coworkers at my new job want to oust the CEO, a company I rejected keeps rejecting me back, and more

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

1. Coworkers at my new job want to oust the CEO

I recently started a new job in a very small office, only six people. Staff has had many problems in the past with the president/CEO. I have noticed that his leadership style is not conducive to a successful or positive work environment. While he was out of town, staff members had a meeting, and I was included, about sitting down with him as a team and asking for significant changes, and saying that otherwise they will be going to the board of directors. I am trying to toe a pretty thin line. Obviously I want my new coworkers to like me and I do want to make positive changes at my new job, but I also don’t want to risk upsetting my boss and risk getting fired for insubordination (he has been known to be quite retaliatory in the past, according to my coworkers). I see only two options: don’t go to the sit-down meeting and make my coworkers think that I am a complete flake or do go to the meeting and have my new boss hate me.

I don’t know exactly how to approach this. I tried recommending that we suggest a 360 review to him during the staff meeting and no one really listened. Luckily the date for the staff sit down with the boss keeps getting delayed due to vacations, but eventually this will rear its ugly head and I don’t know what to do.

You are way too new to be involved in any of this. You don’t have enough first-hand experience with what’s going on, and whatever perspective you do have is really limited because you’re so new. You do not belong in a meeting demanding changes or making complaints.

Don’t go to the meeting, and say this to your coworkers: “I’ve realized I haven’t been here long enough to be able to contribute in a meaningful way, and my perspective is still so limited. I hope it goes well, but I’m too new to join in at this point.”

Read an update to this letter here.

2. How to stop coworkers from comparing themselves to my (unusually good) performance

Six months ago, I was promoted to a role that involves some delegation and mentoring activities for the people in my previous role while performing tasks similar to theirs but more advanced (think senior analyst to their junior analyst). I have no hiring or firing power and they have formal managers who also provide feedback.

One problem I’ve come across is that if I ask one of them to assist me in completing a task they will often get frustrated they are not working as quickly or with as much accuracy as I am. Some of this is up to me having a year or so more experience but some of it is, well, me being incredibly good at my job. Not to toot my own horn but I have been told I’m one of the best in my role, a rockstar, etc. and was given an early promotion.

My question is, how do I deal with my team members comparing themselves to me negatively? I don’t want to put them down but at the same time I don’t want to pass off my accomplishments as a result of more experience when in reality they might not be as good in a year’s time (I am a woman and prone to downplaying my worth, which I’m trying to work on), which might make them think they’re doing well for their level when in fact they’re just average.

How can I tell them they’re doing fine without putting down my accomplishments and also without discouraging them to strive to become better?

“I’m weirdly fast at this. You’re doing fine! It’s really normal for it to take about X amount of time.”

Or you can leave out the “I’m weirdly fast” part and just assure them they’re doing fine and progressing normally: “You’re completely fine. It’s normal not to get this perfectly right, and most people make this kind of error now and then.” And if necessary (and if true), “I have zero doubts about your ability to do this well.”

3. My coworker uses a loud oxygen tank

I sit directly next to a coworker who has a lot of health problems. And she makes A LOT of related noises (coughing, moaning, or yelping in pain). Putting aside those noises and her other annoying habits, there is one noise that i’m not sure what to do about: her oxygen tank. It makes a puffing noise that grates me to my core. Sometimes she uses it all day, sometimes it is only periodically throughout the day. Headphones help somewhat, but I am unable to wear them all of the time, and if I am ever in a meeting with her, I find myself completely distracted and irritated by the noise.

Obviously I’m sympathetic to her need to breathe! I try my best to be compassionate, but occasionally i’m overcome with annoyance. I do tend to be more sensitive to noise than the average person, and I’m not sure if this noise bothers anyone else in the office. At this point, I’m afraid bringing it up to anyone would make me seem like a horrible, uncaring person! Many of your suggestions related to noisy coworkers revolve around addressing the issue directly, but this noise is a medical necessity. In this case, do I just need to suck it up and deal?

Another thing I should point out: teams sit together in my office, so it wouldn’t be possible to move to another desk where I couldn’t hear the noise.

Yep, you need to just find a way to deal with it. This is a medical device that she uses in order to breathe. There is no possible way to ask her to use it less. There is no possible way to raise your annoyance with it.

The best thing you can do is to find a way to reframe it in your head. When you hear the machine kick in, try thinking to yourself, “I’m glad Jane has that machine to help her” or “Jane must be having a hard time today” or something else that’s sympathetic rather than annoyed. If that doesn’t work, then try, “This is an essential medical device and none of my business.” (I don’t mean that to sound snarky; I genuinely think it will help to remind yourself of that.)

I’m sure this is made much harder by the fact that you’re annoyed by her generally. When someone annoys you, it’s easy for everything about them to become annoying. But you do not want to be someone who holds someone’s breathing device against them; keep reminding yourself of that.

4. Are employees taking advantage of our student email list?

I’m a grad student/research associate so I’m at that strange nexus between student and employee. My institution has several e-mailing lists (listserv), one of which sends emails out to all students. I feel like some of the administrative employees are abusing the system to take advantage of students and was wondering if you think I’m overreacting.

Students are allowed to and encouraged to post “for sale” notices through the listservs, and I’ve both sold and purchased items here — it’s a great system. I found out that anything sent to the student list goes to other employees as well because the last time I tried to sell some items, one of the administrative employees (who is definitely senior to students and can theoretically have power over our progression) gave me a really lowball offer on an item I was selling! To give you an idea, she offered about 20% of what a used item in similar condition seems to sell for online! Luckily someone else had offered to buy it first so I just let her know as much, but it was definitely awkward.

Just recently, another employee (also senior to students) used the student-specific listserv to try and sell fundraising items for their child’s extracurricular activity.

Based on information published by the school I would guess that both people in my anecdotes make about double the salary that students do so it feels a little inappropriate to me that the listserv is being used to try to farm money and highly discounted items from the students. Am I wrong to be annoyed or should I try and take this concern higher up?

An employee using the student listserv to try to sell items for her kid’s fundraising project is definitely inappropriate (assuming that typically non-students don’t post things there). But an employee giving you a lowball offer isn’t a big deal; lowballs offers are pretty common when you try to sell something and you’re free to turn them down, as you did.

Unless the list gets overrun by employees to the point that it’s no longer serving the purpose it was set up for, I wouldn’t worry too much about reporting any of this. (That said, is it clear to participants that their emails will go to a broader audience than just fellow students? If not, it’s worth making that clear, and maybe even ensuring that it’s intended to be set up that way.)

5. I rejected a company and they won’t stop “rejecting” me back

I recently had a terrible job interview where the interviewer was rude, condescending, and patronizing as all heck. I gracefully finished the interview with the intent of rescinding my application the moment I got home. I thanked them for their time and told them I didn’t think the job was a good fit. The employer said “We came to the same conclusion,” which was already unnecessary enough. I left a Glassdoor review about my experience and now the company won’t stop contacting me and “rejecting” my application in whatever form they can (the most recent being a LinkedIn notification from the company saying they’re “moving on with other candidates,” but also multiple emails). Other than ignoring it, how can I get this company to stop low-key harassing me?

It’s incredibly bizarre that this employer cares enough about your rejection of them and/or your review on Glassdoor that they’re harassing you like a jilted date who can’t believe that you rejected him.

The easiest way to stop it is to just block emails from their domain, and block them on LinkedIn. But feel free to update your Glassdoor review to mention this too.

{ 476 comments… read them below }

  1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#3, I’m sorry, but the only option is to find a way to live with the noise. You mentioned headphones—have you tried said headphones with white noise? (I suspect a white noise machine would be excessive for those sitting by you.)

    I’ve found limited relief using headphones + white noise when there are loud, repetitive noises in the background. Alternately, there are construction earmuffs, but those can look really antagonistic.

    1. Annie on a Mouse*

      I have a somewhat similar situation with a coworker with a really loud, phlegmy cough (Sorry for the mental image!) I’m in an area where I can’t get away from her coughing and headphones aren’t an option.

      It didn’t matter that I reminded myself that as bad as it was to listen to the cough, it was worse to actually be the one coughing. What helped me the most was making an effort to get to know her. As Pollyanna-ish as it sounds, once I got to know her better, the cough stopped bothering me so much. It’s still not my soundtrack of choice, but at least I don’t have that visceral reaction now.

      OP, you’ve mentioned your coworker does other things that annoy you, and I’m not going to discount that. But as far as coping goes, if you can’t drown out or stop the noise, all you can do is try to learn to not be bothered by it. Going out of your way to build a relationship could help.

      Okay, enough preaching—I’m done now!

      1. Anononon*

        I agree with this. I used to sit near someone who was pretty obnoxiously loud, talking, laughing, singing. It would grate so much. We were in different departments, so I didn’t really know her and didn’t feel comfortable saying something. However, I then started working with her department and got to know her much better. For whatever reason, it really decreased her annoyance.

      2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        I hear you. I had one coworker with an after-lunch phlegmy cough (sounding like everything he just ate was about to come back up), and one with a very persistent dry, hacking cough (I tried to time it once, and gave up after I counted 50 coughing fits in a half hour). The first made me feel like losing my own lunch (which I could leave my desk or just tune it out for a few minutes, so there was a workaround), the second gave me migraines, which was worse. I only get a limited number of prescription migraine pills per month and I obviously cannot really work or function during a migraine, so I could not really afford having them on a daily basis. I tried earbuds with white noise for the second. Was already looking into high-end headphones (and good to know about construction earmuffs – would’ve tried them too), when they moved the coworker to the opposite end of the building and she became someone else’s problem. With the first one, I ended up leaving that job (not because of the noise, lol), which solved the issue. Both of mine were unfortunately rather unpleasant people and not good to work with, so getting to know them more would’ve made things worse. I did feel bad for both of them because of their medical issues that caused the coughing, and that did help me cope somewhat. I guess my approach to this and any other interpersonal work problems has been “wait it out and eventually one one of you will leave or move”.

      3. wittyrepartee*

        For the past two weeks, this has been me. It was incredibly embarrassing. Additionally, people kept on offering me coughdrops or remedies, and it was a bit like “well, they’re not going to do anything but thanks for the candy?” So… thanks for trying to understand. Sometimes you just have bronchitis, but still have to come in.

        1. AMT*

          I felt so bad when I had a terrible cold and no sick days in a two-person office. I was hacking all day and I’m sure I drove my officemate up the wall.

        2. Shoes On My Cat*

          Hey Witty, unsolicited but…I used to work at a call center that was also customer facing. So all cooties were shared, & shared thoroughly. Ugh! Once I get a cough, it lingers for weeks but customers on the phones were of course put off by the horrible cough if I couldn’t mute fast enough. Enter my desperate attempt to extend the ‘life’ of throat drops. Too many of those suckers and my stomach rebels, but they don’t last either! So, I tried melting two of my favorites with some hot water, then adding cool water until it filled a 32oz Nalgene bottle. Could sip on that for hours, every time I felt a tickle. At lunch I made another ‘batch.’ Worked as well as when sucking directly on the cough drop. And I got hydrated! It’s now my go-to as soon as the cough starts. Good luck to you! Coughs are no bueno!

      4. Portrait vs Landscape*

        When I worked in a small office in an enclosed area where we sat facing each other in rows of 3×3 I had a coworker who had breathing, coughing, moaning issues that drove everyone insane. One day as I watched co-worker get winded just walking from a cab to our building entrance it struck me how lucky I am to be in such good health and not struggling like coworker, and that reframed how I thought about this situation, and was able to let go of alot of the annoyance about the situation. Every time he coughed etc. I expressed gratitude (in my head, not out loud) that I don’t have his health struggles.

      5. I Don’t Remember What Name I Used Before*

        If the noise is a trigger for misophonia, no amount of empathy or even familiarity with a person will help with that. I myself am usually the noisy, ill person (lifelong serious chronic respiratory issues) with the phlegm coughs, gurgles, sniffles, throat clearings etc. but even *being that person* doesn’t make the sound of *someone else* having a chronic dry cough from making me want to run from the room screaming even if it’s coming from someone I love very much, or the sound of wet wheezing breathing from causing anxiety or even panic attacks (get rushed to ER enough times with that same symptom and you’ll understand.)

    2. LGC*

      So wait, is it not possible (or antagonistic) for LW3 to request that their desk be changed? I’m surprised that didn’t get brought up.

      In fact, that might also make the noise in meetings more tolerable – as someone who is VERY sensitive to noise, I find my tolerance is cumulative. So lowering her “exposure” to Jane’s oxygen tank sounds in general (I hate that term but it’s 12:30 AM and I can’t do better) might make meetings more bearable.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        OP said they’re not able to change their desk location/position because everyone is grouped by teams, so OP moving their desk would not mitigate the noises.

        1. LGC*

          Ah yes, it was at the very end!

          But on a closer read…she said that she couldn’t move to another desk where she couldn’t hear Jane, not that she couldn’t move to a location where Jane’s breathing equipment would not be so close to her. Unless she and Jane are a team of two or three, I think she might logically be able to switch with someone who sits further from Jane. (And if they are…the bigger issue is that she’s at BEC with a person she works very closely with.)

          It really depends on the seating arrangement of LW3’s office, but even moving a desk or two down helps if that’s possible.

          (I’m questioning the LW, I know – but it seemed like the options were “sit right next to Jane” or “get a desk far away from Jane.”)

            1. LGC*

              That’s why I said it wouldn’t work on that small of a team! (I’m definitely not the clearest writer here.)

              It’s a really tricky problem to solve, and it’s one I’ve tried to work on with varying degrees of success. For what it’s worth, I try to space out my noisier employees because it CAN be frustrating to deal with.

          1. Laurelma01*

            I doubt anyone else will be willing to switch. If I was asked to switch spaces with a coworker that was going crazy because of another’s noises that sits near them, I would refuse. Could the nearest desk, that gets the most noise be set up so that an intern or a temp sits there. Not staff that is there full-time, year around?

            This is one that everyone might be forced to live with. Can she go to a cubicle at the end of the row, so that it frees up one side from noise?

    3. Mm*

      I have ADD and am very, very sensitive to distracting sounds. I’ve had air vents that rattle make it nearly impossible to work. I really sympathize with the OP and actually sort of disagree with Allison. If the office is otherwise quiet it could be pretty distracting.

      I know OP said sitting next to teams is the norm, but if the sound is truly bothering her (vs bothering her only because she is otherwise annoyed at this coworker) I think it’s worth thinking about options available – is there a meeting room the OP could use when she really needs to focus? Can she bring it up as more of an overall noise level issue? I’d say, though, this really depends on your overall office. If your office has lots of other sounds (chatting coworkers, street traffic, etc) that don’t bother you then you probably need to examine why this one sound bothers you so much.

      1. RUKiddingMe*

        Since breathing is kind of a fundanental part of staying alive I doubt OP’s annoyance and/or sensitivity sound will in any way take precedence over the coworker’s need for the machine.

        1. Mm*

          I definitely don’t think anyone is suggesting the coworker should give up her oxygen machine. But if it’s the loudest thing in the office there are other options – a quiet meeting room for focus time. Giving the coworker her own office if she wants on (which she might since it might be better for other health things), etc.

          1. Mystery Bookworm*

            Honestly, I understand that you want to find a solution, but I think this might be a difficult thing for OP to bring up without risking some political capital. I understand that noise sensitivity can be incredibly distracting, but we also need to be realistic about the fact that not everything can be perfectly quite at all times.

            Given the seriousness of needing to breathe, I think OP raising a lot of concern over the noise of the machine might make her come off as, well, a little precious and a little insenstive. She needs to be honest with herself about if she’s willing to risk that.

            Also, since one of the main issues OP cites is being able to concentrate while in meetings with the co-worker, that leads me to feel that the main workaround here has to be OP trying to reframe the noise.

            1. Dr. Glowcat Twinklepuff*

              I agree. There’s no way to ask for accomodation without sounding like “that jerk who is annoyed by Jane’s BREATHING”. Especially since OP says her rapport with Jane is not good in general, this is going to look really really bad.
              If possible, OP could ask access to a quiet room when she needs to focus, but without saying that the distraction is Jane’s tank.

              1. boop the first*

                It’s also kind of a strange-funny idea to have someone who is SO seriously ill with something that sounds life threatening in a typical workplace situation, while her coworkers get special accommodations all around her. It sounds really backwards.

                Maybe there is something they can do FOR the uncomfortably sick coworker, instead of her neighbours?

                1. Autumnheart*

                  I have to wonder if there isn’t a solution to allow the ill coworker to work remotely? Surely having to be in an office environment while wielding an oxygen tank and audibly being in pain has to be a miserable experience.

                2. youkno*

                  But who are you to say they both don’t have an illness? Mental health is not a joke obviously. Of course it seems backwards when only the prominent is seen. People also aren’t robots and that’s why a lot have a push against cattle type farming cubicles.

                3. SoonToBeRetired*

                  I was once the ill co-worker. The woman I shared an office with leveraged her discomfort with my illness to get her own private office. At the time, I was too tired from treatments and surgeries to complain, but honestly why didn’t they just move me? Some quiet and privacy would have been most welcome. It’s been almost 30 years and I’m still salty about it.

                4. Laurelma01*

                  I feel sorry for the ill coworker. They have to work for the medical insurance I bet. It’s extremely difficult to get disability, and sometimes you have to be without pay for a period of time in order to qualify.

                  Disability isn’t going offer you the same amount of money that you do working either.

              2. Wonderer*

                It’s definitely hard to avoid seeming like a “Look at that BEC just sitting their breathing like she owns the world” person!

                I’m guessing there’s no single solution to this, it’s going to take a combination of headphones/white noise, mental reframing, etc.

                What about finding a way to spend just part of your day away from your desk? Maybe it will help if you just get a break sometimes?

            2. Andrewssister*

              If anyone has to move into a seperate office I think it has to be LW, not the co-worker. Moving the the co-worker away from everyone else to manage this sounds way too much like ‘We are segregating you because your disability is annoying’. Likewise forcing her to work from home.

              1. I Don’t Remember What Name I Used Before*

                I am a person with chronic respiratory illness, and if I had to be using something that loud and annoying, *I* would be the one requesting to me moved to a spot where my machine wouldn’t disturb others.

                Empathy and compassion work BOTH WAYS.

                1. Andrewssister*

                  Yes, but that would be your choice – it wouldn’t be something being imposed on you.

              2. Janie*

                Trying to force her to do either of those things when she doesn’t want to may actuallly be illegal, as well, tbh.

        2. TGOTAL*

          This seems unnecessarily snarky. Mm suggested “thinking about options available” to help OP3 deal with a situation that is interfering with OP3’s ability to focus in the workplace. I don’t read anything there as suggesting anyone should take the coworker’s medical equipment away.

          1. Où est la bibliothèque?*

            And there are other inevitable noises that people can ask to move away from without trying to claim they shouldn’t exist–
            “Is there any way I can sit further from the bubbler?”
            “Would it be possible to move to a desk that isn’t so close to the big heating vent?”
            That wouldn’t be a big deal at all. Nobody would be accusing someone of thinking their coworkers should die of dehydration or freeze because those noises distracted them.

            1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

              Exactly. An example I’m thinking of is, I’ve had coworkers whose desks were at the time located directly outside the men’s room. I’ve had meetings with those coworkers at their desks and can confirm that this is an incredibly distracting location. Every minute or two if it’s a large office, the door bangs, followed by the sound of peeing, flushing, the tap running, door bangs again, repeat a minute later, continue every minute for eight hours! I guarantee that everyone who ever had to sit in that spot, probably requested to be moved (and was later moved) from it. Not AT ALL the same thing as requesting to shut down the bathroom and have the coworkers hold it until they get back home from work. Not even close.

            2. Your Weird Uncle*

              OT, but re. bubbler….are you from Wisco by any chance?

              (Fellow bubbler-er here!) :D

        3. Rusty Shackelford*

          But the OP wouldn’t be saying “Jane’s oxygen tank bugs me, make it go away.” She’d be saying “Jane’s necessary medical equipment is loud and distracting and makes it difficult for me to concentrate, is there any way I can remove myself from this situation?” Those are VERY different requests.

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            Her breathing is mandatory….but being able to concentrate at work is something the employer wants an employee to do also.

      2. Mels*

        I appreciate that noise sensitivity is real. Just not as real as not being able to breathe, ya know?

        1. BethRA*

          Of course, but Mm isn’t saying it is – only that it may give the OP room to ask about moving her desk or trying to find other solutions.

      3. Eleanor Rigby*

        I would assume, if the OP has ADD or similar, it would be relevant context to give in the letter.
        However, her co-worker needs to be able to breathe so OP needs to find other ways to deal.

        1. AMPG*

          A lot of minor sensory issues go undiagnosed. I don’t want to armchair-diagnose, but low-grade misophonia would cause the type of reaction that the OP is describing, and it really is much more than garden-variety annoyance with a disruptive sound. I don’t know that there’s any way to talk yourself out of it, actually.

          1. Chronic Illness Sufferer*

            This. I have misophonia and totally understand issues with noises. Not sure what the solution is, honestly.

            I wonder if Jane’s equipment is outdated and if that is something that the insurance could help with- acquiring a new oxygen machine that will be more quiet (and probably more compact if her machine is old). I saw some suggestions that perhaps the company could accommodate the sick employee by allowing her to work from home, but I will say that working from home was the worst thing that I did for my mental health surrounding the implications of my condition. It made me more isolated and allowed me to almost wallow in my own misery. I didn’t HAVE to shower or put on real clothes or makeup and my condition spiraled to the point that I lost what I had left of my physical and mental health, it took a lot of time, energy and money to recover from the path that working remotely set me on. For a lot of people with serious health conditions, going to work and keeping some sense of normalcy is very important.

            1. Sami*

              Agree. While the OP really can’t bring this up, it is possible that were the coworker to get a new/different O2 tank, it might be much quieter. My Mom uses one and it’s very quiet.

              1. just an office worker*

                Its not an issue of outdated equipment. There is no such thing as a silent portable oxygen concentrator. I’m sure people on o2 wish they existed. They are ALL noisy. My mom has been on oxygen for years so I know the “puffing” sound the LW describes very well and it, for lack of a better word, triggers my sensitivity as well. I’m very sensitive to sounds (often wonder if I don’t have ADD or some other sensory issue, today I scrubbed my sink with a pumice stone and the sound made me physically ill/nauseous) & I don’t honestly know if I would be able to concentrate if I had to listen to the “puff” sound at work all day! The puff sound, by the way, makes me think the co-worker uses Inogen liquid oxygen like my mom and thats actually pretty new equipment. I would never ever complain to my mom about the noise though! I’m incredibly thankful she’s on oxygen because it allows her to live, literally. But home concentrators and portable concentrators, they are all noisy! especially home concentrators.I feel for both the OP and her co-worker.

          2. I Don’t Remember What Name I Used Before*

            I have ADHD, dyspraxia, dyscalculia, and sensory processing disorder (among other disorders/chronic illnesses), all of which are quite extreme in nature, with lifelong symptoms that are so severe and obvious that it is comical. They are also so disabling that I should honestly have been on disability for them my entire adult life rather than trying to function in a world I completely lack the skills for.

            I wasn’t diagnosed until I was FORTY EIGHT (I am now 52), and some of those disorders I’d never even *heard of* until then (and I am extremely well read on an incredibly wide range of subjects.)
            The number of friends and acquaintances I have in the 45 and up age range that are *just now* getting diagnosed with ADHD and/or assorted learning/neurodevelpmental disorders is astounding.

            It’s entirely possible to go ones entire life with a serious issue like that, displaying all the textbook symptoms even, and not have the slightest idea you have it.

      4. Samwise*

        There’s a difference between a noisy office with background noise, and sitting next to a loud mechanical device. Changing your mindset can help, but even the most sympathetic understanding is not always enough to keep the noise from being distracting and irritating. I say this as a mom who spent a LOT of time in my kid’s hospital room trying to do work while various devices beeped and booped and glugged and clicked — it was *hard* to do even very mindless work, much less work that needed concentration, and some days the noise drove me absolutely batshit crazy.

        I disagree with AAM that the OP can’t bring this up. If the oxygen tank isn’t going every day, then the suggestion about finding a temporary space to concentrate when it is running is an excellent solution, and OP should talk with their manager asap to get it set up, even if only for a few hours.

        1. Works in IT*

          As someone who wears hearing aids, and was seated near someone with an oxygen pump at a restaurant once…. ow. The low battery sound started beeping, and it triggered massive feedback, to the point that I was shaking because it. Was. So. Loud. Then the lady looked at the battery, decided it had enough to get her home, and left it beeping for the rest of the time I was there.

          I understand that people need to breathe, but… that noise felt like being punched in the head with sound.

    4. Ada*

      Or, instead of a white noise machine, something relatively inconspicuous that “hums” or otherwise generates an even, constant noise that can mask the sound (e.g. – a desk fan or air purifier). I have tinnitus and that’s one of the top 2 ways I cope with the sound (the other be a looped recording of the sound of running water like a river; don’t know why, but it’s extremely effective at masking the sound of tinnitus).

      1. schnauzerfan*

        Can you give yourself a reward when CW uses her oxygen? I’m thinking, something you enjoy, say a tictac, lifesaver, a piece of fruit… and you only get to have one when the oxygen tank starts humming. The idea is to marry the sound to a good thing. It could be giving yourself permission to walk over to pick up a piece of candy from the office dish, a fresh cup of coffee. Whatever you’d find rewarding. “Oh good! Time for my snack!” Obviously you’d want to calibrate the size of your reward to the frequency of the noise, but it could work. Just don’t make your reward stepping out for a smoke. That will just lead to trouble. ;)

        1. Zephy*

          Maybe oxygen tanks are different where you are, but my experience with them is that they make a loud, jarring mechanical click/whirr/puff noise roughly every six seconds while in use. It would be better if the machine *did* constantly hum; instead, it seems like the puffs are timed ~just so~ to make them impossible to tune out. If OP3 did try to Pavlov their way into being less annoyed by this sound, it would be very obvious for one, and for another, they’d never get any work done.

          1. schnauzerfan*

            I live with my mother who uses an oxygen concentrator and I am very familiar with their vocalizations. I’m not saying a bite every six seconds… but rather a nice lemon drop that could be popped when the noise starts and enjoyed for what? 5 to 10 minutes or a fresh cup of coffee that you fetch when the noise starts and sip while the machine sings a happy tune.

          2. GoldenRetriever*

            I would say this could be beneficial in specific situations. Say if she only needed the oxygen tank on certain days but not other, OP could give themselves a special treat on those days. It could be something “continuous” throughout the whole time the tank is on (or a majority of it) even if the specific annoying noises are discreet and periodic and not continuous. I’m thinking about something like keeping a stash of special tea or coffee that you really like on hand. It wouldn’t be very obvious that OP “rewarded” themselves by having their fancy loose leaf Earl Grey tea on days the O2 tank is running vs. a cheap orange pekoe tea bag, but at the very least it might be a positive distraction. (OP could try and focus on “yum, this tea is delicious!” over the noise). It might not work but it could be worth a try.

        2. I Don’t Remember What Name I Used Before*

          For me, that would have the opposite effect. Tying in [reward] to [thing that makes me batshit] would just end up making me hate [reward].

      1. I Don’t Remember What Name I Used Before*

        *adds to wishlist*

        I usually just sleep with a fan running year round, but in the winter it’s sometimes way too chilly.

    5. Lime Lehmer*

      It may be extremely difficult for OP#3 to block out the noises.
      The oxygen condenser which it sounds like coworker is using makes a sound like a small hissing snake with each puff/ breath. Truly distracting.

      White noise machines are not a cure all, but Alison’s suggestion of re-framing is helpful.

      My son has Misophonia, otherwise known as “selective sound sensitivity syndrome,” is characterized by feeling a deep irritation and anger at certain sounds. Once a sound rattles you, it is hard to learn to ignore it.

      My sympathy to both coworker and OP33

      1. Cathie from Canada*

        Misphonia! Thanks so much for this info — finally, what I experience with some sounds has a name. I have always found low-pitched rumbling sounds very aggravating (think a window air conditioner, for example) but I always thought it was just something neurotic about me, particularly when other people barely noticed them.

      2. Ada*

        To clarify, the idea wouldn’t necessarily be to block it out entirely, but rather to find another, steadier sound that it could kind of meld with to make it less jarring than going from near-silence to HISSSSS! For example, my tinnitus is technically louder than the air purifier in my bedroom, but the noise makes it much easier to ignore both the tinnitus and the intermittent sounds of the tv in the living room.

      3. I Don’t Remember What Name I Used Before*

        Yep, and it’s not something one really has any control over. Nor does familiarity with or exposure to the noise reduce the irritation or move it to the category or “annoying things ones brain learns to ignore”, it actually tends to have the OPPOSITE effect- the noise becomes MORE irritating and anger producing with more exposure.
        When I’ve been in situations where I couldn’t escape or avoid the misophonic trigger, the ONLY solution I’ve found is to block or mask it.

    6. nonymous*

      OP3 could also ask for an alternate schedule (coming in a couple hours earlier/later than the sick coworker) or a compressed workweek or telework once a week on their own and leave the coworker out of it completely. That would reduce the amount of time in proximity.

      Assuming the coworker is scheduled for 9-5/M-F, if OP3 teleworks one day and works 4-10s with a 7A start time then she will reduce the time spent in proximity by 40%. Even if all she does is switch her start time to 7A, that would reduce the time in proximity by 10%. I would also make it a point to schedule “breaks” on the days OP3 is working next to coworker – 1hr at desk, 1hr meeting, 1hr at desk, lunch break, etc. And if there is any collaboration work with teammates that doesn’t involve sick coworker jump on that as an excuse to step into a break-out conference room. If OP3 is using the pomodoro technique there are built-in opportunities to step away while still being very productive.

    7. soupcold57*

      OP could change jobs. Non-discrimination laws don’t require *employees* to stay in any job.

    8. Safetykats*

      I’m going to conditionally disagree with the general conclusion that OP3 can do nothing about this. I understand the noises are related to a medical condition. There is also a documented medical condition called misphonia that makes you much more sensitive to certain kinds of sounds, characterized by what could be considered excessively emotional responses to those sounds. Misphonia is more common in people with anxiety disorders or OCD. If OP has this kind of condition, it may in fact be a reasonable accommodation for her to sit elsewhere, or even work on a different team. I would recommend OP consider whether they have a history of this type of sensitivity, or of related conditions, and if so, be evaluated by a medical professional.

    9. charo*

      LW cites:
      “coughing, moaning, or yelping in pain” as well as the machine —

      but commenters don’t seem to have read THAT. Isn’t it doing the woman a favor to talk to HR about her obvious distress? I mean, cmon, “moaning”? “Yelping”?

      Maybe audiotape her noises; it sounds like she’s having a hard time, or is histrionic, if she doesn’t “moan or yelp” in meetings but does it at her desk. You’d be doing her a favor if she’s authentically in that much trouble at her desk.

      Either LW or coworker sounds like she’s exaggerating here, can’t tell which. Or the perfect storm of both, maybe.

  2. WakeUp!*

    I don’t really understand what the problem is in #2. It’s common to feel frustrated when you’re trying to pick up a new process and making mistakes or moving slowly, and it probably doesn’t have much or even anything to do with how incredibly good at her job OP is.

    OP, my advice to you is to take your own advice and stop comparing these employees to yourself. Focus on what they need to accomplish and how quickly, and communicate that to them (and remember that being able to do that is now part of being good at your job). It’s telling that you’re worried they might think they’re doing well when they’re average. Those are not real metrics and you need to give them some so they can actually track their performance.

    1. Mm*

      I agree that real metrics would be the most valuable thing here. Ex. An error rate of 5% is normal, you’ll likely settle around 2% when you get the hang of this. This could be less formal as “having to redo 1 in 20 is super normal at this stage, hopefully in a few months you will be closer to 1 in 50”

      I don’t necessarily think that the OP is wrong to mention that she performs above expectations. I think that she is looking for a way to say that she can’t use her own experiences for the actual comparison. I liked Alison’s wording around “this should take…”

      I’ve been in a position where I’m better at something than colleagues due to seniority and it is hard when the employee is average since you want them to strive to be great, but not think they are doing something wrong. This is where standard metrics can be helpful. The the employee can make their own judgements: “hmm op said x number of mistakes are normal, but I’m doing a bit worse than that. I should work on being more exact”. It’s a lot less vague than “you don’t have to be as good as me…but you should be able to do better”

      1. Mm*

        I agree that real metrics would be the most valuable thing here. Ex. An error rate of 5% is normal, you’ll likely settle around 2% when you get the hang of this. This could be less formal as “having to redo 1 in 20 is super normal at this stage, hopefully in a few months you will be closer to 1 in 50”

        I don’t necessarily think that the OP is wrong to mention that she performs above expectations. I think that she is looking for a way to say that she can’t use her own experiences for the actual comparison. I liked Alison’s wording around “this should take…”

        I’ve been in a position where I’m better at something than colleagues due to seniority and it is hard when the employee is average since you want them to strive to be great, but not think they are doing something wrong. This is where standard metrics can be helpful. The the employee can make their own judgements: “hmm op said x number of mistakes are normal, but I’m doing a bit worse than that. I should work on being more exact”. It’s a lot less vague than “you don’t have to be as good as me…but you should be able to do better”

        Edit: I’ll also add that OP shouldn’t worry too much about downplaying her own skills. I know it’s such a fine line to walk, but focus on playing up your abilities with the skills critical in your current job rather than your past performance. As someone who got passed up for a promotion early in my career for not tooting my own horn enough I totally get why she worries about this. What has served me well is mentioning one or two accomplishments when I meet with my manager (weekly/monthly). These should be compared to a standard not to a colleague. Ex

        Manager: how’s your day going
        Me: pretty good, I knocked out x this morning, which is great because that gives me time to work on y.

        1. OP2*

          Thanks, you hit the nail on the head here. I agree that the best thing is to set clear expectations (I would expect you to finish this in 3 hours with X number of mistakes) rather than let him compare himself to me so that he compared himself to the expectations I set out.

    2. OP2*

      Hi, OP2 here

      Part of my issue is that I will ask them to help on a task, like organising 10 colours of teapot. By the time they’ve organised two colours I have organised the other eight. So the difference to them is obvious and they express frustration to me when I say I have finished the eight that they took so I long to organise two.

      Doing two in that time period is okay, but they have expressed before that they want to be seen as a high performers and for me I’d see a high performer as finishing 4 or 5 in the time it now takes them to do two.

      My question was really how do I stop them from feeling bad about their progress without saying where they’re at at the moment is great when really it’s okay. I like Alison’s script for this though!

      1. Gala apple*

        Why don’t you let them complete the full task, so that they build up proficiency with it?

        1. OP2*

          When we’re on a deadline we can’t wait for them to complete all 10 (which may take a full day, plus my time reviewing and making revisions, plus our time going through changes together so they see what I’ve changed and why) when we can wrap it up in a few hours.

          When we’re not on a deadline then I let them do everything.

          1. AvonLady Barksdale*

            I think this might work better for them if you clarified the expectations. As in, if you need help organizing 10 teapots colors, then assign two to one person, two to another, etc. Get as concrete as you can. That way, there’s no sense of speed competition and they can, presumably, take the time they need to things right and to fix mistakes (which is the only way many of us truly learn).

            It’s like dividing a project. Instead of saying, “Just do what you can and I’ll do the rest,” you divide by task. This person will write, this person will edit, this one is in charge of the data.

            If you want to help them build confidence in themselves, then include yourself in the delegation. “I’ll do these four, you two do three each by the end of day tomorrow.” It sounds to me like their frustration is not because you’re fast and they’re not, but because they’re not given enough opportunities to test the skills they need to become faster.

            1. DreamingInPurple*

              I really like this tactic for when you’re on deadline – it reframes things into “I successfully accomplishing a subset of tasks that I was asked to do” rather than “I accomplished a small percentage of the total work”, which is a much more heartening feeling.

          2. MsSolo*

            Ooh, this is super familiar. Just gratingly, grimly familiar right now, with a whole rant that’s probably best saved for the open thread… Deadlines are the worst for supporting new colleagues, especially if it starts to impact their confidence and the start asking for more support because they’re still trying to figure out that ‘one weird trick’ you apparently know and they don’t.

            (and I’m just like “I touch type, that’s literally it, I type faster than you”, but people who type at a perfectly reasonable speed really don’t grasp the difference those few seconds a sentence can add up to)

            1. TootsNYC*

              As someone who has hit 120 wpm on a keyboard when 50 or 55 is considered perfectly respectable, and whose normal speed is about 90, I feel you.

              And it does help to say, “Look, 50wpm is a perfectly respectable speed; 70 is considered really good. Aim at those numbers, and pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.”

              i also have been known to say, “I have a really good memory for details, and I’ve read that grouping letters into little ‘subroutines for your fingers’ makes you a fast typist. With my memory for details, my ‘subroutines’ are entire words long, whereas most fast typists have three- or four-letter groups, like ‘tion.’ So if you want to get faster, you could work on developing that tactic, of typing not by individual letters but by groups of letters, or even of words. Even if it’s only the most common words. Like, you type ‘most’ instead of ‘m o s t.’ Start with ‘m o st,’ maybe, and see how it goes. Try to never type ‘a n d,’ but ‘and.'”

              So I’m sharing a secret, but I’m also sharing why I’m faster than most people. It’s a knack, combined with an actual focus on that skill.

          3. Brett*

            The problem there is the deadline.
            If the deadline was set with the expectation that a rockstar must do the task to finish on time, then the deadline is wrong and needs pushback. The deadline needs to be set based on the average team member.

      2. Patty Mayonnaise*

        I’m glad Alison’s advice is helpful to you! And I want to add, as some who’s been in a really similar position, it’s okay to let the person feel a little pain/negativity in the moment. It’s actually good for them to feel a little negatively, and channel that into their own improvement. It’s hard to watch people struggle, but being accurate about their performance (while being thoughtful and kind, which it sounds like you are) and letting them deal with negative feelings is the best thing for their growth.

        1. TootsNYC*

          “Hard is good! You can do hard things. It takes some concentration and effort, but you can do hard things.”

          1. TardyTardis*

            I did that with a co-worker who was learning a new routine (for her), and gave her plenty of support and ‘call me if you don’t understand something, I know this is hard’. By the time I was done, I heard from others, “You trained Insert Name Here to do THAT?’–but it saved me so much time down the road with her being able to do Insert Task Here rather than me taking the raw ingredients for the report and formatting it all myself.

      3. snowglobe*

        In the situation you describe, you should just let them know that two would be considered ‘meeting expectations’ and 4-5 would be a high performer. No need to use yourself as a comparison at all.

        1. EventPlannerGal*

          Agreed. Personally I would also set the expectations out ahead of time – “okay, we need to organise these teapots. Fergus, you take teapots 1 and 2 – that ought to take until about 11 but if you finish before that then it would be great to start on 3. I’ll start working from 4 on.” If you give them a clear idea of how long they should expect to take before they start then it may head off the disappointment/frustration before it kicks in, and may also stop them rushing to try to keep up with the pace you’re setting.

        2. TootsNYC*

          another alternate term for “meeting expectations”: “respectable”

          “That’s a respectable speed.” So no “doing great!” but also “nothing to be ashamed of.”

      4. Samwise*

        It is ok for them to feel dissatisfied. Really, it is. Teachers set tasks that make students feel frustrated and dissatisfied all the time, not to be mean, but because that’s what happens when you’re learning how to do something, or learning how to get better at something. Setting clear expectations and having a rubric (I think that is what’s meant by metrics?) are key. Do you have regular sit-downs with them to review their work and set goals?

        One thing you can do is to try to think back when you were first learning the task–how well did you do, how did you feel about it? Imagine yourself back at the novice and intermediate stages. Then you can (1) share your experience as a novice with the juniors and (2) set reasonable expectations and offer useful guidelines/resources/approaches for someone at the novice or intermediate stage.

      5. Ellex*

        I feel you, OP2 – I’m currently in much the same position as you, and the two people I’ve been training are so very much more unsure of themselves than I’m used to dealing with. I’ve also been doing similar work for 20+ years. I’m faster and more accurate than people who have been in this particular job longer than I have, and it’s mainly because I’ve had the chance in previous jobs to develop skills that really lend themselves to this work.

        I try not to bring up any comparisons unless the people I’m training bring it up, and when they do, I just repeat that they’re new, and a learning curve is expected; that I’ve been here for a year as opposed to their 1 month+; that I have a lot of prior experience in this kind of work; and that if there’s a problem with their work, our boss will let them know.

        My trainees are actually doing quite well, and I’ve hit the point where I told one of them point blank “The only thing you lack is confidence in your work. You don’t need to check every process with me because you’re doing it right every time. Accurate is better than fast.” (and it’s nice to be able to stress accuracy over speed!) Hearing it straight like that seemed to help, and that person is showing a little less concern about the amount of work they’re getting done.

        Now if I could only get the other one to stop obsessing about stuff our department doesn’t even deal with! Thoroughness is all well and good, but understanding when”that’s not my job” can be equally, if not more, important.

        1. TootsNYC*

          My trainees are actually doing quite well, and I’ve hit the point where I told one of them point blank “The only thing you lack is confidence in your work. You don’t need to check every process with me because you’re doing it right every time.

          So often people don’t really have the skills to self-assess.
          That’s one of the most powerful things my mother did, was to point me to the EVIDENCE that I was overlooking when I said, “I don’t think I do this well.”

      6. Someone Else*

        Saying this in response “for me I’d see a high performer as finishing 4 or 5 in the time it now takes them to do two” gives them a clear, realistic goal. If they say “but you did 8”, just repeat “yes but 4 or 5 is still high performing”.
        If any of them are sports people, a sports metaphor might work? Where they’re in AAA right now, and their goal should be to be in the majors and stay in the majors. They don’t need to be Mike Trout. Just do Big League numbers.

      7. AnnaBananna*

        By giving them the inside scoop on how to meet your skill level. What worked for you? HOW did you get better? What habits did you implement early that really helped you improve faster than your peers? That is the sort of mentoring that your leaders are probably looking for, and what your mentees would definitely appreciate.

        Also, everybody learns differently. And don’t forget to share successes with the rest of the team. Tooting other’s horns can help encourage your team, share strategies for success/open dialogue, and also highlight your success as a leader. :)

      8. LabTechNoMore*

        Try framing it as experience. “It takes time, but after doing this a while, it goes really quickly.” Even add in: “Try not to get discouraged – you’ll get better the more practice you get.”

    3. LQ*

      I agree. I’ve run into this as well and the thing I have to remind myself is that they don’t need to be as fast as me, they need to get it done in a a timely manner. Sometimes that means they take longer. But if that means I’m doing Other Project then it’s good for the organization. But I’ll also tell them. Especially if there are metrics, Jr Analysts are expected to do X, you’re at that level, that’s great.

      I’ve directly told people that they can’t be me, but they need to be the best them. (which does sometimes help) I point out efficiencies when I see them and think they can make it. (You can do 2 folds at once. You don’t have to do one fold and then enter it into the system and then come back and do the next, open the system enter, do 2 folds, enter fold 2 and 3, do fold 3 and 4, enter 4 and 5…) I’ve also had luck highlighting things that they do exceptionally well. You spell good which means less double checking and redoing time. (This nearly always comes with a side of self deprecation but I don’t think it needs to.)

    4. Anoncorporate*

      It definitely sounds like a humblebrag. The junior employees are using her as a benchmark for success. That seems totally normal?

      1. TardyTardis*

        It is in some places; I and one other worker typically went through Huge Numbers of invoices per day, but not so much as other people, and new employees were typically directed to us to learn our ways, but a lot of it really was just a lot of practice.

  3. Clarissa*

    For #3
    I had a coworker that had a loud oxygen tank.
    It drove me NUTS! I started using earplugs. They helped more than headphones. And I could still hear if people talked to me.
    There are several different kinds of plugs. I like Flents “Quiet Please” foam Ear Plugs, #1 cylinder plugs. I get them through Amazon. They’re great for planes and around noisy children and Muzak too.

    1. Sleepy*

      That’s a good idea. I am also really sensitive to noise and my husband got me a pair of earplugs that are designed to look like an accessory rather than wads of foam (unfortunately I forget the brand). Another option is the custom-made earplugs that conform to your specific ear shape and can be made to block out specific frequencies they’re pricy but depending on how desperate you are they could be worth it.

    2. AnonyNurse*

      It’s an oxygen concentrator, I assume, which make sound as they cycle every few seconds. They are awesome, amazing, wonderful inventions that allow people who need oxygen to not have to lug an entire tank around. And they are SO annoying. The sound is spaced out just far enough apart that it doesn’t become part of the background. I think Allison’s advice is right. But wanted to say you aren’t alone in finding the noise challenging.

      1. WS*

        Yes, I had a patient who would switch back to an old-fashioned oxygen tank whenever she was home because the intermittent noise drove her crazy, whereas the tank noise was quieter and more constant. The co-worker probably feels the same way.

        1. I Don’t Remember What Name I Used Before*

          I hope the people who do not seem to think LW has a right to be annoyed by the sound, or that they have to just suck it up read this comment. Because if the ACTUAL PATIENT THAT NEEDS THE DEVICE TO BREATHE can be driven to distraction by the noise, to the point that they won’t use it, whenever possible, it’s pretty telling as to how irritating it is, and LW is NOT being weird or overreacting here.

          1. AnnaBananna*


            I’m also curious as to what Alison’s response would be if LW had her own medically necessary need for quiet (I’m thinking spectrum disorders or something). Would she still just say suck it up? If not, I don’t really think it’s entirely fair to expect LW to have her concentration shot to heck just because. Further, I thought the ADA stipulated that it can’t protect one employee at the expense of another? I’m obviously paraphrasing, but I thought it was something about it being a reasonable accomodation. If they can’t find anybody productive in the seat next to the woman with the tank, does that change the reaction of the management?

            Just things I ponder while waiting for 5pm to roll around. 5 more minutes….

            1. AnnaBananna*

              I’m also speaking as someone with her own ADA for physical needs though I never asked for an accomodation for my adhd and boy do I wish I had some days. Having my back to the wall, having people constantly walking/talking behind me makes it almost impossible to work something fierce with adhd. And headphones don’t work all the time, especially when you really just need quiet, not smooth jazz and the like, you know?

              1. I Don’t Remember What Name I Used Before*

                I’m speaking as a person who actually has serious chronic respiratory illness, and always have. I absolutely know what it’s like (though I hope I don’t ever end up needing an oxygen machine!) And I still don’t see this as a problem that can only be solved by ‘self talk’ or just sucking it up. If LW can’t work like that, then they CAN’T, any more than Jane can work without her 02 machine.

                And I thought the same thing as you. Creating an office environment where other people in the office are distracted and disrupted by the disabled worker’s accommodations does NOT seem to me to fall under the heading of “reasonable accommodations”.

      2. TGOTAL*

        Thank you for acknowledging OP3’s struggle is real. Not that this changes anything about the appropriate available courses of action, of course – the coworker needs the machine, full stop, so OP3 has to find a way to deal. But I’m surprised how many commenters seem to be suggesting OP3 has no right to even find the noise bothersome in the first place.

        1. Thursday Next*

          I think it’s more that comments are saying that OP can’t *raise* the issue of her annoyance. It’s okay to be annoyed. It really wouldn’t be okay to tell her supervisor or coworker that. OP needs to find ways of managing the effects of the noise on her own.

        2. Detective Amy Santiago*

          There is literally no way for OP3 to raise this without looking like a complete asshole. Someone else’s right to breathe is 1000% more important than anything else.

          1. WakeUp!*

            You’re making it sound like the two options are for OP to suffer in silence or unplug the coworker’s oxygen tank and leave her to die. It seems like someone with some social skills and tact should be able to quietly, privately talk to her manager about being moved, even some of the time, without the coworker ever knowing.

            1. Samwise*

              Yes, absolutely. “I feel terrible about having to bring this up, but…” “I know that co-worker has to have her oxygen device, so I wonder if I can get a few hours in another space/the conference room/suggest other places on days when she needs to use it”. There is nothing offensive about asking for this.

          2. LawBee*

            I haven’t seen where people are saying that the coworker should not be using the oxygen tank, or that coworker be banished to another area with her tank, or anything remotely like that. Just how can LW3 work around what is clearly an annoying sound – and yes, they are annoying sounds!

        3. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          It’s definitely a real struggle.

          I’ve also run into discussion about these types of devices in relation to live music performances. Breathing is 100% paramount, obviously and naturally, but in smaller venues especially a loud, rhythmic noise can throw off performers as well as hindering the ability of others to enjoy music. What’s the best solution for everyone that stigmatizes no one? It’s horribly complex and fraught.

          1. $!$!*

            Captain awkward has a really good post about oxygen tanks and live performances that I immediately thought of when I read through the post

          2. Midlife Tattoos*

            I’m curious about this. I would have thought that live music would drown out any other sounds, as it’s generally somewhat loud. Or maybe I’m just thinking about live rock-n-roll?

            1. Grapey*

              Spoken word performances and one-person acoustic shows are much quieter than the concerts you’re thinking of.

          3. I Don’t Remember What Name I Used Before*

            This is just me, but if I knew my ability to enjoy a public performance was not only going to affect the enjoyment of others around me, but the ability of the performers to actually perform, I would honestly just rather not go. Why would I want to make everyone else have a bad time just so I could have a good one? It seems MONSTROUSLY selfish to insist that my disabilities would somehow give me more of a right to enjoy the performance than other people, let alone the right to actually disrupt the actual performance.
            Being disabled means that I have the right to expect people to make REASONABLE accommodations wherever possible (and insisting that I get to enjoy something at the expense of everyone else is NOT reasonable.) It means I have the right to not be marginalized or sidelined because of my disabilities. It does NOT mean that I have the right to expect people to accommodate me in ALL situations, no matter what, and especially not at the expense of others (who may or may not have disabilities of their own that need accommodations.) It means there are some things I can not and will not ever be able to do, with or without accommodations.
            And you know what? That’s perfectly fine! If I were completely healthy, and in top physical & mental condition, there would STILL be things that I would be unable to participate in, that would be beyond my capabilities. Being disabled just means there a few more. So what? There are still plenty of things I CAN do where accommodating my needs will not be a burden or hardship on others.

            1. Yikes*

              Yeah boy, when I think of people with disabilities wanting to participate in mainstream culture, the first word that comes to mind is definitely “monstrous.” How dare they? Us normals are just trying to enjoy art without being distracted by the dysfunctional bodies of others, am I right?

      3. Blue_eyes*

        Thank you for explaining this. I had a family member who used one near the end of her life and the noise was jarring every. single. time. It can kind of put you on edge waiting for the next “puff”. Something running continously in the background would be much easier to tune out.

        1. Washi*

          Yes! It reminds me of that scene in Elf where Buddy is testing the jack in the boxes and gets scared every time… I agree with everyone that there is no way to raise this without the OP looking like a huge jerk, but I can totally see where the OP is coming from, since it’s not a noise that I find just fades into the background.

          I don’t think it would annoy me in meetings though, so I do think that the dislike of the coworker is magnifying the issue. I think I would try to re-train my brain to stop going “ughhhh I wish Jane’s coughs and oxygen would stop being so noisy” to just expecting that there will be coughs and puffs each day. The more I fight my negative feelings, the more space in my brain, whereas if I try to accept the situation for what it is, I’m a lot calmer.

        2. TardyTardis*

          My husband’s oxygen concentrator is like that, fortunately the tube is really, really long so the actual machine can be put in a room with the door almost closed. Is there some way the worker can get a longer tube and put the actual machine in an almost-closed off area?

    3. EtherIther*

      I was thinking alone the same lines -Maybe noise cancelling headphones? Earplugs? I think at the least it’s understandable that you’d find it distracting OP#3.

      1. LavaLamp*

        My mom was on oxygen before she died. It was also a concentrator and I wanted to throw it out the window on more than one occasion. It sounds like a giant breathing loudly and too spaced out to be able to tune it out. And trust me, my mom hated the darn thing too because it was so freaking loud. Perhaps you could play a small CD player with like classical music or Enya or something that might cover the sound and also be unnoffensive and easier to tune out?

        1. Mystery Bookworm*

          Yeah, if it’s any comfort to OP, she can likely assume that her co-worker hates the machine 1000x more than she ever could. (At least in my experience.)

        2. Mary*

          Same with my mum, which I’d actually forgotten until this thread. The noise was more or less constant for the last few weeks of her life and it’s giving me the chills to remember it.

        3. Seeking Second Childhood*

          My motherinlaw has one and there’s no tuning it out with quiet music. It’s inconsistent enough and at just the right pitch to be be audible over superhero movies.
          Given that experience, I’m with team “ask about working in another room” — I’d take pieces out of some of Alison’s other scripts and go to the supervisor with this. “I’ve realized I have a weird problem with intermittent sounds, and I’m having trouble concentrating on days when Jane needs her medical equipment. Obviously she can’t give it up, but I’m wondering if there’s a way she or I could use the [conference room/breakout room/etc.] on days when it’s running.”
          Unfortunately, if the supervisor is a glass bowl, there’s a potential problem where the GB restates it as “OP3 is annoyed so turn it off.” Which is of course not what would be suggested. SO I’d suggest talking to Jane directly as well so she knows what you actually asked — and maybe ask her if she’d WANT to use the breakout room if supervisor says yes. Some of us don’t like working away from our special setups, and some O2 machines aren’t as easily portable as others.

          1. TootsNYC*

            my vote would be to NOT say “obviously she can’t give it up,” because i think if you say stuff like that, it’s an indicator that you actually thought it.

            Kind of like “no offense, but…” or “I don’t want to hurt your feelings, but…”

        4. Moonbeam Malone*

          I suppose this is super YMMV but I wonder if something with more rhythmic drumbeats might help if classical fails.

        5. Reliant*

          From a quick internet search, I see that apparently companies have stepped in to make quieter oxygen concentrators. Perhaps that could help solve the problem.

    4. Red Ghost*

      I agree with using earplugs. I used to work at a place where talking while working was OK and there were some people who just would not shut up, ever. Together with workshop sounds that caused a constant annoying noise carpet, and I had trouble concentrating. I started to use earplugs and it was heaven. I could still hear enough to know when someone adressed me directly and often I could even understand what they were saying but it was just not so loud and thus way less annoying and distracting. I use earplugs made of wax and cotton, because they are more comfortable and less obvious.

  4. Observer*

    #3 – I’m assuming that some her habits are legitimately annoying. You can probably address those. But keep in mind that if you ever even hint that you find her oxygen tank annoying, you’ll not only look terrible, you are going to lose any standing whatsoever to complain about anything else she does no matter how bad. You will become The Person Who Gets Annoyed By Someone Trying To Breath. As in “well, OF COURSE OP is going to complain. She can’t even deal with CW trying to breath.” Not really good for your reputation or ability to get things done. Forget about ever asking anyone to accommodate you on anything, ever.

    It might help you to do some reframing. Not just about the oxygen tank. Also, about the noises. I get that they are not pleasant, but they are not really “habits” – especially not coughing!

    1. I Took A Mint*

      Agreed. OP I feel your pain, I’ve been bothered in the past by 2 coworkers, one who coughed bad breath straight into my face (and was blind and couldn’t see that it bothered me), and one who sneezed so loudly it made me jump in my chair (and was deaf and couldn’t hear how loud he was, or help it even if he could).

      For me it’s been helpful to use strategies like Alison suggested that force me to reframe it as “yes it’s an annoying SOUND but the REASON for the sound is a person who can’t help it.” I found one meditation (on the Meditation Minis podcast but I’m sure there are others) that helps you think of annoying people as little kids just doing the best they can (and aren’t we all just little kids doing the best we can?). I consider it a test in being the kind of person I want to be. Best of luck to you.

      1. Margaret*

        This made me chuckle, I’ll admit- I have very bad misophonia and need to take all kinds of steps to cope in my office. I also have the world’s loudest sneeze and am ROUTINELY chided by coworkers in my professional life for it. No matter how much I try it always seems to come out sounding like an elephant.

        That’s life though. Sounds happen and we can’t help them, sounds happen and they’re TOTALLY INFURIATING. Heck to the pay raise- lot of the time I think I want to be promoted very badly just so I have a door to shut on it all.

        1. I Don’t Remember What Name I Used Before*

          As a fellow loud sneezer (I scare my cats constantly) I feel your pain. I know some people don’t understand that we are not being loud on purpose, and we have very little control over the volume.

          My dad was a loud sneezer too. When I was a toddler, we had a parrot that would yell AAAAAH and fall off it’s perch every time he sneezed.

      2. Please be cool*

        Do be careful that that doesn’t change how you act. Disabled people deal with being treated like children for, idk, the literal entirety of our lives. This is especially true for disabled people who have really obvious disabilities or need certain kinds of assistance devices. One gets very skilled at detecting when others view one as little more than a child, and it does serious damage to any relationships one has with disabled folks.

        1. Thursday Next*

          I agree that infantilizing disabled people has serious negative consequences, and that it happens all too often. But I understood I Took A Mint to be saying that *everyone* is a child doing their best? In other words, we should cut everyone some slack instead of going right to BEC stage. I guess another way to do it would be to imagine that the person annoying you is your best friend who needs an assistive device.

          I use a similar strategy at times. When I’m being harsh and negative toward myself, I ask myself how I would respond if it were one of my children in the situation. While I call myself terrible things, I would never call them terrible things. I know I’m not actually a child; it’s just a loving-kindness reframing strategy.

          1. I Took A Mint*

            Thursday Next got it right! It’s just a way to reframe the person from an evil jerk sneezing AT YOU AND THEY KNOW IT, to someone just living their life, doing the best they can, and you wouldn’t get mad at a child or a friend or a puppy with a loud sneeze would you? So why get mad at this person?

            Of course I don’t view these coworkers (or any other disabled people) as children, both of them are more competent than I am. It wasn’t worth the political capital to tell them their normal, everyday sounds were driving me crazy, so I decided to just get over it myself.

        2. tbtbebv*

          If it were to the point though where thinking of the person as a child is the only way to keep my cool at work, that’s what I’m going to do regardless of whether it’s mean. It’s either treat CW as a child or get angry at CW and remind her of how difficult she’s making it for me to work. I think CW can deal with the former.

      3. Lucyloo*

        I am idly curious whether those 2 coworkers were at the same job, but…it’s not really the point.

    2. Ceiswyn*

      I get easily annoyed by little things, and sometimes reframing is the only thing to do. I can’t control the noise, but I can control whether I sit there quietly fuming over it or whether I to take a breath and force myself to get distracted by something else.

    3. Piper*

      A lot of people are talking about the oxygen tank and oxygen tanks in general but that seems like only part of the issue. This person is also sitting there all day coughing, moaning (!) and apparently yelping(!?!) in pain in addition to the oxygen tank. So in all honesty I’m not sure how OP or anyone else is supposed to get anything done in that kind of environment. I don’t think I would be able to be productive at all. Management really does need to step in a figure something out here if they want people to be able to work.

  5. Kuododi*

    No particular recommendations as previous posters have done their typical fantastic job. ;). I did want to drop a note of commiseration. I have mentioned my mother’s dementia in the past. Well, I don’t know if this is a result of the dementia or another fluke of the aging process. Mom will snort, cough and sniff through the day as if she had the sinus infection from hell. She will refuse to use tissues or a hankerchief for reasons which are an eternal mystery. (She will take the occasional cough drop if I resort to getting in her face to force the issue. Needless to say, on those days when her disposition is particularly difficult, listening to the snorting, hacking and coughing is enough to send me screaming into the night. ) I wish you success in achieving a workable situation to avoid negative impact on your work functionality.

    1. It’s All Good*

      Oh I hear you. My dad sucks his teeth constantly and I swear I can hear him from any room in the house! Nowhere to escape.

        1. ssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

          I have a sniffer behind me. It’s distracting, for sure. It’s random, not daily, but when she starts, it goes on for seemingly forever. For someone who puts the plastic protector on her keyboard when she ends her days, why can’t she blow her nose?

            1. Janie*


              TBH most of this winter I’ve been waking up with bloody muscus already. I already blow my nose more than my sinus doctor would probably want. If I’ve had a(n all too common) morning where I woke up, blew my nose, and soaked the tissue in blood, I’m gonna need to not do that for a little.

            2. I Don’t Remember What Name I Used Before*

              I have always had some pretty severe allergies, and despite the fact that most of them are far less serious than when I was a kid/teen, new ones have replaced old ones and despite being on a bucketload of both Rx and OTC meds, I sniffle & snort all day, every day, world without end.
              Blowing my nose any more than already do isn’t even really *effective* when you have this much snot.
              Plus, using that many tissues is both expensive and wasteful, and then there is the issue of chapped nose, which you will get no matter WHAT you use (tissue, TP, hankies, bandannas, dirty laundry, kittens, etc)

        2. Ceiswyn*


          When the sniffing is due to constant small amounts of mucus, what good do you think blowing is going to do? There’ll just be another small amount of mucus along in a few seconds; how often do you want me to blow? Also, I am not going to blow crap into my sinuses and potentially painfully pop my ears just so that you don’t have to listen to me sniffing.

          Also also, I can’t stand the sound of people blowing their noses. It’s just horrible. Please don’t.

          1. Camellia*

            Hello, fellow mucus sufferer! Constant drip and occasional juicy cough. I hate it as much, if not more, than my fellow human beings. I can only apologize so many times, though.

          2. London Calling*

            I have chronic sinusitis, I’m well aware of the problems it causes, thanks. Although it did amuse me that you berate me for not liking to listen to sniffing and then tell people not to blow their noses.

            1. Rusty Shackelford*

              Although it did amuse me that you berate me for not liking to listen to sniffing and then tell people not to blow their noses.

              I noticed that. :-/

            2. Ceiswyn*

              Good lord, you didn’t think I was genuinely suggesting that people don’t blow their noses, did you?

              What I was doing was pointing out that different people find different things intensely annoying, and that your personal preference for hearing blowing over sniffing is just that; a personal preference. It is not as universal as you seem to assume.

              1. Lissa*

                I mean…yes? “Please don’t” generally means you want people to stop doing a thing! You didn’t say, I personally hate people blowing their noses….

          3. Yorick*

            Yeah, the stuff I’m sniffing over isn’t in my nose, so blowing my nose doesn’t do anything.

        3. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Who remembers the thread on sniffing-vs-blowing from a few (?) weeks ago where an Asian commenter came on to point out that in their culture it is completely taboo to blow one’s nose in public.

          1. Natalie*

            Strongly recommend talking to a doctor about “rebound congestion” before you start using any topical decongestant regularly. It’s very easy to end up in a much worse situation than you started with.

            1. Michaela Westen*

              Yes, you have to be careful not to overuse Afrin. Follow the directions and use it carefully at first – use it once, then wait a few days to see how it affects you, and go from there.

              1. bluephone*

                And if you have hypertension, any type of standard nasal decongestant (Afrin, Sudafed) etc. is contraindicated because it can raise your blood pressure and sort of kill you. So you’re left with weak-sauce, non-pseudoephedrine substitutes like Coricidian *which does nothing for decongestion* :-/

              2. Janie*

                But you can’t really use those forever. Also Sudafed makes me incredibly loopy so for functioning it’s not great.

              3. TardyTardis*

                Using Flonase and its relations means I breathe fine, but I get chest pains with them. Whee.

          2. Collingswood*

            I take *numerous* allergy meds, allergy shots, etc. I’m sure you meant your comment to be helpful, but Afrin is not a long term solution, and is more for congestion than sniffling anyhow. There is not a lot those of us with allergies can do about the sniffling.

            1. I Don’t Remember What Name I Used Before*

              Same here. Under my doctors guidance, I am taking what I think most people would find a jaw dropping amount of both Rx and OTC medication (NO Afrin type shit) for my allergies (PLUS more for asthma!) and I still sniffle all damn day, every damn day.

              This despite the fact that a number of the allergens that I reacted to SEVERLY as a child are no longer any problem whatsoever, proven both by multiple tests and lived experience.

              So many people just don’t get that chronic allergies are just not treated the same way as temporary maladies like a cold or perhaps short term bouts of allergies.

              1. Janie*

                I’m sure my ENT would be glad to know that one internet comment has cured my chronic sinisitus :P

                1. Michaela Westen*

                  I was trying to be helpful, the meds I mentioned have helped me, and there’s always a possibility people haven’t heard about them. I didn’t know about antihistamine nasal spray till two years ago.
                  There is no need to be snarky. I’m sorry it doesn’t help you, but it might help others.

  6. Mike C.*

    I don’t want to pass off my accomplishments as a result of more experience when in reality they might not be as good in a year’s time

    Or they might be even better than you in a year’s time. How can you even say?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I think you misunderstood. She’s not saying they won’t. She’s saying that she doesn’t want to set them up to believe they need to hit her metrics when realistically they may not, because she doesn’t want them to feel frustrated or demoralized if they don’t.

      1. OP2*

        Thanks Alison, you’re right. I think this junior can absolutely be in my place in a year but they would need to work hard on certain skills (like attention to detail and speed) to get there. It’s a little easier for me to do a comparison since I can compare where I and others were at at that point and where we are now. I was looking for a way to encourage them to work on those skills while also saying that they’re doing okay at the moment (since they’re prone to be frustrated when comparing their metrics to mine).

        Also he’s great in other areas that I had to work hard at to improve so it’s also different skillsets in play.

        1. CupcakeCounter*

          Mention that last sentence to him. Recognize your own accomplishments while also complimenting him on his areas of excellence.
          “Yeah this is definitely an area I kick butt at – I have a natural inclination for this type of work plus more experience. Its similar to how you are so great at X.”

          1. Lucyloo*

            I’d modify it slightly. “It’s similar to how you are so great at X, which I really struggled with at first.” It normalizes the fact that we all have areas where we excel and areas where we struggle.

    2. LQ*

      Yeah, because a woman can never possibly say that she’s just really excellent at something without someone coming around trying to slap that right down. This OP might be the best at this thing who ever existed or will ever exist. How can you even say?

      1. Lucyloo*

        How do you know OP is a woman? That’s a really weird jump you just made. You may think you’re making a valid point about perceptions of women and how they’re taught to be overly-modest, but your assumptions and delivery make it near impossible to consider your point a good one.

        1. Myrna Minkoff*

          The LW herself said she is a woman, and used that as the basis for her great concern that she not downplay her skills and generally being a “rock star.”
          Have to agree with mike C here.

        2. Indigo a la mode*

          Well, the OP said she’s a woman who struggles with being over-modest and is working on not being self-deprecating.

          1. Lucyloo*

            My apologies. Normally I can read well.

            I wish I could edit my post to acknowledge that I’m wrong, but this will have to do.

            Sorry, LQ! I should keep my mouth shut.

    1. Engineer Girl*

      Yup. This is like the guys that retaliate when you decline the date. Thanks for proving I made the right decision.

      1. Busy*

        Haha it really is. Is there an internet name for such behavior? If not, there needs to be one.

    2. Sherm*

      I can just see the employer writing a rebuttal to the review. “Just so everyone knows, we rejected first!”

      1. TootsNYC*

        “You can’t fire me. I quit!”

        (my favorite line from the movie “Hello, Dolly”)

        1. LurkNoMore*

          A pal’s Mom from high school found out she was going to be fired and stormed into her boss’s office and screamed: “YOU CAN’T QUIT ME, I’M FIRED!” by mistake.
          She was such a funny lady….

    3. Mookie*

      The You’re Ugly Anyway gambit, as they obsessively follow you down the street advertising for all and sundry how uninterested they are.

      If the LW wanted to have some fun here—and I get that she doesn’t—I’d suggest a series of unsatisfying responses to the rejection avalanche:
      “I’ll take that into consideration”
      “Thank you, I’ll let you know”
      “Great, I’ll start at the first of the month”
      “Unfortunately the role has now been filled”
      “It’s for church, honey. NEXT!!!”

      1. darsynia*

        It’s super hard sometimes not to want to retaliate with snide comments when this happens, but the pride that comes from not sinking as low is totally worth it, I feel. Plus that OP can totally write out those responses somewhere they’ll never send them and it’ll feel almost as good!

        ps. The church one is my very favorite ‘laugh at the outrageousness’ thing on the internet, full stop. Definitely referencing the choosing beggars from upthread! If anyone’s curious, a woman wanted a free ride home from the airport for herself and like 15 people. Every time someone offered help that didn’t cover ALL FIFTEEN PEOPLE she would get super dismissive and allcaps rude. Look it up, worth the time!

    4. Traffic_Spiral*

      Yup, just a “after I declined to pursue the opportunity further, they’ve sent me 6 emails with variations of ‘no, WE decline YOU.’ It’s a little weird”

    5. I edit everything*

      Pretty soon, OP will be getting messages that they’ve been fired. The obvious response must be “You can’t fire me! I quit.”

    6. Dzhymm*

      My inner three-year-old wants the name of the company broadcast so that hundreds of people can pre-emptively contact them to withdraw their applications

  7. Artemesia*

    #1. Alison’s advice is perfect here. You are too new to align with anyone or make any demands. These people are headed for a fall; don’t join that unless you are willing to lose your job.

    1. Mookie*

      Yes. She wouldn’t be doing the group any favors if the grievances are legitimate, as a conscientious board would find her a peculiar witness without a lot of credibility, which could undermine the group’s credibility in turn, and under these conditions it is a public exercise in good, professional judgment not to choose a side when it’s clear your only knowledge is either limited or second-hand. If her colleagues are reasonable, this should have already occurred to them.

      1. Sick day*

        Exactly. OP is the weakest “witness” and her colleagues shouldn’t want them involved.

        Dodge the meeting with an unfortunately timed illness.

        1. stump*

          That was my idea. If there’s a lot of weird pressure on OP1 to be there, can they just be “sick” that day?

          I just keep picturing myself as a newbie employee in some grievance group or weirdo quasi-coup, just sitting there, all, “Yep! I have no idea what’s going on! I just learned where the coffee maker is! :D”

          It doesn’t sound like the OP is THAT new, but it takes a while to learn all of the nuances and various Dramas and Political Intrigues (to put in one way) of an office. Like you all said, if the coworkers are reasonable, they should know that the OP just hasn’t had enough time to witness anything yet. If they’re reasonable.

      2. Michaela Westen*

        When people are upset enough to take this kind of action they often aren’t thinking very clearly or rationally, so even if they’re normally reasonable, they may not be able to think this through right now.

    2. Sam.*

      Completely agree that she needs to stay out of it. She can just stress that she personally hasn’t been around long enough to witness or experience any of these things and therefore isn’t in a position to effectively back them up.

      1. Lance*

        Even worse, I’d worry that the board might presume there’s some sort of groupthink going on, if the OP, new and with as few examples of anything as they are (whether or not they may share the opinion that the CEO is ineffective), came into this. Which would then all but tank the message that their co-workers are trying to send.

    3. OP1*

      Thanks. I guess the problem is though that I have witnessed several things that are unacceptable though. My boss lied to me about our 401K policy and did the same thing to the other two most recent hires, gave me inaccurate information about our health insurance and did the same thing to the other two most recent hires, we are a trade organization that has members within a particular industry and he has threatened to destroy any company that refuses to be a member of our organization, we are a state affiliate of a national organization and he is lying to our national organization about the size of our membership so that people don’t have to pay the national dues… I am really concerned about all of this and I just don’t know what to do.

      1. The Ginger Ginger*

        If the issues are this egregious – lying to the national org???? – I’m not sure what the value of talking to him first is. This is at the level of just reporting him to the board of directors.

        1. Lance*

          Yeah… from the letter I was thinking general mismanagement, an abrasive personality, not setting clear expectations/giving reasonable feedback… things like that. But this? Absolutely, someone over his head needs to know about this stuff, and it’s not the sort of thing that going to him will be productive in any way. This has a very real potential to end the business, though I still do think there’s more value in the longer-tenured employees being the ones to handle this, since they’ve seen (and been affected by) it far more.

        1. OP1*

          No HR department since there are only 6 people that work here. No 800 #. Really just no other options.

          1. Observer*

            Then people need to go straight to the board – or even the national org. Not the Boss. Why would you believe anything he says anyway?

            And, it’s possible that since you are part of a larger organization that NLRA covers you and the fact that you are acting as a group means they can’t fire you for this. Your boss will surely ignore that, but the national org is likely to have some HR and be aware of the possible legal consequences of firing a complete office for whistle-blowing. Also, they might be a touch worried about the PR nightmare that this could turn into.

      2. Sara without an H*

        OP1, he sounds awful, but I’m going to reiterate Alison’s advice: Stay out of it.

        IF this does end up in front of the board, and IF you are specifically asked for testimony, then you can tell them about your personal experience with the CEO, i.e., misrepresenting the 401K policy, etc. Otherwise, stay out of it.

        Boards have been known to be selectively blind to misbehavior from a CEO who is otherwise getting the results they want. (There are examples in the AAM archives.) While I understand why your co-workers are doing this, it is unlikely to end well for them. You may want them to like you, but I suspect several of them will either quit or be fired before much longer.

        You should start thinking about your own long-term plans as well. As Alison has pointed out several times, while it’s problematic to have a pattern of short-term jobs on your resume, one shouldn’t be an issue. Instead of investing a lot of time and energy in this mess, touch up your resume and start working your network. Put your energy into finding your next job.

        1. OP1*

          Thank you for the thoughtful reply, Sara spelled without an H (like the Ben Folds song?). Everyone is right, I should stay out of it. I just keep having this nagging feeling that I can’t quite shake. Also, for everyone’s reference, I was also the person a couple weeks ago that wrote in about my boss asking my coworker to take her husband and baby off of our health insurance because he had forgotten to budget for my benefits.

          1. LaDeeDa*

            OOOO man, this place sounds sooooo messed up. I hope you are able to get out of there soon, I don’t think there is a future or hope there.

          2. Observer*

            You need to look for a new job yesterday. Seriously.

            Please document everything, and when you do leave, please do send this to the board of the national org.You have a nagging feeling because this person is objectively bad – bad to people and in the long term bad for the organization. So, you feel like you should do something. But that’s likely to create significant problems for you, and it’s unlikely to change any time soon either. So, save yourself first, then do what you can by providing clear information to the board.

            But DO get out ASAP. Mud sticks and you don’t want to become too associated with this place, when the poop hits the fan. Also, you want to avoid having toxic workplace behavior become normalized in your mind to ANY extent.

            1. OP1*

              I don’t know how to phrase this in terms of teapots, so I will just give you the actual situation. I worked for the state for several years and now I am the lobbyist for this organization, which is what I really want to do with my career. It will be tricky to say the least to find a different lobbying job so soon after I was hired here. Although there is a lot of turnover, I need to “prove” my worth as a lobbyist before I can successfully move on.

              1. JKL*

                When you work for an incredibly dysfunctional organization that seems to be on the verge of falling apart, it’s ok to move on before you’ve proven yourself. Other employers will be understanding about that.

                1. valentine*

                  This place isn’t going anywhere good and certainly not soon enough for you to ride the wave. Even if they oust the CEO, undoing his harm is too rocky a foundation for you. Also: You don’t want to be lumped in with him when it all comes out. Leaving is best.

              2. Lora*

                Something I would encourage you to consider is how much proving yourself in THIS organization will really add to your career.

                There are certain organizations that experienced people in any given industry have mentally labeled, “sh!tshow, do not hire from there” and they will do more harm than good. Even big ones, sometimes there’s a particular location or department that is notoriously awful.

              3. ten-four*

                Okay, I have been in a similar position wrt to not having enough experience to feel confident job hunting, and I really wish I had started the job search anyway. The worst case scenario is that you don’t land a job and you stay where you are until you have enough experience to feel more confident job hunting. The best case scenario is that you get a job and get out of an untenable situation.

                It sounds like your field is small and niche, which makes it harder. BUT the fact that it’s small and niche cuts both ways. The issues and behaviors you are describing are egregious. I bet your org has a bad reputation in your field and that people won’t be surprised you’re looking for a better fit.

                Plus, your colleagues are already planning to make a pretty big splash in your narrow, niche field. Your org’s reputation is likely to take a big hit one way or another, and if you start job hunting NOW you won’t have to compete with your 6 colleagues if the sh*t hits the fan.

                Working for crazy jags is really hard – it screws with your head and can really sap your confidence and make you feel helpless. I have BEEN there. The best way to keep your head on straight is to constantly remind yourself that this isn’t normal and you have other options – those are both true things. Even if you can’t find a job right away, please put some mental safeguards up!

              4. Observer*

                As the others have pointed out, this is likely to hit the fan in a fairly spectacular way. If you are still there, it’s going to taint you. At least, if you’ve been searching, you can say (and perhaps some of the people you speak to in the process will be able to confirm) that you realized that the situation was problematic and you tried to exit.

              5. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

                It also sounds like some of your co-workers are planning an office coup.

                They rarely work out. Especially when subordinates attempt to oust a superior. The main reason – no matter how bad the guy or gal is, no matter the management style, that boss will almost always be supported by HIS (upper) management. The only time they won’t is if there’s something criminal, or the company will suffer a substantial loss. But most upper management types recognize that.

                I’ve seen several “office coups” attempted in my long career and I’ve never seen one succeed.

                Don’t get involved in it – note AAM’s guidance to you – and move on.

      3. LaDeeDa*

        This adds a lot of information. I would stay out of the coup, but I would make note of these things and if you can, pass them on to the national headquarters or the board of directors.
        A coup just isn’t going to solve anything, what he is doing is unethical and are probably addressed in the by-laws by the national organization.
        Good luck!

      4. WellRed*

        *You* don’t do anything. If the coworkers want to take this up, which sounds pretty iffy, and then people ask you for your input, you could stick to the few points that impacted you, like the 401K policy, etc.

      5. That Girl From Quinn's House*

        I think you need to continue your job search, and move on. I worked for people who did stuff like that. It’s emblematic of much more dysfunction than you can possibly fathom. It will not get better if the CEO is ousted, because the organization/company is a problem for having allowed that behavior to get so bad in the first place.

      6. your favorite person*

        Is this information you can have other people report for you, or maybe they already know of these issues? Perhaps it’s just redundant to have you there to confirm what they already know.

      7. Sick Day*

        I retract my advice. Publish and be damned. The board has to sack the ceo or sack everyone else – and if they spared the newbie your job would be hell anyway.

      8. cactus lady*

        OP1, work on your resume and GET. OUT. OF. THERE. Who knows what kind of shady stuff might come out of all of this, related to the org… that then your name is attached to. Jump ship. Get out ASAP. You don’t need this from a new job. There are other jobs.

    4. Anon for this*

      I’m in a department where there were recently a lot of ill-advised changes and poor leadership decisions that I will not spell out here. We’re all fleeing as quickly as we can (there are 2 vacancies and I’m about to leave as well) and we haven’t mentioned anything to the new employee in the room. I feel that OP 1’s colleagues are really out of line pulling them into this when they are new. We’re all unhappy but that doesn’t mean she will be. She wasn’t here to see what it was like before.

      1. Anon for this*

        OK, I posted this before I read OP’s response. Oof. I was thinking a difficult person, but not what was described. Wow.

  8. Ms.Vader*

    Op #2 – I have similar issues with people I coach and mentor. I recently have started working with a newer employee where it is their first time as an analyst. They apologize every single time they ask a question or if I have to have them correct a minor error. I’ve ensured that I’ve not been putting undue pressure on them and it’s just them being nervous. Maybe just think back to make sure you haven’t been inadvertently been a little short with their progress.

    What I find works best is reassuring them that the questions or length of time to pick up the duties or errors are totally normal and then I also try to reassure them by relating to times where I’ve asked questions or made errors. Even the best at their jobs start with questions. I think that seeing someone they look up to had similar questions or errors at some point can make them feel less anxious.

    1. Tarra*

      “Even the best at their jobs start with questions”

      No “even” about it. I’m more concerned about people who don’t start with questions.

      1. Mookie*

        Kind of an extension of the Never Want to be the Smartest Person in the Room rule of thumb. Intelligent, thoughtful, intellectually secure people have reasonable expectations for themselves and others, an appreciation for other peoples’s strengths, and the confidence to know that personal mastery takes time and almost invariably requires the help and participation of other people.

    2. OP2*

      See, I think I was going almost too far the other way of being super nice about it, which is why I wrote in. I love being asked questions, it shows they’re trying and thinking about the task!

      Their comparison comes because we’ll do something together and I’m much faster and more accurate plus I review their work so they see all my markups and changes. I always go through changes and ask their reasoning and am very encouraging. I’m a super positive person but I know only positive feedback isn’t helpful. This is why I love Alison’s script which is a light way of saying here are the expectations and you’re either meeting or not meeting them.

      I will keep this in mind and watch my reaction when they ask questions to make sure they’re not picking up any frustration at other stuff in my work life. Thank you!

      1. Commenter*

        “I will keep this in mind and watch my reaction when they ask questions to make sure they’re not picking up any frustration at other stuff in my work life.”

        Great insight!

        Especially since you mentioned you’ve all been under deadline pressure recently, I wonder if it’s possible they are thinking you are frustrated with their current pace/progress, even though it doesn’t sound like you actually are.

        I think the advice to give them tangible expectations that shift the focus away from your pace would help in this regard as well, so hopefully that does the trick! :)

  9. Anywhere*

    OP3 I have terrible noise sensitivities that cause migraines AND periodic breathing problems. I can empathize with you and your coworker simultaneously.

    The breathing problems are a million times worse, you will come across as a jerk if you complain about the sound of her oxygen tank, even though you’re just frustrated & I know I get pretty frustrated when I’m stuck in a noisy space, too. It will really hurt your coworker, though, if you bring this up, because they already know they are making extra noise, can’t change it, and will just feel extra guilty about something they can’t control, and little things like these add up and can push people towards trying to minimize their presence and sound which leads to not treating themselves properly.

    Earplugs are a lifesaver for noise sensitivity, you can order a big box online to cut cost. Or find a pair of noise-cancelling headphones. There are some good bluetooth headphones designed for audiophiles which cut out background noise & you can play relaxing music or heavy metal or whatever you want.

    If people ask why you’re using them, you can just handwave it as “noise in general is distracting” or pretend you’re just really into the music.

    1. LadyGrey*

      If anyone asks why you’re wearing headphones, you could say “Oh, it helps me concentrate!” People will either assume that listening to music helps you concentrate or that shutting out noise helps you concentrate. Either way works and then you don’t get dragged into unwelcome musical or “oh I hate noise too conversations,” which I imagine you will want to avoid.

    2. Natalie*

      I would probably try the earplugs first – noise canceling headphones have limited utility at blocking intermittent noise. They detect background noise and create a complimentary sound wave to cancel it out, and that only works if the background noise is fairly constant.

      1. Midlife Tattoos*

        I can vouch for this. My husband is an engineer and has 19 patents in the area of noise cancellation.

        1. Natalie*

          If he ever invents something that can block out coughing, I will pay him an unreasonable sum of money.

  10. Akcipitrokulo*

    OP3 – if you go with headphones, please don’t even hint it’s because of the equipment. Keep it neutral!

  11. Reed*

    OP3 – I have two coworkers with chronic sinus/cough problems. They both sneeze, snort, snuffle, cough, and clear their throats all day long. Every time I hear one of them snorting and sniffing I get a tiny urge to shriek. The other, who makes just us much unfortunately phlegmy noise, I don’t mind at all, beyond a vague thought of ‘oh, Philhelmina sounds a bit worse today, poor thing.’

    Guess which colleague I like and respect and which I find generally difficult and irritating?

    Apart from all the good advice about headphones and earplugs, would it be worth PRIVATELY working out exactly what is so irritating about your coworker? Can you address any of it? Are they’re brusque and snippy, or moan about work instead of getting it done, or express grating opinions, or hoard stationary? Not that you can necessarily do anything about that, but you yourself will feel more at peace with yourself if you can say ‘Colleague is annoying because they never get x done on time,’ rather than ‘Colleague is annoying because they need assistance to breathe’.

    1. Bree*

      This is great advice. OP, you sound like you’re at the end of your rope with your co-worker generally, not just with their oxygen tank. If you can either address some of the other elements of that in a productive way or at least reframe the situation in your mind a bit, you may find the oxygen tank pulls less focus.

  12. Margaret*

    LW3, you know yourself better than I do, but when I’ve been similar situation it’s always been a result of my (diagnosed) sensory defensiveness, recently popularized on the internet as misophonia.

    As my occupational therapist explained it to me, sensory defensiveness is when your brain starts responding to a neutral stimulus with a ‘pain’ response. Repetitive noises are often the worst for setting it off, because with repetition the severity increases. It can actually manifest in all kinds of sensory input (touch sound taste etc) but sound is one of the most common ones. On a bad day, I’ve ended up low key melting down into tears when stuck on airplane flights with someone who kept brushing my bare arm with their sleeve. If it sounds like that might be part of what’s happening to you, there’s a lot of good resources out there on ways to live with it that go beyond controlling your immediate environment! Especially since recently there was a huge internet faddish response to the ‘misophonia’ bit last year- aka that month everyone I’ve ever known texted or emailed me articles about misophonia like ‘HEY DO YOU THINK THIS IS WHAT YOU HAVE?’

    Even if this isn’t what you have, hey- it’s a community full of people devoting our entire lives to escaping noises that annoy us!

  13. Otillie Rae*

    Re LW3: As someone with noise sensitivities myself, I’d like to push back a little on the suggestion of using self-talk as a way to cope. I can only speak for myself here: In my experience, this is actually counterproductive.

    Reminding myself “It’s my human responsibility to cope” is true but misses the point. I’ve already spent a lifetime reminding myself of this. (Reminding myself really, really hard. Trust me.) The problem isn’t that I’m not self-talking hard enough. The problem is that self-talk doesn’t change my reality. My lizard-brain pumps out fight-or-flight stress chemicals in response to noise, period.

    The only thing telling myself to stop does for me is entrench the idea that “this IS under my control. I must not be trying hard enough.” Which does nothing change my lizard-brain, but plenty to damage my sense of self.

    Alas, the world is getting more and more crowded; more and more noisy; more and more addicted to hyperstimulation. It’s changing faster than our brains can. And we don’t yet have any cures, or even any treatments. All I’ve found is try to reduce the amount of input I’m dealing with: Think earplugs, headphones, white noise. LW3, are any of these possible in your workplace? If so, experiment. I use a headband with built-in white-noise speakers and it has changed my life. These options aren’t accepted everywhere, and some jobs unfortunately preclude them. But try them if you can. Big picture, the technology for noise abatement actually is improving. There is some growing recognition that noise is a genuine issue.

    Now, it’s possible that you’re not me (heh…), and self-talk is all that’s keeping you from venting your frustrations on other people. I can’t actually speak to that; it’s just not my experience. (I’m one who’ll always vent on myself first.) But I did want to raise the idea that using “Self, your frustration is wrong, stop it,” as a default response to noise has not so far served us as humans very well.

    And also that you’re not alone.

    1. whippers*

      This times a million. Self talk or “thinking positively” is not some sort of cure all. People’s feelings and reactions are so much more complicated than just changing your thought about things.

      1. JKL*

        But Alison’s advice isn’t to “think positively”, it’s “think compassionately.” You can’t change your feelings, but you can change how you respond to them. Reminding yourself that the noise is a result of a serious medical condition and that the coworker is probably uncomfortable can help the OP develop a more compassionate response rather than just be annoyed by it.

        1. Otillie Rae*

          But it doesn’t do that. Telling myself to have compassion = reminding myself that I’m doing it wrong. It shames me. It may not feel like shaming to people around me, who are giving me this advice from the outside, but from my position inside the struggle: It is.

          I don’t need reminders to have compassion. My frustration isn’t happening because I don’t understand appropriate behavior. It’s happening because Physiology.

          Worst of all: The advice doesn’t work. In fact, it actually makes things worse. If I can instead acknowledge my frustration as real without having to beat myself up over it, I have a far better chance of coping.

          1. Colette*

            No one is suggesting you can’t acknowledge your frustration as real – but why can’t you follow that up by thinking “I bet it’s way more frustrating to have to deal with that machine all the time”?

            1. LGC*

              She actually said why, though – it might be hard to explain, but she’s having an unconscious reaction to sounds around her, and then she ends up feeling bad because she realizes that she’s not having an “appropriate” reaction to it.

              In other words, the problem isn’t that she’s annoyed by errant sounds, it’s that she’s annoyed by errant sounds and she feels guilty about it. Which…even in the case of letter 3, it’s perfectly valid to be annoyed by it! People have posted in this post about how annoying those machines can be! She’s not terrible for being annoyed. (And I don’t think you’re saying this, but I do want to state this for the record.)

              Sometimes you can’t be perfect and zen, and that’s fine.

              1. Colette*

                But that’s something she can address herself (“I wish that machine didn’tbither me, but it does. I’m glad I don’t have to live with it.) or with a therapist. She may not be able to change the initial annoyance, but she can change the way she reacts to it and the guilt she feels about it.

                1. LGC*

                  I think that if you haven’t experienced it, you might not quite understand it. Maybe it’s my priors, but I’m imagining myself sitting next to someone dragging their nails on a chalkboard for eight hours a day, five days a week.

                  (Or if you’re super chill with all noise, imagine whatever uncomfortable stimulus works for you – like an itch you’re not supposed to scratch.)

                  Although we might actually not be that far apart – I think what I’m trying to say is that a perfectly reasonable response is, “This annoys me, and I’m not terrible for being annoyed.”

                2. Colette*

                  I totally agree with your last sentence – I’m just suggesting that you follow up by consciously thinking “and she’s not terrible for doing this thing that annoys me”. You can both be people struggling to do the best you can – no one has to be the bad guy just because there is a little conflict between what you both need.

                3. LGC*

                  Okay, so that’s where we’re differing. I don’t mean to say that the followup would NEVER work – if that works for you, that’s fine! But…I don’t think you’re getting the point.

                  What I’ve been trying to get across (and what I should have just said) is that just making a surface level acknowledgement of the annoyance and letting it go is a perfectly valid solution. The problem might not be that people with noise sensitivities aren’t thinking about background noise in the right way, it’s that we’re thinking about them too much.

                  (And again, if your strategy works for you, awesome! But I’m not sure if you understand why it might not work for everyone. And yes, I’ll cop to being weird and saying it probably wouldn’t work for me.)

                4. Colette*

                  Sure, if acknowledging it and letting it go works, that’s great! But I think it’s easy to go from “that is annoying me” to “that is annoying me and that person is doing it intentionally”, and that what I’m suggesting you specifically work to counter. If you don’t need to do that, great!

              2. Celowyn*

                ^This. It’s hard to describe but it’s something like:

                Brain: Hey, that is doing is really annoying.
                Also Brain: Ooh but you know that they do that because of and they can’t really help it…
                Brain: Yeah but it’s *annoying*.
                Also Brain: But…but they can’t help it so you shouldn’t feel annoyed!
                Brain: But I can’t help it either, it annoys me!
                Also Brain: But they literally can’t help it so you don’t have any right to be annoyed by it!
                Brain: I don’t care, it annoys me!
                Also Brain: You shouldn’t feel annoyed by something that someone can’t help, that’s awful!
                Brain: I told you, I can’t help that it annoys me!
                Also Brain: You’re such a horrible person for feeling annoyed about something that someone can’t help! You should be ashamed of yourself!

                Being annoyed is a subconscious reaction but in your conscious mind you feel horrible for finding something like this annoying in the first place because your logical mind knows that the other person can’t help it and probably hates the thought that they might be annoying other people. So while I do agree with Alison and all the other folks who’ve said that there’s nothing for the OP to do but find their own, private way or ways to deal with the situation, I also want to add my voice to those telling the OP to not be so hard on themselves (if they have been or are) for feeling the way that they do. You’re not a horrible person, you’re just human.

                1. Colette*

                  I think the point where this script can be redirected is “you shouldn’t feel so annoyed” and “you don’t have any right to be annoyed”. Those are invalidating – you have the right to feel how you feel, but you can feel annoyed and still understand that the annoyance is being caused by an involuntary annoying thing that can’t be changed.

                2. Washi*

                  Yes! For me the dialogue above just boils down to:

                  Lizard brain: This is annoying me
                  Philosopher brain: But it shouldn’t
                  Lizard brain: But it does
                  Philosopher brain: But it shouldn’t

                  I can’t speak about misphonia specifically, but I know for my non-clinical sensitivities, if I can go into a space thinking “there will be annoying sounds present. I will be annoyed” I actually feel less distressed.

            2. Seeking Second Childhood*

              Relevant thing I learned on NPR this week:
              Researchers did MRIs of brain activity for people listening to sounds such as chewing & coughing & sniffling. And they found distinctly different brain activity between people who have an “inappropriate reaction” to those sounds and “everyone else”.
              Short version: Misophonia is a physiological fight-or-fight reaction in a sub-set of our population.

              1. fposte*

                Though interestingly CBT and DBT, which include self-talk, are recommended as therapeutic approaches for misophonia. They’re acknowledged not to change the trigger response itself (I saw reference to a therapy that supposedly does but I didn’t see what it was), but they can change the impact of the trigger response. I think that’s similar to the approach for PTSD trigger responses.

                1. Jessen*

                  Although I understand that can be an issue even with CBT. Some people have trouble with it because it can trigger more self-blaming thoughts. I know even within a therapeutic context I had issues because of that – CBT very much seemed to me to be reinforcing “you are badwrong for having all these cognitive distortions and being too stupid to actually see things clearly and react properly to them.” I think DBT is supposed to be better? But it’s definitely a thing for certain people.

                2. fposte*

                  @Jessen–yeah, I’m prone to the “Well, great, I’m doing another thing wrong” response myself, and I suspect that the therapy is in early days, since it’s a fairly recently identified phenomenon. But I did think it was interesting that this seems to play a role in what’s being explored.

          2. quirkypants*

            Needing to work on being more compassionate or trying to frame things in a different way, isn’t the same as “you’re doing it wrong”. Blowing up those feelings to something approaching shame is something worth addressing in your own life (I say this as someone who had to do that).

            I think it’s also worth noting that a number of posters above have essentially said that Allison’s advice DID work for them (instead of your comment that it doesn’t work). So it’s fair advice for many people…. even if it wouldn’t work for you.

            1. Otillie Rae*

              Fair points. I haven’t done a great job here of speaking for myself only. (Oh, the sparkling allure of the sweeping generalization…)

              There is a study in which researchers wired up people to measure their brain activity, then exposed them to noises. Among the people who described themselves as having misophonia (noise sensitivity–I include myself in that group), *different parts of the brain lit up in response to noise.* That does match what it feels like from inside my head. Self-talk aims at changing the rational brain. But for me, it’s the lizard-brain that’s struggling.

              1. Seeking Second Childhood*

                I should have read a little farther — I just posted that in this thread. I didn’t catch the whole NPR article, and what little I heard was fascinating.

            2. Washi*

              For me at least, the problem isn’t that it brings up deep-seated shame or anything, it’s just that trying to engage logically with a sensation that does not have its root in any kind of logic is very unlikely to be productive.

          3. Commenter*

            “Telling myself to have compassion = reminding myself that I’m doing it wrong. It shames me.”

            I hear you on this 100%!

            I fall into this shame spiral so, so frequently.

            The thing is: YOU deserve self-compassion, just as much as those around you deserve compassion.

            You’re totally right that your frustration is REAL, and you’re also totally right that beating yourself up for feeling frustrated will only make things worse.

            There’s nothing wrong or bad about feeling frustrated. You’re not a bad person for feeling frustrated. Frustration is normal and reasonable. If your brain demons try to tell you otherwise, you can compassionately remind yourself that it’s okay to feel your feelings.

            1. Otillie Rae*


              Yes, I believe feelings just ARE; it's how we respond to them that's open to judgment. For me the key is to *acknowledge* the feelings that exist. That's where coping comes from: First I have to understand what's happening in my brain, to feel my feelings; everything else flows from that.

              It sounds like that's different for a lot of folks. I need to make room for people whose brains aren't mine. At the same time, I do think my perspective is worth space too.

          4. Come On Eileen*

            I’ll speak up from the flip side and say this tactic DOES work for me quite a bit. I think different people have different successes with changing their mental approach to situations like this, so there’s no harm in suggesting it and letting OP try it out. That’s the basis of cognitive behavioral therapy, after all, which works for quite a few people — the idea that shifting our thoughts can shift our emotions and thus our behaviors.

          5. Observer*

            Here is the question – Are you annoyed at the person? Or are you getting a headache or the like? If the latter, I agree, self talk is not going to help and it’s not useful to bring up. But annoyance is a different thing. That is essentially a snap judgement about the thing or person associated with that thing. In that case, slef talk and a bit of compassion go a long way.

            If someone hits you on the head, it’s going to hurt, and self talk + compassion is not going to help, no matter WHY or how it happened. But self talk and compassion can help you modulate your response if it turns out that the person who hit you on the head was actually not at fault. Annoyance is generally more like the latter than the immediate pain response of being it.

        2. Samwise*

          Or, just as likely, OP can develop a more compassionate response and still be annoyed by it, because it’s a very distracting and annoying noise. OP has already been using headphones but states that there are work reasons for not being in them all the time. OP needs to get some distance from their desk when the oxygen device is running and it is reasonable for them to talk discretely with their manager about ways to make that happen.

          1. I Don’t Remember What Name I Used Before*


            I was born with chronic respiratory issues and had lots of complications and I know *intimately* what it’s like and all the struggles & complications & terrors & sick feels and etc.
            I wouldn’t wish this kind of suffering on ANYONE.
            It doesn’t make being around someone with a chronic dry hacking cough, or wet wheezing breathing ONE IOTA less irritating or distressing. I can have all the empathy and compassion in the world for what they are going through and the noise is still going to make me want to run away screaming or start pounding my head against a brick wall. Compassion won’t make a lizard brain reaction go away.

        1. Nox*

          Okay but the woman can’t breathe without assistance from a external device…so yes it does require major rethinking to factor in another human being trying to live vs the noises that bother you.

    2. snowglobe*

      I think the point here is that if headphones, white noise machines, moving to a different desk etc. don’t work, then mentally reframing is the *only* option left. The co-worker needs the machine and the machine makes noise. There is nothing that can be done about that, so there is nothing that the OP can request that the coworker do differently. It just is what it is.

      1. Jennifer*

        Exactly. There is nothing she can do besides quit her job, which I’m assuming isn’t an option. Many people write in who are in these kinds of situations and what people always fail to understand is sometimes you can’t change the situation so your only option is to change how you handle it. Reframing it is her only choice. And it can work. It has for many.

    3. boop the first*

      I agree that self talk doesn’t really work. If it did, I wouldn’t ever feel anxiety about anything. The annoyed argument I have with myself would actually make a difference. It doesn’t.

    4. Jessen*

      I’m definitely the same way. I know I’ve literally ended up crying because noise and I just can’t think about ANYTHING except making the noise stop – I can’t imagine how I’d handle LW3’s situation. And trying to tell myself anything about how it can’t be stopped or something just makes me feel guilty as well as annoyed, because I’m not reacting “right” to the noise and I’m likely already frustrated because I can’t focus.

    5. Lilysparrow*

      There is an enormous gulf between “I am having a physical stress reaction to noise that is hard to deal with,”

      And “My co-worker has incredibly annoying HABITS like moaning in pain and using an oxygen tank.”

      Changing one’s mindset to the situation has zero to do with invalidating your experience or shaming yourself. It has everything to do with recognizing that other human beings are real and also have valid needs and real suffering.

      If you are unable to hold both those truths, then I’m not sure what that issue is called, but it it isn’t “misophonia.”

      1. LawBee*

        That’s misstating her letter. She clearly separated the noises from her coworker’s health from “other annoying habits” – two separate things. She never once said that her coworker’s pain and oxygen tank were annoying habits.

      2. I Don’t Remember What Name I Used Before*

        Seconding what LawBee said. I read the letter three times and that part specifically. Annoying habits are in addition to the machine and other medically related noises.

        And honestly, it seems like even without the noise of the machine, working next to someone who was moaning and yelping (!) with pain regularly would not only be highly distracting and/or irritating, but potentially quite stressful, distressing, upsetting, or even traumatic for that persons coworkers. I don’t think it makes anyone cruel or callous to acknowledge this, or that the coworker’s machine is distracting and irritating to others. It is an issue that any good employer would want to solve before it costs them productivity or good employees.
        ADA states that “reasonable accommodations” must be made for employees with disabilities, and this employer needs to make them, because it is NOT reasonable to accommodate a disabled worker by therefore creating an environment that is distracting and disruptive to the concentration and productivity of all the people around them.

    6. Andrewssister*

      I have misophonia myself (for me it’s any form of monotonous noise, and it can easily send me into a full blown anxiety attack if I’m not careful and don’t do something to lessen it – white noise apps are a godsend for me). You’re right that shaming yourself out of being annoyed generally doesn’t work, and that distraction / taking a break however you can often works a lot better for many people, including me. However, for me it’s improtant to remember that people are rarely making the annoying noisse *at* me and I my irritation is not their responsibility to solve.

      That feels especially important when the thing I’m finding annoying is part of someone else’s disability. To put this in a little context, I have a sight impairment, and have some unusual involuntary eye movements that go with that. People can and do find them annoying and even upsetting – I’ve had people totally freak out and refuse to talk to me, I’ve had people tell me it makes them feel nauseous, I’ve had people accuse me of being on drugs…you name it. The thing is, it’s a totally involuntary symptom which nothing can change. Likewise, over the years it’s become clear that some people in my family find my white cane really annoying/embarrassing when we are out together in public.

      When people feel annnoyed by things to do with my disability, It’s not my role to police their feelings or tell them that they are bad for having them. Feelings aren’t good or bad, they just are. However, there is also nothing I can do to lessen their irritation except leave the room and/or do without accommodations that I need, and that’s … just not a price I’m willing to pay to make someone else moderately more comfortable. It sounds mean laid out by that, but it just isn’t my job to limit my own life to help make them more comfortable. It’s also not my job to manage their feelings about my disability or the accommodations I use for it. They need to own that for themselves and find coping mechanisms that work for them (ideally without venting their irritation at me).

  14. NYWeasel*

    OP#3: I think there’s been some good advice about dealing with your very reasonable issues with the noise issues caused by your coworker’s breathing apparatus and coughing issues. I just want to provide some additional context to Alison’s advice.

    I’m likely going to lose a very good friend in the next year or so to end stage cystic fibrosis. She’s been on oxygen for about a year now, and even before the tanks and other devices, she’s had an uncontrollable cough that is very difficult to listen too. I think it’s very natural that these sounds are difficult to listen to—it hits us on so many primal levels. On a caveman level, we want to solve the problem for our tribe, get away from the germs, not be revealed to our enemies, etc., so it really is difficult to sit and listen to it when you can’t do anything about it. And beyond that, being ill doesn’t naturally make someone suddenly become a nice person. In fact many people turn into bigger jerks because they feel miserable all day long.

    All that said, you may not realize how deeply this affects your coworker. My friend faces incredible contempt every time she goes outside. People lecture her about the evils of smoking (she never touched a cigarette in her life) or tell her she’s awful for going out and “infecting” everyone (she is in way more danger from everyone else than she is of infecting others). She has to take hours of breathing treatments and go to countless doctors appointments and therapy sessions. And she has to do all of this while only getting a tiny fraction of the oxygen she needs. It’s like she spends every day up on Everest.

    I don’t think you are wrong to feel irritation, but your coworker realistically can’t change anything to make this better for you. And given these other sorts of challenges that I’ve outlined above, asking her about it is at the very least adding to the weight of the burden she carries every day. If your goal is to make it easier for you to be around her all day, adding to her challenges is not going to push her to be more pleasant to be around.

    So, that’s where Alison’s advice is coming from. You are trying to achieve X, but because the situation is beyond your coworker’s control, there’s no way you can achieve it. At the minimum, the answer is that she can’t change anything, at the worst, you can appear very unsympathetic for even asking. So now the solution is that you need to look within your personal circle of influence. People have mentioned some suggestions of ear plugs and perhaps a white noise machine might mask the cycling of the oxygen system. I wish you luck, as I don’t think you are wrong for being bothered by the noises, and it sucks for both you and her that there are no easy solutions. But hopefully if you can take a step back and reframe the challenge, you can at least find an option that makes it bearable for you without making you appear insensitive, which you clearly aren’t.

    1. Andrewssister*

      This. Having a disability frequently means dealing with the irritation of non disabled people on a daily basis, usually for something that simply can’t be helped. Don’t add to that burden if you can avoid it.

  15. Bookworm*

    #5: Yikes, sorry to hear that. I’ve left reviews for interviews on Glassdoor and to my knowledge only one job has integrated the feedback (and it was definitely not like your experience, they simply added certain details of the job that had been missing when I had applied into the job description) and I haven’t heard from them since then.

    Agree with Alison to update your review if you feel safe doing so. This organization (or at least whoever is monitoring Glassdoor) is toxic and people deserve to know. But I also hope that you don’t fear retaliation or black listing if you choose to do it (hey, some people are REALLY weird and creepy).

    1. #5*

      They’re not a big company and have no problems updating my review (I did this morning after all the advice). I don’t think they have enough power in the “teapot” industry to do any damage, luckily.

  16. Probably Nerdy*

    #5 – some people seem to relish the opportunity to vehemently reject someone, like they’ve been waiting for it. I had an interview a few months ago, where the guy called me to say they weren’t moving on with me, and I was like, sure fine cuz I didn’t really want that job anyway.

    He then proceeded to berate me for about 10 minutes about how bad of a fit I was for the job, ending with “that sucks, doesn’t it”. So weird. Dodged a bullet there!

    Re – GlassDoor, I’ve used them before to give workplace feedback but I’ve noticed recently that they’ve gone to a format where you have to sign in just to view company reviews. So lame!

    1. Fortitude Jones*

      He then proceeded to berate me for about 10 minutes about how bad of a fit I was for the job, ending with “that sucks, doesn’t it”. So weird. Dodged a bullet there!

      And you stayed on the phone for this? You’re much more patient than me – next time (hopefully, there’s no next time), hang up. No one should be talking to you that way.

      1. The Original K.*

        That’s what I was going to say! Them: “Blah blah blah you really were terrible …” Me: [click], and if they called back I’d block them. What are they going to do, fire you?

    2. Midge*

      Yes, this happened to me once when I tried to resign from a job. First the insistence that I couldn’t leave (I was giving 2 weeks notice, so it wasn’t as if I was leaving them hanging that day), and then when I wouldn’t agree to his demands he started berating me about what a terrible employee I was. Which is it? Do you desperately need me, or do I suck and you are glad to get rid of me? Actual answer: Employer is a manipulative asshole!

      1. YouGottaThrowtheWholeJobAway*

        @Midge sooo what were they going to do about it when you just stopped showing up? Unless you’re in the military or government service, they can’t compel you to keep working there.

        1. Observer*

          Of course they can’t. But bullies try to make you think that they can.

          Look at how many letters have shown up here saying some variation of “my boss won’t let me quit”. Of course, the answer is that your boss does not have the power to “let” or “not let” you quit in the US. But people don’t always realize that. And that’s what bullies bank on.

    3. WellRed*

      I never really used Glass Door much but was trying to check out a company the other day and wondered why I suddenly had to sign in. So annoying. And, I didn’t bother.

    4. Anon Anon Anon*

      I once had a food service job that wasn’t the best fit. And, in turn, I wasn’t the best worker. After a while, we decided it wasn’t going to work out. So my boss let me go. But after he told me, he made me stay for an hour after they closed while he hung around and insulted me. It wasn’t a job performance critique or constructive criticism. It was a littany of mean and vague insults like, “No one here likes you. We don’t even know why. We just don’t like you.” When I finished cleaning, he made me sit outside behind the building with him while he continued this as I cried. I was too young to know I could just get up and walk away and that he’d still have to mail me a paycheck. The guy had some serious issues.

  17. Jeff A.*

    #3 –
    My mother has COPD and is supposed to use her oxygen at all times. I assure you, your coworker is well aware of the fact that the oxygen tanks make noise, and are quite distracting. It is a constant struggle with my family to encourage and get my mother to use her oxygen at work, because (a) it can be quite embarrassing, and (b) she is conscientious of how annoying it can be to those around her. People on oxygen (and all their families!) would love if there were a quieter option, but it really doesn’t exist. Please don’t say anything to your coworker (or any of your other coworkers – this isn’t a Thing anyone should be gossiping about). If it’s helpful, when you find yourself getting frustrated try to remind yourself to take a deep breath (and appreciate that you can do so) and be grateful that you’re fortunate enough not to have to bear an illness in such a public way.

  18. Bree*

    LW4 – It’s amazing to me how academia and non-profits still use listservs so much. Every one I’ve ever used has been prone to glitching and also a drama magnet. This stuff seems a little iffy, but probably not enough to do anything about.

    1. Willis*

      Yeah, it sort of seems like it I’m already skimming and deleting a bunch of emails about people selling furniture, what’s one more every now and then about someone’s fundraiser to delete? If people were being pushy about it, that would be one thing. But if it’s just “hey, my kid is selling cookies, wrapping paper, donuts, etc. Let me know if you want to order,” that doesn’t seem worth bringing up. I think the other option is to separate the student and employee listservs, but it doesn’t really sound worth it to me to push for that at this point.

    2. BTDT*

      I’m a grad student and I probably get 10 list serve emails a day. I (and my friends) barely read them now. And ours aren’t used for selling at all. How many emails are being sent, OP4? Email seems like….not the best way to sell things. Message boards, online groups, etc would be more appropriate IMO.

      1. Spool of Lies*

        Ugh, yes, so many daily emails. I graduated from my MA program last year but my cohort and I still subscribe to the listserv for sheer entertainment value. It is a great source of drama and insight into the utterly banana-crackers world of academia and serves as a useful reminder that no, I do not need a PhD.

    3. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I was actually wondering if there’s a chance the employees using the student listserv are graduates of the school. If yes, they might not realize they were supposed to drop off it.

    4. Paulina*

      There’s a certain convenience to the listserv setup, administratively. There are also some limitations of how listservs are set up, though. If LW4 wants to look into this further, it might be worth finding out (if anyone still knows) *why* employees are on the student list, because it’s probably not so they can use it themselves for personal things.
      As someone who is on the student listserv for a program I administer, there are two basic reasons why: 1) so I can keep a general eye on what’s being circulated on the list, so it isn’t being used for anything illegal/harassing/otherwise seriously problematic, and 2) so I can send announcements to a list that is set up so only list members can send to it. This latter reason is a common way listservs are set up, so that they’re not open to outside spam. People on the list for professional reasons really shouldn’t be using it for anything personal, though.

      As for the particular behaviour cited, the admins should be better aware of their position relative to the students when it comes to buying and selling, but it seems they’re not. They might realize it was inappropriate if they were trying to buy and sell in person, rather than on a mailing list, but the issue is still the behaviour not the mailing list.

    5. Bunny Girl*

      Agreed. I’m on four or five listservs at my work and I hate them. There is someone in another department that when they have an event will send out 5 or 6 emails A DAY to our department. I actually ended up setting a rule up through my email that all emails from that user go into junk mail. And I have a feeling that our grad students don’t read theirs either. We’ll send something out and then get a million questions later that were all in the email that was sent out. I wish we had another way of doing things.

      1. Elise*

        Yeah, I have a rule in Outlook that all of my listserv emails go to a “listserv” folder and then I review them as I have time.

        I do find them valuable as they are fairly well used in my field, but there is a lot to wade through, especially when I had it going to my general inbox.

    6. Anon for this*

      We’ve got a guy who loves to hijack our listserv about once a week with Kids These Days Something Something Snowflakes PC Arglbargl. Whenever I log in and have way more emails than usual, I’m always like “…ugh, Fergus is at it again.”

  19. AnotherFed*

    LW3– I am with you 100% I have the same frustrations. I have a coworker who makes some noises that are not within his control, such as breathing and congestion issues. Other ones like farting and burping on people … not so much. He’s also just a difficult personality. A lot of folks wear noise canceling headphones that come over your ears if that is what causes a problem, versus the ones that go in your ear. And you can just get the ones that use white noise so you’re not listening to music or audio if that’s distracting. And I hesitate to mention this, but I know it’s an issue for me, sometimes extreme noise sensitivity is related to my general anxiety— it’s often not discussed that anxiety can manifest as irritation and anger. Anxiety may have absolutely nothing to do with this situation and you didn’t disclose one way the other (and you don’t have to). But I remember when it was explained to me that some of my irritations (like noise and frustration with coworkers in certain situations) was probably related to my anxiety —It was life-changing. FWIW.

    1. Anonymous because TMI*

      Going anonymous for this… gas from either end can be medical. I know because for me it is. Painfully so.
      It SUCKS to go through invasive testing to diagnose your problem and get told “Good news, you don’t have X disease!” when you WANTED that diagnosis. Because then you & your doctors would have more than a magic 8 ball to try and address your symptoms.

      1. fposte*

        My read from AnotherFed’s sentence is that this is somebody who deliberately aims burps and farts at people. Having them can be medical, but deliberately weaponizing them, not so much.

      2. Michaela Westen*

        Doctors often don’t mention diet as a factor in this, so I am in case you didn’t already know.
        Dairy, high-fiber foods like oatmeal and nuts, and artificial sweeteners are common culprits with gas.
        Burping can be from acid – citrus and their juices, coffee and black tea, chocolate, tomato, mustard, etc.

  20. RecentAAMfan*

    I think the concern of LW4 was that the students might feel pressured to sell for the lowball price, or donate to the cause, because the employees have some power over them.
    In the same way that a boss asking employees to donate to a cause would be inappropriate

    1. RKMK*

      Hi, as a former academic admin, I don’t really think that’s the case. Students, to admins, are seen more as “clients” (or “customers”, to some, though I think that’s not completely accurate/overly capitalist way to interpret the relationship in a way that’s not appropriate for an educational institution. Admins do not control grades, few have the power to singularly affect future careers. I was once in a position to report academic dishonesty for a thesis situation – I could only tell what I witnessed to the academic chair/faculty with authority in consort with other evidence. It might change slightly the more senior the admin role, but admins are there to work for the students, generally.

      Listservs are tricky things, though, I had to restrain faculty from using them inappropriately myself; university emails are official communications and we were expected not to abuse having access to them. In this case I find it weird that any kind of selling at all is allowed, but since it is, this particular listserv appears to be a more casual “community” listserv, and yes, the admins are part of that community. I don’t see a problem with the low-balling situation, like Allison, but if selling things at all is kosher, than letting people know your kids girl guide cookies are up for grabs, that’s OK too – other students might be *thrilled* they have access to a dealer. ;)

        1. fposte*

          I agree with this on the power dynamic–students don’t necessarily realize how little power some non-students have—though I also don’t think there’s as much of a problem as the OP does (the same thing happens with posted flyers, IME), and such listservs aren’t uncommon in grad schools.

          If it’s nominally a student-only listserv and there are non-students on the listserv, you can check with the relevant IT to say “Hey, I don’t get this listserv–is it supposed to be students only or not?” I think the outcome may not be booting the staff, though–it could be simply retitling the listserv so it’s clearly not students-only, or it could also be shutting it down as too much trouble. Mostly these are tolerated rather than enthusiastically embraced.

        2. Samwise*

          Having been a student and then an admin — students see admins as either the nice person who helps them get Professor SnootyPants to sign the form he’s been ignoring for two months, or as lowly and dimwitted servants (who then will put the form at the bottom of Professor SnootyPants’ pile of ignored work).

          1. RKMK*

            Yeah, this.

            And also: I once was in a situation where a medical student was *actively sexually harassing one of my junior reports* while she was helping invigilate his formal clinical exam, and the *lengths* I had to go through to get the faculty to formally discipline him at all; the attitude from the faculty was that I was overstepping my role, even though I had a duty to protect my own staff and ensure they experienced a safe working environment. #NotAllFaculty, but it has not been my experience that students or faculty think the majority of non-faculty employees have any particular authority.

        3. epi*


          I am a researcher and I have been in plenty of situations with subjects and volunteers where it was obvious they thought I had a lot of power (I did not). If someone felt intimidated by me or agreed to do research they didn’t really want to do after interacting with me, that would still be a huge problem even though they were mistaken. I still would have benefited from that perceived power differential, and it still would have had a coercive effect on that person.

          It is a pretty basic principle in all kinds of systems of ethics and compliance, that the person in a position to benefit from a real or perceived advantage doesn’t have the right to decide for themselves that it is no big deal. That is up to the judgment of the person you are acting on, or of a neutral observer. This is part of what it means to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest.

          It is also just not true that students across the board have a particular attitude towards administrators. Students vary in their knowledge of academic culture and bureaucracy, and, to state something that should be obvious, many students are the first in their family to go to college or are from countries where the academic culture is different. Some administrators are quite powerful. And their area of influence may be sensitive or urgent to one student, and not to another. Boundaries also protect students in ways you may not be able to foresee. There may be times that a student needs a supportive ear from someone who they see as there to help them, rather than as a peer.

        1. JKL*

          Yeah, I agree. I’m confused why the OP thinks that the admins have any power over the students. If professors were participating, then I could understand the concern. But in my experience, admins don’t have any influence or your grades, TA opportunities, or anything else that would create a conflict of interest.

          1. LQ*

            I don’t know, when I was a student I definitely thought they did because I knew someone who was really …unkind to one and their financial aid was mysteriously always an issue.

          2. fposte*

            Sometimes it’s based in department politics or force of personality, but they can definitely be in gatekeeping positions.

        2. Libervermis*

          More fool them, admins *control* the university. I have lost count of the number of times having a good relationship with staff made things happen for me. Not because the staff is unethical or bad at their jobs, but because someone keeping an eye on classroom reshuffling (for example) meant I could get a very quick alert when one of the “actually moveable chairs” rooms came free during my class period. Or because someone lending me their keys to get into the mailroom saved me a 20-min walk to my car and back to fetch my own. Or because someone calling over to their former colleague in central administration got me the answer to a question much faster than my own email would have. And on and on.

          Which isn’t to disagree with you, Yorick, I think you’re right. But oh what a mistaken belief.

          1. RKMK*

            Yeah, admins are in a weird position soft-authority position. Like, I wrote the recommendation and promotion letters (for staff, not students) not my boss. And I’d obviously I did it no matter what, but if someone had been a complete asshole to me whilst sucking up to my boss for years, well, there’s a way to write a standard recommendation letter and there’s a way to write an enthusiastic recommendation letter, and don’t assume the person you’ve been sucking up to really cares beyond signing the thing. It’s the House Elf principle at play.

          2. Yorick*

            Sure, admins can help you out with stuff. But they aren’t typically in a position of authority over students in terms of grades or employment, and students tend to know this, if they’re even aware of them.

        3. Alianora*

          Yeah. I didn’t think that when I was a student and I don’t think that now that I’m an admin. I realize that admins can affect things like paperwork moving forward quickly, but it’s not really the same as a teacher-student relationship.

  21. SarahTheEntwife*

    OP3 – I know you can’t change your desk permanently, but is there a conference room or something where you could go when you’re feeling especially bothered?

    1. LQ*

      This brings up something else for me which is are there other ways to reduce your irritation or sort of the level of friction around you so that you have more spare capacity for dealing with the tank? This might include things like having the email pop up sound shut off or some such. If you have $50 dealing with annoyance bucks a day and you know you have to spend $30 of them on the machine then what can you do to make the other annoyances of your day cheaper? It will likely be easier to deal with the I Need To Breathe To Live machine noises if there is other stuff that can be cut out. It could be entirely unrelated to this coworker, like you bought the wrong breakfast cereal and feel like you have to eat all of it because food waste but it spends $5 annoyance bucks first thing. And some of those might be work related things that talking to someone could help with. Sure the gross coffee needs to be dumped out first thing might only be $1 annoyance buck but if you could suggest that no more coffee gets made after 3 so there’s no gross 3/4 pot in the morning and then never have to spend that buck, it’s one you can spend on the machine instead.

      1. fposte*

        Oh, I love the way you put this–I’m always framing things in economic terms like this and I think it’s a really smart idea. Often it’s the cumulative annoyance that really puts us over the edge.

        1. LQ*

          I think if you can see that it’s everything it’s easier to figure out where you can subtract instead of just assuming the only spending you can cut is the impossible to cut thing.

      2. Dust Bunny*

        Look up Spoon Theory.

        I’m on the spectrum and am really sensitive to noise stimuli. I could not handle this in a full-time job, no matter how sympathetic I was to the person him/herself. I just do not have enough spoons to listen to repetitive noise all day.

        1. LQ*


          Let’s say the OP (who did not indicate that they were on the spectrum at all in the email) was on the spectrum. What could they do then? The could request an accommodation that they work half days from home.

        2. fposte*

          I’m not sure whether you’re agreeing or disagreeing, but LQ’s suggestion seems to fit very nicely with spoon theory, which is at basis an economic idea.

          1. Perse's Mom*

            I took Dust Bunny to mean her spoons would not be sufficient to deal with the noise. What might only cost me 3 of my 5 spoons on a daily basis might use all of DB’s spoons in the first half of the day.

        3. One of the Sarahs*

          What is really odd about all these discussions is the assumption that LW’s co-worker definitely doesn’t have misophonia, or has enough spoons to not get annoyed by the continual noises her own oxygen machine. I’m really struggling with this, because logic suggests that no matter how bad it is for LW’s maybe-maybe not misophonia/spoons issue, it’s always, always going to be worse for the colleague who deals with it 24/7 on top of her own coughing, pain so bad she sometimes vocalises it, etc etc etc

          1. I Don’t Remember What Name I Used Before*

            The fact that it’s worse for the coworker doesn’t magically make it less annoying for LW. Some people seem like they are suggesting that it should, and to *me* that seems like the odd assumption.

            For the record, I am a person with chronic respiratory illness and other disabilities and I completely sympathize with LW.

        1. LQ*

          Yes, and depending on sort of where this falls for the OP, based on the other ancillary things it might be more than just sounds, trying to cut something else.

          I spent 3 hours this weekend cleaning up my notifications on my phone and watch because the vibration is something I can control and the other stuff I can’t control (luckily no one’s breathing machine but still not something I can stop) I can’t control. So I’m trying to clean up the stuff I can to make sure I have as many annoyance bucks left over for the rest of the moments of my day.

    1. fposte*

      I can get that they’d be distracting noises, but it’s hard to raise them without looking pretty bad. “That uncontrollable pain Jane has is very distracting for me; could you make her be quieter about it?” You’re just left with the suggested options, I think.

      1. Roly Poly Little Bat-Faced Girl*

        I’m so bad, but I actually laughed at this hypothetical request. Point proven.

        1. Observer*

          It *is* funny, in context. But, yes, it proves the point.

          It’ a lot like a crying baby – no one that I have ever met LIKES the sounds of a crying baby. We are wired to NOT like it. But only jerks or people who are truly clueless berate parents to “just make your brat shut up!” Because we all know that it’s just not that simple.

      2. I Don’t Remember What Name I Used Before*

        I was thinking there are probably a significant number of people who would find the sounds of their coworker moaning and yelping in pain to be, not irritating, but actually stressful, upsetting, anxiety inducing, or even triggering. It seems like we are wired to react to sounds of pain in a very visceral way, and those ways can be quite distressing for the person experiencing them.

        I think the person feeling the distress or anxiety has just as much right to not experience that kind of emotional upset on a daily basis as the coworker has to breathe freely from her machine. And as such, they have the right to bring it up to management, and expect management to come up with a solution that is fair to all parties, as well as ethical, legal, and workable.

        1. fposte*

          I totally agree with you on the visceral response, but unfortunately this depends what you mean by “right.” They have the legal right to bring it up to management in that nothing legally prohibits it, but there’s nothing legal that would protect their job in the event somebody reacting poorly to such a complaint, and they have no entitlement to a solution that is “fair to all parties”–most of the time the world doesn’t even offer those, let alone a job.

          I’m a big believer in good faith efforts to work things out in management, so I’m not saying the OP couldn’t bring it up, but I think couching it in terms of rights is unfortunately misleading.

  22. Jennifer*

    #5 made me crack up. “Well, we broke up with YOU!” I’d block them everywhere and update the Glassdoor review. Clearly they were interested and annoyed you didn’t feel the same, just like someone that was rejected after a bad date.

  23. Trendy*

    #3 can you ask to be moved to a different spot? Maybe just a little further away and it won’t be so noticeable. As an employer, I would want to know if a good employee’s work is diminished because of distractions or if they end up leaving because of distractions. There might be a simple fix to this they are willing to take and I don’t think it makes you look bad because you are distracted by noise. Open floor plans are a terrible idea and I wish employers would consider doing away with them.

    1. I Don’t Remember What Name I Used Before*

      Yes, all of this.
      I think a lot of people here are dismissing or minimizing the real emotional distress that this is causing for LW, which sucks because continual stress of that kind is not good for people’s mental or physical health. And I think it is perfectly valid for LW to bring it up with management to try to find a solution that is workable for everyone.

  24. Lily Rowan*

    I’m kind of shocked that there are so few comments about #1! I mean, Alison is completely right, and the OP should stay out of it, but… their coworkers want to stage a coup! That’s bananas.

    I guess I just wanted to offer sympathy and best wishes to the OP.

    1. WellRed*

      Did you wonder how successful the coup would be when they can’t even schedule a time for it?

      1. Lance*

        I can bet on why that is: because there’s a certain element of panic, knowing that they’re risking their very jobs, and a bunch of them are probably trying to leave buffers as they desperately look elsewhere, to have some sort of backup if/when this goes south.

    2. Detective Amy Santiago*

      There’s really not much to say about it. Alison’s advice is spot-on.

      I do hope OP#1 will send in an update though and let us know how the attempted coup goes.

    3. RC Rascal*

      Since the LW recently accepted the job, she should warm up her contacts and continue her job search. While she may have just walked into some group-thinking, rebellious coworkers, they might be right about the boss. Bosses who can’t lead and can’t get buy in from their teams also can’t make a business successful. With these kinds of issues afoot performance issues for the business aren’t far behind. This job is unlikely to work out in the long term.

    4. OP1*

      Thanks. I guess I am just very nervous about this whole thing. There are many MANY things that have happened since I started at my new job (commented above with some examples) and I want to be involved in the discussion. The best I was able to do was talk people out of going directly to the board rather than to him first. And it keeps getting delayed because of vacations (we have had at least one person out of the office for the last 3.5 weeks) and two people are starting to question it, however the two that aren’t sure are the boss’ favorites.

      1. Sara without an H*


        OP1, you are already over-involved in this. That your co-workers can’t agree on a course of action isn’t a good predictor of success here. Clean up your resume and get out as soon as possibloe.

        1. valentine*

          OP1: You shouldn’t be weighing in or advocating for this horrid person who’s…breaking the law?

      2. RC Rascal*

        A couple more thoughts:

        People like this tend to have favorites they later throw away. It’s possible your coup is led by former favorites. Secondly, with this level of misappropriation it is possible he is also embezzling. If this is the case he will fight you tooth and nail because the stakes for him are much higher than management.

      3. Lucyloo*

        Based on what you wrote above, I actually disagree with your suggestion. A guy who lies about benefits, tries to get an employee to drop her family from health insurance to cut costs, and who is misrepresenting things to the National org has zero credibility and will not react well to attempts to discuss his shortcomings and other concerns with him. I would skip meeting with him, because it’s not going to result in any improvement and may actually provide some measure of risk.

      4. Holly*

        For the issues you described… I’m not sure why you *wouldn’t* go straight to the board. They are serious violations, and the boss does not sound reasonable enough to solve these issues himself.

        1. RC Rascal*

          They have to attempt to meet with Jerkface first or else the board , who isn’t going to want to hear this, will use the skip level aspect to dismiss them wholesale. The group that talks to Jerkface needs to ask for clarification about benefits and practices and share that they are uncomfortable and wouldn’t want anything bad to happen to the Organization. Perhaps Jerkface knows something they don’t. Take notes carefully and proceed to the board from there as needed.

          1. Observer*

            They are going to have an answer – They know that he is a liar that is going to lie to the Board.

            You can be sure of one thing – If the Board refuses to hear it, they are going to refuse to hear it after they talk to the boss anyway. Some of the issues they mention are classic whistleblower stiff that any Board should recognize as needing to bypass the CEO. If they don’t they are incompetent, and not going to be of any help once the talk to the boss, either.

            1. RC Rascal*

              Strong disagree. I’ve seen this sort of thing play out in corporations ( can’t speak for NPs): if you haven’t spoken of your concerns to your manager you don’t get to go up the chain. That’s why framing is important.

              1. Observer*

                Not in functional organizations, when the person you have concerns about is said manager. So, either the Board is functional, in which case you go to them first, or the Board is not functional, in which case it’s keep your mouth shut and get out of Dodge.

                It’s worth noting that legally, in any case where an organization where a reporting mechanism is required, requiring that the first step always be the manager / supervisor is going to get you into a lot of trouble. Common sense tells you, and almost universal experience bears out, that when you require someone to bring their concerns to the person you are concerned about, when that person is also the superior concerns do NOT get dealt with.

      5. Observer*

        Why did you do that?

        If you are going to do anything, going to the board first is ABSOLUTELY the way to go! If you go to him nothing is going to change for the better. Sure, he may make promises. But then he’ll get rid of you – and lie to the Board.

      6. Michaela Westen*

        It’s possible the board and the national org. don’t know about any of this and once they find out, they’ll get rid of the CEO and clean house. In that case you might get to keep your job and benefits as promised.
        However, it could be a messy transition.
        Other possibilities are: The board/national org. will just shut down the office and lay off everyone, or the board/national org. will ignore the whole thing and let the CEO continue as he has been.
        If it was me I would try to be prepared for both: update resume and contacts and start looking again, and do my best to stay out of the conflict while it plays out, in case it turns around into a good job at a decent organization.
        Good luck!

  25. SheLooksFamiliar*

    OP #3, I am sensitive to noises in general, and what you describe sounds challenging for so many reasons. I’m currently in an open floor plan, and I found something that works for me. I listen to YouTube videos through earbuds plugged into my laptop: rain and storm sounds, ocean waves, white/pink/brown noise, fans, droning noises, and other sounds to drown out the background noise. I keep the volume low enough to hear if someone asks for me, but loud enough to drown out the loud throat clearing, lip smacking, and snorting of someone who sits near me.

    I hope this helps!

    1. only acting normal*

      I always recommend the website & ap “A Soft Murmur” for gentle background cover noises. You can tune your favourite mixes (e.g. rain + waves + campfire) and set up randomly varying mixes too.

    2. Autumnheart*

      Pandora also has “nature sounds” stations. I also like their “Spa Radio” and “Yoga Radio” stations for background music that’s calming.

  26. Eeyore's missing tail*

    OP 4, I know this is not the advice you want to hear, but you may want to recheck the rules around your listservs. We use them at my institution as well and we are not allowed to sell anything on ours. Everything had to be taken to website that didn’t use our school’s facilities.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      I was at college before listserves were in common use but I would guess at least one of these listserves serves the same function as the dining hall lobby wall, where people posted flyers to sell their dorm fridges, ask about lost coats, etc. I don’t know why a school wouldn’t set up a non-academic listserve for students and faculty to post social things, since it would a) be useful and b) allow those who didn’t want to see that kind of stuff to easily opt out.

  27. Goya de la Mancha*

    #1 – I agree with AAM – stay out of it, be as Swiss as you can ;) I do caution though, if the CEO is known as retaliatory, staying out of it may not prevent you from being lumped in with the co-workers anyway.

  28. Où est la bibliothèque?*

    #4–I actually really hate this. If even one student to feel pressure to cave on something like the low-ball offer, or to wonder if they can get some easy academic brownie points by buying the fundraising brownies, then I think it’s a big problem.

    1. Kate R*

      I agree. I actually thought the lowball offer was more serious than the fundraising because if someone’s trying to fund raise through a listserv with likely thousands of users, they probably won’t notice each person who doesn’t donate. But once you are in a one-on-one interaction over an item, I personally might feel more pressure to appease the admin by accepting the offer. I think the fact that Alison and I had opposite takes on this shows how inappropriate both are.

    2. Parenthetically*

      Yeah, IMO, that’s a bigger issue than someone saying “Hey, it’s Girl Scout Cookie time again! Any takers can come see me in Hayes 244.”

      1. Working Mom Having It All*

        #4 – I think this all depends on how often it’s happening and how often it’s a benefit to the students. For example when I was in college, finding a parent with kids selling girl scout cookies would have been fantastic! On the other hand, if it were tickets to a silent auction or holiday wrapping paper or any of the common school fundraisers that are less useful to students than affordable and delicious junk food, I would think it was less OK. Same with the buy/sell posts. If usually the posts are in the students’ favor (good prices on stuff that students want, minimum of hassle or low or high-balling), sounds great! If it’s more in the spirit of “heh heh heh, these 20 year olds don’t know that I’m selling this battered old IKEA end table for double what a new one costs…” then that should be nipped in the bud.

    3. Psyche*

      I agree. While haggling over the cost of a used item is normal, it should not occur when there is a power differential. If the admin wants to buy the item for the price listed, that’s fine. But don’t haggle with someone who needs to be on your good side.

    4. Maya Elena*

      Disagree. It doesn’t sound like the power differential is of sufficient magnitude to warrant action. I mean, if it was YOUR professor selling to YOU then yes. But a person generally higher on the hierarchy than the student in some unrelated way? I’d credit students with the ability to figure out on their own that the repercussions for a “no” in either of the LW’s examples are negligible.

    5. Not A Morning Person*

      I’m not sure, but it sounded like the OP was saying they felt they had to take the first offer and only felt they could refuse that potential buyer because another offer came in earlier. Is there some rule or expectation that it is first come, first served, even when the first offer is almost offensively low? You can always refuse to sell if you don’t think the offer is good enough. And you don’t have to accept the first offer. Just say, No, and wait for better offers. That might be a good message to share with the students, too. It can be hard to gauge those kinds of things if you are new to selling in this way. There is no requirement to buy from someone and there is no requirment to sell to the first “bidder.” If there really is some effort to pressure students to buy because they are a captive audience and the seller thinks they have some influence, that would be terrible. Also, I agree with the commenter who said to check on the guidelines for list usage. Maybe there are rules that could be pointed to or would be helpful to share. Or if there is an administrator who could be prompted to post an occasional reminder of those rules, if there are any, about using the lists for selling. Good luck!

  29. Dust Bunny*


    Everybody knows about headphones. We can’t all wear headphones. I have to use a telephone and listen for the door buzzer; I cannot wear headphones.

    Also: I’m on the autism spectrum and have a bunch of sensory hypersensitivities. Two of the biggest are repetitive noises and having stuff on my head (it has to be life-threateningly cold before I’ll wear a hat). Even if I could do my job wearing them, I physically could not stand to have them on, and I definitely could not stand to have to wear them all the time just to function at work. But the noise would also drive me crazy.

    LW, I know you can’t move away entirely, but would it be possible to move to a different desk within the same area where the noise might be muffled just enough to give your nerves a break?

    1. fposte*

      That’s definitely really frustrating; I get that. But there are commenting guidelines specifically about not shooting down suggestions just because they aren’t practicable for everybody, and a lot of people do find headphones work for them, so I think they’re still valuable to suggest.

    2. JKL*

      These suggestions may not work for you, but they will work for most people. It’s not reasonable to dismiss the suggestion completely just because you don’t like it.

    3. Hiring Mgr*

      Remember the well known “Ice Cream Sandwich” rule. Just because some people don’t like or can’t eat ice cream sandwiches, it still might be good for others. (Issues of lactose intolerance aside..also, this doesn’t include popsicles or creamsicles which are in the same family yet not precisely ice cream sandwiches)

    4. Yorick*

      I think headphones would be a good suggestion even though they don’t work for everyone, but OP3 said headphones weren’t an option.

    5. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Okay, but someone being able to breathe is still more important than any of that. Bottom line.

      1. Yorick*

        Nobody is saying that the machine needs to be turned off? This post was about how headphones aren’t a good solution?

    6. automaticdoor*

      THANK YOU. I can’t wear them either, so it’s like, okay, does ANYONE have any other advice for this situation?!

      1. Observer*

        A lot depends on why you can’t wear headphones and what you DO have ability to do. Can you wear earbuds? Can you play something at a not high volume? Can you move?

        1. Drax*

          I am not allowed headphone and that’s what I do. My boss breathes like Darth Vader (no medical issue, just loud) and it makes me Crazy. It’s all I can hear and he’s two offices away.
          I put music on low enough I can hear it in front of my computer but not a few feet away and it works well for me. Doesn’t completely drown out Darth over there but it’s enough I can block it out a lot easier.
          Also weirdly, chewing gum helps me. It’s like my brain has something else repetitive to focus on instead of Darth Vader breathing.

          1. Margaret*

            That’s funny- that was specifically recommended to me by an occupational therapist when I was a little kid and having trouble making it through class due to sensory meltdowns. She couldn’t recommend kids be given candy, so I had to chew on a deflated latex balloon.

            1. Drax*

              Just poor manners. He doesn’t actually sound like Darth Vader, but it’s less annoying to think of it that way.

              This is the same man who will literally stand over you and pick his teeth with a toothpick throwing bits of lunch from his teeth all over you. it’s horrifically disgusting.

                1. Drax*

                  he doesn’t take hints. at all. you’ll tell him it’s completely unacceptable and he’s back doing it the next day.

                  seriously, this guy is just that obtuse.

        2. automaticdoor*

          Oh, I was just being hypothetical. I legitimately can’t wear earbuds or headphones because I have to answer the phone and door. But I don’t currently have OP3’s issue. I just get so frustrated hearing “headphones” as the answer to every issue when I think there are a lot more folks who *can’t* wear them due to job constraints than those who can.

          1. Observer*

            My point was that there is no one answer. Headphones is a reasonable enough suggestion for enough situations that it’s worth bringing up. Not as THE solution but as A *possible* solution. Along with all of the other ideas that people bring up.

            1. EventPlannerGal*

              I get you, but I do feel like *a lot* of the suggestions in the comments have been headphones/earplugs. It’s not like it’s one out of hundreds of different suggestions. Once a dozen people have suggested headphones, surely we can assume that the point has been made? And FWIW, in terms of constructive answers, the OP does specifically say that she can’t wear headphones all the time and that the noises are sometimes happening during meetings, where they’re obviously not an option.

              (FWIW, I’m mostly saying this because I find it kind of frustrating that pretty much any post involving annoying workplace noise ends up as 200 comments of “headphones! noise-cancelling headphones! wireless headphones! earbud headphones! just get headphones!” There are a *lot* of jobs out there where wearing headphones is simply not possible, enough that I wouldn’t class it as a not-everyone-can-have-sandwiches sort of thing.)

              1. I Took A Mint*

                Yeah, honestly I’m kind of surprised so many offices allow headphones. I would think that’s really counter to a collaborative environment, and isn’t that why they put us all in open offices? I feel like an office that forces you to sit in a bullpen wouldn’t let you use headphones for the same reason.

                1. Observer*

                  Headphones do cut down on a collaborative atmosphere – which is one of the research backed arguments against open plan offices. ie In such offices people are MUCH more likely to wear headphones because it’s the only way to get work done.

                2. New Jack Karyn*

                  That’s not why they do open plan offices. They do them so they can get more desks in a smaller space.

    7. Delphine*

      They don’t work for you, but they may for someone else and that person might not have considered them.

    8. Alianora*

      It’s not all about you. People can give advice and you can pick out the advice that’s useful. But no one is going to say to themselves, “Hmm, is this comment relevant to Dust Bunny’s life? No, then I better keep my mouth shut,” before they comment.

    9. Anoncorporate*

      I recently developed sinus pain issues and can’t wear headphones because of it. It’s frustrating because it’s a common solution I can’t use any more.

    1. Aisling*


      We do not armchair diagnose here.

      It’s in the commenting rules: “• Don’t armchair-diagnose others (“it sounds like your coworker is autistic/has borderline personality disorder/etc.”). We can’t diagnose based on anecdotes on the internet, these statements often stigmatize people with those diagnoses, and it’s generally not useful to focus on disorders rather than practical advice for dealing with the person in question.”

      1. Jessen*

        Generally Alison’s been ok with “you should talk to your doctor about X” type statements – they’re not diagnosing so much as suggesting a possibility. Especially since we’re talking directly to the OP, who presumably can take the information under consideration and act on it if they think the diagnosis sounds plausible. Whereas if we’re talking about a third party that the OP is writing about, we not only don’t have anything past anecdotes but it would generally be inappropriate for the actual OP who’s reading the comments to suggest a diagnosis.

        1. Aisling*

          I get that, but I still think there isn’t enough info here for a commentor to jump straight to a possible diagnosis. But in re-reading it, I suppose it doesn’t seem as clear cut as usual.

          1. cheluzal*

            This was a helpful suggestion….why do y’all have to find something to pick at.
            I have misophonia and what LW describes is most likely a form of it. It is very hard to live with and I could not even reframe my thoughts to accept it…

      2. I Don’t Remember What Name I Used Before*

        Except Liz is not actually making a diagnosis, she’s giving LW a suggestion. She’s not even saying “it sounds like you have misophonia”, she’s saying “I wonder if this might be of some use to you to look into this.” And “a therapist may be able to help you cope” which is something that might very well be true regardless of any diagnosis LW may or may not also have. This is a problem that is causing LW some serious emotional distress, which is a thing therapists are known to deal with.

  30. LaDeeDa*

    OP5 – That is so weird. Part of me would want to copy and paste each and every correspondence to Glassdoor. I wonder who the contact is coming from– is it a recruiter who has decided to be vindictive to OP for whatever psycho reason? Is it the hiring manager who was rude in the interview? It just seems weird.

    1. #5*

      I don’t think the company is big enough to have an internal recruiter. I’m almost sure it’s the VP of Sales for “Teapots,” who was the hiring manager in this case.

      1. LaDeeDa*

        That actually makes it so much worse!

        I posted a while back in an open thread, that we had a VP of sales quit, and before he quit and was escorted from the building he smeared poop all over the restroom. He took a job at a competitor, maybe it is the same guy ;)

        1. EmKay*

          Wow. Did you see any signs of craziness from him while he was employed, or did he jump straight to poop smearing?

          1. LaDeeDa*

            He was aggressive and scary. He is the only person in my entire career that if I was going to meet with him I required someone from HR or his boss to be present. He was so aggressive and would get really into a person’s space, to physically intimidate them.

            1. Michaela Westen*

              The thing that scares me is, he was allowed to work anywhere behaving like that!

    2. Why are you obsessed with me dot gif*

      Also, at what point, if ever, does it become appropriate to kick it up to a higher level in the company to ask their hiring manager stop contacting you? It’s all so very weird.

  31. Queen Anne*

    For what it’s worth I will tell you what I did once to help with distracting noise. It may not help you at all but I am throwing it out there since, really, your only option is to learn to adjust to it. Once, I was trying to sleep and I heard an incessant, loud, clanging noise from outside. Kind of like an old school bell. I could not sleep! The noise would not stop. So, I started to imagine I was listening to a scene from Little House on the Prairie in which the teacher was ringing the outside school bell to summon the children for class. It worked and turned out to be somewhat soothing to boot!
    My point is, maybe you can teach your brain to recognize the sound as something else.

  32. Maya Elena*

    For LW4, do the employees ever post things of benefit ro students, like research assistantship opportunities or networking events? Seems like a more than fair compensation.

  33. Hiring Mgr*

    OP#1– While I agree with the advice to stay out of the coup meeting itself, I would want to know as much as possible about what is going on that all your coworkers are at this level of frustration. It sounds like a potentially toxic environment regardless of this one meeting.

    1. OP1*

      I commented above with some examples that I have encountered since I started before Christmas. As for other people, I submitted a question a couple weeks ago about what to do when my boss asked my coworker to take her husband and baby off of our health insurance because he forgot to budget for my expenses. That is just one example.

      1. Amber Rose*

        Oooh, that was you. Yikes. Maybe it would have been better to go straight to the board. Someone like that is not usually someone you can reason with.

        Maybe send out a few feelers for other jobs. This one has the potential to go sideways.

  34. Yorick*

    OP3: If you’re in cubes, does the cube setup have you right next to the machine? Maybe you could rearrange your cube so you sit closer to the other wall.

  35. Iris Eyes*

    #3 If you are looking for a low key white noise machine. I have a desk humidifier that I got off online, when its going it generates either a constant “shhhhh” or an intermittent “shhhht” “shhhhht.” My poor desk plants and I need the humidity. It also helps smooth out a certain amount of noise but that’s a fringe benefit. (We also have a pretty great office/building wide white noise system.)

    Buy cheap and look for noisy complaints in the reviews and you are on the right trail :)

  36. Amber Rose*

    #3, is working from home ever a possibility? If you only had to deal with it three days a week instead of five, would that help? It might be worth talking to your boss about some options for you. And it doesn’t make you seem horrible. Sound sensitivity, whatever it is for you, is for me a symptom of my anxiety. It can’t be helped any more than your coworker needing a machine to breathe can be helped. Just because your sensitivity is not related to your ability to live doesn’t mean it’s not still important to you. As long as you frame it around what you think might help you, as opposed to framing it around complaining about the coworker.

    I have a persistent cough and I feel terrible about how awful that must be for everyone around me. Just because it’s not my fault doesn’t mean I wouldn’t understand if they needed a break.

    Other than that, job hunting is usually on the table. But that’s hopefully a last resort.

  37. Wing Leader*

    OP#2, another thing you can say is:

    “You’re doing fine! When I first started, I did this much slower than you are now. It took me a while to get the hang of it.”

    I don’t know how true that is and you can adjust accordingly, but it might make them feel better to know you had a learning curve also.

    1. OP2*

      The issue is that I picked this up very quickly so it would be disingenuous to say that it was hard for me but then I learned it eventually because to be honest the learning curve isn’t that strong.

      While it might be nice to hear that I had it a lot harder but now I’m really fast it’s not setting the right expectations, i.e. someone at his level who’s a high performer would be doing X teapot designs in 3 hours and not 5 hours after this much time doing the task. He is very ambitious so it’s doing him a disservice to say it’s expected it will take a while when it’s expected high performers pick it up quickly.

      1. Myrna Minkoff*

        Sounds like the expectation is coming from you, LW, since that’s the metric on which you were judged so positively.

        1. OP2*

          I think this is an interesting comment because while I know my manager wants him to speed up I’ve never asked her how quickly the junior should be going. I’ll have a sit down with them to see how to provide better feedback – thank you for the note. :)

      2. Wing Leader*

        Like Myrna said, is this really the expectation as far as your office goes? Or is it your personal expectations?

        If it’s a very normal expectation that is shared throughout then office, then I would say don’t necessarily tell him “it’s okay” that he takes longer, but try to encourage him to get better in a positive way. I’d use the sandwich method (compliment, criticism, compliment). Stick a dab of criticism sandwiched between two giant pieces of complimentary bread.

        However, if this is just your personal expectations because you did so well, and it’s very normal for others to take the amount of time that he does…then I’d take another look at your expectations. It’s great that you did smashingly, but not everyone has to be you.

        1. OP2*

          I think that’s a good point, and I’ll try to recalibrate my expectations. It’s difficult because not everyone has to do this task so as far as people picking it up it’s just me that I have to comparison in the early stage.

          I do know that they’re not going as quickly as my manager would like, which is why I sometimes have to step in to help since the manager will ask me to finish off what the junior can’t to have it done by X time.

          But I can definitely ask my manager what their expectations are for timing and use this to frame my discussions with the junior. Thanks for the insight!

          1. Elise*

            Just a vote for this approach. :) I used to work in the mortgage industry in post-closing (where you review the documents from the attorney, make sure the financials are correct, etc) and I picked it up much more quickly than usual. I definitely had to temper my expectations when training based on the expectation of the supervisor. I would report on their progress with that metric in mind, not my own. I feel your pain though. You can sometimes tell that certain staff are probably not going to get as good as you any time soon even though they really want to.

  38. GoldenRetriever*

    Another suggestion that I’ve found helpful when dealing with distracting/annoying noises that I can’t do anything about is periodically giving myself a break from them. Not a full solution unfortunately but I find I can handle those things a bit better if I have a regular 5-10 minute break from it, once an hour ideally, or however often your work schedule allows. I like to walk up and down a few flights of stairs in a peaceful, quiet stairwell to give my mind a break. It has the added benefit of getting your blood flowing and giving you a bit of exercise in the day. In my experience most people won’t question you doing that if you say you’re “trying to get your steps in” or something like that. May not help everyone but it’s been part of a solution for me.

  39. LawLady*

    OP#5 is it at all possible that they’re just disorganized and a bunch of people think they’re supposed to reject you and that’s why you’re getting multiple rejections?

    Related, though definitely different, I interviewed with a big financial firm right out of college. I clicked something on their online application that said like “I’d like my application kept on file and to be considered for relevant roles”. I didn’t end up getting the job I had applied and interviewed for, but for about 3 years after that, I’d get an email rejection for another job every few months. Their system would determine that my application matched some set of criteria, “consider” me for the job, and then send me a rejection email when I wasn’t chosen. A lot of the jobs weren’t even remotely suitable! Mostly it ended up being something to laugh at.

  40. Tangerina Warbleworth*

    OP # 4, your university is behind the times. Do a quick survey of peer institutions, and you’ll see how many use web-based systems for selling things, fundraising, etc. You can then make a polite suggestion to IT (or University Communications or whomever) to set up these web-based systems, based on parity with institutional peers, then the listserv can direct posters to use the web system, as it’s more appropriate.

    Of course, some people will still clog the listserv, because they will; but most will prefer the web system.

  41. LawBee*

    #5 – this reminds me of when my friend broke up with a guy she was seeing. He really pushed the “but let’s stay friends” route, which she was ambivalent about but agreed to. They went out on one “friend” outing, then – shocker – he emailed her saying that he just didn’t think they could be friends, he wasn’t feeling it, etc.

    Basically, how dare SHE dump HIM, haha. This loony company has its feelings hurt that you dared to dump them and they just can’t get over it.

  42. Checkert*

    It seems it’s time that people remember that misophonia is not only a physiological/uncontrollable reaction but can be tested for genetically! It is just as real as the coworkers health problems, although obviously not as life threatening. I’m not suggesting it can or should be covered by ADA but I also would like to remind that both cases are caused by the body, not the person.

    1. fposte*

      Sure, but we don’t even know if the OP has misophonia. Oxygen concentrators are loud and distracting for a lot of people.

  43. Mayflower*

    OP #3:

    My husband has sleep apnea and the way you describe your co-worker’s noises sounds really, really familiar. I too am extra sensitive to noises. I have become a connoisseur of headphones and earplugs and I highly recommend that you try silicone earplugs (any pharmacy will have them). The trick is to have 100% clean and dry ears (they get oily just like your face), and then you need to spend a good half-minute kneading those silicone blobs to your ear canal to achieve a seal – but once you do, it’s absolute magic. (And for what it’s worth Bose and Sony’s latest noise cancelling headphones are excellent but they will not block out the type of noise you are dealing with).

    Another trick is taking time to have just a tiny bit of fun with your sick co-worker every now and then! If you’ve ever taken care of a sick or elderly relative, you already know that you need some *quality* time together or else you just start seeing them as A Problem and then they annoy you more and more and no amount of scolding yourself for being a bad person can stop that. Figure out a way to have some positive interactions with your co-worker and the noise will get less annoying, I promise.

    Good luck!

  44. Brett*

    OP #2
    I am in a similar situation with my role (exact same type of position too, where they report to someone else, but I mentor and manage/delegate their day to day tasks). I’m also a late career-changing (government to private sector tech), former non-traditional student POC from a very different socioeconomic background than most people I work with. I was a huge beneficiary of affirmative action along the way, and all those things add up to similar problems of downplaying my worth.

    From that perspective, I think it is valuable to get used to saying, “I am one of the best at my level at this”, working up to “I am one of the best in the company at this” and even “I am one of the best in the industry at this.” Sounds like a good chance all of these are true for you. And here is the funny part it took me a while to discover… this is reassuring and acceptable to the rest of my team. They are glad that they are being mentored by someone who is really really good at the skills they are trying to learn or master. It is okay to them that the gap in skills might be something where they never catch up, because they certainly feel like they have an edge on their peers who do not have you as a mentor.

  45. pam*

    5. I rejected a company and they won’t stop “rejecting” me back

    Perhaps the ‘cattle call’ LW could use this technique to keep rejecting that job.

  46. TootsNYC*

    The best thing you can do is to find a way to reframe it in your head.

    I once read a story about a woman who was camping, and at dusk, when she was trying to go to sleep, the whippoorwills started hooting in the trees across the field. She was upset because she couldn’t go to sleep (I know I find noise when I’m falling off disturbing that doesn’t bother me when I am finally asleep).
    Then she started thinking of this intermittent, irregular noise as “evidence of the beautiful wildness around me,” and she found it SO soothing.

    We had a mockingbird in our tree outside the bedroom window, and this bird gets vocal right at bedtime. And he was similarly non-rhythmic. And loud.
    I tried her whippoorwill trick, and it worked.

    It helps with other things as well.

    Also–some noise-cancelling headphones don’t just try to block out noise–they create their own white noise. And that might cut down on it.

  47. Lilysparrow*

    OP3, you could also use those self-talk moments to remind yourself that you only have to listen to the air tank at work. Jane has to hear it 24/7.

    I’m also pretty sure her moans of pain bother her a good deal more than they annoy you.

    1. LawBee*

      This is a pretty mean comment, and for no reason. Distracting is distracting, and there’s nothing wrong with the OP trying to find a thing that allows her to work. Knowing that my coworker has a reason for her constant throat-clearing doesn’t make the sound less jarring, no matter how much sympathy or empathy I have. She’s not annoyed that her coworker is sick, it’s the intermittent sounds of the machine which are distracting.

      1. One of the Sarahs*

        But there’s a really good chance her co-worker is just as irritated and distracted by the noises it makes, on top of her obvious pain/breathing issues. I genuinely can’t see how OP could phrase a request to move etc that didn’t make her sound callous.

        1. Beanie*

          No one is denying the coworker is suffering. But Op3 hasthe right to their feelings. And clearly Op3 is trying to avoidbeing a jerk, or they wouldn’t be trying to find solutions that didn’t alienate their coworker.

          We can acknowledge that the coworker is suffering while still acknowledging that Op3 is a human being, and not a superbeing capable of setting their lizard brain to their moral compass at will.

    2. I Don’t Remember What Name I Used Before*

      A commenter above mentioned having a patient who used a more cumbersome but less noisy oxygen machine when they were at home because the noise the more portable one made drove them nuts.

      Think about that. Someone whose -life depends- on that machine chose a WORSE alternative because is is THAT crazy-making.

      In light of that, your suggestion comes off as little else than trying to shame OP for not having the patience of a saint. And if OP is irritated because they actually have misophonia, there is really very little that empathy or pep talking themselves is going to be able to do. You can’t talk yourself out of a neurological issue.

      And honestly I would think that if Jane herself was annoyed by the machine, that should make her MORE sensitive/sympathetic to the irritation of the people around her rather than less. I would hope that Jane would be willing to help figure out or work towards realistic & workable solutions of the problem that her necessary medical device causes undue stress & irritation for her coworkers.

  48. Somebody New*

    I don’t have any suggestions that haven’t been suggested OP3, but yeah… My sympathies.

    One of my coworkers coughs so hard i suspect she’s retching every now and then, and I’m at a loss. Sometimes it makes me nauseous it’s so graphic sounding and I’m sure she’s utterly miserable. Desks are fixed, no amount of headphones will cover up the sound, and I usually just feel like a horrible person for feeling put upon at all. On top of everything, it feels completely impolite not to ask if someone’s ok after that, but it’s daily and nobody else does, and I don’t really wanna be the one calling attention to someone else’s health issues. So awkward cough filled silence it is I guess.

    I wish I had a solution to share. Hopefully sympathies help a bit though.

  49. ZucchiniBikini*

    I have misophonia (diagnosed), and while I can’t speak to whether that is what OP3 has going on, I can say this – if the oxygen tank sound was a trigger for me, no amount of self-talk or reminding myself to be compassionate would enable me to work right next to it without having a breakdown. For me, as I think for other commenters upthread, self-talk *does not work*. My response to trigger sounds is physiological and recalcitrant to treatment (believe me when I say I’ve tried).

    I am kind of fortunate in that my misophonia has a fairly narrow band – unlike many people, I am not especially bothered by machine noise, animal noise, chewing / mouth noises, coughing etc. (Well, no more bothered than the average person – if someone is coughing constantly next to me or a dog is barking nonstop, I will notice the same way anyone might and might even be annoyed, but I do not get the panic / rage / terror reaction). I am really only activated by bass music, but when bass thump hits me, it is like a brick to the face. I can’t reason with it or distract myself. All I can do is either accept the misery and panic, or leave the situation.

    If OP3’s reaction is anything like mine, I have enormous sympathy for them. Of course the coworker needs her oxygen, that goes without saying. But I think OP3’s needs are not irrelevant here, and perhaps some accommodation for them also could be found (such as relocating them or even approving some work from home). If it was me, without such accommodation, I’d have to quit, no question.

    1. Margaret*

      Ugh, I feel you with the bass music. Earlier this year a bunch of twenty two year olds moved into the apartment underneath me. After a week spent trying to negotiate them into stopping playing their music so loud, on increasingly intense doses of anxiety medication I just moved to a hotel, ate a month’s lost rent, and found a new apartment.

      1. ZucchiniBikini*

        You poor thing, that sounds dreadful! One of the main reasons I’ve never lived in an apartment tbh (I’m lucky to have had the choice to opt for houses in the suburbs instead). Where I live now is mostly bass-free except for a few parties my neighbours throw over summer (I’m Australian, so summer here incorporates NYE, which is always my least favourite night of the year). We did, for a few months a couple of years back, have a neighbour down the street who played super loud bass all day but not at night – many of our other neighbours didn’t even realise, as it was while they were at work, but I work from home and it just about drove me to hospital. He ended up getting evicted for unrelated reasons and I am not ashamed to say that I REJOICED.

  50. Meg Danger*

    I hope OP #3 is still reading comments… I know I am late to the commenting game. I have the same problem with sensitivity to noises that sometimes do not bother other people. When I hear the little puffs of air from an personal oxygen machine I can physically feel bursts cool air in my own nose, and I can smell the plastic tubing – I find it almost impossible to tune out the sound and sensation. It is a really bizarre form of empathy, but a documented phenomena that some people experience. On to the main point:

    There is something you can ask your co-worker to do that is a pretty common request at concerts and silent meditations and other spaces where the noise might distract others… You can ask your coworker to adjust her tank to continuous flow. The tank will release a lower pressure oxygen continuously instead of in short audible bursts. She may need to adjust how long she wears her device, but unless there is information about her specific condition that changes the equation, it should be a pretty reasonable adjustment during working hours. You could frame your request the way Alison sometimes suggests by saying it is a weird personal quirk that you are highly sensitive to sounds and would she be willing to try using her device on a low pressure continuous flow setting?

  51. NikkiRey*

    Is there anyway that you can take a peek at the model name/number of the oxygen concentrator she uses and see if you and your team could “gift” her a work concentrator that is quieter? Not all concentrators are created equal and there are models claiming to be “whisper quiet”. This may not be the cheapest gift you could give someone, but what’s your peace and quiet worth to you?

  52. charo*

    People are overlooking LW saying woman at work is “coughing, moaning, or yelping in pain.”

    An audiotape, if LW isn’t exaggerating this, should show HR the problem here.

    Does she “yelp in pain” at staff meetings too? Or does she control this then?

    I’d ask HR for help for the woman as well as for LW.

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