it is okay to clip your nails at work?

A reader writes:

Is it okay for folks to clip their nails in the office? In my last two cubicle-type jobs, there has been at least one person who clips their nails in the office on a regular basis. I think that practice is absolutely revolting (groom at home, people!), but other people I’ve vented to seem to think it’s no big deal. I don’t even know who the culprit is, so I have no idea how to address it — I just hear CLIP. CLIP. CLIP. every few days and want to die.

I answer this question — and four others — over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

Other questions I’m answering there today include:

  • How to turn down supporters’ requests to visit our office
  • Criticism in my annual review came out of the blue — and not from my boss
  • Is preference given to job applicants who apply earlier in the process?
  • How can I explain to an employee why I don’t want to hire her boyfriend?

{ 274 comments… read them below }

  1. Amber T*

    I have been that person. I am sorry.

    (I have an office now, but I have clippers in my drawer. Sometimes a nail breaks down low and it hurts!)

      1. Amber T*

        I should clarify – it would start with a broken nail, but then it would be uneven, so I’d have to fix it, and why not fix the next nail, and now only one nail is long on that hand, so let’s clip this nail so it’s short too…

        Never the toenails though! Ick. I’d always *look* discreet, I just never realized how loud that sound was until a coworker pointed it out and asked me to stop. Which I did, until I got my own office – now I only do it when it’s broken and painful, and I stop once it’s fixed.

          1. Felicia*

            Ick, no, not until I’ve already clipped the majority of the length that needs to go. Filing that much nail off takes ages, and I hate the feel of it.

        1. Kittymommy*

          I’ll admit to it, I have, on a couple of occasions, clipped my fingernails. However I’m also an office of 1 and do not share a desk or supplies.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        I was so glad for that exception, because I have been the person receiving A Look while hobbling around the Science Center, sitting down, getting out my nail clippers, and trimming the jagged, half-detached toe nail on the toe I just painfully stubbed. While supervising two toddlers. No, I am not going out to the parking lot. (See toddlers–if I hold one with each hand, I have no hands left.) No, I don’t want to drag all of us to the bathroom at the other end of the building and supervise them in there while I do yoga to reach the toe.

        1. Nita*

          *raising hand* I clip nails at work because toddler (and a preschooler). I feel like most of my time at home is spent feeding them, getting them into bed, or getting them out of bed. I manage to squeeze the basic self-care in there somewhere, but I only eat breakfast at home if I’m telecommuting, and I only clip nails at home if they’re not in the house… otherwise I will literally be walking to the bathroom to get the nail clippers, and get distracted by five different things along the way.

          But I only clip nails at work in my office, with the door closed, and very quietly :)

        2. Robert*

          Painfully stubbing ones pity toe and administering self aid is also an exception to the rule.
          In all things, discrete and reserved.
          Ie: plopping your size 11 on the cafeteria table and making a spectacle is uncouth!!

      3. A.*

        I used to work with a girl who thought nothing of plucking a stray armpit hair or clipping her fingernails or toenails in the office. It was one of those open office environments and she sat in front of me so I could clearly see and hear her grooming. I am so thankful to have an office with a door that closes in my current position.

      4. OhGee*

        I had a colleague who clipped his toenails at his desk. In an open plan office. Less than five feet from me. We have two private bathrooms about 15 feet away from where we sit. I was livid. Needless to say, I made it clear to him that clipping your toes in front of your coworkers is GROSS.

        1. PlainJane*

          I had a co-worker many years ago who clipped his toenails–at the reference desk of an academic library. No, I am not making this up.And he’d put his feet ON THE DESK to do it.

    1. Badmin*

      I keep nail clippers at my desk but mostly for hang nails. If I get a hang nail, and attempt to pull it, it’ll bleed and that’s no fun, it’s easier and better to just clip it off quickly. However, I always do it when no one is around.

      1. NW Mossy*

        Yeah, same deal for me. I sometimes get hangnails and broken nails midday, and when I don’t deal with them until day’s end, I risk snagging them on fabric and ripping half my nail off. A couple of muffled clips to me seems like a reasonable thing to do in that situation.

        1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

          I have nails that are literally paper thin, and while I regularly keep them clipped short, they can still grow fast enough that there is enough to break, chip, or tear, and I also get hangnails. I keep clippers in my purse just for this reason, and will whip them out instantly, wherever I am, to clip & smooth the offending bit. I have to, if I don’t want it to catch and tear unevenly, or into the bleeding quick, which is a lot grosser than taking 30 secs to fix it. I am as discreet as possible & dispose of the clippings appropriately, but grooming rules < my pain & discomfort.

          I used to sell vintage at flea markets, which is rough work, and actually had to wear very short acrylics at that time, because my thinner-than-a-postcard nails were tearing so badly even when I snipped them down to nothing- they’d rip and split so far down in the *side* of the nail that the tear was already deep into the nail bed when it happened. The acrylics protected them from damage.

      2. Susan Sto Helit*

        I used to do that for hang nails as well. My nail clippers mysteriously disappeared a month or so ago though, so I can’t any more.

        I figure there’s at least a chance that a co-worker took them because they don’t like me doing that so, while it’s a total guess, I’m taking it as a cue to just live with the hang nails (or, if I really can’t stand it, take myself off to the bathroom to deal with them with some scissors). They’re so annoying though!

    2. Happy Lurker*

      I have a nail file and use it regularly as I am always chipping nails. The winter is brutal as I tend to chip a nail almost daily.
      It’s kinda gross, but I only do it when I am alone.
      I used to touch up my toenail paint in my single office with my back to the door and feet on the floor (in my sandals). Looked like I was hunting for a paperclip. It took barely a minute, chips really drive me nuts.

        1. Midge*

          When I was a kid, my mom once tried to paint her nails on a flight. Didn’t even think of the smell until a flight attendant came over and told her she had to stop.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          It definitely does. I have a coworker who used to paint her nails at the office (we each had separate offices but open doors), and the smell was a dead giveaway, every time.

        3. Happy Lurker*

          Probably, but touching up a couple chips is not like a full on manicure.
          Plus my office was at the end of a hallway, diagonally across from a bathroom. Not the worst smell on any given day.

        4. PlainJane*

          Yeah, fumes from nail polish make some people sick, so not a good thing to do in an office.

    3. Amber T*

      After reading a bunch of the comments – I will say that I clip them over the trash can that’s emptied daily and not in my desk drawer where they’ll be kept for heaven knows how long… gross.

  2. eplawyer*

    For the negative review out of the blue – do they think you are still in school? Why don’t they just have you write “I will serve customers better” 500 times? It just seems silly to make you do a book report as punishment.

      1. Editrixie*

        What came to mind for me — based on almost nothing, I acknowledge — is that the LW somehow upset a customer who is acquainted with at least one boss, who insisted on getting something into her review. Even people with great customer service skills (and there’s no reason not to believe the LW about that) can run into an unreasonable customer who can’t be pleased and will try to retaliate if they don’t get what they want.

        I grant I’m fairly paranoid about work things, but I can totally picture it: “Did you know you have someone in customer service who simply refused to take care of a simple request to groom my tiny little llama? Yes, I know you *technically* sell llama-themed ceramics, but I buy the newest llama teapot every model year, and I don’t see why she couldn’t…”

        1. Amber T*

          This. Sometimes customers are just ridiculously unreasonable, even if you bend over backwards to try to accommodate them, they’re still not happy and you suck.

          1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

            I ran into one of those jerks as a customer once, a woman who was screaming abuse at the poor young people running the Costco food court, because she was unhappy with the way they fulfilled the unreasonable request she had screamed at them over till they appeased her.

            BOY, did it feel good to tell her off in great detail and no uncertain terms what an unreasonable and entitled ass she was and who did she think she was treating service workers that way and she should be ashamed of herself and she was lucky I wasn’t the manager there because I’d ban her from the store for good for that kind of behavior…and the look on her face was PRICELESS.

            1. CMart*

              One of my great joys in life is being able to be the voice of reason in a fraught customer service setting. I spent too long being powerless as the person providing the customer service (food and beverage mostly, some retail) and I’m now free of that burden. I will shame the hell out of someone acting unreasonably.

              My favorite to date was the dude at Dairy Queen yelling at the 16 year old behind the counter for charging him 50 cents for whipped cream instead of 25 cents, because prices had been raised. I think my “oh my GOD dude, it’s a freaking quarter and she obviously doesn’t set the prices. If you don’t want to pay it then don’t get whipped cream. Do you want a quarter? I can afford to cover you if it means I can order my sundae” embarrassed him into just calling me a name and then abandoning his order all together. I also got complimentary whipped cream.

              1. Branzino*

                I’ve also started enjoying yelling at rude customers. My favorite was in Starbucks one morning. It was really busy and there was a long line. The woman behind me just started complaining (to me? to the air? to herself out loud?) non-stop. After about two and a half minutes of it, I finally said, “There’s another Starbucks literally around the corner. You should try this one if you’re in a hurry.” And she looked at me confused and said, “Well, no, it’s just that they’re so slow here.” And I said, “Then go to the other store! Stop complaining just to complain!”

            2. TardyTardis*

              We were at Disneyland once, and a customer was going off on some poor cast member (a sweeper, I think) because her child was scared…hello, it’s called Snow White’s Scary Adventure! We tried to get his name so we could write up how nice he was to her, because we have heard that at Disney properties, three bad complaints and they’re out.

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          Not paranoid: this is really the most logical explanation, as near as I can see. (Haven’t finished thread yet; perhaps there will be a suggestion involving llamas and pasta.) This is such a ridiculously broad brush to fix what should be a specific like “Here is the tape on which you sigh extravagantly at a justifiably frustrated person.”

          (I have spent the morning being frustrated at customer service people who did not personally do me wrong, but whose comrades last week led me into a frustrating corner.)

        3. yet another Kat*

          Yes, I was thinking this, too.

          OR it’s possible that the higher ups have decided they don’t want someone so senior in that position, or want to get rid of LW for some other reason, and are generating documentation to eventually terminate/replace her.

        4. Alton*

          This wouldn’t surprise me. It could be they’re just really bad at giving helpful feedback, but making someone write a report on a book like a school kid feels like it could be a “there’s not really anything to fix, but we want to make an example and punish this person anyway” gesture.

        5. Naptime Enthusiast*

          I can see that but really, a book report? On TWO books? The bad review should be enough, this kind of punishment is not going to add any value.

    1. Ann Furthermore*

      This is the worst. I had that happen to me once with a manager I didn’t get along with. (To be fair, I was pregnant when I started working for him, so I wasn’t totally myself.) My review was an ambush, with criticism coming out of the blue. Then, when I asked for examples, he refused, saying that if he gave me examples then I’d know who had complained about me. So it was basically, “I’m allowed to say whatever I want about you, and you just have to believe it and you’re not allowed to ask any questions.” Ugh.

    2. Zidy*

      And then I have to wonder – are they giving the OP time while on the job to do the reading and write the report? Or are they expecting her to read the books in between customers, which would drive me nuts and result in me reaching the same paragraph fifteen times because I can’t just focus on the book when I’m being interrupted every minute or two. Or even worse – expect to read the book on my own time away from the office.

      Nothing about this seems reasonable.

      1. irene adler*

        I’d WRITE the same paragraph 15 times and hand it in as my report. Just to see if they are actually reading it.

    3. lyonite*

      A friend of mine (who is herself a manager), reports to an executive who is a big believer in some cockamamie idea that every performance review should be heavily critical. Her reports are good performers without any serious problems, so she ends up going back and forth with him every year to try and come up with reviews that he will accept. So, maybe this is a similar case, but with a manager without the political capital to stand up to her superiors? (My friend is quite senior and well-regarded in her field, so she can push back without much worry, but not everyone might have that luxury.)

      1. GreenDoor*

        This was my thought, too. I had a boss, former teacher, who held the belief that “everyone has room for improvement” so she simply had to find *something* wrong with your performance. And yea – I’d ask for examples and it’d be “just review your work product and you’ll see what I mean” or “I can’t spell this out for you – you need to do some reflecting on it” or some other totally vague BS like that, which really meant it was all made up BS.

        Thankfully I work in the government sector where it takes a heck of a lot more to fire someone than a bad performance review. But that didn’t make it any less insulting and demoralizing.

    4. Dennis Feinstein*

      The same thing happened to me at a previous job of mine. I had consistently glowing reviews and then suddenly I was apparently a disaster, even though nothing had changed. They gave me the same patronizing, insulting reading and assignments too.

      I was basically treated like garbage for months before I was just as suddenly a rock star to them again. I figured out later that my supervisor and her boss, who had it out for me, were at odds and she threw me under the bus to get herself back in his good graces again. It’s nice to work for psychos anymore :)

  3. OfficeWitch*

    Clipping nails at work? Nope. Nope. Nope. I had a coworker who did this every single day in our large open plan office and I swear I can still hear the echoing of the clip, clip, clip in my nightmares.

    1. nnn*

      I’m amazed that their nails grow quickly enough that they have something to clip every single day!

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        In the right context, this would have been the first clue that they were vampires.

    2. MechanicalPencil*

      I have multiple coworkers who do this. I feel like it’s a daily thing since the one behind me does it. Then the one diagonal to me. Then the one a row away. GAH.

    3. Pollygrammer*

      Yeah. The answer to “can I clip my nails at work?” isn’t no. It’s NOOOOOOOO!

      1. Anyone up for tennis?*

        Yeah, if I was Alison my answer would be that. If I had to hit a specific word count it would be “No, no, no , no, NOOOOOOO”

    4. AnonMinion*

      SO gross. I cannot understand how anyone thinks it is ok. Hangnail or not. NEVER EVER. So. Gross!

    5. 20 days left @ toxic job*

      The guy who sits behind me clips his nails at lease once a week and I am disgusted by it. Almost as disgusted as when I see people clipping their nails ON THE BUS

  4. Ninanana*

    I used to have a coworker who did all kinds of grooming in her cubicle. Manicures, pedicures (complete with pumice stone), tweezing eyebrows. It was a wonder, really, that she ever got any work done. It came to our manager’s attention and when she asked her to stop replied that she was within her rights because she was “in her own cube”.

    She was right next to me so I could hear the nail clippers but other than that I was pretty fortunate. My friend was in the cube across from her and saw everything!

    PS This coworker was very…interesting. I remember her asking someone for a reference for an academic program she hoped to be admitted to. The person provided the reference to my coworker. Coworker edited the reference and sent it back to him.

      1. Ninanana*

        Another coworker claims that when she needed to talk to “The Groomer” one day she went in her cube and there was a small pile of dust-like matter on her desk and coworker swears to this day that it was pumice shavings.

    1. CatCat*

      “It came to our manager’s attention and when she asked her to stop replied that she was within her rights because she was ‘in her own cube’.”

      Wait… what? Her *rights*? How did the manager react to that?

      1. Ninanana*

        Hi! Ninanana here! I think the manager’s attitude was, “Ok, they asked me to talk to her. I talked to her. The end.” Easy for her; she didn’t have to see things that couldn’t be unseen.

    2. KMB213*

      Man, people are strange. And I used to feel strange doing my make-up in the bathroom at work at the end of the day. It felt weirdly public to me.

  5. Anonymosity*

    At OldExjob, we had a vendor who would sometimes take the purchasing guy to lunch. One day, he had to wait for him and he started clipping his nails right there at the front desk, over the carpet. Then he got huffy when I told him to please stop. >_<

    I could not even.

  6. Amber T*

    OP 5 – my office has a strict rule about not hiring any family/friends of current employees. They could be rock stars and could fill the open role perfectly (someone suggested their sister for an open receptionist role a few years back, but was quickly turned down). It makes sense – if there are any issues between the employee and work place, it would put the relative/friend in an awkward position and choose sides. Nothing personal there at all.

    1. henrietta*

      Additionally, it makes vacation scheduling particularly thorny, since you just know the lovebirds can’t take separate times off!

    2. KMB213*

      And, on the other side, if there is an issue between the two friends/family members/etc., it could become awkward for the other coworkers very quickly.

    3. AllBetterNow*

      Years ago my then-boyfriend and I worked in the same place. He got into a disagreement with another person in the work area. Of course, I sided with my boyfriend and got involved in the escalating mess. Our manager let this play out for awhile and when it had gone on long enough, he called the three of us into his office for a meeting. He spoke just one sentence. “I want you to know that all three of you are expendable.” End of meeting. End of problem.

  7. chipchipchip*

    me too. I’ve been a nail-biter since I was 13 and have had a really hard time kicking the habit. What works for me is to clip and file when I have the urge to bite. For me the immediacy is key! if my nails are long enough to bite they’ll get bitten off before I get home for the day. I share a cubicle and no one has ever remarked upon it, but if someone were to ask me to do it in the bathroom I would probably not agree to do so.

    1. Pollygrammer*

      Sometimes people aren’t comfortable confronting their coworkers about things like that. I would be truly astonished if there wasn’t at least one person who is bothered by it. Maybe you could stick to filing, and lose the clipping?

      1. chipchipchip*

        well the clipping kind of has to happen to kill the length issue – if the nails are too short to bite then I’m good. and as for going to the bathroom, I just find it super disruptive to get up in the middle of a task to go to the bathroom (we’re required to put away laptops in a locking cabinet when we leave our desks). When I get up from my desk to go do something it will take me a while to get back into the level of focus I need for some of my tasks. That’s why I’d rather not agree to go to the bathroom – especially when it will take me just a minute at my desk.

        I can see from the comments that some people find it bothersome – but I frankly don’t think not bothering coworkers for a minute or so is worth interrupting my work to go to the bathroom. Besides, most people in my office use headphones.

        1. AnonymousInfinity*

          Personal grooming and hygiene is appropriately taken care of before you get to work. That includes maintaining your nails.

        2. Yorick*

          I doubt someone is really working if they’re clipping and filing all their nails. So asking them to go to the bathroom wouldn’t be interrupting actual work.

        3. Midge*

          I am someone who is very, very peeved by this sort of this, and I find noises like this to be both highly disruptive and extremely agitating. That said, I honestly think your mental math about disruption is off here. You have no way of knowing how much you’re disrupting the people around you with your nail clipping. It’s not unreasonable to assume that they are totally losing focus for the duration of your nail clipping, and that it takes them a while to return to the same level of focus when you stop. Causing that level of disruption (and annoyance!) just because you don’t want to get up and go to the bathroom to do some non-essential grooming (sorry, but you could make an effort to stay more on top of this when you’re getting ready in the morning) seems really rude and insensitive to your coworkers. I am very frustrated on their behalf.

        4. A.*

          Can you clip your nails in the morning before leaving the house? I can understand forgetting every once in a while but whatever reason, the sound of nails clipping is very aggravating. I’m surprised noone has said anything yet. I used to work with a girl who would clip her nails and toes at her desk and we all talked about her over chat. Not the most mature thing to do but she really drove everyone crazy. I don’t know if anyone ever asked her to knock it off but for many of us it was our first job out of school and we didn’t feel comfortable asking her to stop. Now I would have no problem saying “are you clipping your nails? can you stop.” I actually asked a coworker that at my last job when he was trimming his nails with his office door open. That how far the sound can travel.

        5. doreen*

          I can understand that it’s a pain to put your laptop away just to go clip your nails. What I don’t understand is how your nails are long enough to need clipping now but were too short to clip before you left home or the last time you were leaving your desk and locking up your laptop anyway. It sounds as if the clipping is actually a substitute for biting and you don’t want to preemptively clip just in case you don’t get the urge to bite.( or maybe preemptive clipping won’t work – sucking on a hard candy at 8am won’t help someone who gets the urge to smoke at 11) Which is fine- but the cost of that decision should be on you- not your coworkers.

        6. Rat in the Sugar*

          But what you’re doing then is shifting the annoyance onto your coworkers–instead of disrupting your own work to take care of a personal task, you’re now disrupting the people around you. You say that you don’t think it’s worth not bothering them for a minute or so, which makes me think that you believe that as soon as the clipping is done that they aren’t disturbed anymore–but when you know that it takes you a while to get your level of focus back after having it broken, why wouldn’t you think that it also takes your coworkers time to get back to their own focus level after being distracted? It’s understandable that you don’t want to ruin your focus, but your coworkers don’t want their focus ruined either. I think it’s inconsiderate to do.

        7. Louise*

          So you’d rather distract your coworkers, potentially disrupting THEIR flow because your need to clip your nails at the desk is more important? Yeesh.

        8. NextStop*

          How are your fingernails not long enough to bite before you go to work, but long enough while you’re at work? Do your nails grow unnaturally fast, or are your shifts multiple days long?

    2. Leave it to Beaver*

      Why would you not go to the bathroom? Is it on a different floor or very far away?

      1. chipchipchip*

        It means I have to put away my laptop and lock it and then walk to the end of the hall to the bathroom and then come back and get my work out again. I find it really hard to refocus after getting up, so I just don’t.

        1. Leave it to Beaver*

          Can you unplug the laptop and take it with you? I suppose I’m arguing the point that if a coworker asks you to stop, it’s generally because it is preventing them from focusing on their work, so the reason you give kind of demonstrates a lack of empathy with someone who is experiencing something that you’re actively trying to avoid experiencing.

    3. Lilac*

      Clipping nails in the office is so gross. Do it in a bathroom and respect the people around you, seriously.

      1. chipchipchip*

        I just don’t understand this. I am sitting at my desk, clipping my nails for a minute. Coworkers are presumably sitting at their desks working on their own things. If they are facing their desks, there is nothing to see – and as for hearing some clipping noises, I don’t understand the respect issue. Plenty of people have quick chats with coworkers in shared cubicles and it’s considered a problem. After a minute we are all sitting at our desks carrying on with our work. Does it really matter that much?

        1. Coffee break*

          It’s gross, and on the equivalency of picking your nose. If you respect your co-workers stop. Go to the bathroom or to your car no matter what the inconvenience is for you. You don’t have to understand it but you are now aware that it is not ok to do it in public.

          1. Pollygrammer*

            I think it’s kind of the equivalent of audibly picking your nose. Talking-sounds and bodily-function sounds are just different. You can’t really compare chatting to clipping your nails because one is gross to many people, not just distracting.

          2. VermiciousKnit*

            Ummmmm. Fingernails are not boogers. They aren’t going to infect you, they aren’t wet, they aren’t any more bacteria laden than that person’s hand. You wouldn’t get squeamish about their nails if they touched you briefly while shaking hands, so why all of a sudden is it SOOOO GROSSS when they’re clipped off? I seriously do not get the level of disgust about it, so long as the clipper cleans up and makes sure all the trimmings are in the trash.

            And all those people suggesting filing – that creates fingernail DUST that you are more likely to touch or even inhale than a clipping, so why on earth is that a more acceptable substitute?

            I don’t clip my nails very often, but if I break a nail during the day I’m not going to go around all day catching it on things just because other people are unreasonably squeamish about a lil bit of keratin.

            1. I am who I am*

              I’m with you. I get the idea of the noise being annoying, but do not comprehend what’s gross about it.

            2. michelenyc*

              Actually fingernails are very dirty. Not everyone is the best at hand washing and there can be all kinds of fecal matter hiding under there.

            3. Leave it to Beaver*

              I think we’re straying from the point. Regardless of whether it’s noisy or nasty — if someone asks you not to do something in a shared space because it is impacting their focus/concentration/sense of privacy, that does not mean you’re not able to do it. Ergo, if you have a hangnail, do a quick trot to the bathroom and clip the sucker. Unless the location of the bathroom is challenging, difficult or lengthy, I do not understand the fervor people have for being able to clip their nails at their desk.

          3. Turquoisecow*

            I don’t think clipping nails is anywhere near as gross as picking your nails. Especially if it’s a single clip here or there.

            I understand the office shouldn’t be used as a personal grooming salon, but this is a bit of an overreaction.

            1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

              Seriously, it’s not even REMOTELY close to picking your nose or ears or any of the other things people are comparing it to here. I mean, manicurists are everywhere, and they aren’t wearing hazmat suits when they work, or having to label nail clippings as biological waste!

              I have a friend with ADHD & anxiety who is constantly clipping her nails & cuticles, she’s done it in front of me countless times and it doesn’t bother me in the slightest, and I can’t imagine why it would. She doesn’t let the bits fly everywhere, and disposes of them properly, so what? Even if some fell on my floor, I’d vacuum them up and it would be NBD, no worse than when my cats leave a nail sheath on the carpet, which happens all the time. And actually, since my friend doesn’t dig around in a litter box, her nail clippings would be a LOT cleaner than my cat’s.

              People get hung up on absolutely the weirdest things. Decades ago, in (I think) an Ann Landers column, I remember her writing about just such a subject, and how (paraphrasing) lovers that would eagerly explore every nook & cranny of each other’s mouths with their tongues, would recoil in horror at the idea of using each other’s toothbrush. It was such an eye-opening statement on the illogical human mind that I have never been able to forget it.

        2. ItsOnlyMe*

          Yes it does matter that much. Clipping your nails can be considered as private as picking your nose or cleaning your ears with your fingernail or tugging your knickers out of your trousers, it’s generally not accepted as a social norm. We know coworkers probably do these things but don’t want to see or hear it.

        3. Short & Dumpy*

          The sound is the WORST. It is the equivalent of nails on a chalkboard. And, from personal experience, for unknown reasons it is one of the few sounds my noise cancelling headphones won’t block. Trust us…a good percentage of your cubemates are spending every second you do this fantasizing of doing horrible things to you to Just. Make. It. Stop.

          1. An Elephant Never Baguettes*

            I was about to reply with the exact same comparison. I know it’s not rational but the sound of someone clipping their nails drives me insane. It worms its way into my ear and my brain and immediately makes me feel like jumping out of my skin in annoyance.

          2. Thursday Next*

            The sound drives me crazy. Please, don’t underestimate the effect on your coworkers.

        4. Yorick*

          It’s really not just a minute though. That sound goes on for a long time if someone is really clipping all their nails instead of just fixing one real quick.

          I don’t get why people do this at work anyway. What’s the big deal with doing it at home?

        5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          This seems unreasonable, tbh. All prevailing etiquette categorizes nail clipping as the kind of grooming that should be done in private—at a minimum, in the bathroom. Just the sound of someone clipping their nails can be like fingernails down a chalkboard for people. It can disrupt a person’s train of thought and productivity just as much (if not more) than the disruption you experience by going to the bathroom to clip your nails.

          Why should your coworkers have to be exposed to something distasteful, impolite, and for some, exceedingly grating/gross on such a regular basis? If length is the trigger, then I’m struggling to understand why you can’t clip your nails in the morning before going to work, or during a break, or some other planned time when you’re not in a shared cubicle in a cubefarm.

        6. Zona the Great*

          Yep, it matters that much. Enough people here are saying the same thing so I would bet someone (or two) are silently stewing about it and are genuinely grossed out.

    4. AnonymousInfinity*

      I will bite my nails if they gross past the tips of my fingers and/or if they’re uneven, and I will pick/tear at my cuticles until they bleed if they’re not maintained. During the infrequent times I clip my nails at work to avoid biting them (say, I was rushed that morning and didn’t get a chance to neaten them up before leaving), I close my office door; if I didn’t have an office door, I would go into the restroom. I only clip my nails at the bathroom sink at home. Unfortunately, no one wants to find fingernail clippings on the floor (or inside keyboards…), especially in a shared cube.

    5. MLB*

      Doesn’t matter why you do it, it’s not cool to do this at work. Personal grooming should not be done in the work place, period end of story.

    6. ErinW*

      I’ll own up, I am also one of these people, and for the same reason. I have generalized anxiety and it manifests in picking and biting my fingernails. They have never, in my entire life, been allowed to grow past the end of my fingers. I will pick them till they tear and bleed, unless I manage this is by keeping fingernail clippers on me at all times, which I use to clip off little bits that I feel inclined in a given moment to bite or pick. This isn’t something I can “do at home” because it happens all day long.

      I have a small office but my door isn’t allowed to be closed. No one has ever told me they were bothered, but frankly if they did I wouldn’t care. This is something I have to do to care for myself. It is not worth voyaging to the bathroom (on a different floor) for something that will literally take two seconds and one clip. I listen to my coworkers blow their noses and wolf their lunches and to a lady in the office next door who sings gospel for hours at a time and I don’t say anything. (OK, I’ve complained about gospel lady.)

      I do not clip my toenails outside of my home–never would do so–and I think the grossness people are feeling is mostly based around toenails. Or around these stories of finding people have kept their clippings, which I also do not do.

  8. TheCupcakeCounter*

    First of all, I don’t do book reports at work.
    Secondly, I would double check and make sure the higher-up bosses didn’t get you confused with another person.
    Third, maybe send out a few resumes.

    1. The New Wanderer*

      I second the job hunting suggestion if/when that happens to anyone. I know this particular one was an old letter – was there ever an update? I would not be surprised if the original LW suddenly and inexplicably found themselves on the outs with the company. Personal experience, I went from 11 straight years of highly rated to ‘expendable’ right when layoffs were looming. I should have read the writing on the wall sooner.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      Heh. A friend of mine had wondered in high school why she got Bs in gym when she tried her hardest to radiate enthusiasm and pep. One day her teacher kept saying “Jane. Jane!” to which she replied “Uh, I’m Wakeenita.” After that her grades went up.

    1. froodle*

      This was my thought as well – someone along the line has confused OP 3 for someone else.

      Story time:

      I once came back from a two week holiday to increasingly urgent and accusatory emails from five different people about a customer whose calls I had failed to return after promising to resolve her issue.

      When I didn’t respond, due to being out of office, the customer called back.

      The second front line person got their supervisor involved, who sent me a ratty email copying in my supervisor, who then sent me a follow up saying she wanted to talk to me when I was back in the office.

      Of course, nobody actually bothered to tell the customer that i was out, despite my out of office message being on and including my return date, so when the customer called back the third time she was understandably pretty annoyed and it got escalated to our section head.

      So I get back and there’s a bunch of emails marked urgent clogging up my inbox regarding this, by now fairly peeved, customer.

      Her name didn’t ring a bell and the emails mentioned an in person meeting in our office, which would be pretty unusual in my role as a back office admin.

      When I checked the notes on her account, the person she was looking for worked in a different department, in a different office, in a different part of the country.

      We had sort of similar first names (think Catherine versus Caroline) and the first front line person to speak to the customer hadn’t bothered checking the notes on the customers account of listen to the query, and just sent it to me because my name sounded alike.

      Five people had been involved with this lady before I ever heard of her. Two front line agents, two supervisors, and the section head, and nobody had thought to actually look at her account in order to figure out why she was calling or who she was looking for. Plenty of time for some good old fashioned finger pointing and mud slinging, though.

      You can probably imagine, it did not do my opinion of those five people much good. Also, the lady who was actually dealing with the customer, who had left very clear instructions on this customers account regarding now to contract her, was not best pleased at getting noticed a week and a half later that, oh, that info was sat in some random admins inbox this whole time because nobody bothered to distinguish between a Catherine and a Caroline.

        1. Clorinda*

          Everyone deserved an apology: Catherine, Caroline, AND the customer. What a mess for all three!

          1. froodle*

            Yeah, when I pointed out that, oops, you guys are looking for a totally different person with a totally different name, job title, and home office, the excuse I got is that, “Well, the customer was very angry.” (I know, that doesn’t even answer the point. It’s that kind of workplace) I was like, “I bet she was, and justifiably so, since you made her repeat her same story five times and still didnt get her to the right person! Of course she got cranky! Anyone would!”

        2. froodle*

          Hahaha I’m laughing but it’s tinged with desperation. I did get an apology… from poor Caroline, for the misdirected emails and the confusion, even though she bore about as much responsibility for this buffoonery as I did. The five finger-pointing band blustered, obfuscated and got very loud and indignant when I suggested, hey, maybe check the notes on an account when someone says they’ve called about an issue before.

      1. MJ*

        At a place I worked at this mess would have been YOUR fault, because “somehow” you should have known. Wish I was kidding. :(

        1. froodle*

          Oh there was definitely an element of that, and also a strong intimation that my bad attitude was the reason I couldn’t help this lady with this query radically outside my bailiwick, immediately and despite being not in the office or even in the country when it came in.

          I’d say we work for the same company, but based on this blog there’s a few that are dysfunctional in this specific way. Much sympathy. It’s a horrible environment to work in.

  9. Anonymosity*

    The customer service ding for OP #3 made my spidey senses tingle. That sounds like the kind of thing managers do when they want to push someone out. Then they can point to the evaluation and say “Heloise did not meet the performance standards we set so we’re going to have to let her go. See, it’s documented.” Then they hire someone cheaper, or their niece’s aunt’s best friend’s monkey’s uncle.

    1. AnonEMoose*

      Me. too. The OP had been there for (I think?) 16 years, which probably made her one of the higher paid employees. Manglement could thinking they want to replace her with someone cheaper.

    2. MJ*

      Yep. Seen that happen. It was the office manager’s girlfriend though and she needed a work permit to stay in the country. Friend was fired just so the manager could keep ‘doing’ his girlfriend.

    3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      It certainly did bring back the memories for me. I once walked into a mid-year review, expecting slightly above-average marks as usual, and was instead put on probation for unacceptable performance, not being customer-focused, not being results-oriented. I had a great relationship with my end users, produced good work, and had no idea what I was supposed to improve. I’d only been working in the US (and after coming back from my long maternity leave) for five years and I panicked. Two things I did

      – requested a meeting with the manager who gave me the bad review and the probation, and the HR rep; stating that the review had come utterly out of the blue, and that I needed more information. Did not get me off probation, but at least it went on record with the HR that the review had come out of nowhere and I hadn’t had any negative feedback prior to that.

      – talked to a few of the friends I had in management, and one of them seemed to know what that was all about. He said “I cannot tell you the whole story, but if you want to keep your job, do this” and gave me a few instructions that I proceeded to follow. Three months later, I was taken off probation, next review, was praised for exceptional performance (mind you my performance had not changed the entire time). Less than a year after I was placed on probation, the manager who did it was demoted. Then let go. Then let go from several jobs in a row that he’d found after that. Come to find out, it was his own performance that was unacceptable; plus he did a few things in the office that were not super ethical/professional; he knew he was in danger of losing his job. I am guessing I was supposed to be a combination scapegoat/distraction/a way to showcase his accomplishments when he’d mentored a problem employee (me) and had her drastically improve in three months.

      My takeaway from that experience was: one, document everything; two, if you have people in the company that you trust, now is the time to work with them to see how you can get out of this situation; three, if you ignore a problem long enough, it will go away (like my boss did with a pink slip in hand).

  10. Antilles*

    Serious query: The response by AAM (and the posts by commenters) seem to be referring to nail clipping in a cube farm or open plan office, where everybody hears and sees everything.
    Is the answer any different if it’s done in someone’s personal office with the door closed so nobody hears/sees it? Relatedly, is the answer different if the clipper is doing it in the work bathroom?

    1. Cube Ninja*

      Personal office, door closed? Clip away! Perk of having an office with a door.

      It is *absolutely* ok to clip in a bathroom. That’s where I assume most people perform that particular piece of grooming anyway. It’s a smaller, enclosed space where the clip is not an unexpected/foreign noise. It’s like being very focused on something and a coworker comes to visit with their new baby. You’ll never see so much prairie-dogging as an office full of people not expecting a crying infant. :)

        1. SarahTheEntwife*

          What are you supposed to do about a hangnail or broken nail with sharp edges if you can’t even clip in the bathroom?

    2. Rusty Shackelford*

      Is the answer any different if it’s done in someone’s personal office with the door closed so nobody hears/sees it?

      I hope so, because I do it behind my closed office door. I have a bit of a (self-diagnosed) OCD issue about it, and if a nail is ragged, or broken, or I have a hangnail, I’ll pick at it until I bleed. Some of these can fixed with a nail file, but that’s an unappealing noise as well, and I think a quick clip is better than a long rasp rasp rasp. (Also, like I said, closed door. No one can hear me over the Loudest Coworker on Earth anyway.)

      1. Amber T*

        Hi twin! That’s my thought – if you can hear the clicks through my closed door and that bugs you, you must be SUPER ANNOYED by everything Fergus across the hall does!

      2. Kate 2*

        Fixing one is fine, regularly grooming in the office and clipping all of them is not.

    3. Kate 2*

      I still don’t like it in an office. Our walls are thin enough the people next to your office and in the hallway can hear.

      PLUS we have carpet. It’s low pile, but still, once the clippings are in there they are stuck forever. We see it with the staples that get dropped on the carpet. It’s disgusting to think about when you have to walk into that person’s office, that you are walking on (with shoes but still) years of old nail clippings. And he does it once a week at least!

    4. MLB*

      While it’s not as bad, it’s still gross. Personal grooming should NOT be done in the office…EVER.

  11. Greta Vedder*

    “Is it okay to clip your nails at work?”
    In the bathroom at work? Yes. At your desk? No.

    1. VioletEMT*

      I have a solo office now, so I trim my nails at my desk. I do it at work because typing becomes unbearable once they get too long. When I had an office mate, both times, I asked if they’d be bothered. The first one said go ahead; the other asked me not to, so I went to the bathroom. When we were in cubes, I ALWAYS went to the bathroom to do it.

      1. Greta Vedder*

        Yeah, if you have a solo office, then I guess it’s no big deal. If you’re in a cubical, or even if you have a corner office that you share with one or two others, then it’s not okay. Same goes for picking your nose, adjusting your underwear, or removing food that’s stuck between your teeth.

  12. LittleLove*

    I had a cousin once who flossed her teeth at the table in a nice restaurant. I haven’t eaten with her since. A quick clip, a brush of the hair, rubbing lipstick off your teeth, fine. A full manicure (AND PEDICURE! ICK!), flossing, major hair work, shaving legs, etc. are NOT acceptable office behavior. ICK ICK ICK. You do private things in private.

      1. Jo*

        On a bit of a tangent, did you see in the news, not sure if it was in the US or UK, about the woman shaving her legs in a swimming pool? Imagine getting a mouthful of the water. Bleurgh

    1. A.*

      Oh yes, I worked with a girl (same girl who plucked her armpit hair and clipped her nails and toes) who flossed at her desk every day after lunch. I just found her to be so inconsiderate and annoying.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Who flosses at the table!?? Flossing at your desk is weird enough, but seriously, at a table in a restaurant??

  13. lyonite*


    (I used to work in a cube area with someone who would do this for so long, I swear she must have moved on to her toes.)

  14. Nicelutherangirl*

    Taking a moment to trim a broken nail at your desk should not be considered offensive. It’s not the equivalent of giving yourself a full manicure on all 10 (or 20) digits!

    That said, I confess that I’ve been that person, too, but just two or three times when keeping my hands busy has kept me awake during remote (and pointless) training sessions for my customer service job. Since nails are dry little things and I toss them out right away instead of letting them COLLECT in or on my desk, it’s somewhat lost on me why nail clipping is so offensive. But I also see the point that others have made about it – personal grooming should be done privately, the relentless and annoying clipping noise… Consider me corrected and reformed!

    1. the gold digger*

      For me, it’s the sound. Although the sound of nails being clipped does not bother me as much as the sound of flip flops at work. Honestly. I take murder seriously, but if I were ever on a jury – well, I would acquit.

    2. Kate 2*

      For me it’s the noise PLUS where the clippings go. I have a coworker who clips his nails and lets the clippings fly anywhere. It’s in his office but we have carpet, and those get embedded into it. The cleaners vacuum, but just like with staples vacuuming can’t get them out. So when you have to go into his office you know you are treading on years worth of fingernail clippings. With shoes on, but it’s like stepping on dog crap, it’s still gross.

      It’s still better to do at home or in the bathroom, but it’s really good that you are careful about not letting the clippings fly everywhere.

      1. Let's Talk About Splett*

        My fingernail clippings fly without me trying – that’s why I do this at home

      2. Collarbone High*

        My dad used to fix office machines. A customer called with a mystery — their copier was working fine mechanically, but none of the number or start buttons worked. They were manual buttons, not a touchscreen, and did nothing when pressed.

        Dad took off the display panel and found that someone had clipped their nails while standing over the copier, and the clippings had fallen between the buttons and damaged the circuitry. Most expensive manicure ever.

  15. Brett*

    #1 Unfortunately, I have this issue. The problem is that I do MMA and Jiu Jitsu workouts at lunch and after work. My nails _must_ be cut on a very regular basis. (I forgot one day last week last week, and ended up putting a pretty deep bloody scratch into my sensei’s head.)
    I normally do this at practice right before practice, but sometimes my schedule will simply not allow this (especially lunch workouts).
    That said, I always use a bathroom for this (ideally the unisex bathroom if it is open). I’m grossed out by the idea of a nail flying off somewhere in my cubicle never to be found.
    But, because it is a safety issue and not just a grooming issue, sometimes there is some immediacy that does not allow me to wait until I get home to do it.

    1. michelenyc*

      Try being on the subway when you the person sitting next to you is trimming away and have their nail bits fly on to you! Gag!

    2. Bagpuss*

      Bu it isn’t a work related safety issue, so there’s o reason to do it in the office. If it’s a safety issue when you practice, that’s a reason for delaying the start of your practice for a few minutes while you take care of it, if necessary.
      That said, if you’re doing it in a bathroom there’s no issue.

      1. Brett*

        Oddly enough, my workplace considers workouts (whether at the work gym or offsite) to be a workplace safety issue, e.g. if I were to get scratched during my offsite workout enough that I needed treatment, I would be required to report it to our health and safety group. Or if I scratched a co-worker during an onsite workout because my nails were not clipped, I would get written up to health and safety and my boss would receive a notification of the incident. They give us free training on proper equipment and technique, as well as mandatory instruction on gym hygiene and a free extra physical service to make sure we are fit for specific workouts. This type of micromanaging health risks has actually greatly reduced our lost work-hours due to outside the workplace injuries!

        Plus, delaying practice is not really fair to the other people who might be waiting on me. As I mentioned, I try to show up early, but often my work meeting schedule means that I will show up with barely enough time to change.

    3. 2ndVln*

      I play the violin and need to have my fingernails SUPER short when I play, so I cut them every 2 to 3 days. Often in my office, since I often leave work and go directly to a rehearsal or performance. I cut them into a wastebasket under my desk with my hand actually in the wastebasket, so there is no chance of trimmings flying anywhere. It takes me about 60 seconds and it is really no louder than a stapler or mouse click.

  16. Violaine*

    I am absolutely guilty of trimming an errant hangnail or broken nail. If I don’t, I’ll poke at it all day and make it worse. But no way will I do a full trim. Not happening.

  17. Xarcady*

    At OldJob, one of the managers had an office right behind the reception desk. She used to sit at her desk, prop her foot on top of the desk and clip her toenails. Wearing flipflops every day made this much easier.

    It wasn’t until I pointed out to the owner that giving her nailclipping position, everyone standing at the reception desk could see the manager’s underwear, that anything was done.

  18. JP*

    That clipping noise drives me CRAZY. It’s totally not normal for people to do that at work.

  19. [insert witty username here]*

    WOW. I did not realize nail clipping at work was ACTUALLY such a widespread issue!!!

    I am super sensitive to sounds like that and I’ve had instances where I thought people were clipping their nails but it turned out they were clicking a pen. I’ve assumed all other instances I’ve heard have been pens. Now I’m re-thinking that…..

  20. BAL or BLA(h)? Depends on the day!*

    I hesitate to weigh in on the “appropriate or not” argument, I see both sides. I have been that person who clips my nails at work (but usually only because they were torn/broken). But, when I got this job, I inherited an office with a gorgeous desk. Obviously, no one cleaned the desk out because when I opened the top drawer to get my stuff organized, one of the little compartments had quite the collection of fingernail (I hope!) clippings.

    I took a wet paper towel and used that to pick them up….but it kinda grossed me out.

    1. Queen of Cans & Jars*


      That seriously made my skin crawl.

  21. PizzaSquared*

    I hate to say this, but #3 reminds me of situations I’ve been at in big companies where they (either explicitly or implicitly) expect a certain distribution of performance ratings, and sometimes managers are forced to move someone’s score down if “too many” people are rated high. And then they have to add in language to justify the rating, even if it’s not something they normally would have mentioned. I have often seen that language take the form of something that is a fourth-hand anecdote that was heard six months ago by some exec who doesn’t even remember who said it, but it becomes truth when it is required to justify the lowered rating. I hope that’s not it, but I’ve seen this several times in different companies.

    1. PlainJane*

      I worked for a place that did that. It’s awful. If you have good hiring managers, pay well, and treat employees well (i.e. your organization is a good employer), then you’re likely to have more strong employees than weak ones. You undermine all of that by punishing some percentage of these people with a bad review to achieve some arbitrary distribution of ratings. To make matters worse, I managed a small unit, and I had to achieve the desired distribution *within my unit*. So ratings for my staff of 8 had to average out to the company average. It was therefore impossible to rate a stellar employee as outstanding, because if I did, I would have to rate other, still solid performing, employees as poor.

  22. Q*

    We have a nail clipper at work and he is reviled. The sound is disgusting knowing his nail trimmings are flying in random directions. I have also seen people whip out dental floss and floss their teeth in the middle of meetings in a conference room. Anything you would normally do in a bathroom should to stay there. Eww

    1. Queen of Cans & Jars*

      I think that the nail trimmings going off in all directions is what squicks me out way more than the actual sound of clipping. As careful as someone might be clipping a nail, there’s always going to be one flying off to parts unknown.

  23. Anon to me*

    We get requests to visit our office as well. I can’t quite work out why volunteers think that there is something special in the office. It’s a standard office. Nothing special. We tell those requesters that unfortunately our offices are closed to outside guests.

  24. 2015Royals*

    Guy next to me does this quite frequently. As much as I like the guy it is annoying and disgusting in my book.

  25. LSP*

    The sound of clipping nails goes right through me. I hate it!

    My husband clips his constantly, and it drives me nuts. I’ll often have to walk into another room (or another floor).

    Someone at my office does it in his office, and I can hear it from my cubicle a few doors down. It’s just a noise that to me is cringe-inducing, and while I know people have to do it, I wholeheartedly believe it should be done at home.

  26. Lou*

    I can really relate to OP2 – I work for a prominent brand that has a dedicated following, and we get requests so often to visit our office. I know they’re just enthusiastic but it’s an office and generally pretty boring! Having been through this, I would never try to arrange a visit to someone’s office outside of dedicated open nights or the like.

  27. Amaryllis*

    I went nuts clipping my nails at work only once. They were an uneven mess because I was trying and failing to learn guitar, and a project manager joked that they looked like coke nails. I basically sprinted to my desk to hack them all off.

  28. Name Required*

    I keep a pair of nail clippers in a drawer at work because, despite constantly using hand lotion, I end up getting hangnails once in a while. Hangnails drive me crazy, so I like to be able to take care of them right away.

    After I got laid off from one of my jobs, my personal belongings were boxed up by HR and shipped to me. I was sooooo embarrassed that they found the nail clippers because they probably assumed I was actually clipping my entire set of fingernails on a regular basis.

    1. Not a Morning Person*

      I think of nail clippers as the equivalent of emergency supplies, like band-aids. So I wouldn’t assume what you fear about what they thought of your stash of belongings. They most likely didn’t give it a thought.

    2. Let's Talk About Splett*

      I’m an admin, not HR, but I box up & ship belongings when people get terminated. A set of nail clippers wouldn’t make my Top Ten list of horrifying items I have found.

      1. PhyllisB*

        That sounds like an interesting question to explore, Alison!! Top Ten Horrifying Items I Have Found!!

  29. Amy Farrah Fowler*

    I never really thought about this, but this is definitely another perk of working from home. As long as I’m not on a conferences call, I can clip my nails to my heart’s content. And I do usually have a pair of nail clippers at my desk for those pesky hangnails.

  30. Accidentally rude person*

    My hands are very dry I suppose due to stocking products and handling money. I carry clippers in my pocket and at least once a day have to trim a bit of dry skin or hangnail because if I leave it, it will get sore and get caught while shuffling bills or paper. I work mostly on the sales floor but it never occurred to me that this might be rude. I’m just trying to prevent my fingers from hurting. Having read this, I’ll try to do it in private.

    1. SoCalHR*

      That isn’t the type of nail clipping that the majority of the people responding are referring to. A 2 second snip of a snag so you can do your job better is not offensive, its sitting and clipping all 10 nails that is the issue (but whether its appropriate to do that on the sales floor is your company’s call).

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      A plug for Burt’s Bees cuticle cream. It really helps with the dry cuticles.

  31. Oxford Common Sense*

    I once had a employee leave who had been in post for a long time- c. 10 years. He was a very neat and tidy man, and scrupulously clean. No one ever noticed him grooming in the office. It took a while to find his replacement, so when she was about to start I went to clean the office. Upon opening the desk drawer, I found to my utter horror that the drawer was full of his accumulated nail clippings. I do not know why he did this, but it was clearly an intentional act that went on for years. I was horrified by this, and especially by the idea that a new hire might have found this on her first day. To this day I personally clean the desk of all my new hires before they start, to be quite sure that nothing disgusting awaits them.

    1. Name Required*

      Was there literally 10 years worth of nail clippings in there? Like, you could have filled an entire mug with them?

      Or was it more like you found random nail clippings in between other office supplies?

      Either way is super gross, but I’m having trouble comprehending the former.

      1. Oxford Common Sense*

        It was the former. He had them segregated in a special section of the drawer.

        1. Nicelutherangirl*

          Saving nail clippings must be a more widespread, if secret, fetish than we realized. I just watched a movie on Netflix over the weekend, “Match”, starring Patrick Stewart. Sir Patrick plays a former professional dancer who teaches at Julliard, but lives a fairly solitary life otherwise. He has a jar full of his nail clippings in his apartment. A visitor to his apartment asked if they were seashells.

  32. Leave it to Beaver*

    I’m wondering if nail files are better/worse/same in this debate over nail grooming?

    1. Yorick*

      Probably worse. That noise is awful and is longer than the click of the nail clippers.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I think they’re equivalent. If you’re filing a broken nail, then that’s annoying but can be excused. Filing all your nails? Absolutely not ok to do at your desk at work, even in a private office.

  33. please no I’m begging you*

    My answer: if anyone besides you can hear it, NO, ABSOLUTELY NOT!(!!!!!)

    Go to the restroom if you must. There are people (me included) who CANNOT STAND the sound of nail clipping or filing. Just don’t do it. Please.

  34. MF*

    Chronic nail biter here. I keep a pair of clippers in my purse and will quietly/discretely clip one or two of my nails at my desk when I start to bite them. Unfortunately it’s the only thing that will stop me from biting them. But my cube is enclosed such that it would be hard for someone else to see what I’m doing, and I would never, ever clip my toe nails at work.

  35. Get Some Manners*

    Once had a senior manager clip his nails in his office while waiting for a conference call to start. There were two other people besides myself sitting in his office with him. I thought it was completely gross and it forever changed my opinion of him.

  36. Data analyst*

    Nails: No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No.

    I would literally rather hear nails on a chalkboard than a nail clipper. I trim my own nails (at home!) with a wire cutter. (Their larger mass gives the sound a lower frequency profile — note that sounds notorious for giving people the chills have high frequency elements.)

  37. Arjay*

    The part of the nail clipping debate that I find interesting is whether or not a cubicle is considered a public space or a private one. I generally think of my cubicle as a private / personal area. I’d be shocked and dismayed if I returned from lunch to find someone sitting in my chair, talking on my phone, logged into my computer, or eating my snacks. My, my, my, my; it’s my personal area. I can understand that the clipping noise can escape my area, so I’d try to be cognizant of that, but I also think we need to ignore stuff like that as much as possible when stuffed into a cubicle farm. I’ve definitely plucked a stray eyebrow (or chin hair) while sitting at my desk. I don’t do a full on grooming routine, but I do think of my cube as being a private area where that isn’t inappropriate.

    1. AnonymousInfinity*

      IMO, framing anything at work as “private vs. public” (except the restroom) is something of a misnomer. Whether it’s a cubicle or an office with a door, it’s certainly not public, but it’s certainly not private. There are no “private areas” at work, and I think it’s a mistake to think any part of your (general) workspace is private and 100% yours (OK, your snacks are yours). As it is, your boss could move you to a new cube tomorrow, tell you to start sharing your space with someone on another shift, and/or go through your desk while you’re out to find something.

      We also have an admin at my work that will eat your snacks.

  38. Lady Phoenix*

    When it comes to clipping nails, do it in the bathroom. I understand hang nails oor the unfortunate nail break, so do that in the bathroom and then wash your clippers.

    1. Oranges*

      Wash your clippers? Do people DO that?

      Personally I’m of the opinion it’s just keratin. It’s not like I’m bleeding on them. Oh gods, I hope I’m not bleeding on them.

      1. loslothluin*

        Under you nails is dirtier than a cockroach. It’s why nail salons have to keep their implements in sanitation fluid.

        From Buzzfeed:

        “Fingertips are hives of nastiness, and are home to various types of bacteria, fungus, and YEAST (eww). One particularly prevalent germ found under nails is Staphlococcus aureus, which can cause a load of crazy skin infections like boils and abscesses. Mmmm, oral boils.”

  39. Mom MD*

    No it’s not ok. It’s disgusting. A quick file on a broken nail, ok. Sitting in full view at your desk doing a major clip down, no. Major grooming is a private issue. It’s like blowing your nose at the dinner table. Everyone hates you at that moment but won’t speak up.

    1. Oranges*

      I actually do not. Then again I’m pretty sanguine on the entire weird things bodies do. I’m an outlier probably!

      1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

        I’m with you.

        And I’d rather have someone blow their nose at the table than drip snot into their plate.

        1. Amber T*

          Or the *sniff sniff…* constantly. Just please blow your nose already.

          I get the people who are saying the sound drives them crazy. But everyone has fingernails, everyone has noses, everyone’s bodies do stuff. Not that I want to turn this into a Dwight situation and have everyone start sneezing on me, but I’m not so offended when people do “gross” stuff.

            1. Audrey Puffins*

              If my nose were dripping, I’d do a wipe and maybe a gentle blow at the table, but I wouldn’t do the full trumpet. No one wants to see my nose dripping onto my dinner plate, but I don’t think they want the big greenies to come out to play either, even wrapped up in a tissue.

      2. SarahTheEntwife*

        Yup, same here. The noise bothers me, but no more so than the noise of typing or mouse clicking. It’s vaguely unsettling to think of people’s nail bits in the carpet, but that’s filed in the same place in my brain as the knowledge that someone has probably stepped in dog poo and then walked on the carpet.

  40. Traffic_Spiral*

    Ok, personally, I don’t care. Clipping is a barely-noticeable noise and nails aren’t, like, gooey flesh or anything, so I really couldn’t care less if other people want to give themselves a manicure in the office (so long as there’s no polish – I hate the smell). However, even I know that it grosses enough people out that you shouldn’t do it. It’s like spiders. Some people aren’t bothered by them, but it’s a common enough dislike that you wouldn’t bring a bunch of them to work.

  41. Allonge*

    How about using small manicure scissors if you must (broken nail etc. ) and taking care of full manicure at home? How fast do people’s nails grow anyway, for it not to be enough to clip at home in the morning?

    1. Allonge*

      Also, why not go to the bathroom anyway and get your nails (hands) a bit wet before cutting? It works better, anyway.

  42. Oranges*

    Hey, I do this. I know it’s bad but sometimes (once every three months or so) I don’t notice how long my nails get until they’re interfering with my typing. I quickly clip them and then go back to work.

    I personally don’t have issues with the “gross” of nail clipping but I know other people do. The noise bothers me though so if it’s frequent I’d be telling them to stop.

  43. Cruciatus*

    Even if the sound doesn’t bother someone, I’m amazed at how many people are like “I’m going to take these clippers to work so I can clip my nails. At work.” I do it at home and it would never occur to me to take my nail set to work. Do I have a file at work? Yes, for when something happens and my nail starts snagging everything which happens every couple of months or so. But I also have my own office and wouldn’t file in front of everyone (though this bothers me less than the clipping). But it’s things like doing makeup and clipping your nails at work–the mind boggles! These are home activities.

    1. loslothluin*

      I had a coworker that used to do a full manicure once a week during work hours rather than “waste” her lunch hour.

  44. Ahoytheship*

    Nail clipping, ungh, NO NO NO. Grosses me out, such a thing to do in the bathroom.
    Plus I have PTSD because neighbor was clipping one day and a full-sized nail flew and hit me in the forehead when I was on a conference call. ICK.

  45. loslothluin*

    No to clipping nails at work. The sound drives me up the wall. It’s right up there with nails down a chalkboard and slurping/smacking when people eat/chew gum.

  46. Agile Phalanges*

    I’ve been the office nail clipper. Well, not “the” office nail clipper, but “an” office nail clipper. When I worked in medical (well, veterinary) transcription (where my username comes from), it was totally accepted that if your nails were driving you nuts, you’d clip them, because who wants to spend the next 7 1/2 hours being driven nuts by their nails being just a bit too long (and yes, when you type literally all day, it’s possible to have your nails be a length that is fine when you leave work, and doesn’t bother you as you go about your daily life between shifts, all of a sudden be too long and driving you nuts when you start your shift the next morning). But again, that was in an office where we all would stop for a couple minutes, clip all 10 fingers, then get back to work.

    That’s also the job where I started cleaning my ears EVERY morning, because the headphones would drive me nuts otherwise, and now I can’t NOT clean them daily (or multiple times per day if they get wet). Ugh. I do manage to keep that to the privacy of my own home, though. :-)

    And now that I’m in a job where I type and do data entry occasionally, but not all frickin’ day, if my nails feel a little long (which they do right now, actually), I can make a mental note to clip them tonight or in the morning, and deal with it at home. It was just transcription where I simply couldn’t stand waiting.

  47. SadieMae*

    I had a boss who clipped her toenails IN MY CAR while I was driving us both to a business conference. Took off her shoes, propped her feet up on the dashboard and had at it.

  48. Kathy*

    At my last job, there was a guy who I thought was clipping his nails… it turns out he was snapping the little clip on his pen! I was so grossed out for like six months until I caught him reading something and snapping the clip and then I just felt… so relieved haha.

  49. Lisa*

    #3: My last manager got very angry at me one day for something and sat me down to give me a talking to. She told me that there have been several issues with me, but she hadn’t documented them (for some reason). I kind of felt like she told me that so I would feel *so* grateful toward her. Anyway, I asked her what these issues were, because I would like to correct them (I phrased it that way).


    I asked her three times during the meeting as we talked, and each time she would not or could not tell me what issues she was having with me. This was the first time I had heard that anyone had an issue with me, no one had ever let me know there was a problem, and now I was supposed to fix these issues without knowing what they were.

    Due to a lot of growing issues at that job: micromanagement, ambiguous rules and directions, lack of respect from upper management, non-competitive pay, unrealistic workload, and lack of any autonomy–I wrote my letter of resignation that day and quit. I have never felt so good about a decision to quit in my life.

    1. Girl friday*

      It’s probably because to tell you what the issues were would identify the person that complained…

      1. Lisa*

        It’s not good business to tell an employee there are issues with her work, then not tell her what they are in order to improve. How do I fix things if you cannot tell me what they are? This was a very small company so only a few upper management people could have complained–and I would have known either way.

  50. Nails Nails Nails!*

    I used to have a job that involved being on the phone and on hold kind of a lot. I was in a private office and my desk was sort of far from the door. Unless you were directly in the door, you probably couldn’t see me if you walked by.

    I never clipped nails, but I had a file and about 14 different colors of polish. And remover. It was very common for me to give myself a polish change on my fingers (and sometimes my toes!) while I was on hold. If I used polish remover I’d take the cotton ball or tissue with me to the restroom for disposal. This drew zero attention until one day a coworker noticed my toes were a new color and asked if she could borrow the polish. She did, and polished her toes while she was on the phone later on that day.

    But never any clipping.

  51. AKchic*

    Gah. The office isn’t your bedroom. Clip y’nails in the restroom if you must clip your nails at work, but don’t do it in a cubefarm or open-concept office space. It’s gross.

    And let me add in a few other things one should not do at their desk that I have seen people do:
    Pick their boogers (and either flick, wipe it on a seat or under their desk, or *eat* it)
    Clean their ears (with keys, safety pins, paper clips, or they had their own container of q-tips handy)
    The ever-charming “hawking a loogie” into the personal trash can under the desk
    Lancing things. Just don’t. Not at your desk.

    1. Wired Wolf*

      Lancing things? Eeeewwwww. I don’t even want to know.

      Most of my job involves stocking shelves; if I tear a nail on something I will clip it as soon as humanly possible to avoid making it worse.

  52. MissDisplaced*

    No: I would not conduct a total manicure, full clipping (and never toenails) at work.
    Yes: I keep a clippers in my ditty bag, and yes I WILL clip a torn nail or hangnail. Too bad! I’d rather offend than try to work all day with a painful nail.

  53. Lainey*

    Sorry to all the commenters who clip nails out in the office but it grosses me and many others out. I had an office mate at my first real job (his desk was across from mine but we couldn’t see each other because of how high our desks were) who would clip his nails constantly. Maybe just go to the bathroom if you need to clip your nails?

  54. Steph*

    I’ve been on trains where people have been clipping their toemails.
    I’ve been at indoor playgrounds where someone’s grandpa decided to clip his toenails right at the entry of the thing (haven’t been back there!).
    In both cases there was no regard at all for where things were pinging. Some people are clueless.

  55. Teapot project manager*

    Ugh. My first boss in my first after college job was my one really bad boss
    I’ve had in my professional career.

    He was a department manager so had his own office, but I was his assistant and when I’d be in his office for meetings with him he’d clip his nails. Not just trim one, but ALL of them. It wasn’t just me either, coworkers said the same

    It wasn’t his worse habit but his weirdest

  56. GIS Julie*

    Are you sure it is nail clippers? Every week or two, I would hear the distinct sound of nail clippers and cringe. I had no idea who was doing it in my open cubicle farm but I would get so mad!

    Then one afternoon, I was coming back from a meeting. The culprit from another department was clipping a Mylar card that she needed to send out to someone. She was not using scissors but a specialized tool that looked like a giant nail clipper.

    Now when I hear that sound. I laugh because I was so mad that someone was doing personal grooming when really it is someone doing their assigned duties.

  57. Deus Cee*

    At my work I deal with a lot of large and cumbersome equipment, and I have severe pain in my fingers if I keep my nails too trimmed – there’s got to be something left before the quick otherwise I’m in agony for days. I use my scissors on my Swiss army knife in emergencies, but if I’m doing one nail I have to do them all, otherwise I’m lopsided the whole day and get distracted. But scissors are also much quieter than clippers so there’s no sound, and I’m careful where I do it. And frankly, if you want to clip your nails in front of me, I don’t care, but dispose of everything tidily. I’m finding it quite surprising the amount of disgust other people are showing on this topic, but I guess I just have different tolerances.

  58. Audrey Puffins*

    If your personal grooming *leaves anything behind*, then you do it in the privacy of your own home, or at least a bathroom. Even if it’s an emergency repair job. And I get that it’s annoying if your nails aren’t all the same length after you’ve tidied up your broken one, but I don’t think any of us are being paid to give ourselves manicures, so maybe leave clipping them all to the same length until you’re no longer at work at all.

  59. Laurie K.*

    I have to agree with the writer of the letter. I have been in a lot of positions where there are at least one to two people that will clip their nails all of the time. What kills me is the sound of the clippers on the nail. It like nails on a chalkboard sound. I think it is not a good practice.

  60. Just stoppin' by to chat*

    Re: person in customer service on their annual review – If the LW is being honest about their excellence in customer service, I wonder if the people giving them a poor review confused them with someone else! Or maybe they’re being managed out of the organization. I would be curious if the feedback in the review seemed more like nitpicking things, which would lead me to believe the person was being managed out. Either way, I hope they went back to their manager to drill into the less-than-stellar feedback, and asked for concrete examples. And if something similar happened with the next review, hopefully they were able to go to an organization that appreciated their commitment to customer service.

  61. SavannahMiranda*

    I have to admit the anathema of nail clipping is something I’ve never understood.

    Granted I’ve never had these foul toe-nail-clipping, armpit-hair-plucking (!?) colleagues that seem to be evidence!

    But if your nail is bothering you or keeping you from working efficiently? By all means, get out the clippers, hold your hand over your trashcan, and clip it. Hey, clip the one next to it if you need to. And the other one on the other side. The more the merrier. I really don’t care!

    Oh you’re done? Clean up, put away your clippers, and get back to work. I really don’t care!

    Unless someone is doing this while working with food. Or leaving clippings and leavings lying about on desks and papers. Or doing a deep manicure after having handled yard work that weekend. Or…I don’t know. I’ve just never run into these gruesome situations. I must be long overdue.

    It’s simply not the same as brushing one’s teeth. Or tweezing one’s eyebrows. Or applying eyeliner. Or cleaning out one’s ears. None of those things affect use of the keyboard. Nails do. Clip them and get back to work!

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