-like, I just like the convenience of always having a packet in my coat pocket or car.

    8. mander

      This is something that I simply don’t even notice or care about. Even a really disgusting, slimy nose-blowing session at the table would not phase me at all. Running to the bathroom every time my nose started to run or I sneezed would be completely impractical, and it baffles me that anyone would insist on it or be offended if I didn’t!

      1. Kelly

        @mander – I don’t find it offensive. I wish with all my heart it didn’t make me vomit … having food in my mouth while someone is gurgling snot and boogers — sends me puking — not exaggerating. I’ve left many, many meals sitting on my plate in restaurants because someone did this while I was eating.

    9. susan

      I would much rather hear someone blow their nose than hear them constantly sniffling. Just blow, for goodness sake!

      1. (different) Rebecca

        +1 How are they not annoying themselves with all that sniffing, I’ll never know.

      2. Kelly

        I don’t want to hear either. I have taught my kids from the time they could sit at a table to get up and go to the bathroom when they are having nose issues. They are all adults now and they have no problem not grossing other people out at the table.

        If we are so sick that we can’t keep our noses from running during a meal we don’t eat with others or just dab and then go to the restroom when it gets to the point we can’t dab any longer.

    10. Kelly

      Dabbing at your nose is VERY different than just blowing it. No one wants to hear snot and boogers gurgling when they are eating food. I, for one, will literally vomit when I hear that sound and there is food in my mouth. To me it’s no different than someone pooping on my dinner plate…it’s beyond gross.

      I NEVER blow my nose in a restaurant, at a dinner table … EVER and find it to be one of the most repulsive things a person can do. It’s so disgusting I can’t even find enough words to describe how filthy, nasty, disgusting and vile this is.

      If I’m sick I don’t eat with others. If I’m sick I don’t go to restaurants. I would rather inconvenience myself by staying home or getting up and going to the rest room than chance ruining someone else’s meal. Ugh, I am dry heaving just writing about it.

  3. Susan

    About the last question, #4, I work at a college and go to other campuses regularly. Whenever I go to a campus that is further than the main campus, which is once a week, I can count the extra km for gas mileage. I think it’s worth asking your supervisor about.

    1. katieinthemountains

      Yes, I got a mileage reimbursement, so normally I would report office to job site miles, but if I went directly to a job site in the morning (or went directly home late in the day), then I reported home to site miles and I counted drive time as work time. If I drove to the office to grab some supplies first, I counted time and miles from when I arrived at my desk only.

  4. Chris

    #1 – Just playing devil’s advocate, surely one doesn’t have an expectation of privacy when having conversations at people’s desks, and if you want a private or uninterrupted conversation with someone you should go to a meeting room to do it?

    1. MK

      No. One doesn’t have an expectation of privacy in a bus either, but you wouldn’t consider it ok if a random person sitting behind you butted in the conversation you were having with your friend, would you? Privacy isn’t the issue; the OP isn’t complaining that her employee is listening to these conversation, she is annoyed that he is trying to take part in every single one.

      In fact, I would say expectations go the other way; if you work in an open plan office, everyone should actively try to respect the autonomy of the person working next to them, or there will be chaos.

      1. TowerofJoy

        I worked in an office together with my boss for a long time. When people came in if I didn’t turn around and acknowledge them I was considered rude. I would even get “Hello TowerofJoy!!” if I waited too long to turn around in hopes of letting them have their conversation without me butting in. I think it depends on the set up, the culture, and other things.

      2. TootsNYC

        I think the biggest part of the problem is the manner in which he is participating.

        He’s not listening as a subordinate; he’s trying to take part as an equal and maybe even as a superior (making a suggestion of something the OP should do).

        It’s one thing to say hello; it’s totally another to nod in agreement as if his opinion is as important (or more?) as his boss’s, and even worse to then start giving his boss directions.

    2. Myrin

      While I can generally see the point, I’d also say that simple common sense and politeness speak against it.

      It’s probably okay to interject something when two coworkers talk about something that’s your area of expertise and they’re having a hard time figuring out when you know of a simple solution which could help them along (it would still be important to go “I’m sorry, I couldn’t help but overhear your talking about X – would Y be a way to go about it?” and also accept that you possibly don’t know all the facts and they have indeed thought/talked about Y before.)

      But here we have someone who is below the OP rank-wise insert himself into every conversation she has. That is both rude and shows that he doesn’t really have an understanding of professional norms and boundaries. Also, OP shouldn’t have to go into a conference room for every two-minute-conversation she has with someone at her desk. Additionally, conversations don’t have to be highly confidential in topic to warrant not having the same random person contributing to them every time.

      1. Artemesia

        I don’t understand why this manager didn’t address this the first time it happened. If I had a subordinate doing this, I would have talked to them after the visitor left and told them although we live in a cube farm and can’t help but overhear each other’s conversations that he is not to join the conversation unless invited. How hard is this? If the person was my equal level co-worker, I would tread a bit more delicately and ask rather than ‘tell’ them to not do this.

        1. neverjaunty

          It’s probably that thing where the first time, you’re a little stunned and figure why make a fuss about a one-time faux pas. Then it continues and you wonder if it’s OK to speak up because you didn’t shut it down earlier.

          1. TootsNYC

            I hope for us all that we get can past the “I can’t say anything now because I didn’t say anything earlier” thing. It’s just not true. I know so many of us are hobbled by it–and of course, Buttinski Bob will probably say, “But you didn’t say anything before.”
            The answer is, “I’m saying something now, and while I’m willing to concede that you took my silence for acceptance–and therefore I’m not going to hold your previous actions against you–I’m telling you now: it’s not acceptable anymore. And for your ‘mental database,’ it really wasn’t acceptable in the first place.”

    3. MillersSpring

      True, but it sounds like this guy is rolling over to horn in on conversations at every opportunity. The OP needs to cut him off mid-roll and say, “Actually Fergus, this conversation is just for me and Jane.” I think that’s fair even if the conversation isn’t private. Eavesdropping and horning in are bad habits to start in professional environments. If Fergus is inserting himself all the time, he’s going to become a notorious boor double quick.

      1. ginger ale for all

        Embarrassing the employee in front of others seems harsh. I thought the mantra is to praise in public and correct in private. Except with toddlers and repeat offenders of course.

    4. AcademiaNut

      I wouldn’t expect real privacy, but I would expect to be able to have an uninterrupted conversation.

      If you’re discussing something sensitive or private, and you don’t want anyone to hear what you say, certainly, you have to go to a different room. People will hear what you are saying. But in an open plan office (or a public bus, for that matter), you need the illusion of separateness. So the polite thing to do is to ignore conversations around you, unless it’s apparent that the conversation is open, or you are invited to join, or, on rare occasions, when you overhear something that it’s important for you to answer or correct.

      1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For

        This. While I have an office, my team is spread out on the floor in cubicles.

        I will often get up and go to one of my leads’s desk because one, it’s efficient and two, I’m not constantly summoning them to my office.

      2. Artemesia

        It is kind of like living in an apartment building; there is wisdom in learning to ‘not hear’ the next door neighbors or get too close to them.

        1. Anxa

          Oh my goodness, thank you. My boyfriend thinks I’m a scrooge for trying to maintain a semi-cold, civil relationship with our neighbors…one of whom is our landlord’s nephew. He’s always responding really enthusiastically and positively about those ‘we should cookout/go out/have dinner’ statements.

    5. Elsajeni

      I don’t entirely agree with this — as other people have pointed out, there’s a difference between “private” and “uninterrupted,” and there are lots of places where it’s reasonable to expect your conversation to be uninterrupted even though it’s not private — but I do wonder, how close is the OP’s desk to Bob’s, and how frequent are these conversations? If he can just turn his chair around and join in, it sounds like they’re really close — obviously butting in is annoying behavior regardless, but I wonder if Bob is feeling interrupted, too, like he can’t focus on anything for very long because there’s always a conversation going on right behind him. If it’s possible to move them further apart, it might be better for both the OP and Bob.

      1. Phoebe

        I was wondering this ,too. I’m a receptionist and people often hang out right in front or beside my desk and have conversations that I have no interest in, but they are leaning on my desk. It can be both distracting and annoying, especially when I’m trying to answer the phone and have a conversation of my own. I’ll sometimes interject my self in hopes of helping them realize that they’re not alone in the room and others a re trying to work. It usually works.

          1. eplawyer

            Instead of interjecting in the hopes they get a clue (they won’t), why not just say “Excuse me, can you please not lean on my desk while I am working” “take your conversation elsewhere because it’s hard to hear while I’m on the phone” or whatever. Address the real problem rather than create another one.

        1. Izzy

          I might have been that employee at one time. My first time in a cube farm, and not aware of the norms. I didn’t roll my chair over, but sometimes coworkers in the cubes on either side talking to each other loudly (as they had to if one of them didn’t get up and go to the other’s), or our boss coming out of her office to talk to the guy in the cube next to me. She would stand behind my cube, not really in his, and had a fairly loud voice. These weren’t work related, but general current events type chats, and it wasn’t clear from her body language that they were private. Plus, I was brought up that talking past or over someone was rude. I felt invisible. Like the receptionist above, like they weren’t aware that anyone else was in the room. (The coworker frequently acted like this anyway.) It was distracting as hell. Sometimes I tried to ignore it but that was impossible. I tend to react to feeling left out. My best solution was to gather up whatever work I could do offline and quietly go sit in one of the “team” areas (small nooks with comfy chairs and little tables, designed for casual conversations and impromptu meetings) and work undisturbed. The OP should talk to the employee, who may be clueless. Also make sure visitors are coming into your cube, not hanging out in the inter-cube common space,. so it’s clear it’s not a general conversation, and use inside voices. Sometimes a loud voice can give the mistaken impression that remarks are addressed to everyone in range, especially if the speaker is in a common space. So my boss speaking loudly behind me (to my neighbor) gave me the impression she was also speaking to me sometimes, unless she addressed him by name. In other words, make sure the nonverbal cues are indicating private conversation. This can be confusing in cubes.

    6. Bookworm

      I worked at an open office plan for several years…for the most part, people get used to having their coworkers chatting around them. It’s not really reasonable for people to reserve a room for every five-minute conversation.

      Also, this sounds like an issue that the guy does need to be spoken to about. Based on my understanding of the letter, he wants to convey enthusiasm and involvement. But there’s a certain social IQ that comes into play here, and it will be better for this employee in the long run if he learns to only insert himself when it’s valuable.

    7. NK

      As others have said, there’s no expectation of privacy, but there should be an expectation of uninterrupted conversations. It does require some common sense/good judgement on the part of the other parties though. My boss sits two cubes from mine, and when there are people standing around talking loudly, I will occasionally join in. But if someone is sitting at his desk and they’re in serious conversation? I will leave them alone, even if I could contribute. Actually, now that I think about it, the former situation is nearly always a non-work related conversation, and the latter is mostly serious work conversations. So the line is generally pretty clear for me.

    8. Deirdre

      Yeah I know what you mean but its not really about the privacy, I accept that he can hear what I am saying as can anyone close by. What bothers me is the butting in and acting like every conversation I am having is a group discussion.

    9. ELW

      It’s just not realistic to go to a meeting room to have a conversation every time simply because you don’t want the joiner inner to interrupt. At a previous job, a co-worker, my manager, and myself all worked in cubicles, and my co-worker could not help but insert himself into every conversation I was trying to have with my manager. None were meant to be private, but I did not want his feedback or advice. I was bringing things to the attention of my manager for his advice and his advice alone. Typically, my co-worker sent my manager off on a completely different track about why we couldn’t do something, and it always ended up taking longer to get around to what I was bringing to his attention. This was completely frustrating and unproductive for all involved.

  5. Z

    #3 Wat.

    Isn’t performance management a specific, targeted management response to under performing or misbehaving employees? How do you apply performance management to a group where one employee isn’t meeting goals but the rest are? Performance management is a “you need to improve or you’re fired” sort of situation, so… what? This makes no kind of sense. If I got put on a PIP because one of my coworkers was doing something wrong, I’d be going to HR about it… but then again, my country has employment laws and you can’t just put people on the “shape up or you’re fired” list for something you didn’t do.

    1. MK

      The way I imagine this is, the manager issues a blanket statement saying “Going forward all employees have to reach performance standards A, B and C. Those who do not will face consequences X, Z and Y”. So, the employees who are already performing well and meeting A, B and C goals will just continue working as before, while the underperformers either improve, or don’t and face X, Z and Y. And the manager can say/feel that they weren’t targeted specifically for underperforming, which I suppose is the whole point.

      1. nico m

        but, what if a previously excellent employee has some temporary problems now , leading to a dip?

        1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For

          I would be more worried about a good employee being frustrated with a blank set of rules/punishment and finding a new job.

      2. Artemesia

        I am imagining it more like: no one will work from home, everyone will be at their desk working at 8 am sharp, no one will have coffee or food at their desks, I will need a report of the day’s accomplishments at 5 pm sharp every day, no one will leave the office for lunch. etc etc etc because Tulip is goofing off at home, spends hours making food and eating at her desk, takes long lunches, comes in late and cuts out at 4:45 when she is here.

    2. Veronica

      Totally agree, but yes when you are in a country that have employments laws and h.r protecting the interests of the company what do you do? It especially hard when it’s a job you enjoy which has now been ruined by someone who by their behaviour does not want to be hangs in to make your working life a misery.

    3. Artemesia

      I doubt if it is focused on performance but rather on monitoring behavior which is a really poor way to manage if the problem is not the behavior but the performance. It is like not allowing flex time or work at home because we know Tulip uses it as an excuse to get her nails done and watch soaps rather than actually work at home. The sad thing is that these petty annoying hoops irritate the fire out of productive workers and often don’t affect the miscreants at all who should have been fired long ago.

    4. TuxedoCat

      Maybe it’s like my office? We have had years of success as a 10-20 person group (and with me being there 2 years), but a new project brought in a new manager and 2 new hires. The 2 new hires have had a host of issues with the quality of their work and missing deadlines for months on end. The new manager came up with different checks for the 2 new hires, including keeping track of our time usage (we’re salaried and this is basically unheard of in our field) and having a higher ranked manager meticulously check the smallest bits of work (think simple Excel calculations). New manager somehow convinced my boss that this is how all of us need to function. So despite having an excellent record of work prior to the two new hires, I’m being treated the same way.

      It’s why I’m looking for a new job. It also has done nothing to improve the performance of the 2 workers and they still have their jobs.

  6. bemo12

    I suffer from terrible allergies in the spring and fall and blow my nose at least every five minutes. If I were expected to leave my desk every time it would make me wholly unproductive. I just try and be as courteous as possible and make sure I clean my work space pretty vigorously.

    As a side note, one of my allergy symptoms is a pretty big hacking cough as I am getting the mucous out. People always give me the side eye like I am some time of contagion, and this cough lasts for several months. I always try and tell them it is allergies, but I don’t think they believe me. Should I do anything different? I know if I am going to have a long coughing attack I leave the room, but for just the occasional hack?

    1. MK

      Honestly, I don’t understand why anyone whould give a sick person the side eye, even if they were contagious. It’s not as if anyone is choosing to cough, or be sick in general, for their own personal enjoyment. And though everyone should try to avoid infecting others, one can’t quarantine themselves every time they have a virus. Annoyance is justified in certain situations, like when someone persists on coming to work sick, even though they don’t have to, but generally it’s unreasonable to be irritated with someone for being ill.

      1. (different) Rebecca

        I only give the side eye to people who don’t cover their mouth (or nose, if sneezing). Then I’m throwing so much shade, you’d think I was an oak tree. That’s totally not cool.

        Other than that, cough, sneeze, and blow your nose away. I’m a chronic allergy/sinus person myself, but I’m an adult too, so it comes down to don’t gross out your dining companions, and always carry and then police your own tissues.

      2. Temperance

        Here’s my .02: I was hospitalized in February and March due to a serious infection. My immune system is pretty beat up right now. When other people go out in public with an infectious disease, they’re putting my health at risk. I consider it reasonable for me to be irritated that I could theoretically end up in the hospital again.

        I do what I can to avoid contact with others, which is difficult as a public transportation rider.

        1. Colette

          Unfortunately, people with infectious diseases need to buy groceries, go to medical appointments, and sometimes go to work. It would be nice for everyone to be able to stay home, but that’s no more reasonable than asking you to stay home so that you don’t get infected.

          1. Temperance

            I disagree, with the exception of medical appointments, and even then, I think you need to be cognizant of the fact that you can impact others (so don’t get on a crowded bus and then cough up a storm). A person isn’t contagious for that long with most illnesses, so you can wait to get groceries or have them delivered if there’s a huge need.

            1. MK

              Seriously? Sick people should stay at home without things they need or medical attention unless there is “huge need”, just on the off chance they might come into contact with someone with a compromised immune system? Are you willing to pay for the taxi for them to get to the doctor or for the grocery delivery? What about the ones they live with, which might carry the infection, are they supposed to stay home too?

              Your health does not trump anyone else’s. And public transport is a known danger zone for infection; the person who coughs is just the carrier you can see, but might be the least of your worries.

            2. Colette

              Some people don’t get sick days and can’t afford to kiss work. Some people get sick when they’re down to their last groceries or are out do something they really need. It’s not always possible to stay home.

              No one wants to go out and do things when they’re sick – part of being sick is that you generally feel pretty awful – but sometimes it is necessary.

            3. Izzy

              Re coughing up storm on a crowded bus, I had the worst coughing fit of my life on one. It was an allergic cough, the trigger was on the bus – probably third hand smoke on someone’s clothes, or a fragrance – and I couldn’t get away from it on a crowded moving bus. It was an express bus from one town to another so I was stuck until we reached the station. Cough drops didn’t help and neither did the water a fellow passenger offered me. I found some relief by cracking a window and putting my face in the opening to breathe outside air. The coughing stopped immediately when I got off the bus.

            4. Observer

              There speaks massive privilege. Plenty of people do NOT have several days worth of groceries in their homes or someone to do their shopping for them.

              And, let’s not forget that aside from the fact that many people can’t afford to take a day off, some people who technically could afford it, face the loss of their jobs for taking off.

              Sure, if someone knows that they are contagious, they should try to limit exposure to others. But, the reality is that you cannot expect people to shut their lives down.

              1. Fifi Ocrburg

                I think it’s entirely reasonable to expect someone with a contagious illness to not come to work.

                1. Observer

                  It’s entirely reasonable when you have a reasonable employer, and the financial wherewithal. If you are making starvation wages and don’t have paid time, it’s a very hard call to make. And, if you get a strike in a three strikes and you are out system, for taking the day off regardless of the reason, again, it’s not as reasonable as it sounds.

                2. NK

                  It’s hard to know when you are contagious or not, and the lingering symptoms of colds can go on for weeks. The cough usually sticks around the longest. I rarely get sick, but I would have missed a month of work if I stayed home for the duration of the cough!

                3. Linguist curmudgeon

                  Yeah, well, maybe you should go be a retail manager then, with your eminently sensible outlook. Too many people in positions of power don’t agree with you.

        2. fposte

          But that’s a message to be conveyed in words, and words that constitute an actionable request. “Dude, can you cover your nose? I’m still getting over the coccyx gangrene episode” is fine. A glare only tells people that you’re grumpy about something–it doesn’t tell them what you want them to do.

          1. (different) Rebecca

            I must disagree–I am simply unable to comprehend someone who has reached adulthood without knowing that they should cover their mouth/nose when they cough/sneeze. I will absolutely glare, because what comes to mind to say is nothing very polite, and contains the phrase ‘were you raised in a barn?’ Anyone who doesn’t immediately apologize and make very free with a tissue/elbow/etc. is someone I will try to avoid in the future, as they are obviously not fit for company.

          2. Temperance

            Anyone who is rude enough to hack and cough without doing vampire arms isn’t going to get why someone would call them out. Plus, I travel through Philadelphia – correcting strangers in public isn’t totally safe, depending on the person.

      1. Windchime

        Me, too. My asthma manifests not only with shortness of breath but with coughing that is sometimes just annoying and other times is uncontrollable and prolonged. Singular changed my life. (I know medications work differently for different people, but it seriously changed my life).

      2. TootsNYC

        I was surprised to learn (back when I was diagnosed because of a cough, but had never had audible wheezing) that cough is the number one manifestation/symptom of asthma.

  7. Barbara in Swampeast

    #1 – DO NOT use a “sandwich” approach in which you say something good, then tell him to stop joining in, and end with something good. NO, NO, NO!!! Alison gave you a “nice” way to say what you have to and that is it. Complimenting a employee may seem to soften the blow, but often that is all the employee takes away with them.

    1. Zahra

      Yep, use a “sandwich” approach with me and the negative thing will be completed unheard. Tell me what needs to improve, period.

      1. Aurora Leigh

        I hate the “sandwich” approach, but for the opposite reason. I know I did something wrong and I can handle that. The compliment before and after is just condescending. I’m adult! I can handle criticism.

        1. M-C

          Yeah, yeah, but even if I had a big gooey thing from my allergies, if I had to leave the room every time I need to blow my nose I’d be on disability, because no work would get done. Really, people need to lighten up, kleenex are not grossly un-hygienic.

          1. M-C

            Sorry, this got mis-placed somehow, and I can’t delete..
            What I meant to say here is that I totally agree with the incredible condescension that usually accompanies these fake sandwiches. The person is mad at you, what they can come up with as positives is usually pathetic, and the expression of it is just humiliating for both parties. Don’t even think of doing that!

    2. knitchic79

      So much this! When I had to talk to my helper about a pretty big mistake he made I got asked why I didn’t soften the bad with all the good my helper does. I said because this isn’t kindergarten and I expect him to take correction like a big people. I wasn’t mean about it, I just wanted to be crystal clear about my expectations.

    3. Not the Droid You Are Looking For

      Yes. The entire compliment sandwich needs to go away. Not only is it open to interpretation, but it can also be confusing for the employee.

      There is nothing in being direct that says you can’t be kind or thoughtful (in fact, I often feel being direct is a kindness).

      1. Artemesia

        In an annual review type thing the sandwich is appropriate — you don’t want the whole conversation to be negative. But even then you need to really separate the two clearly. Here is what is going well; keep doing this. Here are some concerns that I need you to focus on. If it is feedback this week about a particular problem THEN that particular problem needs to be the focus. This shouldn’t be an emotional crisis if you are also providing positive feedback regularly as well.

    4. OhNo

      My boss has what I guess you might (if you were being a goof) call an “open-faced sandwich” approach. She always starts by saying something nice, then goes into wording very much like what Alison suggests. It’s great for me because I have some anxiety and I always like it when critical feedback is framed very clearly. Getting a “you’re not in trouble, and you’re not being fired” opener makes it much easier to focus on the actual feedback and work out steps to improve. If I don’t get that, I often glaze over during the details in a panic of “oh no, is she about to fire me?”

      But yeah, I definitely agree that a full compliment sandwich would be a little much. The overall impression of the conversation is important, especially if this isn’t something you’re doing with your employees regularly. Blanketing the issue under layers of compliments makes it seem less important, and much easier to ignore.

  8. Merry and Bright

    #3 When I read this, it reminded me of school in here in the UK xxx years ago when it wasn’t unusual to keep a whole class in detention when maybe 2-3 children had played up in class. I’m told the thinking was that it would shame the naughty kids into behaving better. Didn’t work, of course.

    This and the OP’s office are different but deliberately making others share the blame and consequences is so off on so many counts.

    1. I'm a Little Teapot

      It was also common in my US elementary school, late 80s – early 90s. It infuriated me. It’s from the same school of lazy teaching as group projects where there are no consequences for kids who do nothing, bullies and victims being told to “work it out among yourselves,” and projects where kids are given a math “word problem” and expected to solve it without ever having been taught the basic skills needed to do so, because they’re all totally able to reinvent millennia of mathematics, right?

      Though oddly, these things seem not to have been laziness so much as a deliberate philosophical approach to teaching. A misguided, damaging, crappy approach, but a deliberate one that was all the rage 20-30 years ago.

      1. neverjaunty

        It was both lazy AND deliberate – intended to shift the burden of classroom management from the teachers to fellow students.

      2. catsAreCool

        “bullies and victims being told to “work it out among yourselves,” ” I wonder if whoever thought that up ever thought that if the victims had been able to make the bullying stop, they would have.

        1. Lindsay J

          I always hated the suggestions that I “work things out” with the bully because there was the implication that the bully was a reasonable human being, and that there was some type of shared responsibility for the issue. When the “issue” is that I have buck teeth or dress funny, how am I supposed to “work that out”?

          And telling them, “When you say things like that, I feel hurt,” would have been ridiculous. Me feeling hurt was exactly their intention! They weren’t inadvertantly saying something careless, they were specifically targeting me.

          I still have a lot of resentment about how bullying was handled when I was in school.

          1. Windchime

            I’m dealing with this at work. A work bully has been picking at me for months, and I have been told, “I need you to be able to work with Bully.” It culminated in Bully screaming at me in front of the whole team on Friday. I can’t go to my boss because he has made it clear that it’s up to me to work with the Bully (not for the Bully to stop being one). So now I go to HR. No idea if they will help or just tell me to work it out with the bully.

        2. Observer

          In many cases, they most definitely DID think they could. It was very much a blame the victim mentality.

          And in some cases everyone was so invested in the “bullies are all merely victims of terrible things” that the idea of holding a bully accountable was almost seen as re0victimizing a victim.

    2. Mallory Janis Ian

      Fourth grade in the early eighties was hell for me in that respect. Any time more than one student committed some infraction, the whole class would have to stay in at recess and write 100 or more lines about it (ex. “I will respect the classroom, school property, and the teachers.”; “I will not talk in class.”; etc.).

      If we finished our lines and the bell hadn’t rung to come back inside, we could go out. I remember I’d frequently arrive outside only to have the bell immediately ring and I’d have to get straight into the line to go back in.

      Group punishments suck.

        1. neverjaunty

          It’s not true that ‘most’ elementary schools have abolished recess or that this is the reason that some of them have. The ‘no recess’ fad started as a way of showing how Very Academic schools are – look at all the time we spend learning instead of playing!

          1. Three Thousand

            I’ve heard some of them legitimately don’t even have time for recess because they’re so busy trying to make sure all the kids pass their endless tests.

      1. Callie

        When I was in first grade (in the early 80s), as we were coming back from lunch, I overheard my first grade teacher saying she would paddle everyone in the class until she found out who did some thing (I don’t remember what). Yes, paddling was A+ okay in the early 80s. I didn’t do the thing and I was determined not to get paddled, so as soon as we got back to the classroom I locked myself in the classroom’s single-stall bathroom and refused to come out. I didn’t come out even after my teacher PROMISED she wasn’t going to paddle anyone and never intended to. I didn’t believe her. I sat in that bathroom all day until they got someone from maintenance and take the door off the hinges in order to get me out.

  9. TowerofJoy

    “It’s just a basic lack of common sense on his behalf, so I’m trying to think of how to approach this from a managerial standpoint.”

    Common sense isn’t inherited. It’s learned. It’s a catch-all phrase we use for learned social behaviors, and we can’t assume everyone has them or that the set someone has is appropriate to every culture (your office culture in this particular case). When you run into issues of “common sense”, a conversation generally helps. Alison’s advice is perfect.

    1. fposte

      Yup. “Common sense” is generally a flag that the speaker has never had to explain or thought about explaining this thing. Which is fine, but explaining it is still your first step when you find somebody who needs it.

  10. Evie

    A friend last year did stellar work but the manger told her she didn’t want anyone in the dept. to feel bad so she was giving everyone the same meets expectations “grade” on the performance reviews she sent to corporate. She already has a new job.

    This isn’t kindergarten. We don’t have to make sure no one has hurt feelings.

    1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For

      “She already has a new job.”

      If you cater to your low performers, you will lose your high performers.

      We had a new manager come on, and I’ll admit he inherited a problem employee, but he started imposing standards that no one else in the company did (we are an “arrive any time between 8/8:30 place” and he started inviting his team be in their seats by 8:00). Yes, he eventually was able to get rid of the problem employee, but not before losing three really good people.

      1. Artemesia

        I have a relative who is a super star in his field but really likes to set his own hours and run his own life; he would have a new job in two weeks if he had a manager who behaved like this and he was someone the company very actively recruited and who had delivered even beyond what they hoped for.

    2. Beezus

      Twice in my career, I have gotten flat “meets expectations” ratings across the board because my manager was new to the team and “didn’t have enough information to justify a higher rating.” In both cases, my previous manager was still working for the company and could have contributed to more nuanced feedback for the team, and in both cases, I am dead certain they were not asked.

  11. Former Diet Coke Addict

    Lord, the classic “I don’t want to single anyone out so I’ll chastise you all” is nearly impossible to not roll your eyes at as an employee. My boss is particularly keen on this one–when there was a former employee who was smoking weed in the bathroom during work hours and my boss knew about it, he still couldn’t bring himself to single him out. So he called an all-employee meeting to make sure everyone knew about the drug policy! That’s his MO, and it doesn’t earn him a single shred of respect. It makes us all loathe him.

    1. Alter_ego

      That seems especially egregious because no one in any work place anywhere needs to be told that it isn’t okay to smoke weed in the bathroom. I’m pretty sure people who work in dispensaries know not to smoke week in the bathroom.

  12. Rebecca

    #3 – my manager is famous for this! There is one person who routinely falls behind, fails to do their work in a timely or accurate manner, doesn’t keep her time card correctly, and on and on, but since this person is the manager’s friend, ALL OF US get dragged into a 30 minute kumbaya session about how we “all have to do A, B, and C”. It makes all of us resentful, and her friend still doesn’t do her job. Manager is one of those “I don’t want to single anyone out and make them feel bad”. IT’S A WORKPLACE NOT A KINDERGARTEN. This is so seriously frustrating. I made sure to point this out on our manager evaluations, but I really doubt the evaluations we filled out for our manager ever made it to HR. That’s a whole other story.

    1. regina phalange

      ”it’s a workplace not a kindergarten” – SO TRUE. Could not have said it better. I think it is great you put that on your manager’s evaluation and I hope it goes to HR. I recently put in an eval that no one at my company is ever held accountable for mistakes and it’s seriously so frustrating. Who knows if anyone will listen, though.

    2. Elizabeth the Ginger

      As a kindergarten teacher, let me assure you that this isn’t the way to deal with one kid’s problematic behavior in kindergarten, either!

  13. Éowyn

    #2 could have been written by one of my coworkers (and now I’m paranoidly wondering if it was)! I have chronic sinus issues and literally carry tissues with me everywhere. I do often need to blow my nose several times while eating lunch, though I do it as discreetly as possible and never leave my tissues on the table or anything. I would hate to think that I was disturbing or grossing out anyone, but when you live with a condition that requires you to
    blow your nose dozens of times a day, it’s often not realistic to constantly excuse yourself from the presence of others to do so. I would hope others would be empathetic and understanding for someone dealing with a medical condition, but I realize not everyone is. I really can’t think of a good solution for myself or OP#2. I suppose you could ask the coworker not to blow their nose at lunch, but if they are anything like me, they’d be mortified, especially as it’s something they have no control over (other than to spend half their lunch break running out of the room and back). Maybe try not sitting near them at lunch and turning your head away when they blow your nose, if it makes you uncomfortable (which I truly sympathize with, as someone who gets queasy easily). I realize you may feel like you shouldn’t have to make accommodations for them, as they are the etiquette offender, but calling them out and making them feel even worse about their condition (which really is miserable to live with) would only make lunchtime more uncomfortable for everyone. Hopefully medical science will someday come up with a solution for chronic sinus sufferers!

    1. BookCocoon

      Same thing here — I worry someone wrote this about me! I have sinus issues that are thankfully better now that I take a daily allergy medicine, but eating and being outside (such as walking over to the lunchroom) are two things that most make my nose run. I always stop in the bathroom to blow my nose and wash my hands right before I go into the lunchroom, but inevitably my nose will start running during the meal. I try to wait until I’ve gotten all my food before I blow it and to be as discreet as possible, but I still worry. There are no trash cans in the lunchroom (plates are cleared for us) or I would go over to one to blow my nose, but I just have to tuck it in a side pocket of my purse until I pass a trash can on my walk back from lunch. Otherwise I would literally have to take a 2-minute walk every time I got up to blow my nose. So OP, it is possible the person is already spending way more time thinking about this problem than you ever will. You don’t need to say anything and make them feel worse.

    2. Temperance

      There is a difference between a loud and really thorough nose blow and dabbing, though. It’s rude to blow your nose while people are eating, but a discreet dab is fine. I have chronic allergies and sinus issues, and I generally avoid other people when I’m having a bad allergy day.

      I can’t stomach the sound of someone else blowing their nose, FWIW. It triggers my gag reflex. I would probably eat lunch at a different spot/alone/away from anyone who made it a habit because I can’t stomach it.

      1. Éowyn

        If I had to avoid people on days I need to blow my nose, I would literally never leave my house. Personally, I think repeatedly dabbing at mucous as it continually drips out of your nose is much grosser than just blowing it into a tissue and getting rid of it. I can’t help having sinus problems any more than you can help having a sensitive gag reflex. Unfortunately, there’s just no good solution for everyone, but I wouldn’t be offended if someone needed to stay away from me at lunch. We all just have to do what we have to do.

        1. Temperance

          What I mean by that is that I lock myself in my office and try not to bother anyone. IMO, dabbing is more discreet than a loud blow.

          1. Éowyn

            I gotcha. We don’t have private offices where I work, so it’s not really an option for me. I do try to blow my nose as infrequently and discreetly as possible, and take allergy meds, decongestants, etc. Unfortunately, it’s been a lot worse since I moved to a different state several years ago. It is apparently one of the worst areas for allergies/respiratory issues.

  14. Mela

    For #4, it sounds like you haven’t asked yet about whether or not your manager would okay the extra time. I would actually start by assuming you’ll be paid for the travel time, since it is a considerable distance (it would be a different story if it were a 15-30 minute time difference). Questions like “How should I code my travel time?” or “How should I clock in to reflect my travel time when I go to Client’s Office?” should work depending on how your office handles time cards.

    1. I'm OP #4

      Thanks for your response! I did actually ask my manager (in a very neutral, casual way), but he said that it didn’t count as work time because it counted as part of my regular commute. I can see both sides of the issue, so I wanted to get some additional feedback. Maybe I will check with a lawyer, if it doesn’t cost too much!

      1. Kara

        There should be some free resources with the labor board in your state for you to ask this question. It may be determined that you would be paid for your time that is in excess of your regular commute. For example, if your commute is 35 minutes, and it takes you 60 to get to the client’s location, you’d be paid for the 25 minute difference.

        I know in Texas you could be paid for the time if it crosses your company’s normal work hours. If your office is open at 8am, and you normally arrive at that time to begin working, but the additional travel time would put you starting work at 8:30am, where you’d lose that first half hour, TWC might require you be paid for your time because it’s a period that you could otherwise have been time spent earning money. It depends on the circumstances. But yeah, check with your state resources before hiring an attorney.

  15. Brandy

    #4. I’m not sure about the time, but I’d definitely expense the mileage to my employer (confirming first of course). And I would think that if *any* of the time were expendable, it would be the difference between your normal commute and your client commute (not the whole commute).

    1. I'm OP #4

      I was thinking that I would only get paid for the time difference between my normal commute and the new one (so, an hour one way), not the entire new commute, but my manager nixed the whole thing when I asked him. I’ve never gotten reimbursed for mileage before (because I’ve only made local trips, within a few miles), so I don’t think he would be particularly open to that suggestion, unfortunately.

  16. Nicole

    #2 – I had a friend who would blow their nose when we were eating lunch and it grossed me out. I never said anything to her, though. Dabbing your nose with a tissue is one thing, but full on blowing with mucus and whatnot is just gross for me and would ruin my appetite.

    #3 – I too hate when management takes the “reprimand everyone” approach when there’s only one or two people not following the rules. Or when they institute a new policy that takes away flexibility because of one or two offenders. It’s really damaging to morale. Also, I don’t think the people causing these meetings or policy changes even realize they are the culprits so not only does it alienate the good employees, it doesn’t necessarily stop the poor behaviors anyway.

    1. TuxedoCat

      I wrote about my office, where we all have to do this extra work because of 2 new under-performing employees.

      One of them understands the policies are in part because of their lack of productivity. The other does not and I guess must be okay with the situation. I don’t think either of them have too many good job options. However, there are no real consequences for them like losing their jobs so there is no improvement.

  17. The Professor

    #1. I wouldn’t discard the case for some hidden agenda by the employee. Sure, in any sufficiently large congregation of humans you get your garden variety of social skills, but this guy isn’t just passing by the aisle, LW says he rolls the chair and gets in the talking, which makes me think he’s interrupting whatever work he’s doing just to pry in the conversation. At a minimum, he’s trying to get visibility with the higherups, at worst he’s trying to progressively undermine the young manager’s authority. I’d check if he was a candidate for the role in the past, and I’d keep my radar active for any other tell of foul play.

    1. M-C

      +1 unless he shows truly no social skills in any other areas, I’d assume something along those lines. The butting in to the boss’ conversation to give suggestions is particularly telling.

    2. ELW

      There was someone exactly like this at a previous job, and he was the kid in school that sat in the front row and raised his hand for EVERY question from the teacher. No hidden agenda, he just thrived on the attention and praise.

  18. boop

    #2: I am momentarily amused by this question’s wording. It doesn’t really specify “lunchroom” or “lunch table” but rather the time during which a person takes lunch. To that I have to wonder when else is one supposed to take care of business if not on their own time?

    #3: Oof, my bosses do this but not in any effective way but rather just by posting passive-aggressive or just plain aggressive memos all over the walls. They have ensured that there is not a place that isn’t recorded on videotape that they can easily review, but instead of simply finding the person who is annoying them, they just post bitchings on the board. Worst of all, they post it at night, so only the few morning staff will see it. I guess we can just ignore it as being irrelevant to us, but it’s still a big smack of negativity first thing in the morning. Morale is delicate.

    1. The Cosmic Avenger

      That’s true re: #2. If this is in an office with a door and all, and the OP is just squicked out because they hear it while they’re eating, then tough. In cubes you do have to be considerate of other people nearby, but also, it would be hard to leave the whole work area every time you have to blow your nose. But if this is a lunchroom or cafeteria, I have a lot more sympathy for them now and less for the nose-honker.

  19. Jackie

    #1 I wonder if the manager also keeps inviting himself into the employee’s conversations ? I have been in situations like this especially in an open floor plans. People just insert their comments as one is having a phone conversation or one on one conversations with other employees. Some people call this “eavesdropping” and get insulted others just accept it as part of the job.

  20. Stacy M

    My boss has a similar approach of making the whole team do something because he’s concerned about one person. We recently had to start emailing him every time a client cancelled or rescheduled (even though we have shared Outlook calendars). He also sends a lot of reminder emails that are clearly only applicable to one person. It is very demoralizing. I also suspect the person who is being targeted suspects it is someone else, so they don’t take it as seriously as if the boss said, hey you need to stop doing ______ and start doing ______.

  21. MathOwl

    To OP#3: I don’t have all the information here or the whole picture here, but something that spontaneously came to my mind is to go talk to your boss if she seems otherwise rational or not too prone to impulsive outbursts. In that case, I think it may be good to have a talk with her and to bring up your eagerness to be a good employee and to ask what you may not have done well (specifically) and how to correct the situation.

    Chances are that your boss won’t be able to pinpoint anything you did wrong, and it may cause her to realize her strategy is ineffective is she’s at loss as to what negative feedback to give you. And if she unexpectedly does come up with specific things she wants you to address, then you’ll be better able to address them. I think that’d show a lot of professionalism, to go the extra mile to improve things even if your boss wasn’t clear or managing effectively.

  22. AMT

    OP #1: My first instinct was that this is some weird job success advice the employee got from, like, his dad or some out-of-touch blogger.

  23. Annoyed

    On #4, if it’s a regular schedule, they don’t have to pay you for the time, but the additional mileage is an expense you should be reimbursed for at the IRS approved rate of 54 cents per mile. So if your normal commute is 15 miles each way, and it’s a 50 mile drive to the client site, you should be able to expense 70 miles per day. If your employer will not do this, you can claim it as a deduction on your taxes.

    1. I'm OP #4

      Thanks for your response! I’ve never been reimbursed for mileage when I’ve done very local travel (during business hours), so I don’t think my boss would be open to reimbursing me for mileage. Thanks for the tax tip!

  24. I'm OP #4

    Thank you, Alison! I didn’t mention this in my original letter, but I did asked my boss about getting paid for the extra time, but he said no because it counted as commuting time. I could see how that would be the case, so I wanted to get a second opinion, and it sounds like he was probably right. Thanks again for this great site and all the work you do!

    1. Ben

      No idea about the rest of your situation, but you now have the following insight about your boss. You told him that he functionally cut your pay, and he told you to lump it. I’d take that as a bad sign.

  25. DCGirl

    I’ll take the nose blower over the person in the next cube who won’t blow her nose and keeps snorting it back in. All. day. long.

    1. Not signing my name

      Which is sometimes unavoidable. If it’s far back/upper sinuses, blowing it out may be hard or impossible while drawing it down in to the throat may be possible. (And, yes, disgusting.)

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