my coworker gets angry when we chew, peer interviews, and more

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

1. My coworker gets angry when we chew

I have a coworker who has undiagnosed misophonia. She has never been formally diagnosed, and as I understand it, has never even mentioned it to her family doctor. But she hates chewing sounds so much that she actually had a verbal altercation with another coworker over his eating an apple.

Since that altercation (several years ago), everyone is on alert about eating at their desks. Some of us occasionally eat at our desks because of operational needs (teleconferences over lunch, temporarily heavy workloads, etc.), but now we are hyper-aware that nothing we eat should make crunching sounds. It’s so bad that if she even mentions to management that a new employee’s chewing is bothering her, that new employee will get moved to a different desk (to the inconvenience of the new employee, as well as IT, who has to move everything). If we chew audibly around her, she complains to our managers and we’re asked to stop. Most people will take their crunchy foods to a meeting room and eat there, but it’s not always easy to find an open room.

While I understand how maddening chewing sounds can be to her, there are things she can do to lessen her reaction to them — exposure therapy, talk therapy, white noise machines, medication, ear plugs, noise cancelling earphones, listening to music. Our workplace is all for accommodations when prescribed (and we do have policies around accommodations), but again, this is an undiagnosed condition, and she is not being asked to do anything to help alleviate her reactions.

Am I wrong to think everyone else should not be inconvenienced for one person’s sensitivities? If scents gave her migraines, I could understand requiring a scent-free workplace (which we also have). But for sounds? Is management handling this correctly, or are there other avenues they should/could be taking? I’ve made my stance known to management, but I still try to accommodate when I can in the spirit of team harmony.

I think it’s pretty unreasonable. I’m curious why they haven’t just moved your coworker to a more private area, rather than banning everyone around her from eating. And yes, she has options to alleviate the impact too, like headphones, as you pointed out. If she hasn’t even spoken with a doctor yet, finding herself in a verbal altercation with someone over eating an apple should have nudged her to do that.

I suspect that if you and a group of your coworkers pushed back more firmly — the as a group part is key here — and said, “We’ve tried to be accommodating, but this isn’t reasonable, we’re not able to eat when we need to, it’s not workable for us, and there are other solutions that would significantly lessen the impact of this,” you might make some headway. (You might also point out that “no one eats around the person” isn’t one of the accommodations that the Misophonia Institute or the Job Accommodation Network suggest workplaces use.)

2. Do I have to say where I’m going next when I quit?

My current workplace doesn’t have an HR department, and we have to submit our resignations directly to top management. The COO, Bianca, is responsible for looking after my department, but she has a tendency to assume everyone’s interests align with her own.

Recently, a few of my colleagues resigned, and she gave all of them unsolicited advice and opinion on their decisions to leave. One of them was persistently asked to disclose where she will be working next, which with great reluctance she told Bianca. For the next few weeks, she received a barrage of phone calls from Bianca trying to convince her to stay. These attempts ranged from promising to arrange a new position for to insulting her new workplace. It wasn’t until the CEO told Bianca to stop what she was doing did she finally give up.

Other former colleagues simply had their resignations ridiculed. After each of them had left, Bianca started asking everyone why so-and-so would even consider leaving when the benefits are so good. (To be fair, for the industry it’s not terrible but everyone has their own reasons to move on, which should be respected.)

I’m pretty sure a similar path awaits me, but I particularly want to avoid disclosing my next workplace’s name since all of the places I’m applying at can be be considered a competitor. My previous job also asked me where I will be working next, but I had less reservations since it was a completely different industry than where I am now. Am I allowed to lie in this situation? Do I pretend that I’m moving across the country and plan out my elaborate death?
What do I do?

In general, it’s pretty normal for colleagues to ask what you’ll be doing next. Sometimes it’s small talk, sometimes it’s people taking a genuine interest in you, but usually there’s nothing nefarious about it. In those cases, refusing to say will usually come across strangely.

But in your case, Bianca has a track record of reacting so weirdly that it’s entirely reasonable to decline to share that information with her. If she asks, you can say anything from “they’ve asked me not to announce it yet” to “I’m not quite ready to share it yet” to “I haven’t solidified my plans.”

3. What should I expect at a peer interview?

I recently interview for a health care company with the hiring manager. After the interview, she stated she would first call me with the salary and if I chose to proceed from there I have to come back in for a second interview, which is a peer interview. I’ve never even heard of a peer interview before and wondering how common it is and what to expect?

Peer interviews aren’t uncommon, and for many roles they’re a good idea. It’s pretty much what it sounds like — you’ll be meeting with one or more people who would be your peers if you’re hired. In some cases, it’s more of a general “get to know you” interview to see how you’ll mesh with the team, and because the manager wants the input of people who will be working with you. And in other cases, it’s more of a traditional interview that probes into your skills and experience. Sometimes peers are better equipped to assess your technical skills than the manager is — and sometimes they’re equally as equipped, and she wants them to have a voice in the hiring process. It’s also intended for you to have the chance to ask questions of people who aren’t the manager.

I’d prepare for it the same way you prepare for other interviews, but put a particular premium on building rapport and connecting with people (unless your vibe is that they’re being very down-to-business, in which case follow their cues). And think about what you want to ask that peers might have different perspectives on than your first interviewer.

4. Job hunting when my titles look like I took a step backwards

I graduated from university a few years ago and accepted a role as a communications coordinator with a nonprofit immediately after. As their only communications person and with no work experience to boot, I quickly found myself stressed and overwhelmed with the task of managing communications for this organization. My mental health quickly deteriorated and I resigned due to a bad case of burnout. I am now working in a support role as a communications assistant at another nonprofit where I am happier and have better work-life balance. I also earn a much better salary despite my “assistant” title.

In a few years, once I gain a bit more experience, I would like to move into a more senior role, but I have this nagging feeling that prospective employers might not take me seriously for my decision to take a step backwards professionally. Is this fear reasonable and is there anything I can do to help manage future employers’ perceptions?

Nah, you’re fine. Coordinator and assistant aren’t all that different (they’re both usually fairly junior, especially in a nonprofit context) so it’s not like you went from director to assistant. And if you had gone from something like director to assistant, landing in a director role straight out of school would make it pretty clear that it was a junior role that didn’t match the title. (And for what it’s worth, the organization that hired you did you and themselves a disservice! It’s not reasonable to expect someone right out of school to be their sole person managing their communications.)

The upshot is, there’s nothing to worry about here.

5. Applying for an internal job on FMLA

I’m just under three weeks away from returning from a maternity leave that I’m taking under FMLA, but I’m not excited about the job I’m slated to return to. I work in higher ed, and it’s been a dizzying, disorganized past year in my program. We’ve been overseen by three different areas of the college and gone through four different directors, we acquired an assistant director with pretty questionable management skills, and our job responsibilities have changed significantly (and some of the perks are being eliminated as well).

However, I still like the college itself, and I’ve been keeping an eye on its job-openings board. They’ve just posted for multiple openings in a position that I think would be a good fit for me; it’d be a roughly lateral move, but the job would be satisfying and the climate should be noticeably better. (I also know why there are multiple openings, and it’s not for “people keep leaving this job because it stinks” reasons.) The problem is, they’re taking applications now, and they’ll already be doing interviews by the time I come back, so if I wait, I’ll probably lose my chance.

Do I have any obligation under FMLA, or even just professional ethics, to avoid job-searching while I’m out? After all, part of the point of FMLA is to rest from work while I recover from childbirth (though I feel pretty good at this point), so I feel like it might be sketchy to be undertaking the effort of a search.

In theory, this should be absolutely fine. There’s nothing about being on FMLA leave that says you can’t job search. If you were doing something that you shouldn’t be able to do because of the reason you’re on leave (like if you were on FMLA to recover from a broken leg and still ran a marathon), that would be a problem. But there’s nothing about maternity leave that stops you from job searching, so you’re fine in that regard.

That said, there’s a chance that your current department might feel a little miffed that they’re holding your job for you to return to (with all the inconvenience that can entail, like people covering your work) while you’re actively seeking not to return to it. But at most we’d probably be talking about mild irritation, not major feelings of outrage of betrayal, assuming you don’t have a bizarrely petty and vindictive manager. So I think you should go ahead and apply. If your manager is likely to be notified about your application, preemptively contact her and let her know so that you can frame the narrative yourself. It’ll probably help to frame it as being really excited to come back, but also feeling like the other position is so intriguing that you can’t pass up the chance to throw your hat in the ring for it … but if nothing comes of it, you’ll be back with tons of enthusiasm for your current role on (planned return date).

{ 527 comments… read them below }

  1. Fortitude Jones*

    For letter #3 – isn’t it a little bassackwards to give job candidates a salary offer and then bring them in for a peer interview? I’ve been interviewed by people I’d be working with before during a panel interview, but that was also well before the hiring manager decided to extend me an offer. It just seems like putting the cart before the horse. What if they extend an offer to someone, bring them in for the peer interview, and then discover the candidate doesn’t mesh well with the current employees? I’ve never heard of this kind of set up, so this is interesting.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I don’t think that means she’d make the OP an offer right then, but rather that she’d float a salary and if they’re in the same ballpark then they’d keep moving forward. (But she doesn’t want to invest in more steps if they’re not more or less aligned on salary.)

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        Ah, got it – that makes way more sense. Though what would be even better is if that was discussed in the initial phone screen, but I know not everyone’s there yet.

        1. BethDH*

          I’ve had that happen where there was a wide range of acceptable profiles for a given role — they sometimes even did have a range, but it was really wide and would be much narrowed once they checked for things like degree and certifications. So they only ran the specific numbers once they had shorter lists of candidates.

      2. ACDC*

        I guess I’m confused why someone would get through an entire first in-person interview and not know what the salary range is. Is this normal? Or am I missing some detail in this?

        1. Hiring Mgr*

          I agree, that’s not normal in my experience but I suppose different industries/regions, etc.. Personally I couldn’t imagine going to an onsite interview without having at least some idea of the comp. You might say I’d be thunderstruck

          1. Indigo a la mode*

            Frankly, if I was prepping for an interview the next day with a bunch of important unknowns (like salary range!), it would shake me all night long.

          2. probably actually a hobbit*

            I’m in academia and our salary bands are highly dependent on the person’s level of education and this is tightly controlled by the higher-ups, and the people who crunch the salary bands won’t do it until after the first round of interviews. Also, we aren’t allowed to offer the peer interview until the second round for several types of positions — so, this process can be normal in some settings

        2. That Would be a Good Band Name*

          I don’t think I’ve ever known the salary before an interview. I wish more employers would be upfront with their range. Most things I’m applying for tend to go through an applicant system that requires me to put a desired salary, so I just go in hoping that they are at least not bringing me in if they can’t meet that.

        3. KimberlyR*

          I work in healthcare. You do the interviews, they decide they want you, HR puts together a pay package based on years of experience and type of experience, then they call you (and email, usually) the pay package and you accept or decline. Especially for clinical roles, there can be a lot of math and tallying with figuring the exact salary.

          1. EinJungerLudendorff*

            Could they at least get a reasonable range down after the first interview? Maybe just based on the biggest factors, like role, exeprience and maybe education/certifications or something?

            Even if they can’t give an exact number, just a general range would be quite useful. And I can’t imagine the budget allows for too much variation either.

          2. Fortitude Jones*

            I would hate this so much, especially if I was already gainfully employed someplace else and then took time off to do all this interviewing with a new place only to find out they don’t want to give you a large enough increase to move.

        4. Karo*

          I’ve only had a handful of interviews where I knew their salary range, and then it was only because it was posted in the job listing. No one has ever really spoken openly about it. For my current job, I didn’t know the range until I got my offer. They did ask what my expected range was, though.

        5. smoke tree*

          In my industry it’s pretty common not to disclose the salary until you’re offered the job. That might have something to do with the fact that in my industry, salaries tend to be pretty low.

          1. CMart*

            I’m in a medium high paying industry and in my limited experience have never known a salary until I got the actual offer.

            Based upon what people say on this site + my experience had me assuming (in the US at least) not knowing what they’ll pay you until after you’re totally done interviewing is the norm.

        6. GooseTracks*

          I’ve had jobs where I didn’t know the exact salary until I got the offer letter. It sucks. (Non-profit field, which is notoriously bad about this.)

      3. TootsNYC*

        I like this, actually. It acknowledges that we all work for money, and it just saves everybody’s energy. Especially if you’re going to round up a lot of people for a peer review!

  2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#5, I vote for applying. Unless your department has some weird positional authority that could make your life miserable if you’re hired into the new role, there’s no downside to applying. It’s also a bit different when you’re switching jobs within the same employer while on FMLA as opposed to applying to outside employers (both are ok to do, but there’s different political and bridge calculations). Honestly, given the upheaval you’re describing, I suspect the rest of the college will expect people to cycle in/out of your program and lateral into other campus jobs.

    One big caveat is that some of this depends on your role within the university. For example, your staff classification or role could be salient to how risky this effort may be from an internal blackballing perspective.

    1. OP #5*

      Thanks for your thoughts! Alison’s response and your comment have brought a follow-up question to my mind: although from a broader college perspective I don’t think there’d be big risks to applying (and it’s also possible the position’s actual start date wouldn’t be until a week or two after my return date, so at least I’d have a little wrap-up time…?), my boss can get easily offended – but also, still more awkwardly, it is possible that she could end up on the search committee for these openings. That’s not because she’d supervise the hires (she wouldn’t), but because of the way search-committee makeup rules work at the college. I have no idea whether she’d be expected to not help with the search under those circumstances. Is there something I should be doing about this, like contacting the search-committee chair with a heads-up or something?

      1. Escapee from Corporate Management*

        Hi OP #5. How good is your rapport with your boss? Is she someone who has supported your career development in the past. If yes, then you should speak directly to her. Let her know how much you appreciate working with you her and how you would like this job to be the next step in your career. My concern is that if your boss is easily offended, going around her is more likely to cause offense than to work with her.

        Now if your answer to either of those questions is no, you should be careful in your communications with your boss. In either case, I recommend you avoid blindsiding her.

        1. Fortitude Jones*

          My concern is that if your boss is easily offended, going around her is more likely to cause offense than to work with her.

          This. I had a manager who was easily offended by everything, and when I applied for an internal promotion with another division behind her back and she found out, she was livid and tried to make the rest of my time in that department a living hell. (And when I applied previously to another opportunity within our division with her permission, she actually sabotaged me with the hiring manager and admitted it to my face, so either way, I was on her shit list.)

          1. AnnaBananna*

            How do people like this sleep at night? I just…I really don’t get people like this. People change jobs! Gr.

        2. OP #5*

          I would say decent on the rapport, but not really on the career-dev support, so yeah – I’d be in the position of not relishing that conversation, but you’re right, I’d be much wiser to tip her off.

          1. OP #5*

            And Fortitude Jones, yikes! I’m sorry that happened. I’m glad it sounds like either you got out or she left.

      2. RP*

        I work in Higher ed – anytime you apply for an internal search you should always assume your boss will know. It’s unfortunate but true. Best advice is to give a heads up and frame it the way you want. When ever your boss hears form someone else or is actually in the interview process – you don’t want it to be a surprise. I always like the “I am not engaged in an active search but I saw this great position [link]. I wanted to learn more about it and threw my name in the pool to investigate. When I return I would love to chat with you more about this position and other opportunities at our school for me to best use my skills.”

        Also, if you are offered an interview and it happens before your FLMA ends. Please consult with HR. Some HR offices are strict about not coming on campus for work related items – and an internal search may be categorized as a work meeting.

      3. Hi there*

        I don’t think you need to contact the chair of the search committee, any conflict is their problem to deal with. But since the community is so small, even if your boss is not on the committee, someone may ask your boss about you and your application. You’ll need to give your boss a heads-up about your application.

        Your college must move a lot faster than mine. At mine you’d be fine telling your boss 2-3 weeks after your application (= close to when you’d be back) since that is when they’d be taking their first good look at the pool.

      4. Annastasia von Beaverhausen*

        Honestly I did this exact thing when I was finishing my mat leave for my son. I am in Canada so the rules are different, but I knew I didn’t want to go back to my previous position and applied for a new one. Which I got, and I’m still at (although with a new promotion).

        The thought of being super stressed out at work with my new baby at home made me miserable and I couldn’t do it.

        I will say, for my University they good about managing things like this – my former unit wasn’t told I wasn’t returning until I told them myself.

        Also, I find the notion that it’s rude or unprofessional to take your full allotted leave and then not return to the job to be completely absurd; however, I think that’s a Canadian vs US thing. The leave is a requirement provided to you by your employer – you owe them nothing as far as returning to the job.

        1. Tora*

          This is interesting! Did you have a two week’s notice requirement that you had to navigate, or were you able to just start right away at the new position when your leave had ended?

        2. Mr. Tyzik*

          I jumped into a new role about a month, month and a half after coming back from maternity leave. I thought about it while out but set my worry aside for larger things. Upon returning I realized I was not fulfilled at work and burning out, and applied. My manager wasn’t happy and neither was my team but I honestly didn’t care. I was so over them.

          I wasn’t able to job search or interview because I couldn’t come on campus during leave. Definitely check out the rules of your FMLA leave to see if you have any restrictions.

      5. AnnaBananna*

        Also, do keep in mind that it’s totally not uncommon for ladies to change jobs shortly after maternity leave.

  3. Fortitude Jones*

    OP #4 – titles are tricky. I admit to having the same concern about my next job search (which is hopefully years from now) – I went from having the word “manager” in my title to not. Anyone who’s just glancing at job titles on my resume would definitely think I took a major step back; however, I think I’ve done a good job with my bullet points to show that my current achievements are way more high-level than they were at my last company. Our titles at my last company were seriously inflated (probably because they paid below market for the field, so they figured they’d give everyone fancy titles instead).

    Basically, OP, just make sure your achievements listed for your current role either showcase a lateral move or a higher level of responsibility and you should be fine.

    1. A Nony Governmental Organisation (ANGO)*

      The same thing happened to me. I went from being a “manager” (at a really small organisation, so the title was appropriate) to an “officer” at a bigger organisation. In the non-profit field, there isn’t a ton of standardization of titles. In my experience with US based NGOs, assistant, associate, and coordinator overlap quite a bit, as do coordinator, manager, and officer, and a manager at one place might be a director at another.

      Interestingly, in Europe I’ve seen some examples where “coordinator” was actually a uppder-mid-level or senior-level role (i.e. what most of us would think of as a manager or maybe even a director role). (I worked for a place like this, and it that case, a coordinator was almost a director, but they were in charge of a multi-functional area, rather than in charge of a department.) In that case, I think the title could cause some confusion, but hopefully one’s full resume would make it clear it was just a weird variations in titles.

      1. Vanilla Nice*

        Another vote here for not worrying about the title. A good resume will make clear what kind of job it was.

        The meanings of specific titles really do vary by organization. In my industry, “coordinator” usually indicates that someone has a specialized mid-level role that is not responsible for managing other employees. But at my last job, “coordinator” was the title used for what most organizations would call an administrative assistant. It’s confusing, but people figure it out.

        1. Jadelyn*

          Heck, even within an organization there can be weird title differences. We have an “admin coordinator” in one region, who is functional equivalent to “admin services associate” in another region, who is functional equivalent to “operations administrator” in a third region. And all of these are in the US, even, so it’s not international conventions differing. We’re just Like That about it.

        2. Kuddel Daddeldu*

          My first job title after graduation included “Manager” (and I did indeed supervise two technicians) at a small company. My second (at a multinational) included “Coordinator”, which actually was the second-in-command for the department. Later, all my job titles where some variation on “Consultant”; project manager or practice leader roles are not usually included in job titles in my industry.

      2. Edith*

        I was surprised at Alison’s comment that in nonprofits ‘coordinator’ conveys a junior ranking roughly on par with ‘assistant.’ I work in the nonprofit sector in the US and everywhere I’ve worked has used ‘coordinator’ as an equivalent rank to department head, the distinction being that the latter has subordinates.

        1. NL*

          Huh. I have 4 non-profit jobs under my belt and they all used coordinator as a junior or entry level job. All our coordinators were newbie grads.

          1. Edith*

            Honest question: What are they coordinating?

            Maybe my industry is an outlier, because in my experience ‘coordinator’ means you’re high enough up the totem pole to liaise with other departments, whereas entry-level staff are ‘assistants’ who pretty much stick to their home turf.

            1. NL*

              I’ve seen it used interchangeably for ‘assistant’. But sometimes they’re ‘coordinating’ the admin support for a team. It’ll be ‘media coordinator’ and they do the support for the media team. Etc..

            2. Seeking Second Childhood*

              I’ve also seen it used when someone’s coordinating the delivery schedule with vendors — making sure that everyone knows when the vendor needs the final PDFs to be able to meet a distribution deadline, for example, and arranging for delivery of final manuals to the factory so they can be shipped with product.

            3. Allypopx*

              I work in nonprofits and have also seen “coordinator” used pretty junior. At my current job the communications coordinator and me, the programming associate, are the more junior employees and on the same level.

              Worth noting this is a pretty small organization and if we brought on more employees me and my colleague would probably be more senior to “assistants” or “interns” but certainly not director level.

            4. OtterB*

              I’ve also seen it related to human subjects research – a “coordinator” works with the people volunteering for the research, manages paperwork, schedules appointments, etc.

            5. That Girl From Quinn's House*

              Yes, I worked in nonprofits. Coordinator was the first level of full-time supervisor in whatever department you were. So you’d have a Llama Coordinator (they supervise programs, manage staff, do scheduling, handle customers and paperwork) and a Llama Director (they handle hiring, HR stuff, payroll, etc.)

              1. JSQ*

                I work for the largest social services agency in my state, and our Coordinators are mid-management. They oversee teams of Specialists, Case Managers and Counselors.

          2. Banana Bread Breakfast*

            I work in a non profit and my immediate supervisor is a [mid-career] coordinator. But I’ve noticed no pattern in my career tbh, it totally depends on the organization

        2. Leek*

          I also work in non-profits in the US. I think it’s more common for coordinator to be a junior role, but you’re right that some non-profits use it differently. In the past 5 years, my job titles have gone from Adviser to Manager to Coordinator and now Officer. I’ve had the same concerns as OP4 about my resume– that someone will look at my job titles and think I’ve taken steps backwards, but once they read my list of accomplishments, it’s clear that each job has been a step up.

        3. CDM*

          At the nonprofit I worked for, (and I would expect it is the same at the other independent local orgs under the international umbrella org) coordinators are basically a team lead. They are part time hourly staff that work no more than 35 hours/week and have some responsibility for coordinating classes, client appointments, and schedules and work of the part time client-facing staff, (along with admin tasks) but have no real authority. I rolled my eyes, hard, every time I was told that as ‘management’ I needed to do x or y.

        4. Overeducated*

          This is my experience in government too, such that last time I was looking for jobs in the nonprofit sector I was really worried I’d be pegged as entry level and not mid-career.

        5. Choux*

          I am currently a coordinator with an agency that works with non-profits. I was promoted from an assistant. In my case, I “coordinate” projects – so I’m like a juior project manager, sort of. I oversee an assistant, but I’m not their boss in any way, shape or form.

        6. fhqwhgads*

          That is not consistent with my experience. At several places I’ve worked, “coordinator” is basically the lowest titles possible. Others didn’t have coordinators at all, but did have “assistant” and there that was the lowest possible title. I can think of one place where the coordinator was the “in-charge” person and did not indicate an entry-level role but that was also a department of one.
          But I’ve also seen posts on here saying basically what you are saying. Which I think just goes to enforce that OP4 should not be concerned that her resume will look like she’s going backwards because people with lots of experience, especially with different sized orgs, will know that the word might not mean the same thing at all organizations. Plus the bullets that accompany the job will make it clearer what it actually entailed.

        7. Jadelyn*

          The nonprofit I’m at uses “coordinator” as a junior title. It’s basically the level in between assistant and specialist.

      3. Smithy*

        I’ve always worked in nonprofits – and I do believe that it’s an industry with almost no standardization of titles after Executive Director. One place a Coordinator managed large teams of Specialists and other than the ED there were no Directors. My last organization Managers were senior to Officers, and where I am now Managers are far junior to Officers.

        With that in mind, I think it’s just more important to use your resume to indicate why a role was a growth role. Are you managing (more) people or projects than a previous role? Are budgets larger? What are clear markers of increased responsibility?

        1. Jadelyn*

          Heck, I’m not sure even ED is standard. The nonprofit I’m at has a CEO, a President, and a handful of EVPs and SVPs. No Directors, Executive or otherwise.

    2. OP#4*

      Thanks so much for your feedback! Many of my responsibilities in this new role are the same as my previous one. I’m just in a situation where I’m in a larger department with more support. I must say, it is wonderful having other team members to bounce ideas off of and share the workload with. I will take extra care to ensure that my resume reflects these positions accurately to avoid misconceptions.

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        Okay, so you took a lateral move to a bigger department. You now have to figure out how to word your resume bullets for this job in a way that makes that clear so your move doesn’t look like a downgrade.

        1. Psyche*

          You can also explain it in your cover letter. You could talk about how you switched to the new job to gain more experience in a large team.

        2. TootsNYC*

          you can also say you wanted a job with more collaboration and more support

          If someone said to me, “In my first job, it was a only me, and I realized that it wasn’t enough support and enough collaboration at that time in my career. So I sought out a job with much the same responsibilities but great opportunities for finding a mentor and building my skills while working with a larger team,” that would be a big positive.

          Then add something about “all the expertises and viewpoints I’ve picked up from my colleagues has really been a master class, and I’m much more confident and able to handle more autonomy,” and I’d be sold.

          1. OP#4*

            This is great advice! It is a great way of finding the silver lining in this situation. In all honesty, another big reason for the switch was my desire to find a skilled mentor. I didn’t want to start developing bad habits due to inexperience and learning by myself on the job so finding a mentor has been a huge help. I think it’s only going to help boost my skills and competence overall. Thanks for your insight!

      2. Smithy*

        In my experience in the nonprofit world, moving from smaller to larger organizations are often not viewed as strictly lateral.

        For communications, ways of framing this could reflect larger reach/more eye balls, an increased volume of activity, etc. Are there more teams you support internally? A greater diversity of messaging? More internal review processes to navigate? I think all of this can work to show increased experience and growth.

    3. Dan*

      In my field, titles are a joke. Each company uses a different name for a similar role.

      And the worst part? Entry level jobs often come with “senior” somewhere in the title. Granted, many jobs functionally require a graduate degree of some sort, but I still think it’s hilarious to hand out a “senior” title to someone fresh out of school.

    4. ellex42*

      I went from “Office Manager” at a business with less than 10 employees to a position without any managing in the title or the role (and frankly, I’m happy not to be doing any managing anymore) at an international business with thousands of employees. I did have a few interviewers ask about the difference last time I went job hunting, and took that as a sign that I needed to tweak my resume to make the situation clearer. Everyone has been very interested in the unusual array of duties that office manager position entailed, and no one has questioned the seeming step down I’ve taken since I adjusted my resume.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        I had a position with “manager” in the title and the only thing I managed other than my own work was making sure that others provided their contributions on time. And I know that title is why I didn’t get interviewed at my current company the first time I applied — the second time I applied, another member of the department was asked to do the initial interviews, and she understood the difference between people/department management and project management with no direct reports. After I got the job, she mentioned it to me. I’ve been here 20 years though so that particular title change won’t be an issue any longer.

    5. JustMyImagination*

      I went from having manager in my title to not after my company was bought by a larger organization. Though they waited a year to fit us into their corporate hierarchy. It definitely looked like a demotion on paper. Not sure if it was right but I put “new title (formerly old title at old company” as the headline for that job. I got a new job so it either worked or my current company didn’t care!

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        I probably would have written my resume the way you did, especially if your title was the only thing that changed and the job duties/accomplishments remained the same.

    6. NotAnotherManager!*

      I agree with this. I work in an industry where there is not a lot of standardization around job titles, so we borderline ignore them for the content. One of my former team members worked at a place whose titles were inverse of ours (entry level was something like analyst, secondary level was coordinator), so it looked like they moved into a lower job when really it was a lateral move with a small bump in responsibilities.

      Focus on your achievement bullets and contents. If it’s glaring, you can always address it in a cover letter, too.

    7. Turquoisecow*

      Yeah, I’m not in non profits, but titles in my industry aren’t standardized at all. I started out as a “specialist,” and then after a few years they changed my title to “clerk” (which one coworker saw as a demotion) as an excuse to lay off a few people claiming their jobs were eliminated. I was still doing the same work. Then I was “promoted” to coordinator, but although I was technically senior to the other clerks, I had no supervisory responsibilities and essentially did the same job I’d always done. Since the company was in a pay freeze at the time I think the promotion was partly an excuse to give me a raise.

      I later got shuffled into another department where people in my role changed titles three or four times, and then their role was mushed into mine, creating a new role with a title that no other companies were using. When job searching, none of us put that title on our resumes or LinkedIn profiles because it didn’t accurately describe what we did.

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        My current title doesn’t accurately reflect what I do, either, so I’m going to discuss a change with grandboss soon. Thinking ahead for my next job search (which is hopefully years from now), I want to have something on my resume that actually shows my career progression and accurately depicts my contributions to my department.

  4. Lusankya*

    OP#3 you should also consider the size of the two organisations you worked with. Communications Manager for a small 5 person
    company will be a far different and likely less skilled position than Communications Assistant in a 500 person company.

    1. Fortitude Jones*

      Yes – size does matter in this case. My last company was much smaller than my current one and I had a way better sounding title at the smaller company while making way more money at the current one with a lesser title/higher level work.

      1. OP#4*

        Good to know! In my case, the new organization is of a similar size as the previous one. From what I’ve heard, larger organizations can be the opposite re: skill level and responsibilities. I know this isn’t always the case, but it seems that larger organizations often have greater capacity and are less likely to have single-person departments. This results in a more even distribution of workload and responsibilities. This is pure conjecture and I could be totally wrong in my assumption about large organizations, but that’s always been my impression. I guess I’m just the kind of person who likes being part of a team of other comms folks to bounce ideas off of. This former “lone wolf” is happy to have found a pack. :)

        1. Lusankya*

          A larger department doesn’t mean a lower skill level.

          Yes, if you’re a single person department, you have to wear a lot of hats, but in a larger department, you can go a lot more in depth in the work you’re actually doing.

          It also opens you up to a lot more expertise in how systems work, and best practices and regulatory compliance that you might not run into when you’re running everything yourself.

          1. A Nony Governmental Organisation (ANGO)*

            This was my experience as well. As far as organisational size, I went from small-ish to tiny (2.5 FTE) to medium, to large.

            At the tiny organisation, I had a super broad role, with responsibility for project management, communications, and overall financial management + a variety of miscellaneous other things. During the first year, it was a great learning experience! I’m definitely grateful for that exposure to other functions. But I never was able to learn anything deeply, and after 12 months I felt really stagnant. I could only learn what I could teach myself or learn from free trainings. If I tried to focus on improving one thing, I would drop balls in the other functions I covered. The lack of depth became really apparent when I became an officer at a medium-sized organisation. Despite what I thought was a pretty good financial background, I was completely lost by the new organisation’s much more complicated system. Fortunately, I had a more specialized role so I didn’t have to deal with it too much.

            1. Brave Little Toaster*

              I’m finally realizing this and applying to positions in bigger orgs. I was getting down on myself for not having enough initiative and follow-through to learn new things, but then I realized, as you said, I literally have to teach it to myself or learn from free trainings. Your comment is a great summary and something I wish I had learned a bit sooner. Oh, well.

          2. Fortitude Jones*

            This is my experience as well. My last company had one person doing our marketing – my current company’s marketing department is huge and is split by product (and then there’s the general corporate marketing folks). Old company’s marketing person was a jack of all trades, master of none. This person was pulled in so many directions and juggled so many responsibilities that they weren’t really able to go too in depth with anything they were assigned while at my new company, our marketing people on the separate product teams are subject matter experts.

          3. Allypopx*

            100% this. It’s being able to do a lot of things very well vs. specializing – both are good! Both can be framed in a way that benefits you. But neither is automatically inferior and it’s gonna be all about that framing.

            1. OP#4*

              In the nonprofit world, communications can include everything under the sun. Because of this, I now have a very broad skill set in writing, media relations, advertising, graphic design, photography, videography, web development, social marketing, email marketing…the list goes on and on. While I love having a diverse skill set and doing something new each day, I never truly get to “dig in” to a specific area.

              I have friends who do communications for large organizations and their departments are extremely specialized. For example, one friend works for an org with an entire department dedicated to graphic design. It’s nice for the comms group because it frees them up to go deep into comms planning.

              I’m still figuring out my career goals and whether I envision myself as a specialist or a competent generalist.

  5. Rich*

    OP#3, Peer interviews are very common in my field (technology work) where competence can be harder for less technical managers to assess. In my experience, these are golden opportunities to learn about the organization. Peers generally have direct experience of the job, work environment, and life under the manager you’re interviewing to move into. Take advantage of that!

    I always ask questions about “day in the life”, manager’s management style, their take on the company culture (more how they’d describe it than how much the like it), what parts of the job are most challenging, what does the manager do to make sure they have the resources they need to handle those challenges. You could go on and on, but as long as you go in with a plan for what you want to ask, you’ll gain valuable info.

    It’s also important to be sure you set up your opportunity to ask questions. Some peer interviewers are less experienced and may not plan to leave time for your questions. Slipping “I hope we can keep 5-10 minutes at the end free so I can ask you some questions about Amalgamated Teapots” into your opening conversation will make sure you don’t miss your shot.

    And don’t be shy about this. You’re asking your peer interviewers about themselves, their work, and their accomplishments. People (generally) like to talk about themselves. As long as you do it in a positive and friendly way, it should reflect well on you that you cared enough about the organization and the team to ask.

    1. Carolyn Keene*

      And I’ve had peer interviews in my field – education. For both my current and previous job, my formal interview was with a panel of teachers as well as a high-level admin. And, I agree it was really helpful to ask those peers my questions about the school culture and community. I could see shared facial expressions and body language that backed up the positive things they were saying (and I did find to be true).

    2. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

      In my field (Software Engineering) peer interviews are a golden opportunity to assess your potential teammates and viceversa. The only time I took part in one I found out the candidate met our technical requirements but was a bad fit for the team.

    3. Anononon*

      I’m not sure how common it is in my larger field (law), but at my firm the second round interview for attorneys is always one where they get as many of us associates as possible in a conference room (maybe about 7) to meet the candidate. We’re a high volume, sometimes high stress place, so we want someone who will mesh well with our team. We also get to tell the candidates what to expect, what working here is like. Mostly, we like people who are engaged with us and ask good questions.

    4. nonymous*

      I’ve had some peer interviews where the person had only been there 6 months. And I’ve had the chance to pick the brains of a few people who were tasked with being that interviewer in social settings (also fairly new to their orgs).

      In both those situations, it was pretty clear the peer interviewer was not open to different approaches than what they had been taught, down to the formatting. I laugh at this because when I started grad school years ago I audited the online materials for the java programming course that my alma mater taught to brush up on skills before taking the same course at my new institution. Within the first couple weeks there were cases at the new institution where they specifically highlighted the practice taught at my undergrad school as Bad.Programming.

      A couple months ago I had one case where the answer that the peer was looking for was a position that was in direct conflict with the 2016 recommendations by the relevant professional society, as an absolutist viewpoint. Even though I referenced that guidance in my response to him and briefly highlighted the talking points with examples comparing historical practice with recommendations and some commentary about how the shift will take time to percolate through industry (this is a topic of great interest in my current workplace). So it’s not like I was coming from the position that I didn’t understand how to use the old method, or that I expected a full switch today. The feedback that was passed back via recruiter was “doesn’t know how to calculate Value”. I was pretty surprised when I saw that, b/c I literally broke down a bunch of was to calculate that value and the benefits of different approaches, with literature justification – he was just looking for someone who’s definition was as narrow as what he used daily.

    5. OtterB*

      In our small not-for-profit association, the hiring manager does phone screens and selects 2-3 candidates for in-person interviews that last most of the day. The interviewee spends a block of time with the hiring manager (and sometimes others on that team), with our Executive Director (who also serves the HR role of talking about benefits, etc.), and then with a series of peer interviews. There are usually 2-4 “peers” at a time depending on who’s in the office; we talk a little about our role in the organization, how our function would interact with the new hire (if we would), ask questions about the skills/attitude necessary for the job, and answer any questions the interviewee has about the organization. The decision rests with the hiring manager and the executive director, but everyone provides brief feedback. It’s a lot of people for the interviewee to talk to, but it works pretty well for us. And we did have a candidate some years ago who was great on paper and favorably impressed several people in person with their expertise in the critical function of the job, but was knocked out of the running by a condescending attitude toward being interviewed by some of the support staff.

    6. NotAnotherManager!*

      This sums up why I coordinate peer interviews. It’s a great chance for someone to talk to someone who’s already in the job to get a an on-the-ground view of the job.

      My understanding from my peer interviewers is that they tend to talk about what they do on a daily basis, what they like/what they don’t, what their onboarding/training experience has been like, and what the people and culture are like. We do ask them to ask if the interviewee has any questions but also to feel free to send questions about benefits, compensation, or anything out of their depth to us for follow-up.

      Generally, feedback on peer interviewing has been positive on both sides, and I do give the people who volunteer to do it credit on their annual reviews.

    7. Librarianne*

      In my field (higher ed/libraries), I find the peer interview to be the most useful part of the interview process. Are my future colleagues friendly, enthusiastic, and looking towards the future? Or are they hostile to newcomers, unwilling to consider new ideas, and focused on how things “used to be”? I usually have little contact with my supervisor on a daily basis, so how well I mesh with my coworkers is extremely important to how happy and successful I’ll be in a new job.

    8. IV*

      I’m also in tech and I wouldn’t want to work for a company that didn’t put me through some peer interviews (and subordinate interviews too!). Why? Because once I work there, I want to have some say in who I have to work with going forward. Turn it around in your mind and you can see the benefits. Do you want your boss having sole say as to who ends up on your team with you? Or do you want to be able to contribute an opinion to who you’ll have to work with? We not only do LOTs of peer interviews with lots of people, we also look for consensus on who to hire. If someone on the team feels strongly that they are a bad fit, then we pass. If HR sees a red flag, we pass (we have great HR who we trust). I famously had six interviews for a position that had been actively recruited for 8 months (and have been here 7 years and couldn’t be happier).

  6. jsv*

    OP #1–My senior year of high school I had a constantly runny nose (I had an elementary school aged brother, so someone in my family was always sick). I also happened to sit next to a girl in multiple classes who could not stand the sound of sniffling. When I was in class with her every few minutes she would lean over to me and rudely say “just blow your nose!” I did blow my nose frequently and I tried to be considerate about sniffling, but at a certain point when you have a runny nose you have to sniffle. Eventually, I was reading the school’s newspaper when I noticed an anonymous letter that was obviously from this girl. She wrote that she had misophonia and that she sat next to a student who was constantly sniffling (me), and that she absolutely hated sitting next to that student (me) and was looking for advice to politely get away from that student (me). No one but me and knew who the letter was about, but I still felt absolutely humiliated by it and was really uncomfortable and scared to be around her for the rest of the year. I realize now that misophonia is an actual medical condition and that the response is completely involuntary, but that doesn’t change how completely hated and scared to exist I felt around her. Anyway, I have a lot of sympathy for you OP. Being constantly afraid of making any sounds while eating sounds awful and I hope you find a solution that works better for everyone.

    1. Zombie Unicorn*

      Well, the response isn’t entirely involuntary – she didn’t have to be mean or write a nasty letter. I’m sorry you went through that.

      1. Baru Cormorant*

        Agreed, that is really awful. You should have written a response in the newspaper about how awful it felt to be sick all the time, and then to know that the person sitting next you loathes you enough to broadcast it to everyone…

        1. jsv*

          Just to be clear, she did not mention me by name. I figured out it was about me due to the details. I don’t think she did anything wrong by writing to the advice column as she did legitimately did want advice, but having the confirmation that the person that I had to sit next to hours everyday actually did hate me was pretty hurtful.

          1. ChimericalOne*

            If it’s any consolation (years after the fact), hating sitting next to someone is not the same as hating them, although knowing that a mostly-involuntary behavior is spurring such negative feelings in another person is going to have an effect on anyone. (If she’d actually hated you & not just hated having to hear that sound, I don’t think she’d have been looking for a “polite” way to handle it.)
            Sorry you had such an unpleasant experience!

          2. tamarack & fireweed*

            Well, frankly, sitting next to a student who makes a noise that is acutely unpleasant to you *is* an easily solvable problem, and it’s a pity neither the girl nor you were provided with the tools of resolving the situation, by moving you apart.

      2. Jax*

        Right, and here we are responding to a letter written to a national column after the OP already made clear to management her position against this coworker.

        There’s going overboard, like here. (I think the correct response is actually not to focus on the employee but to have a designated company space/lunchroom for people to eat.)

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          OP specifically mentions lunchtime teleconferences. It would be horrid to take a conference call in the lunchroom.

          1. Jax*

            What I meant is that there does not seem to be a designated break room/lunch room — the OP says it can be hard for people eating at their desks to find an open meeting room to eat in so as not to upset her. And that if this is true, it might give some context to why management jumps to accommodate her beyond reason otherwise. Because while any given employee might only occasionally eat at his or her desk, collectively, without any designated break room, it’s probably in reality everyday and almost nonstop eating at desks (and management is hyper alert about this fact and overcompensates).

            The teleconference room thing wasn’t might focus, sorry! But yes I think all of it is too much.

          2. Jamie*

            As someone who has had to listen to people eat while on conference calls, that’s also gross.

            (disclaimer – I acknowledge my severe misophonia and that it’s my problem not my co-workers, but even without that factor I still think it’s rude to work through a bag of chips while on a conference call with a captive audience.)

                1. Triumphant Fox*

                  But you’re the one saying it’s an issue? The fact that people eat over lunch teleconferences isn’t really the point here. Whether or not people are muting their crunchy chip-eating noises is pretty far from the LW’s issue.

                2. Drew*

                  @Triumphant Fox: Please don’t nitpick word choices here. In context, it’s clear that Jamie objects to hearing people eating on a call, not merely the fact of their doing it.

                3. A*

                  Anytime this comes up, we handle it the same as any other background noise (babies crying, airport noises, office chatter etc.). Someone will briefly interrupt and say “hey, there’s some background noises coming through – can everyone please double check that they are on mute when they aren’t speaking?”

                  Easy peasy. There’s only been 2-3 times where it’s continued, but never after a second ‘call out’.

              1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

                Second this. My workplace spans several time zones, and so lunchtime meetings happen all the time. We have designated brownbag-lunch phone sessions too. Everyone uses the mute button.

              2. The Original K.*

                Yep, I’ve had a number of noon teleconferences. The organizers will often preemptively say that they know it’s lunchtime so eating is expected, so please don’t forget to mute.

              3. Pennalynn Lott*

                We use Zoom in my company and you can see who is making noise through either the “participant” window, which shows microphone status (and level of volume coming through the microphone; or through using the “Speaker View” option that highlights the screen of the person making noise, even if their camera is turned off. Then it’s just a matter of messaging the offenders and asking them to mute their microphones.

            1. Just Elle*

              Have they… never heard of the mute button?? I agree that eating into a headset is so much grosser than eating sounds in person. I shamelessly call people out and tell them to go on mute.

              1. Quill*

                Heck, I have to sit in on calls all the time, I have my phone on mute just in case I sneeze near the headset.

                1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

                  I have the habit of muting my phone so deeply ingrained that I sometimes make a personal call from my phone and briefly wonder why the other side is going “Hello? Hello?” then I realize that I muted myself as soon as I dialed the number.

              2. Lana Kane*

                I call in to a monthly meeting with dozens of other participants who are also calling in remotely (just to listen in, not to speak). The meeting is about 2 hours long, and for about the first hour they have to remind people several times to mute their phones. These people call in every month, and yet it’s ALWAYS a friggin issue.

                1. Just Here for the Free Lunch*

                  Are we in the same meeting? Every. single. month. Multiple requests for people to mute, or not put their line on Hold, or not to hold impromptu meetings in their offices…

                2. Kat in VA*

                  The husband has a peer who is inevitably late to the Monday morning standup call, and so calls in from her car (or her house before she leaves, if she’s really late).

                  Snarking at her kid to hurry up, goodbyes to the husband, slamming doors, revving engine, dings of various car alerts, rustling in the purse, and finally the inexorable tinka-tinka-tinka of her turn signal are all transmitted via speakerphone. I’ve heard all of these for myself on the rare occasion he works from home.

                  She never mutes herself and inexplicably, no one ever TELLS her to mute herself.

                3. Canadian Public Servant*

                  Our conference phone system has the wonderful feature that the moderator can mute everyone’s line with a “**”. I use it on large calls, and just remind people they’ll need to unmute to talk. Lifesaver!!!!

            2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

              I don’t even have misophonia and crunching chips or an apple without using mute is gross and rude, wtf.

              However if they’re a desk away reading reports before a meeting, then crunch away, I’m not your captive audience then and can move or pop in earbuds or whatever.

            3. Blunt Bunny*

              We use the mute button just so we don’t here people’s breathing. Just politely ask who ever is making noise to please mute their microphone. Problem solved.

      3. Marketing Queen*

        You’re right, the letter was unnecessary (chalk that up to her being a teenager and not having the experience or skills to effectively cope with her condition). But, the response to trigger sounds is NOT voluntary. When someone with misophonia hears a trigger noise, we suffer a neurological “fight or flight” response – usually instant rage, anxiety, panic attacks, and the like. There is no official medical diagnosis for misophonia (yet – research is ongoing), which is possibly why OP #1’s coworker hasn’t mentioned it to her doctor (but she should, if only so she can work with them and the company on the process of getting appropriate accommodations).

        If you think it’s bad being hated by or being scared of someone with misophonia, think about how difficult it is to live with this condition. It sucks. We know these sounds should only be mildly irritating and not cause rage and panic attacks and crying fits, but we literally can’t help it. Most of us do live our lives in ear plugs, headphones, etc. Which, let me tell you, is not comfortable. So basically, constant pain on top of the near-constant anxiety that comes with triggers. If you don’t have it, you can’t possibly understand. Would you tell someone with depression to just “cheer up”? No. Because it’s a neurological condition and they can’t help it. Misophonia is the same. We can’t just “tune it out” or “ignore it” or “get over it.” Trust me, we’d love to.

        Also, to OP #1: Exposure therapy has proved counterproductive to misophonia. It actually makes it worse. Please don’t offer solutions about a condition you know nothing about.

        If you are interested in learning more, along with the links Allison provided, there’s an excellent documentary about misophonia available on Amazon Prime Video (and other places) called “Quiet Please.”

        1. CorporateSlave*

          Amen, hallelujah, I’m not alone. This condition is torture. And it’s not just crunching/eating sounds – everyone with misophonia has their own set of trigger stimuli. I realize that most of the world thinks we’re just picky prima donas, which makes it even worse. Who wants to be the pariah of the office? Not me. I’m an otherwise happy, social being, and it’s hard to live with.
          It’s a condition that we can’t even really talk about yet, because no one but fellow sufferers seems to understand it or have compassion for it.

        2. A*

          The response to trigger is not voluntary, but the reaction is. I don’t doubt the ‘flight or fight’ instinct, but I do doubt that it renders the individual incapable of controlling their actions. They are accountable for their behavior and responses to those around them the same as anyone else dealing with various conditions/diagnosis etc.

          It is a choice to express the response to the trigger in a manner that impacts those around them. I’m not saying it’s right or wrong – just that the individual is still responsible for their resulting actions.

          I’m sorry you have to deal with this, and I hope that people become more aware of misophonia!

          1. Jadelyn*


            I have…well, several things, but let’s focus on the anxiety and PTSD for the moment. It’s better than it used to be, but when I started this job loud sounds in another room were a huge trigger for me (childhood trauma, yay), and my office was right down the hall from the break room. Potluck days were torture – the break room was always full of people and they’d get pretty loud, on and off all day. As soon as the noise hit That Level, I would start to freak out. Heart pounding, hyperventilating, hunched over at my desk like I was trying to hide, trying not to cry. It was Bad.

            It did not, however, actually *force* me to get up and go yell at the people in the break room to be quiet, or to complain to my manager about it, or anything else. I had to learn to manage it on my own – get up and go for a quick walk around the block, put my headphones on, find an excuse to pop across the hall and go talk to someone for a minute, whatever. My anxiety reaction to the trigger sound was involuntary. How I handled that reaction was not. That was entirely within my control. It wasn’t always *easy* to control my responses, and I’m not trying to say it should be for OP’s coworker or anyone else. But the fact remains that while the physiological reaction to a trigger is not something a person can control, their actions in response to that trigger are still their responsibility.

            1. Zephyrus*

              Beautifully said. I have some issues of my own that can make things difficult for other people unnecessarily. I don’t expect the world to accommodate my every whim, and when I DO wish for accommodation, I don’t request it AGGRESSIVELY. More flies with honey than vinegar and all that.

              Lately, I’ve seen people attack “civility” as ” tone policing”. Funny thing is, their tone policing arguments only go one way. If I started yelling at THEM the way they were yelling at ME, I couldn’t claim tone policing as I’d be accused of mocking them. Suddenly I’D become the bad guy for yelling.

        3. wb*

          I mean, if the depressed person was undiagnosed, and instead of getting treatment expected the entire office to cheer them up… yeah, I’d just say cheer up. And I’m saying this as someone with depression who has been told to just cheer up and a stutter who has been told just relax. I’m not judging the coworker because her condition is inconvenient to her coworkers, i’m judging her because she’s expecting the rest of the world to manage it for her. And being a dick about it. The sense of entitlement there must be overpowering.

          But really, their management sucks. Banning the whole office from eating at their desks, a completely reasonable and normal activity, for the sake of one person is not a reasonable accommodation. Giving her her own office where she can put a door and her coworkers when sounds bother her is a reasonable accommodation. I guess its easier to just enact a stupid policy than it is to give someone an office.

    2. Budgie Buddy*

      Ouch, yeah that must have been hard on her too. Even without the misophonia being forced to sit next to an icky body sound for hours each day and not being allowed to move would suck pretty bad. Of course, no one wants to be the sniffler either.

      1. EventPlannerGal*

        I think it’s interesting that that’s what you took from this comment. I think maybe the point was more that it is possible for someone to simultaneously have a legitimate medical condition and also be unreasonable or cruel to others in how they deal with it. Listening to chewing or sniffling is obviously distressing for those who suffer from misophonia, but it is also distressing to be prevented from eating or humiliated in a school newspaper.

        I also think it’s a little unkind to read this comment about jsv’s upsetting experience and respond about how horrible their “icky body sounds” must have been, but ymmv.

        1. Baru Cormorant*

          Seconded. She may have been suffering but she didn’t need to do something as cruel as humiliate them passive-aggressively in front of everyone. Misophonia is her ailment but that shows her character.

        2. Cranky Neighbot*


          It’s an odd takeaway, and it’s not really acceptable to (publicly) label someone as icky, aggravating, etc. just for being present and doing normal things.

          In high school, I had a classmate who did not like my leg braces, awkward walking, or limited range of movement. Our assigned seats were side-by-side. She was so offended by my simple presence and it absolutely sucked.

          If someone acted like that in a workplace as an adult, whether about leg braces or eating a snack or something else… Yikes. I wouldn’t really put up with it indefinitely.

        3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          +100. We’ve all either done, or witnessed our friends do, socially tone-deaf things as teenagers, because teenagers, but jsv’s story still made me gasp, because even for teenage behavior, it stands out.

          It’s not like jsv could skip school any day she had the sniffles. The classmate did something absolutely horrendous to her because of her not being able to accommodate an utterly unreasonable request (not sniffle when you have the sniffles).

          Personally the sounds of continuous sniffling and coughing are my migraine triggers, so it’s not like I would enjoy being in that classmate’s spot, but come on, newsletter?!

          1. Quill*

            Step 1: ask for your assigned seat to be changed because you are highly distracted by classmate’s human noises due to medical condition.

            Step 2: If the teacher won’t accommodate, publicly shame THEM, not the person who just has conflicting medical needs.

        4. Irinam*

          It is not obvious from the comment that the news letter was about a specific person. Not that it wouldn’t have been something difficult for them to go through. But to the person with the condition you say was medically legitimate. It was not a ‘condition’ being talked about for a long time. So that teenager was dealing with it without any help, would not have been welcomed if they went to their teacher necessarily, and if they live in certain areas, it is not still a ‘condition’.

              1. EventPlannerGal*

                Again, I still do not understand your point. Replace “legitimate medical condition” with “real problem” or “genuine issue” if you like. The point I’m making is that having a problem/issue/condition/etc, medical or otherwise, does not entitle you to behave cruelly or unreasonably in how you deal with it. Is that what you’re disagreeing with?

    3. Working in J-land*

      Oh god, that reminds me of my childhood friend’s boyfriend who went to our high school with us. Apparently his only memory of me he could bring up when we met again 5 years after graduating was that we sat next to each other during the ACT and I sniffled a memorable amount. Of course, I didn’t remember but was horrified that THAT was what he remembered about me. Perception is totally out of our control, which is slightly terrifying when you know a coworker might explode on you, and completely mortifying when you find out what file you’re saved under in a person’s brain.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        When I took the SAT’s, somebody in the back of the room sniffed like every five seconds throughout the entire test. I’m on the autism spectrum and one of my major irritators is repetitive noises. That person is lucky to be alive.

        I think that the coworker in this letter is out of line and management is mishandling this completely, but I also don’t want people to underestimate the level of stress noises like this cause those of us who are sensitive to them.

        1. ChimericalOne*

          Same. And repetitive movements, sometimes, too — I was recently at a lecture where someone in my field of vision was standing off to the side doing small exercise motions (cross-stepping, marching in place, etc.) and it was so massively stressful after a while that I ended up simply closing my eyes for most of the remainder of the lecture. I can feel my heart rate shoot up just remembering it.

        2. Marketing Queen*

          “I also don’t want people to underestimate the level of stress noises like this cause those of us who are sensitive to them.”
          This is exactly the point I was trying to make. Yes, we can control our reactions – to an extent. But so much of the stress is immediate and involuntary (think screaming if you see a bug), and most people who aren’t sensitive just don’t get it.
          But the coworker really needs to work with HR on proper accommodation.

    4. Aquawoman*

      When I took the bar exam, I was sitting next to a guy wearing cologne, which made me sniffle. During one of the breaks, he told me he was moving seats because my sniffling was distracting him! I don’t know why he felt he needed to share that as opposed to just going, but in my case, it was a win-win, because my sniffling was distracting me, and he removed the cause.

      1. C Average*

        He was the rude one! Who wears cologne to a testing facility?

        Sartre was spot on: hell is other people.

        1. softcastle*

          God, I have no idea, but maybe we could ask all the folks who douse it on before rush hour on public transit and we could get a good pool of information.

      2. Not One of the Bronte Sisters*

        When a student of mine took the LSAT, she sat next to a girl whose stomach made loud rumbling noises throughout the entire test. Apparently this girl had just started the Atkins diet the day before.

    5. aett*

      A few years back I had a really bad lingering cough and I could tell it was bothering the coworker whose cubicle was next to mine. One day she was passing by my cubicle as I was coughing and she made a passive-aggressive sort of comment like “hoo boy, that’s a lot of coughing” and I was feeling miserable enough to respond (maybe a little too harshly) with “Yeah, but as bad as it is to hear it, it feels a lot worse to actually do it.” Fortunately, she was nice enough to realize that maybe complaining about it wasn’t helping my situation.

      1. BadWolf*

        I know the comment feels harsh when you’re already well aware of it, but I’ve also encountered my share of people who’ve become relatively oblivious to it or similar things. And many people on this site comment, “No one has said anything so it seems fine.” It’s a bit of a no-win.

        I had a coworker who was singing along to his headphones. I made a karaoke joke to one day and apparently he didn’t realize he was singing audibly (?!?!?). From then one, when it got annoying, I could tell him “Hey, singing out loud again” and he’d stop and things were fine. But it was a good lesson in sometimes people don’t even realize what they’re doing, much less doing annoying things on purpose.

        1. only acting normal*

          I had a coworker who was sniffing rather than blowing their nose because they thought the loud blow would be more disruptive than the quieter sniffing. Until rest of us who sit in earshot said (nicely) to please blow as loudly as you need to – it’s way better than the sniffing. Words used, problem sorted, no-one offended. Win!

        2. TootsNYC*

          I have a chronic cough and was just dealing with it, and it had gotten so that I almost didn’t really pay attention. A colleague said something about seeing a doctor, and I realized I probably should.

          Saying something is OK–but be nice about it!

        3. Pennalynn Lott*

          I used to have a tendency to mindlessly suck air in and out through my teeth, like “silent” whistling. It was really annoying to my coworker on the other side of my cube wall. He was kind enough to tease me about it one day (we had that kind of relationship) and I begged him to lob rubber bands or paper wads at me whenever I did it; he happily obliged. I eventually broke the habit, thanks to him. Because, I kid you not, the rubber bands and paper wads were a complete surprise the first few dozen times; I had that little awareness of what I was doing.

        4. Curmudgeon in California*

          My boss does this – singing along with the music on his headphones (off key). Fortunately, I don’t have perfect pitch, so it’s not too irritating. I usually just smile – it means he’s happily in “the zone” coding. If it irritates me, I just stick my headphones on and play my music.

          But the whole problem with other people eating at their desks is a direct product of cubicle environments, and made worse by open plan offices where everyone can see and head everything that their cellmates do. For people with auditory related conditions, these places are hell.

    6. Kimberly*

      My 3rd grade teacher punished me by taking away recess (actually a reward in my case because I was sent to the library), and isolating me in the room (Hey at least bully wasn’t sitting next to me beating me up in class) for – sniffling and breathing too loud. Normal people call this wheezing, a symptom of severe allergies and asthma. The bullies had a ball that year. They tried it in 4th grade – and after Mrs. P picked her jaw up she chewed them up one side and down the other.

      4 years later I was getting help for some gross and fine motor skill problems. The docs asked for copies of my educational and medical records. The 3rd-grade teacher was so sure she was right and I was a brat that she had actually documented her treatment of me. (also things like always sitting me near the bullies so I would learn to be normal, and physically pinning my right arm back so I would only write with my left. )This was brought to the attention of the school. They went through other students’ records – and found other cases of the same type of abuse. It was near the end of the school year, so they fired her by non-renewing her contract. (This is Texas teachers have to have their contracts renewed every year. There is no tenure, no collective bargaining, no Union)

    7. Laoise*

      Breathing is significantly less voluntary than writing a nasty anonymous letter instead of privately speaking to a teacher for advice.

  7. Miranda Priestly's Assistant*

    #2 – I’m honestly not above lying, and am prepared to do it when I quit. I’ve actually had previous coworkers tell my managers that they were just following their spouses/fiance/partner to X state and would figure something out after they moved, as a way to avoid telling them their new workplace. Of course, don’t update your LinkedIn or anything at least a year after you move.

    1. MK*

      It’s not that lying is morally objectionable in this context, it’s that it is usually unnecessary and it could lead to even bigger drama if you are found out. A vague but technically true answer is best. Also, ymmv, but I would prefer a couple of weeks of overbearing behaviour vs. having to hide my employment status for a year.

      1. mark132*

        +1, The logistics around lying are often forgotten by people. It takes a LOT of time to maintain a lie. And they can easily come back to haunt you. Telling truth or telling people it’s none of their business usually is safer and easier.

      2. Gumby*

        Yeah, “I’m taking a little time off and then will see what is out there” basically means “I’m taking anywhere from one weekend to 2 weeks off and will then be working for your direct competitor whose job offer I have already accepted” around these parts. But then, we are generally well-socialized enough not to push for a more exact answer and savvy enough to expect the inevitable LinkedIn update to said competitor (we mainly have one in this area) at some future point.

    2. Antilles*

      I still don’t see why you’d want to flat out lie though.
      The only reason why you wouldn’t say where you’re going is if the asker is weird about these kind of things…but those are *exactly* the kind of people who would take it as a huge personal affront if your story about ‘following my spouse to Alaska’ is made-up.
      Just go with a generic “haven’t decided yet” phrasing like Alison suggests and stick with that.

      1. ACDC*

        I agree with Antilles. Not updating your LinkedIn for a whole year just to keep an affront that you followed a partner to another state is absurd. Not to sound like a Hallmark card, but the truth is always the best option.

        1. YoungTen*

          Agreed, stating the truth, in this case, can be like stating a color like blue. You can say something is blue without going into the exact shade like “sky”, “royal” or “baby”. Its the same with this situation, “I’m leaving and still working out the details”. It’s the truth just without all the details. And in a situation like this, the more a person pushes for details, the more they’re character is being revealed

      2. Working Mom Having It All*

        I would definitely lie in the sense that “I don’t have everything sorted out quite yet” when you’re leaving because you got another job elsewhere is technically a little white lie. Or another small lie that doesn’t entail hiding important life details for a long time. “I’m still have some decisions to make.” “I haven’t given any thought to what my next move should be.” etc.

        I was asked why I’m leaving by someone who both has standing to make my life harder during my transition and who also is not well liked, and isn’t in a position where they have any real influence over my career going forward. Instead of saying “I got a way better job at a way better company, working on a product that is infinity times better than the crap we do here, for more money, and I did it because you, yourself, recently screwed over a colleague of mine who was loyal to the company for years, and then he recruited me away after several people advised me to start searching” I fibbed and said that it was due to the new job having a shorter commute. Nothing I’m going to have to lie about on LinkedIn for a year, but it was definitely a little white lie to make the conversation go more smoothly.

    3. AM*

      I don’t say where I’m going anymore. I once had a manager at Old Job call my manager at New Job and request my start date be pushed out several months to accommodate a busy time at Old Job. I don’t care if my coworkers think it’s rude or weird I won’t say where I’m going after I give notice.

      1. Triumphant Fox*

        You certainly don’t have to, but you also don’t have to lie. Saying that you aren’t announcing it yet, are waiting for things to settle, etc. is totally valid. I see it kind of like not announcing your choice of baby name – no need for other people’s opinions and influence to ruin it for you.

      2. Miranda Priestly's Assistant*

        This is my intention for not disclosing exactly where I’m going. I agree with other people’s logical answers of giving vague-but-true answers, but I’m definitely not naming my new employer – and if I were badgered to a certain extent, I would rather lie than confront them with the truth. Also, the reason for some of my former coworkers lying is that they left to work for a competitor. One person got found out at the manager literally shouted angrily at her for it. My fear is they will also try to sabotage the new hiring arrangement. (FTR – my non-competitive clause does not forbid us from working for competitors, but you still don’t want to advertise this.)

    4. Dr. Pepper*

      Agreed. I always start off with vague answers like Alison’s examples, and follow up with “why do you need to know?” if people get weirdly pushy on topics I’m not ready/willing to talk about. However, sometimes it is easier to make up a simple lie because some people do not accept vague answers and will harass you until you give them *something*. When that person is your boss or otherwise in authority, shutting them down sometimes isn’t an option so if vague doesn’t work, I’d totally go ahead and make up a lie. I wouldn’t go there first, but I’m not above it either. Reasons are for reasonable people and the truth is also for reasonable people.

    5. Dagny*

      Eh, I would go with “I accepted a new role that is a great opportunity for me.” If pressed for specifics, say, very calmly, that what you deem to be a “great opportunity” is personal to you and not a subject for debate.

      She’s trying to start a debate, and she won’t stop until she’s told it’s not a subject for debate. That’s how these people operate.

  8. RUKiddingMe*

    Growing up we couldn’t eat *anything* crunchy around my mom. Chips, apples…nothing. She’s been dead 11 years and I still eat chips slowly and quietly (it’s an acquired skill).

    OP your coworker is not your mom.

    1. MommyMD*

      Right. Your mom you have no choice but to tolerate as a kid. This coworker is entitled and expects everyone to do her bidding. That’s not how the world works.

      1. RUKiddingMe*

        Exactly. My mom could be .. entitled (?) … even with friends/coworkers, but AFAIK she never pulled any prima donna crap at work.

        And that’s what this really is. I get that it’s a legit thing. I get that it’s ok to ask others to be considerate…and that we should all try to think of others, blah, blah, blah. But OP’s coworker isn’t doing her part of the “think of others” contract.

        She is expecting all and sundry to capitulate instead of taking *any* steps to handle her thing. Like you said, that’s not how the world works.

        Coworker’s, and by extension management’s requirements that everyone else make adjustments is unreasonable. Even my mom was unreasonable, but it was her house, her kids, her rules.

        Things seem skew more democratic/participatory these days but back in the 70s, in most families, no matter how “everyone gets to have an opinion” they were, were still essentially dictatorships with Mom/Dad at the helm. Most workplaces, especially today are not like that. Particularly where it’s one coworker, not management, who is essentially calling the shots.

        I mean a fight over a coworker eating an apple? Honestly though I envision him bring just *fed up*(!!!) with her constant complaining that he got this close [] to her and just angry ate the entire apple right in front of her.

    2. TheKatie*

      OP1’s coworker sounds a bit like my dad. He never enjoyed loud crunching, slurping, squelching, and has a particular dislike for people biting their cutlery. It’s rubbed off on me, and I still have trouble understanding that not everyone had parents who would yell at them for accidentally biting their spoon.

      1. Ella Beebee*

        Ooh I cannot stand the sound of slurping. I don’t know what it is, I don’t have many other aversions to sounds, but this is one that I just absolutely hate. It turns my stomach in the same way that the sound of someone throwing up/gagging/ etc. does. My husband was a big slurper when we met and has started eating slurpy foods more quietly because I will leave the table and eat by myself if I hear slurping.

        1. Scarlet*

          Omg slurping. My stepmother slurps and sucks her teeth so loudly you can literally hear it across the room. Disgusting.

          It’s been 16 years she’s been in our family – I still refuse to eat a meal with her.

          1. MommyMD*

            That’s different than just normal incidental eating noises. Disgusting eaters should have their own planet.

            1. RUKiddingMe*

              Definitely a different thing!!!

              They should all be loaded into a space ship and aimed at the sun!

          2. JSPA*

            Suggest you don’t ever eat excellent ramen in Japan, then, or at least, not in mixed company. Or visit any other places where slurping is the polite way to show appreciation of certain dishes.

      2. Jamie*

        I don’t use plastic at home due to environmental reasons, but I swear all food tastes better with plastic flatware.

        1. Anonym*

          Most metals actually add some flavor to your eating experience! Made me feel not-delusional for noticing a certain sulfurousness with silver flatware, and my brother was pleased to learn why he strongly prefers plastic. Apparently gold adds the least flavor, and what it adds is slightly sweet.

        2. MayLou*

          If you found some fairly robust plastic cutlery, you could still use it at home and wash it and re-use it. I have a plastic fork and a spoon I keep in my handbag for re-use when I’m out and need cutlery, they have lasted months so far

            1. Willis*

              You might have luck looking at camping supplies. I have hard plastic cutlery designed to be washed and reused that I got at REI, I think.

            2. Just Elle*

              I am a big fan of the Preserve: ‘On the Go’ cutlery. Dishwasher safe and they have lasted a year now. $8 for a set of 8 place settings on amazon.

        3. Just Elle*

          Lol, oh don’t worry, mom would wash and reuse until they snapped in half mid use from the repeated washing strain.

      3. Lurker*

        I think I have some misophonia. I HATE hearing metal on metal or people biting their silverware. My sibling used to use this against me and would purposely bite their fork. Even typing this, 35+ years later thinking about this is making me ragey.

        1. MOAS*

          HUHN. This is so interesting. Food sounds don’t typically bother me (except for when my mother eats and chews, it annoys me so much) but I hate any pounding, dinging, tapping noises. It’s esp a nightmare when there’s construction going on. I dont’ know if its’ misophonia or just being annoyed.

          1. Marketing Queen*

            If you get an instant feeling of rage, anxiety, panic attack, etc., when you hear those noises, it’s probably misophonia. If you don’t feel these things, it’s probably just incredibly annoying (which it is regardless!).

            1. Lurker*

              Yes, hearing the sound of metal on metal or teeth on metal makes me cringe and angry. I have the same reaction when people crunch their cheap, plastic water bottles. Like if they’re drinking from it and squeeze it — I can hear that sound across a crowded room with people talking and it makes me immediately irritated. I want to snatch it from them and tell them to STOP CRINKLING THE PLASTIC. (So yeah, I think that’s misophonia. Repetitive noise bothers me a lot but the plastic bottles and the metal on metal are by far the worst for me, even it its not repetitive. )

      4. RUKiddingMe*

        Sounds like my mom. “Sure Mom, I’m doing this intentionally just to make you yell at me. Because…?”

        Fortunately I ’t have issues with noises (chewing, crunching, etc.) like this, but the cutlery thing, and scraping the plate…is nails on a chalkboard to me.

        *However,* I understand that sometimes shit happens and if it’s not something being repeated over and over or *in order to annoy me* then I can just go with the flow because…life. My mom, not so much.

    3. Queen Anne*

      Ha! I had the same experience growing up but now I am not careful when eating noisy foods around her after years of getting my head bitten off every time I bit into chip or apple. Only recently did I learn that there is a real medical condition to explain her reaction. She even had my friends terrified to eat around her.

      1. Jamie*

        I learned it was a real medical condition here – I always thought it was a seriously weird dysfunction of my family as my dad and all siblings have severe cases of it.

        And yes, you can learn how to eat chips quietly, if not silently. I know I’m biased, but I do think things like celery or apples shouldn’t be eaten where other people can’t easily remove themselves from the area.

        This is particularly problematic for me atm as I’m temporarily sharing an office with a very nice person who has the worst table manners I have ever been exposed to and whose eating sounds bother people who normally don’t notice others eating. It’s not his problem, but there have been days I’d have quit over it if I could. I’m currently shopping for those white noise hearing aid type devices as a self defense measure to get me through the next few months.

        1. carrots and celery*

          ….That has to be a joke. Apples are such a normal part of people’s diets and it’s ridiculous to ask people to leave an area just to eat them. Same for celery. Or carrots. Or anything with a sound.

      2. RUKiddingMe*

        Yeah we didn’t know it was a thing back in the dark ages. Hell probably most doctors didn’t. We just thought she was *persnickety.

        *Yay for being able to legit use “persnickety.”

      3. Sarah*

        When pregnant, crunchy foods like carrots were actually a great distraction for me from the nausea. Also, I constantly munched on crackers at my desk. Her needs do not trump mine. (Would she rather have heard/seen me vomiting??) I’ll do my best to be quiet but within reason. Being asked to limit a basic bodily function isn’t appropriate or reasonable (pregnant or not).

    4. Aggretsuko*

      My coworker bullied me over this. Couldn’t stand if I ate anything, BUT it was totally cool if her buddy HAND GROUND COFFEE in our office space.

        1. Lissa*

          Yeah – this is one of those unfortunate things because I have seen people with real sensitivities use them in a way that feels power-playish in that they just so happen to be bothered by sounds/smells/certain phrases when it’s done by a person they don’t like/is lower in the social hierarchy etc. It’s like how it’s valid to tell people not to call you a nickname but if I tell everybody else it’s OK to call me Beth and then just you that you need to call me Elizabeth…

      1. RUKiddingMe*

        I get to make the rules around here. My primary rule is be a grown up or be gone.

        Noise happens. Mistakes happens. Unintentional things happen. Life doesn’t stop when you clock in.

        However intentionally being a dick will get you a pink slip faster than the speed if light.

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          This. You can handle those little friction things like an adult. Going off on a coworker for chewing isn’t adult, even if the noise makes you want to hurl. Wear headphones from 11 am to 1 pm. Even I, who can’t wear headphones all day, can do two hours a day.

      2. Marketing Queen*

        Not every sound is a trigger to someone with misophonia. And not everyone with misophonia has the same trigger sounds.

    5. ANOTHER friday anon*

      Mind you, of course I don’t mind him drinking anything, but does he have to hold the bottle 3-4 inches above his mouth and POUR?

    6. AKchic*

      I work really hard not to let my misophonia affect my kids. My husband does not (really glad he’s now deaf in one ear, it makes things a bit easier). There are days where I do have to tell the kids that I am having a bad day, so their snacks need to be eaten away from me (which is fine, because we have a big house, and I can easily go into another room).

    7. IV*

      My husband has mesophonia that was massively exacerbated by an accident a few years ago (one that involved a head injury). He’s really good about acknowledging that it’s his problem rather than ours and will take himself away if he needs to, but we also take care to avoid approaching him when snacking and to be thoughtful about how we eat. That said, for dinner we always have loud background sounds (music etc.) that we can talk over, but that helps him cope. Basically, we all work together to make it work and that’s not what’s going on with your workplace.

  9. AnonyNurse*

    In hospital or other 24/7 settings, it is kind of awesome when managers allow peer interviews for shift work. When you’re on night shift and never see your unit manager, and hiring a new nurse or two can make or break how the unit functions, having the opportunity to help inform the choice is good practice for everyone. At my old facility, we’d hold them at 7:30 after shift change. Whomever could stay did. Really helped on a high acuity unit. This was literally the only thing that place did right. I have the FLSA settlement check to prove it…

      1. Doug Judy*

        They really are. Honestly I think they should be used more often because personality fit on the team is critical. At TerribleJob I only met my manager. Day one when I met my counterpart, O knew it wasn’t going to go well, and it didn’t. Had I met her in the interview process, I would have turned down the job.

        On the flip side, my current job, I interviewed with my boss, my counterpart and two people in other departments that I work with frequently. I was less technically skilled than their other candidates but the way I meshed with the people in the interview made me the clear choice, according to them. And by that I don’t mean we’re all the same, we differences that complement each other quite well.

        1. Psyche*

          Another advantage is that sometimes the candidate is a little more candid in a peer interview than with the boss or HR rep.

      2. Curmudgeon in California*

        In my field, I think it’s weird if I don’t have peer interviews. I also get cranky if they hire someone into the team I’m on that none of us got to interview. There are some people who just don’t mesh with a given team.

    1. RabbitRabbit*

      I work in healthcare and quite a few departments where I work do peer interviews. In my department’s case it’s especially good as we have a team with very low turnover and a gigantic level of “workplace engagement” when compared to other departments, and personality fit is one of our big concerns as we’re currently expanding and hiring.

  10. Gaia*

    OP4 titles are weird. In my field they are all over the map because the field is relatively new and no one knows what to call anyone yet so Two-Legged-Llama herder and Head of Llamas and Other Four Legged Creatures could either be wildly different or exactly the same job. There is just no way to know by title alone. This is where it helps to have a really good resume and cover letter.

    1. OP#4*

      Great response! Thank you. Yes, job titles certainly are an exercise in semantics. I’ll have to take extra care when I next revisit my resume.

      1. H.C.*

        Also, FWIW in my job area (local government) – assistants are actually a pretty big deal & our “executive assistants” are closer to chief of staff or deputy directors.

    2. Carolyn Keene*

      For one awful second, I was picturing a herd of tragically amputated two-legged llamas that needed a specially skilled herder…

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Oh I’m with you — Gaia hyphenated it as “Two-Legged-Llama” herder. So they’re herding two-legged llamas.
        Would Dr. Doolittle’s “pushme-pullyou” count as two two-legged llamas?

    3. 8DaysAWeek*

      Agree! I had a job one time at a small tech company and they let us pick our titles.
      I am currently reviewing resumes for a position in our department and honestly the titles don’t mean much to me since I don’t know what that title means in your organization. I am looking at your accomplishments and contributions in your roles.

    4. Antilles*

      They’re all over the map in my engineering-related industry too. My first company used the term “Staff Engineer” for the newest employees, so green that the ink on their diploma hasn’t dried. But other companies (including comments here at AAM) have said that it’s one of the highest titles in the entire company.
      Also with resumes of people who spent time in government, where the titles are simply “Engineer VII” that’s completely meaningless without the specific context of that particular government organizational structure and roles.

    5. Moray*

      My job has this weird policy of not duplicating titles if they can help it. I’m not sure why. But we basically have: “Manager of Llamas,” “Llama Manager,” and “Manager of Four-Legged Llamas” who all have the exact same role.

    6. One of the Spreadsheet Horde*

      Titles tend to be a bit arbitrary. My job level can have “Lead” or “Senior” or “Principal” in the title for somewhat similar roles. My resume has a bunch of hard to compare random titles. And that’s within 1 company. The real indicator is that your resume shows your career progression and increased levels of responsibility across the roles.

      1. RUKiddingMe*

        Heh. I just finished watching that whole series…again. I laughed, I cried, I fell in love with Dwight in the end. Again…

  11. Observer*

    #1 Alison mentions JAN – give a look at that page. I think you’ll find it interesting – and validating. They actually suggest a mentor who can let the sufferer know when their behavior becomes unprofessional. Also, it’s not just that they do not recommend “no one eats around this person” type accommodations, they clearly expect that there are limits to how much you can limit these kinds of sounds.

  12. BetterInGreen*

    OP#1, as someone who also has misophonia which is at its worst around the sounds of eating, I still think your coworker is being unreasonable. It’s nice of you to try to be accommodating, but it seems as though the company is bending over backwards to make her happy to a degree that is unfair to everyone else.
    I don’t know whether this insight into my experience will help, but here goes:
    The involuntary response I have to those sounds is honestly distressing, it is like a combination of full-body visceral revulsion with an instant overwhelming rage. It’s somewhat like my entire being is screaming at me to get away from some terrible situation, which I know logically is not at all real. That doesn’t stop the adrenaline slamming or stomach-churning though.
    And yet my outward reaction at work is to quietly get up and move to another place if at all possible, or to put on headphones as quickly as I can. I have to focus very hard on keeping my hands from shaking, but I do it because I know that it is my reaction which is out of line, not the person near me eating. I don’t even trust myself to say something if they are being objectively loud and rude, because I would not be able to control my voice or face enough to be professional. If it was a family member at home, I could ask them to be quiet with less worry, because they already know how it affects me and because there is a lot more poker-face required at work.

    All of which is to say: as horrible and distressing as it is to have these reactions to sound, it’s possible to choose one’s outward response, and my thinking is that it’s on me to manage my condition to the extent that I can.

    1. misspiggy*

      Beautifully put.

      As the partner of someone with misophonia, I wanted to add in response to OP#1 that exposure therapy wouldn’t reduce the distress of hearing the trigger sounds. Therapy could just help someone control their rage enough to get up and quietly walk away, as you have learned to do. Or it could make things worse, if you read sufferers’ accounts. So OP#1’s colleague isn’t likely to be personally motivated to seek therapy. But the OP could focus on getting management to require her to use noise cancelling headphones or tight earbuds.

      1. RUKiddingMe*

        This. Management needs to put at least some of the burden on the coworker.

        The world as a whole isn’t going to capitulate to her demands ergo she should have ample experience by now of figuring out how to mitigate some of it.

        She can do likewise at work instead of requiring, and management requiring it to all be on *everyone else* to “fix.”

      2. Ellen N.*

        In my case, exposure has helped. I have mysophonia. In my case, it’s soft chewing noises, lip smacking, sniffling and nose blowing that revolt me. I don’t mind people eating crunchy food.

        My husband takes huge bites so that he needs to swallow several times per bite. He plays music during meals, but sometimes I still leave. I’ve noticed that my reaction has become milder over the years.

    2. MistOrMister*

      I have a tendency to eat any foods with a complete disregard for how crunchy they are because for some reason my brain doesn’t realize that all that crunching I hear in my head is also audible to others. I eat at my desk off and on all day as I usually don’t take a lunch break and try to do the smaller meals throughout the day thing. Personally, if I was stationed near someone who received the level of distress you do from being around the sounds of eating, I would be mortified to learn that I was driving you away from your desk! I think I would prefer being told it was causing an issue so I could work with the coworker to find something that worked for both of us.
      My only real issue, I think, is eating the crunchy foods. I don’t have any issue with polite eating sounds but I want to dig out my eardrums with a rusty spork when I’m around people that smack and slurp. Those sounds make my eyeballs try to shrivel up and die!!!

    3. Jen RO*

      As another partner of someone with misophonia, this is also how he handles things at work and in public – he invested in a pair of good noise-canceling headphones and he has learned to move to a quiet place if at all possible. He has also explained (politely) to his coworkers that he hates eating sounds and therefore the coworkers shouldn’t come to his desk while eating chips/apples/etc.

      1. EPLawyer*

        That sounds reasonable, if you are eating crunchy foods please don’t actively engage me while doing so. This is not do not eat any crunchy foods anywhere within earshot.

        This letter so reminded me of the company who wanted everyone to be symmetrical in order to accomodate one person. The whole company, while being reasonably understanding of the condition, should not be tied into knots over one person. Sure, avoid chips at your desk if possible and definitely don’t go chewing while engaged with the person. But after that, well it’s easier to set things up for one person than make everyone change.

    4. Jamie*

      I could have written this – thank you for explaining it so clearly. It’s not something easy for people to understand unless they’ve experienced it.

      I have the same reactions and I also think the co-worker is being incredibly unreasonable.

      1. Corporate Lawyer*

        YUP! Another misophone here, chiming in to say that, while I empathize with what your coworker is going through, they’re handling it in a totally unreasonable way. If I can hear a coworker chewing at a nearby desk, I handle my reaction in much the same way as BetterInGreen.

    5. Seifer*

      Yeah, I don’t have misophonia, but I do have a coworker that is kind of an obnoxious eater. She chomps and slurps everything and then talks with food in her mouth. It is… an experience. Now, every time she’s getting ready to eat anything, all of my coworkers and I scramble for headphones because we don’t want to be dicks and keep telling her over and over, please stop chewing with your mouth open, please stop talking with food in your mouth, there is nothing you could say that is so urgent that it can’t wait for you to finish chewing. It’s just. It seems so mean. So like you, we control our outward responses.

    6. PS slurping too*

      Same, and thank you for describing my reactions to loud chewing exactly. It’s definitely a very visceral response; you nailed the description.

    7. Shan*

      Echoing all of this. My main trigger is slurping, and describing my response to it as “honestly distressing” is bang on. But that’s on me! Was it annoying back in uni if I was holed up in a study corral and someone sat in the one next to me with a thing of ramen and started slurping away? YES, and internally I honestly wanted lightening to strike them. But externally I just cranked up my music or packed up my books, depending on the severity.

      OP, your company should be encouraging your coworker to explore tools and techniques to manage her reactions, not forcing everyone else to accommodate her.

  13. Observer*

    #2 – I wouldn’t lie. That doesn’t mean you need to provide information. Of course, under normal circumstances it would look odd, as Alison says. But Bianca sounds like she has some real issues, so I suspect that everyone else will understand why you’re not talking.

    But lying is not worth it. I don’t think it’s a moral failing here, it’s just not practical. For one thing, if Bianca doesn’t think your reason is “good enough” she’ll badger you anyway. I mean, OBVIOUSLY that would be ridiculous and boundary crossing, but Bianca’s track record says that that’s not going to stop her. On the other hand, lies can catch up to you in funny ways and you need to remember the details you made up. If you’re not up to fighting with her just stick to a vague non-answer.

    Ideally, you’ll be in a position to walk out early if need be. In which case you really hold all the cards. After all, what can she do? Fire you?

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I agree. It’s entirely possible to avoid or deflect Bianca’s questions. But I would eschew outright lying, just because it can consume a lot of mental energy to maintain a lie, and Bianca doesn’t sound like she’s worth that kind of energy.

      1. Bilateralrope*

        I wouldn’t even try avoiding or deflecting. I’d just tell her that I will not answer her questions because of how she treated previous employees. I’ll try to not raise my voice.

        Let’s see how badly she takes honesty.

        1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

          I was going to suggest this. Be honest. It may not make her change, but she needs to hear it.

        2. nonymous*

          This, and for colleagues that OP is okay with sharing/continued networking, she can take the opportunity to add them via LinkedIn/IG/FB – whatever their work relationship justifies – so they can catch the update that way. I’m sure anyone worth staying connected to in that company will understand, given the circumstances.

        3. MarsJenkar*

          Pfahahaha! Yes! Definitely an option to consider.

          I wanna say Mark Twain had something to say on the matter (quoting from memory): “When in doubt, tell the truth. It will astound your friends and confound your enemies.”

        4. RUKiddingMe*

          Exactly. It’s really not her business and OP is no longer (or will shortly be) her employee. She doesn’t owe an answer to Bianca who is not entitled to one.

    2. Baru Cormorant*

      Yeah honestly it sounds ridiculous to deal with Bianca’s badgering over your fake reason, and you having to come up with more ridiculous lies to explain why.. sounds like the plot of a sitcom.

      But what if instead, you don’t tell her, and let her just stew in her own ignorance? Much more satisfying.

    3. Sara without an H*

      OP#2: Try this: “I’m afraid I can’t say where I’m going. My new employer has asked me to let them make their own announcement. Besides, I’ve noticed some awkwardness in the past when employees have announced where they’re going. I’d much rather concentrate on what you need from me to ensure a smooth transition.”

      Be prepared, though, for Bianca to take this as a challenge to worm the information from you by fair means or foul. Could you bring yourself to see that as a form of entertainment?

      You might also find it helpful to do an online search for “gray rock method.” While it’s usually recommended as a technique for dealing with narcissists, I’ve found it helpful for dealing with chronically nosy people like Bianca.

    4. Samwise*

      Don’t lie — she’s not going to like ANY answer you give, so why go through the contortions and stress of maintaining a lie? But I also wouldn’t give her any details, either. I’d go with a vague non answer: It’s such a good opportunity I couldn’t pass it up! Of course I’ll miss CurrentWorkplace a lot!

      If she gets obnoxious or inappropriate, go over her head, because clearly that;s the only thing that works.

    5. MistOrMister*

      I had a coworker announce that she was leaving and when I asked where she was going she got absurdly mad. Apparently she didn’t appreciate that being the default response most people had. At first she lied and said she didn’t have a job lined up but that was so blatantly unlikely that it made me wonder why she would lie. She finally did tell me where she was going (unprompted, I didn’t ask again after the first time) and swore me to secrecy because she didn’t want people to know. I still think the whole thing was crazy. But it was particularly mind-boggling that she would bother lying rather than saying she didn’t want to discuss where she was heading. SO weird.

    6. TootsNYC*

      I think you can semi-lie

      “I can’t really say until after I start at the new place.” It sort of implies that they don’t want to you release the info, but the true “can’t” is “I can’t deal with your baloney.”

      Then when she says, “why not? that’s so weird,” you say, “I don’t really know; I just know I can’t.”

      Or there’s “I don’t want to,” and “I just feel odd about it until after I actually work there.”

  14. Archaeopteryx*

    I get pretty disgusted and aggravated by loud chewers (not to the coworker’s extent though). But the only accommodation I would reasonably expect from other people would be pretty basic manners- chewing with mouth closed (always, always, we live in a society people!) and no smacking or slurping or other exaggerated sounds. (I would also never come right out and ask for that from anyone but family and close friends… but I think it extra loud in the break room.)

    I’m curious what kind of leverage OP’s coworker has that everyone is revolving around her needs. If you need to eat and don’t have time to go to a break room, you might try politely letting her know that she might want to put in headphones or something? That way you show you’re being considerate while also steering her toward an obvious solution.

    1. BRR*

      Re: the leverage, my guess is management is catering to the employee who is giving them the biggest headache.

    2. Jax*

      What stood out to me in the letter is that there is no break room/lunch room — the OP mentioned that it can be hard for people to find open meeting rooms to eat. I mention it because it’s the only context that might explain why management feels obligated to bend so far backward in accommodating her.

      1. Samwise*

        But then why isn’t she being asked to find a quiet place, at least occasionally — it’s got to be easier to find space for ONE person than to find space for several people.

      2. Observer*

        I’d say the reverse. The fact that there is no break room means that people really don’t have a good option other than to limit their food or not eat at all. And as others have pointed out, it’s easier for ONE person to find a quiet space than for a few people to find space.

    3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I’m curious what kind of leverage OP’s coworker has that everyone is revolving around her needs.
      Right? I am blown away that they keep moving people who sit next to OP’s coworker, when they could just move the coworker and the problem would be solved.

    4. Important Moi*

      I wondered this as well.

      Could her co-worker be more valuable or better liked than the OP to management?

      1. Massmatt*

        I think it’s more likely that she’s just more willing to be unpleasant and hostile, and her manager is spineless and just does whatever she demands as the easiest way to make the problem (her bothering him) go away. This is dysfunctional but all too common, a variation on the many letters and comments about a terrible employee being untouchable and driving other employees away.

      2. Observer*

        If it were just the OP being inconvenienced, that would be a reasonable question. The thing here is that they are doing it to EVERYONE. Is the REALLY such a “brilliant” staff person?

    5. SheLooksFamiliar*

      ‘I’m curious what kind of leverage OP’s coworker has that everyone is revolving around her needs.’

      No kidding. I sit near a loud slurper/chewer who eats lunch at his desk, and mouth sounds grate on me worse than nails on a chalkboard. I put in my earbuds to enjoy music or Nature Sounds #4, and he finishes lunch in peace. And then we carry on with our day.

    6. Jennifer Thneed*

      > I’m curious what kind of leverage OP’s coworker has

      Nah, it’s the squeaky-wheel phenomenon. Co-worker is willing to be unpleasant to get her way. I wonder if co-worker is even aware that misophonia is a thing that affects more people than just her?

  15. Observer*

    #1 – I had a different comment to make. You write:

    If scents gave her migraines, I could understand requiring a scent-free workplace (which we also have). But for sounds?

    Don’t bring up that argument. It won’t work – nor should it.

    There is no fundamental difference between sounds and scents. If you are ok with a scent free work place, you should be ok with a workplace that doesn’t have a certain sound, as the response to the sounds that trigger the person can be pretty severe.

    In theory.

    In practice, this does not work. The reason this does not work is not because it’s sound versus smell. It’s because it’s not practical to get rid of those sounds. Chewing is the one sound that it MIGHT be possible to get rid of, but ONLY if people have easy and constant access to a place where they can go eat and the freedom to go eat whenever they need to. And that’s not happening. Also, because there are things that the sufferer can do to mitigate the problem, both in terms of possible treatment and in terms of things they can do on the spot in the workplace.

    Which leads to one more thought – clearly your coworker doesn’t think that SHE has a problem. It’s not just that she doesn’t do any of the things that could be helpful to her. It’s that she had an altercation with a co-worker and even that has not triggered a discussion with her doctor about her reaction to the sound! She thinks that SHE is the “normal” one, and everyone else is just a bunch of boors. For some reason your management seems to have swallowed that. But, this is NOT normal, and eating crunchy foods is NOT boorish.

    Your bottom line argument is not “this is too much accommodation for sounds.” It’s “you are asking us to go hungry while Coworker does nothing to mitigate the effects ON HER of *her* problem.”

    1. Baru Cormorant*

      If you are ok with a scent free work place, you should be ok with a workplace that doesn’t have a certain sound
      I don’t think this works even in theory. If someone was hyper-sensitive to scents and the office dealt with it by moving workers away from their team, making neighbors choose their lunches based on smell, etc. the advice would be the same. “Scent-free workplace” usually just means no perfumed laundry detergent, lotions, and bodies, not “no food because then the office would smell” right?

      IMO it comes down to, it’s a balancing act between accommodating one person’s special needs, and the rest of the group’s needs to still live and work and enjoy that space. And here the balance is waaay out of whack.

      1. Anonym*

        Also, I would posit the psychological distress of misophonia (while clearly terrible) is in a different category than migraines. If someone uses scents that give me a migraine, the hours to days of excruciating pain and vomiting, inability to work or even eat, and having to take heavy duty medications to attempt to mitigate all of that is just much worse. The scale of outcome is… different.

        1. fposte*

          Though migraines run quite a span. Yours sound like they’re on the bad side, but there are milder migraines that can be handled with ibuprofen, and severe misophonia sounds a lot harder to deal with than that.

      2. Observer*

        If someone was hyper-sensitive to scents and the office dealt with it by moving workers away from their team, making neighbors choose their lunches based on smell, etc. the advice would be the same. “Scent-free workplace” usually just means no perfumed laundry detergent, lotions, and bodies, not “no food because then the office would smell” right?

        That’s kind of my point. In theory it’s the same thing. In practice, it’s not. One of the reasons is that no one actually expects a truly totally scent free office. I was highlighting the other side of it – that the management was actually trying to enforce a truly “no sound of eating” environment and that’s just totally not practical.

        What I was fundamentally trying to say was that the issue is not what you are trying to accommodate but HOW. And, as you point out, the balance here is TOTALLY out of line, and that is what the OP should b focusing on.

      3. Curmudgeon in California*

        Plus, people actually NEED to eat, they don’t NEED perfume. Really.

        Fragrance free workplaces are avoiding polluting the air that everyone needs to breathe with allergens (yes, most commercial perfumes are petrochemical based, and contain some really noxious aldehydes and ketones).

        Eating free workplaces are just abusive. The OP and her coworkers should club together and present the misophonia sufferer with a set of high-end noise canceling headphones.

    2. Aquawoman*

      They’re not comparable. Eating is a necessity, wearing scented products is not. It’s also easier for the sufferer to block sounds than to block smells. Migraines last for days, misophonia lasts for the duration of the sound (not that the person should have to suffer!)

      This actually seems reasonably easy to fix to me. I think from 11:30 to 1:00, the misophonia sufferer should be in a conference room and the rest can eat what they want (could be reversed so that the conference room is reserved for lunching) and outside those hours, if people want something crunchy, they should find another place to eat it.

      1. Shirley Keeldar*

        That’s a brilliant solution. Or have one of the higher ups who can’t seem to figure this out give up her office to the misphonia sufferer so she can have a door to shut!

      2. Observer*

        Actually, it’s not necessarily true that wearing “scented products” is not necessary. This is something that comes up a lot – it may not be necessary for someone to wear perfume, but there are many other products that have scents that people actually DO need to use.

        As for migraines, not everyone shares your experience with that. I get migraines and I don’t think I would trade them in for what some misophonia sufferers deal with.

        But I do agree that the fact that the CW is doing nothing at all to mitigate the problem, even though there are a LOT of things she could do, is a real issue that the OP and the rest of the coworkers really have standing to push back on.

    3. Onyx*

      Equating “scent-free” policies to banning the sound of eating really doesn’t work even in theory.

      A “scent-free” workplace typically means eliminating scents that are added purely for the sake of scent, i.e., perfumes, scented versions of stuff that doesn’t inherently contain that scent (like lotions, soaps, deodorants, etc.), and stuff intended to inject unnecessary scents into the air (air fresheners, incense, essential oil diffusers). Not eliminating scents that are an inherent part of normal activities occurring in the workplace, like the inherent smells of work materials, people’s lunches, or people’s own bodies—smells like burnt popcorn, microwaves fish, or excessive B.O. may be workplace smell issues, but not generally what is meant by “scent-free” policies.

      So the analogy for sound would be making noise for its own sake or as an unnecessary or excessive part to an otherwise reasonable activity, like playing music or talk radio without headphones, noisy fidgeting methods like incessant pen clicking or audible finger tapping rather than silent or quieter ones, taking your calls on speakerphone in common areas for no reason other than preference, shouting across the cube farm instead of walking over to talk to someone at a normal volume. Not the inherent sounds of working (papers rustling, typing, having reasonable volume conversations, using noisy tools that are part of your job, etc.), eating lunch in a normal manner in the space available for that, or just sounds of existing as a human being (footsteps, sneezing, coughing, occasional other bodily noises, etc.).

      Asking for people to never eat something like an apple within one’s earshot, especially when there is no good location set aside for eating, is not equivalent to a normal “scent-free” policy. It’s more like asking for someone to be disciplined because they’re sitting at their own desk with garlic breath or asking for a ban on even unscented hand sanitizer because you can still smell the hand sanitizer itself.

    4. Jinkies*

      There’s a very significant difference between scent and sound issues – how long the offending stimulus persists. If I were sensitive to the sound of eating, the moment my cube neighbor stops eating or relocates, the stimulus is gone and I could start recovering.

      If I were sensitive to scents and my cube neighbor had an essential oil diffuser running, the stimulus starts to *diminish* when the diffuser is removed, but is not instantly eliminated. Depending on the type of product, ventilation, and size of an area, it could be multiple hours before the area is returned to a “neutral” state and no longer affects someone with scent sensitivities.

    5. TootsNYC*

      the other reason it doesn’t work other than in theory is that misophonia is mental, and therefore hard to measure and often dismissed as “being oversensitive.”

      Smells generally trigger measurable bodily changes, especially in the case of allergies; and migraines, though often invisible, might create outward responses. And migraines have a longer history and therefore a little more acceptance (though they’re often dismissed as well).

    6. Emmie*

      It’s also too much accommodation for someone who hasn’t requested ADA accommodations. (To be fair, this level of accommodation probably wouldn’t be reasonable for someone who formally requested it either.)

  16. MommyMD*

    I’m not hiding out to eat an apple at work. It’s crazy how your employer is acting. SHE can wear headphones.

    1. WS*

      +1, my boss has misophonia (and diagnosed hyperacusis) and this is what she does, since therapy and coping strategies only go so far. Or she leaves the room when possible. Also, we have an adequate break room for eating away from her.

          1. PB*

            This is a really odd statement. Lots of people eat apples, regardless of whether they’re over the age of 10 or not. You’re generally at work 9 hours a day, give or take, so you need to eat during that time. Apples are transportable and healthy.

          2. Amtelope*

            ?? Do you think only children eat fruit? Or that adults don’t need to eat a meal during a normal work shift?

          3. Goldfinch*

            Are you gatekeeping fruit as a sign of maturity? What in the actual hell?

            Enjoy shoveling slop into your maw, I guess. I’ll be over here eating produce and not dying of preventable lifestyle diseases.

            1. London Calling*

              Exactly. I eat apples because they are a good source of pection which is supposed to help keep cholesterol down. And anyway, I like them.

            2. Kat in VA*

              I mean, if we’re talking about slop, I’m really partial to jalapeño Cheetos, which also have a fair amount of crunch.

          4. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            I am not understanding this comment at all. People eat. Adults have different dietary needs. It’s not a huge stretch to imagine someone whose body needs fresh fruits and vegetables to digest properly.

            1. Hiring Mgr*

              That’s EXACTLY the point. There are many different types of apples–gala, macintosh, granny smith, literal, figurative, and many more. Plus, I’m from Boston so I think I know a little bit about the movie and the characters

          5. Autumnheart*

            What an absolutely bizarre thing to say. It’s not like you’re required to cook an apple once you get past a certain age.

            That being said, I always eat apples in the break room, both because of the crunching noise and the fact that I wind up with apple juice on my hands.

          6. Observer*

            So, only elementary school children eat apples, nuts, ships, pretzels, cracker and most raw vegetables?

            That’s an incredibly weird thing to say. Totally unmoored from the world most of us live in.

            1. PB*

              I have yet to meet an elementary school child who eats ships :).

              I suspect this is a typo for “chips,” but the mental image has me giggling.

          7. Snark*

            Is there something about misophonia that makes people be breathtakingly, inappropriately rude and contemptuous of people who set them off? Because this isn’t to single you out, but this comment is perfectly symptomatic of a certain tendency I’ve noticed among misophones, and it’s a really, really bad one.

          8. NotAnotherManager!*

            I would love it if you could provide a list of foods that are and are not acceptable at work. Please remember to take into account dietary restrictions, allergies, smelliness, and religious observation. It would be so helpful to us elementary schoolers who so immaturely think raw fruit is a easy and delicious afternoon snack.

        1. Aquawoman*

          Yeah, but the original comment wasn’t just wanting to eat apples at work, it was wanting to eat apples wherever and whenever the OP wanted, coupled with hostility towards a person due to that person’s disability.

          1. Eirene*

            What a strange takeaway from MommyMD’s comment, which isn’t remotely close to your interpretation at all.

          2. Massmatt*

            No, the original comment was saying they were not going to hide to eat an apple at work. Apples were mentioned many times in the thread as an example of a crunchy food.

            The comment was about the workarounds required at the OP’s office (people being banished to inconvenient locations because they… eat? Everyone doing the chew equivalent of walking on eggshells) being unreasonable.

            You latched on to the apple.

        1. MatKnifeNinja*

          Oh the banana wars at work. Supposedly bananas reek like hell, and the make the garbage can smell like a dump.

          I have a coworker who gags smelling peanut butter. The amount of peanut butter on a sandwich. A person brings in PBJ, and she loses her mind. She’s not anaphylactic. I can smell it, but that’s because I never eat it or have the stuff in my house.

          I swear office food should be reduced to white bread and butter sandwiches, and rotate jam for a change up, the way my coworkers complain. (I don’t eat at work).

          I live with my cousin who has severe misophonia. It’s so bad now, the thought of people eating around him, escalates the rage. He has problems eating because the sound of his own chewing gags him, and makes him queasy. He cranks the radio volume to 11 and inhales his safe foods to get this “task” done as quickly as possible. He really wants a feeding tube to by pass his mouth.

          OP, I was told to stop all the over the top concessions/accommodations for my cousin, as it just was making his issues worse. I wasn’t even cooking or eating in our home.

          He’s in CBT and feeding therapy now. My cousin is learning coping skills, because people eat. I would never eat chips and apples around him, but I don’t have to eat in my bedroom while he’s sleeping anymore.

          OP you need a proper break room, and that coworker needs more coping skills. Head phones, move to another room when many people are eating at their desks, there are work arounds. I get people would love everyone to quietly sip Ensure or nibble a Cliff bar for nutrition at work, but that’s never gonna happen.


          1. That Girl From Quinn's House*

            I *love* popcorn, but to me, the butter in microwave popcorn smells vaguely like vomit.

      1. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

        If it was just apples, this would be a reasonable comment. I had a coworker, years ago, who was bothered by the smell of citrus, so she asked everyone not to eat oranges or tangerines around her–an approach that included “tell Carolyn to close her office door first.” But that was one specific food: much as I like clementines, I don’t have to eat them during the workday.

        “No fruit at all, even with Carolyn’s door closed” would have been a larger accommodation, and this goes well beyond that. LW’s office doesn’t have a dedicated lunchroom, or schedules such that everyone can eat lunch in such a lunchroom instead of at their desks. “Nobody gets to eat lunch, because Coworker So-and-so might be nearby” is unreasonable even if it doesn’t run into an actual ADA accommodation–sooner or later someone with diabetes is going to go to their manager or HR and explain that they *need* to eat lunch every day.

        1. MayLou*

          I’m not in the USA and don’t know the nuances of your laws but I’m fairly sure that it isn’t just the ADA that protects people, and surely the basic right to eat food is something everyone gets, not just people with disabilities? “Needs nutrition” isn’t a disability, it’s a fundamental truth of life for all living beings.

          1. fposte*

            Federally speaking, the US doesn’t do laws like that, generally; laws are usually to prevent something bad that’s been happening rather than to articulate a right. And no, there is no articulated right to eat food in the workplace.

      2. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

        And I find it odd that you think it’s okay to decide what other people eat. I have a hard enough time planning out meals so I can eat relatively healthy and you want to ban specific foods? Sorry but no.

      3. TootsNYC*

        I find it a perk to be able to eat an apple at work. Some places don’t want you eating any food at your desk, and I don’t think this is unreasonable. (but you need to provide somewhere people can eat, I think)

        1. Observer*

          If you want people to not eat at their desk, you HAVE* to give them free access to a reasonable place to eat. Anything else is utterly and absolutely unreasonable. And you have to be willing to bend that rule, even with a break room or the like, if there is a legitimate disability at play.

          *I’m not talking about legal obligations, but sense and decency.

    2. Groove Bat*

      I dislike crunching or chewing noises in general but can mostly deal with them, but the combination of crunching and slurping that accompanies apple eating is a truly unique and repulsive sound that drives me out of the room whenever I hear it.

      I mostly just remove myself from the vicinity when someone starts up the chomping, but for some reason apples seem to be particularly popular in conference/meeting room settings and it’s not always feasible to get up and leave. I was stuck next to someone at a conference a couple weeks ago who took two hours to nibble her way through an apple that got progressively browner and browner and it was pretty gross.

      1. Jamie*

        I agree – apples are in a different category of sounds, especially if eating them without having sliced them first.

        And fwiw I know plenty of people bothered by the sound of someone loudly crunching an apple (and there is no other way to do it if eating it whole) who don’t have misophonia or other food sound issues.

        1. GrooveBat*

          Intellectually, I know that. Viscerally, I still get grossed out.

          The other piece of my discomfort was not knowing whether she was *done* with it and always wondering when she was going to pick it up and start gnawing at it again.

  17. Jack V*

    OP#1, if someone were in that situation, I feel like the right response would be something like, manager would ask everyone to avoid eating at their desk, all of the time, but find somewhere else for everyone else to eat. Just like avoiding triggers if someone had an allergy, or a phobia, or PTSD. Not screaming at people who didn’t know, but not allowing the triggers to persist either. Or failing that, set aside time for eating when the victim could wear headphones or take a lunch break outside.

    Getting everyone to try to be really quiet or find ad hoc solutions is sort of the worst of both worlds, a lot of effort for everyone AND makes her feel singled out, AND doesn’t really fix the noise.

    Obviously the fact that she and other people are reluctant to talk about it makes it hard to handle. That’s really understandable, it’s a not-that-widely-known problem that people often find it hard to realise is serious when they find out about it, so I can understand it being really hard to speak up about, or that management are weirdly dodging the problem. But I put most of the blame on the company for putting a lot of effort into avoiding the problem but not coming up with a systematic solution, not setting out clear guidelines what’s ok and what’s not, but letting her continue to both suffer, and yell at people.

    1. Leek*

      I don’t think its reasonable to ask people to never eat at their desks. Eating at your desk is common (and sometimes necessary) at every office I’ve worked in. A more reasonable accommodation would be moving her to a more isolated space, as Alison suggested.

      1. EventPlannerGal*

        I agree. I know some people just prefer it but it’s something people are often doing because they *have* to for time reasons, so the choice they’re making isn’t really “eat at your desk or eat somewhere else”, it’s “eat at your desk or don’t eat”.

      2. Kat in VA*

        If we were forbidden to eat at our desks, I’d be in real trouble. I don’t have time to take a real lunch as it is, so I’m generally eating and working at the same time.

    2. Joielle*

      But why is it on everyone else to not eat at their desks, or only eat at a specific time, when it would be so much simpler for the one coworker to just put on headphones when she hears a noise she doesn’t like?

  18. Slartibartfast*

    #3 sounds a lot like what’s called a “working interview” in veterinary medicine where I live. In that case, you pretty much *do* have the job unless something very concerning happens. It’s basically a day or half day where you tour the facility while everyone is working, meet and greet everyone on staff and possibly a few patients and clients, you might do some light technical stuff to show off your skills. In that industry it’s usually a light hearted and casual affair, but it’s a chance to see how the practice runs and make sure personal values align and you can do what you say you can do on paper. It’s not something they would do with multiple candidates, just the one they intend to hire. More of a final formality to give everyone on both sides a good idea of what they’re getting into before they make it a permanent arrangement.

  19. NJ Anon*

    #2 I once left a toxic job at a non profit to go to another non profit. I did not want to say where I was going so when someone asked, I would just shrug and say, “I’d rather not say but its another non profit in a similar role.” Rinse and repeat.

  20. Ruthless Bunny*

    I have Misophonia. It is ludicrous to cater to me. I have a mantra. “People Eat.”

    I can move, listen to a podcast, mutter under my breath or plot murder, but I can’t complain about that bitch eating carrots while on the conference call (WHO does that?).

    1. Mockingjay*

      The same person who has their phone permanently on Mute to eat, chat with coworkers, browse Amazon, and do anything but pay attention. When asked a question, said carrot-eater has to fumble for 15 seconds to unmute, but ends up disconnecting and has to dial back in with a sheepish excuse. (Every Thursday teleconference. Good grief.)

    2. Jamie*

      I can’t complain about that bitch eating carrots while on the conference call (WHO does that?).

      Yes you can. I don’t even know you and I’ll complain on your behalf! Carrots on a conference call isn’t a misophonia thing, it’s a we live in a civilized society and if you can’t abide by normal rules of behavior you deserve complaints, thing.

    3. Joielle*

      Ok, carrots on a conference call is objectively rude though. I don’t have misophonia and honestly am not bothered by most eating sounds, but someone sat next to me at a movie once and crunched through an entire bag of carrots and even I was plotting murder.

    4. Seifer*

      One of my directors eats on conference calls. Like. Constantly. We’ve gotten to the point where we start yelling, “[Director], mute your line!!!!” which makes me kind of glad that we’re all on the same page that it’s so very rude. But also I have a tiny voice so the second part of that is usually, “we can’t hear Seifer, you know she has a tiny voice!!!” The one silver lining to being quiet.

    5. Curmudgeon in California*

      I would ask her to please mute herself because her carrots make it hard to hear other people. But I’m rather direct like that.

      I mute myself when eating, and my workplace has a practice of asking people to mute background noise.

  21. Koolman*

    #OP1 – I can relate to the antagonist, who has undiagnosed misophonia. I seriously get mad at people who eat crisps and chomp at apples like a beaver. I also hate people who eat awful smelling food at their desks. But I seriously hate people who keep muching through the day on nuts, snacks etc. But I realize it will be finished within the next maybe 10-15 minutes, not for the continuous munchers, and when I eat I will get my revenge. So the balance is mantained. For the continuous munchers I try coughing out phlegm and that seriously shuts everybody down.

    1. Zadrch*

      You purposefully cough out phlegm to get revenge on people who snack at their desk?? That’s not maintaining the balance, that’s just really gross and not the way to handle anything.

      1. QCI*

        mimicking and creating similar noises are coping strategies for misophonia. Some strategies are better than others…

        I try to leave the room or put in headphones. If I worked in a place like OP#1 I would invest in really good headphones and make sure management understands I need these in order to be a nice person around people eating.

          1. Zadrch*

            Yes. There is a difference between copying a sound as a coping strategy, and trying to “get revenge” on people later.

            If you need something from people, speak to them. Some people need to eat throughout the day. It’s not a personal attack against anyone.

    2. soon 2be former fed*

      Soome of us are diabetic or have other problems that require frequent snacking or mini meals. Hate us all you want, not going to change anything. I will eat when I need to.

      1. mark132*

        I don’t have any problems requiring frequent snacking etc. And guess what I’m going to eat my apples, peaches, etc all day long, because I want to. I’m not trying to be obnoxious about it. But guess what I want to, and it makes me feel better. And in the end it’s just eating.

        1. GooseTracks*

          Seriously. People are just trying to get through the day and do their jobs. Hate is an extreme reaction that says much more about the OP than it does about the coworkers, who aren’t doing anything strange, rude, or wrong.

          Coworkers accommodating each other is great! I happily switched desks with a coworker who had a claustrophobia reaction from being seated too close to a filing cabinet. But if someone told me they hated me for snacking at my desk, I’d be very upset. Both sides need to be understanding and put in some effort to peacefully coexist.

          1. SheLooksFamiliar*

            I hate – yes, HATE – mouth sounds. I don’t plan on it, I KNOW it’s not a rational response, but it’s been happening since I was a child. I’ve tried, but I simply cannot stop the immediate reaction of anger or even rage, revulsion, or the need to run away. When someone chomps or slurps or crunches their food, cracks their gum, or clicks their tongue, I don’t often show a reaction,but I still react – internally.

            What I don’t do is tell the person to stop what they’re doing. And I absolutely do not hate the person for making those sounds. There’s a difference, hope this helps.

            1. mark132*

              FWIW, I don’t want to make you uncomfortable. I really don’t. And if we were talking about something like tapping my fingers on my desk, or some other sound making activity, I would try and stop if I knew it bothered a coworker. But eating is tough. I really do have to eat, and I try to eat with my mouth shut etc, but there really is only some much I can do.

              I’m curious though, how does your own eating affect your response to eating. I’m honestly curious.

      2. PersephoneUnderground*

        This- doctor’s orders to eat lots of snacks to prevent nausea from accidentally going too long without food and keep my weight up (both because of important meds I take).

    3. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Definition of passive-aggressive right here. You’re phlegming them will not solve your problem; they might also be passive-aggressive and decide to exaggerate their “chomping” in response.

      1. MatKnifeNinja*

        I could eat while someone is doing an autopsy in front of me, so gunky, mucousy noises wouldn’t slow me down one iota.

        Koolman maybe wasting his talent on the wrong crowd.

        1. Shamy*

          ::Offers a fist bump in solidarity::

          I, too am not easily grossed out by anything. Worked in a hospital at one point and sometimes the only time to eat was while charting about a patient’s explosive diarrhea caused by C diff. A little phlegm would not even register on my radar.

  22. PharmaCat*

    LW #2, In my part of the USA, it is not uncommon to not disclose where you’re headed to, and to update LinkedIn after a few months on the new job. I think this is becoming more acceptable.

  23. Anonymous 5*

    OP1, the petty side of me would also ask whether you’re even obligated to follow ADA recommended guidelines when a condition is undiagnosed. Either way, it’s perfectly acceptable to point out that you’ve been asked to go beyond what would be considered reasonable. We’ve had enough letters (including a week or two ago?) emphasizing that a diagnosis is not a license to be a jerk, and it sounds as though your coworker has overstepped the bounds. Good luck!

    1. Delta Delta*

      this coworker is undiagnosed, which means she may not even have Misophonia. She may just be someone who can’t stand the sound of eating. She may be someone whose hearing is suffering and picks up background noises like chewing, to the exclusion of other noises. She may just be a jerk.

        1. doreen*

          Is that really all it is? Because if that’s true, I can’t see why it would be an ADA issue at all. To use the scent analogy, I know ADA accommodations may be required if a scent causes me to become nauseated , or causes difficulty breathing or headaches. But I’m not at all sure that accommodation is required because I simply can’t stand a particular smell.

          1. Jamie*

            It isn’t about not liking it. It’s a visceral, physical reaction that triggers the fight or flight response. Alison posted a link to a site that goes into detail.

            Obviously no one can diagnose her from here, but going on the strength of her reaction smart money is on her suffering from it. None of which excuses her behavior in the slightest.

          2. Delphine*

            “Can’t stand” means something specific here–that a sound that most people consider normal/unbothersome triggers an emotional or physical response in a person with misophonia that others would consider unreasonable. LW1’s coworker had an altercation over an apple.

          3. Observer*

            It depends on what you mean by “can’t stand”. This person apparently “can’t stand” to the point that it induces rage. That’s pretty intense. Getting nauseous and shaky also counts as “can’t stand”.

            If you mean “can’t stand” as in “Oh that ANNOYS me so much!” sure.

    2. Cranky Neighbot*

      You don’t have to have a diagnosis in order to receive accommodations: a lot of people with chronic illnesses or disabilities haven’t been dxed with anything yet. You can be seriously affected by a problem that doctors haven’t gotten to the bottom of yet.

      I got accommodations for my leg problems in K-12 school – and I didn’t have a medical label for the problem at the time.

      …Although I suspect that the person in this story might just be a PITA.

        1. Bob From Accounting (actually MarsJenkar)*

          Pitas are not a responsible use of member funds. DENIED.

          …I don’t know why my mind went there just now.

      1. Anonymous 5*

        That’s part of what I wondered (though I think I didn’t articulate that originally)–I wouldn’t want to venture into the realm of saying, “no official DX = sucks to be you,” for all sorts of reasons; and I don’t know the language of the ADA well enough to know what/if any the limitations are for legal expectation of accommodation. But either way, I do know that the key word is *reasonable*, and OP1’s CW is definitely making unreasonable demands.

    3. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      Even if she is diagnosed, the accommodations here are beyond unreasonable.

    4. Close Bracket*

      Yes, you are. ADA reasonable accommodations don’t require a diagnosis, and they don’t require the person with the condition to do anything to alleviate the condition themselves. Diabetics are not required to eat low carb and exercise in order to request time away from their duties to test blood sugar and inject insulin. People with obesity are not required to lose weight before requesting a chair with a higher weight capacity. People with anxiety are not required to see therapy to request a workplace that minimizes their exposure to triggers. The law is very clear, and it is not up for debate.

      1. Observer*

        Actually, it’s not as clear as you claim. The key here is REASONABLENESS. Let’s leave obesity aside as it’s not clear that it’s a disability under the law.

        In fact, if someone can do something REASONABLE, such as wear headphones, then the job can ask the person to do that. Making someone get medical treatment is not the table because it is not REASONABLE – it’s a major step that you can’t require of someone. On the other hand, the employer also does not have to go beyond REASONABLE accommodations – and what they are asking is NOT REASONABLE.

      2. Curmudgeon in California*

        I have multiple disabilities covered by the ADA. No, you don’t need a Dx, no you don’t have to “alleviate” your own condition – some can’t be alleviated, regardless of what pop-science myths tell you.

        However, you don’t get to demand any and all accommodations like a bratty child. You get to request *reasonable* accommodations. The key word here is *reasonable*, followed by *request* (not demand).

        Providing someone suffering misophonia with high grade headphones is reasonable, demanding that no one eat at work is not.

        You wouldn’t ask everyone else to leave the office for the diabetic to test and take insulin. You’d provide them a clean place to go and do it, and time away from their desk.

        Key word: Reasonable.

        What is being asked of the OP and her coworkers is not reasonable.

  24. I don't post often*

    OP5- One thing to be aware of, if you have to access an internal system for your company/ college to apply for the job, your application may not be accepted or may be ignored until the end of your maternity leave. Even if you do not have to log in to a system, HR may ignore your application because of the leave. I was let go (Reduction in Force) with a 45 day notice period when I was 38 weeks pregnant. I went into labor 6 days later, so I was able to take maternity leave (6 weeks paid, 6 weeks unpaid). On week 9, a former manager who was also a friend, contacted me to say she had a job for me. She asked HR to send me a link to the internal posting as I could not log in to apply internally because of the leave. HR never responded to her, sent me the link, or sent me the link. Our HR department is slow, so while there was a question of “what’s going on?”, it didn’t seem horribly abnormal. In a nutshell, HR was not responding or sending me the link because during a leave, employees should only communicate with their managers to let them know a return date. Any other communication should be funneled though the FMLA leave system, which is administered by a vendor. While this system is in place to protect the employee, it was SUPER frustrating. Everything worked out fine in the end.

    1. 8DaysAWeek*

      I was going to say something similar. Depending on HOW you apply, you may want to check your company leave policy.
      At my company, when you are on leave, it is against the rules to log into company resources. There are major penalties and while I was on maternity leave I received letters in the mail saying if I violated the terms of the leave, I would be required to pay back my health care benefits, etc. One of those terms was to not log in. At a previous job I had they actually locked out your company log on so you were not even able to log into your PC or company systems while on leave.

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        At a previous job I had they actually locked out your company log on so you were not even able to log into your PC or company systems while on leave.

        I believe this is what they did to the people who went on leave at the insurance company I used to work for.

      2. OP #5*

        Good to know! I’m not prohibited from logging in or anything, but we do have a new HR director and various policy changes have been being implemented lately, so for all I know that could be a policy now.

      3. Curmudgeon in California*

        However, that shouldn’t prevent you from communicating via an external email and using external sites.

  25. 8DaysAWeek*

    #2: This is very common in my industry to not say where you are going until after you have left. A lot of people stay within the same industry when they leave and it is a very large, tight-knit community.
    A lot of co-workers over the years have left and would not say where they were going. While it seemed strange, I get it. I would want to keep it personal until everything was final (ex: background/reference checks). I think on some level people are afraid of the things you spoke about or even worse, sabotage. My industry can be pretty competitive/cut throat and until my butt was in the chair the first day of work, I wouldn’t want anyone to interfere.
    You can just say something to the effect of it is not something you want to disclose yet (until background checks, drug testing, etc. is complete).
    Most of the time I didn’t know where my co-workers went until they updated their Linked-In a couple of months later. Now, the people I was excellent friends with at work, they would let me know where they were going but it was kept confidential until they were ready to tell the masses.

  26. Redhead in NY*

    #1 – I was born 100% deaf in my left ear so naturally my right ear has super sonic hearing and I am very irritated by noises – typing, mouse clicking, chewing, doors opening, if someone says a word weirdly (lol). I moved desks to a quieter area but still sit around a lot of people. Asking people to not chew or eat at their desks is absurd. Use some frumpin noise cancelling ear buds! I agree that management should be moving her, not the other people.

    1. New Job So Much Better*

      Stupid question– Are there headphones that cancel out noise without having to listen to music or podcasts at the same time?

      1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

        Yes. I just had to take a certification exam in a room with a bunch of other people and they had noise cancelling headphones for everyone if they needed them.

      2. WellRed*

        Here’s my stupid question. Can you still hear the phone ring while wearing noise cancelling headphones?

        1. Thing1*

          I wear them on planes and I can hear the “ding” when they turn the seatbelt sign on and off clearly so I don’t think a phone would be a problem. Although I do have a cheaper pair, I’m not sure if a more high end pair might block more. Maybe play with ringtone/volume if possible to find something that comes through best?

          1. AvonLady Barksdale*

            I have a high end pair of noise cancelling headphones (I LOVE THEM SO MUCH) and I can hear certain sounds like that seatbelt sign ding or, as now, the washing machine (I’m listening to a podcast as I write this). I also have very good hearing so I don’t know if that contributes. But I also think it’s more related to pitch than volume; when my headphones are on, I can’t hear my partner speaking (he has a very low-pitched voice) but I can hear the oven timer go off.

            The phone for me is a non-issue… because my headphones are wireless and I usually listen to stuff on my phone, so when someone calls, the phone interrupts me. :) Yay for Bluetooth.

          2. Filosofickle*

            This is my experience. Mine were bought for flights and I haven’t ever tried to wear them in an office, so I don’t know but it doesn’t seem like it would help with coworker-level noise. On the plane (and when tested at home), they cancel engine drone and ambient/HVAC type sounds sounds, and it clarifies non-repetitive noises like people’s voices. I can hear my seatmate great, and all the dings. I guess I should take mine into a busy place and find out for myself because everyone here swears by them!

        2. Turquoisecow*

          The ones my husband has you can adjust the settings to block out certain kinds of noise. He mostly uses his on airplanes to block the engine noises, but there are settings that let you hear voices but not engines. I’m sure there’s a setting that would allow phone ringing to come through. His are Sony brand.

        3. Observer*

          It depends on the head phones.

          But also, for a lot of people there are ways around that, such as a popup notification or vibration. Not universal, but common enough that it’s worth exploring.

      3. Krakatoa*

        Yes, they use them at gun ranges to dull the sound of firearms (they won’t block noise that loud completely, but low volume sounds are all blocked out.

      4. Redhead in NY*

        I use Hifiman ear buds. they are great for noise canceling. I usually have some music on in the background (you don’t need to turn it up loud) and I can barely hear anythng.

      5. NotAnotherManager!*

        Yes. It’s what people that work on runways/decks of aircraft carries wear and what’s used at firing ranges to protect hearing. There are also some that make a white noise sound to cover up noises.

  27. Rebecca*

    OP#2, I’ve found that “I’ll let everyone know where I am once I get settled” works well if you don’t want to share for whatever reason. It is a natural thing to ask where someone is going, but in some workplaces (perhaps yours) it is better to be circumspect. I’ve had the experience of giving notice and sharing my new role and having my manager mock it – “Just so you know someone else left here to go there and they came back in a year because they hated it” type of thing.
    Anyway, once you start, just update your LinkedIn and then everyone will know or can find out if they are that interested.

  28. Cranky Neighbot*

    #1: There is no standardized diagnostic process for misophonia, and there’s some controversy about how exactly the condition is defined and whether it exists. It’s possible that self-diagnosis is the only option for some people who believe they have misophonia. So if you’re waiting for an official diagnosis before you take some action here, you should know that it might not come quickly.

    1. EPLawyer*

      But she hasn’t even brought it up to her doctor, according to the LW. It’s one thing that misophonia might be hard to figure out. The doctor might not know enough to do it. But to get into a verbal altercation with someone and then act like everything is hunky dory except everyone has to tiptoe around you is not even close to what the ADA is deisgned for.

      1. Cranky Neighbot*

        100% agreed! My point is that, if the letter writer is planning their next steps, they should take into account that a diagnosis might not be coming right now.

    2. Goose Lavel*

      This condition is similar to tinnitus and hyperacusis as there are no diagnostic tests prove it exists. All are silent illnesses and they are considered symptoms and not a cause of the illness.

      I have catastrophic level tinnitus and hyperacusis and all ENT and Audiology doctors will tell you just to live with it as there’s no cure. Had to quit my job 3 years ago and mainly stay at home as any noise it’s almost too unbearable to hear.

      1. MatKnifeNinja*

        Is there still no ICD number for misophonia?

        My cousin is getting therapies covered by insurance for anxiety, agoraphobia and GAD. Really, all is his issues are misophonia.

        The big deal audiologists/ENT group by me won’t see people who self diagnose as misophonia anymore, because it is different from tinnitus and hyperacusis. ENT group told my cousin at the time, there is really nothing that could be done by them. No ICD number to bill insurance, and that means no treatable diagnosis. Tinnitus and hyperacusis really don’t fit (I guess if you needed a work accommodation, you try for anything).

        Misophonia sucks because no one wants to treat it. No ICD number means it’s not a billable diagnosis. The neurologist would not help my cousin AT ALL, even though it deals with the brain. Forget ENT/audiology. That’s a semi dry well.

        The only way to get anything paid is to throw it under psychiatric disorder. The psychiatrist got the CBT and feeding therapy going, but misophonia isn’t a mental illness.

  29. London Calling*

    I don’t eat apples at work for that very reason (not that I eat like a horse), but because they are noisy and I have colleagues who are easily irritated and tend to get eye-rolly.

  30. Chucky Sue*

    #5 I did this and got the new job. I was on a one year leave (Canada) and found the new job after my mat leave replacement left. I felt REALLY bad about it but it was a big step up for me and my former manager was incredibly supportive. I collaborate with her team in my new role and we have an excellent working relationship. I still get lunch with her and consider her a mentor.

    I did do almost exactly what Allison suggested – I emailed my manager the job posting, asked if she thought this would be a good next step for me, etc. then I kept her up to date on the hiring process so it was not a giant surprise.

    It can definitely be done and work out. But I felt incredibly awkward about it.

    1. Chucky Sue*

      To clarify I felt especially bad about finding the position after the person covering for me left because I thought perhaps she could have stayed in that position if everyone knew I wasn’t coming back. But she found a new job before my scheduled return date.

  31. Scarlet*

    LW #1’s coworker reminds me of those monsters in A Quiet Place. Any noise at all and they murder you.

    But really that coworker should not EVER quit because no other workplace will be as accommodating to misphonia as her current one. She must be valuable, I guess.

    We have someone at my work who (thankfully) sits far away from me, but she coughs/sniffs/clears her throat loudly all day long, to the point where multiple people have been driven to quit over the years. Like it’s really bad. I have misphonia and recently learned HR is thinking about moving my desk over there. Let me tell you – if that happens I’m pulling out the accommodation card and getting noise cancelling headphones.

    1. Moray*

      Misophonia isn’t really an excuse to have contempt for people who make staying-alive noises, which is what your comments here are displaying.

      By all means, go for noise cancelling headphones or mention to HR why you would prefer not to sit close to her. But maybe take a look at how often you think of people in your life as ‘disgusting’ or compare them to animals.

      1. QCI*

        Trust me, I wish I could ignore those noises, but telling me to “just ignore it” is like telling someone with depression “just be happy”.

      2. Alianora*

        I think maybe you replied to the wrong comment? Scarlet didn’t call anyone disgusting, and the person they compared to the Quiet Place monsters is the coworker with misophonia. (Reasonable comparison, imo.)

        1. Moray*

          In several other comments, Scarlet called one person’s eating ‘disgusting,’ compared coworkers to horses when they eat and implied that only children should be eating apples (?)

          I’m sensitive to fragrances, but it would be an awfully unhealthy attitude if my dislike of them extended to the people who put them on.

          1. Kalros, the mother of all thresher maws*

            I think that’s a different commenter whose display name coincidentally contains the word Scarlet.

          2. Myrin*

            As far as I can see, she called her stepmother’s eating disgusting because she “slurps and sucks her teeth so loudly you can literally hear it across the room” – which seems fair if very blunt to me -, no one compared anyone else to horses (at least searching for “horse” as a keyword only brought up your comment and one other person’s username “A Horse Eating Apples”), and the comments about children are from a user called “ScarletNumber”.

          3. Scarlet*

            Hello, I am a different commentor from ScarletNumber. Also different than Scarlet2 if you see her around. There’s quite a few Scarlet’s it seems!

      3. Llama Face!*

        Moray, did you mean this for someone other than Scarlet? Because that is really not a kind or proportionate response to her comment (and the only other comment by that username is talking aboug a soup slurping relative so nothing to do with “staying alive noises”).
        In any case, people can be both sympathetic to coworkers having health problems while still being strongly bothered by unpleasant noises that are side effects.

  32. Anonymous Water Drinker*

    I have a honestly curious question: If people have misophonia, and eating sounds are the sounds that really affect them, how do they eat without getting upset? Is it only the eating sounds of other people that affect them?

    1. Jamie*

      For me it’s the sound of others.

      However, as my father and all older siblings had severe misophonia as well I learned early how to eat as silently as possible and foods that can’t be eaten quietly enough I eat privately.

      No one can completely mitigate all eating sounds, but good manners do help and lack of same make it much, much worse.

    2. QCI*

      Yes, only other people making the noise is irritating. Like how clicking a pen only bothers you if someone else is doing you but you can click away all day and not be bothered.

    3. MatKnifeNinja*

      My cousin has issues with his own chewing.

      After one of his huge rage meltdown, I blew up after not saying anything to him for years. I asked how the hell could he eat if chewing sounds bothered him.

      He burst into tears saying eating is miserable. The sound of his own chewing gagged him. That’s why he lives off of white bread, rice, instant mash potatoes and cheese. They can be all swallow basically whole.

      I had no clue.

      His mother has severe misophonia. It’s stressful eating with her and him. It is hard because they are so wound up and uncomfortable. The whole eating experience is triggering. Plate noises. Utensils on the plate, lips, teeth. Slurping. Sniffling. Wet food noises. Food smells. Forget getting a salad. I call it a day and get a coffee and soft bread sticks or a piece of cake. I’d rather just visit. I will always do something offending while eating according to them. But all the other humans on the planet eating are rage inducing too. Coffee, bread and cake doesn’t start that slow anger build up. I refuse to eat in stressful situations, and truly eating around them is not relaxing to ME. So we visit and have a decent enough time.

      It isn’t unusual to have issues with with your own mouth/eating noises according to my cousin’s doctor.

        1. MatKnifeNinja*

          My cousin is 60, and has hid misophonia in plan sight all those years.

          He told me a few weeks ago, it’s like his brain is missing the filter that filters out food/eating noises. He wondered growing up, how people weren’t shrieking at the top of their lungs over the noisy gross way most humans ate. Couldn’t they hear it? How could they not? Was he the only one brave enough to say something?

          Then he realized it was mostly just his issue, and that really hurt. It meant no chance for people changing their noisy, gross eating habits.

          1. QCI*

            I’ve just never heard of someone being “triggered” by their own noises. Most of the people I’ve heard of, like me, can help manage the problem by also eating to cover up the noise from others.

      1. Miranda*

        Ouch, I wonder if nutritional meal replacement shakes would make life easier for them. I’ve been annoyed by my own chewing before when eating something extra crunchy, but only occasionally, mostly I can tune it out. My mental auditory filters are wonky rather than nonexistent though, stuff is more likely to get to me when I’m tired or otherwise icky feeling, the rest of the time they work and I pass for normal(ish).

  33. Nep*

    OP1: I have misophonia and my manager (whose office is right near my desk) chews SO LOUDLY at lunch, at their multiple snacktimes, etc. I do one of three things: 1) Put on headphones and music. 2) Gently close their door and say “just until you’ve finished eating”. 3) Walk away for a minute or two to regain chill.

    So, while I do sympathize with your problem coworker, you and AAM are absolutely correct that there are things that they can be doing to help their own experience in the workplace.

    I would never suggest they get therapy or medical treatment for it – that’s a deeply personal choice. And headphones/music (if they’re not noise-cancelling) don’t get rid of all of the noise unless you’re really blasting it. But boy howdy do they help.)

      1. Nep*

        Pretty well, actually. I’m their assistant, so it’s not the overstep it seems. I also close their door any time they’re on the phone.

        I also only do it when they’re actually eating lunch, not a snack. I’ve told them I have misophonia, I always tell them why very very gently, and if they open the door again, I leave it alone. My desk is open to the office, so I don’t have any other option if their eating is cutting through my music/headphones. I also only do it maybe once a week? I try to be reasonable, and they try to be reasonable in return.

      2. nonymous*

        I think closing someone’s door is the universal signal of “you’re being so noisy that just closing my door isn’t enough but let’s not have a confrontation because I like having a professional relationship with you and am not asking you to change your behavior, k’thx!”

        The most memorable experience of this was in Kindergarten and again in 2nd grade. In the first case my teacher was a yeller and it was a quiet affirmation from other adults that it was over the top. In the second case (same teacher), but I was in the classroom across the hall so was able to have a conversation with my (non-yelling) teacher about why he couldn’t just march over there and tell her to stop, definitely a learning moment as a kiddo.

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          Yep – I work with someone who is a loud talker and loves speakerphone. She has toned it down a lot but just has one of those voices who carries. She tells all new people that they should feel free to get up and close her door at any time, if she’s bothering them. (We have an open-door culture, and leaving it closed all the time would be weird to close your door if you’re not on a call or discussing something sensitive.)

  34. Misophonia Mom*

    Misophonia is not widely known or understood in the medical community. It is not a mental illness. The brain of misophonia sufferers is hypersensitive to certain sounds. Not only is it physically painful but brain scans show that trigger noises activate the anger center in the brain-hence the coworkers aggressive behavior when she hears the noise. LW 1 has made some incorrect assumptions about treatment options. Talk therapy doesn’t work and exposure therapy makes it worse.
    Someone close to me suffers from it so I understand how frustrating it can be for the LW. And I had to explain it to their doctor so the assumption that the coworker talking to her doctor would make a difference is naive.
    Sound cancelling headphones can help but don’t always work.
    LW should request that the misophonia sufferer be moved to a more isolated seat. But please be kind. Suicide rates for misophonia sufferers are disproportionately high.
    She’s not doing this on purpose and she hates it more than you do. I promise.

    Ps there is only one treatment that has been shown to provide long term relief (called TRT and is provided by audiologists) It’s expensive, not covered by insurance and not available in every state.

    1. Jamie*

      Agree that the assumptions about treatment options were invalid. I think the thing most people have a hard time understanding is how it triggers anger. I didn’t understand it and thought I was crazy for years.

      But the key is not taking it out on innocent people just trying to feed themselves, and ….working in a place with an individual bathroom so you can have a silent rage-cry when you need to.

    2. Goose Lavel*

      I didn’t know tinnitus retraining therapy supposedly works for misophonia.

      I have catastrophic tinnitus and hyperacusis and it didn’t do anything for me.

    3. Joielle*

      Ok, but like… maybe the coworker can at least TRY some solutions on her end rather than blow up at anyone having a snack. I have zero sympathy for the coworker if she is making no attempt to manage her unreasonable reactions (regardless of whether those reactions are caused by a medical issue). I get that certain treatments, noise cancelling headphones, etc. aren’t a silver bullet to fix the problem 100% of the time, but you have to at least make a good faith attempt.

      1. Goose Lavel*

        Many commenters seem to believe she has control over her brain; this is a problem with her brain and she reacts immediately due to the sound causing rage.

        Imagine having something you can’t control just take over you and others saying you should try to be understanding when I’m chewing.

        It’s a very tough spot to be in.

        1. Krakatoa*

          It is a tough spot, and I sympathize, but everyone else does have the right to have a non-hostile workplace as well, and someone who lashes out for something as common as people chewing food is creating a hostile workplace for everyone else. It’s not unreasonable to address that aspect with her and explore how she can contribute to the solution.

          1. Close Bracket*

            That’s not what a hostile work environment means. A hostile work environment refers to an environment of discrimination against a protected class. In this case, the coworker with misophonia is part of protected class (disability), so if we are going to play the hostile work environment card, she is the one who gets to play it. Instead, we should put that phrase to bed bc it doesn’t apply.

            1. Myrin*

              I think Krakatoa was talking literally about someone making the worksite a hostile place for someone else, not referencing the legally defined term.

              1. Krakatoa*

                Right, I wasn’t talking in a legal sense, just in the sense that everyone else has a right to a work place that’s not excessively toxic.

        2. ACDC*

          I don’t think anybody is asserting she has control over her brain, I think the bulk of the comments are sharing the sentiment that the coworker does not appear (according to OP’s letter) to be making any good faith attempts to cope with this. According to the details we have been given, it appears that she is deflecting her issue to other people and putting it on them to make her feel more comfortable, which in this instance, isn’t reasonable in an office.

        3. Cranky Neighbot*

          I have triggers, so I get it. I totally understand that an innocuous thing can provoke an overblown emotional response.

          However, I can’t legitimize that response, and I can’t validate having a tantrum because someone is chewing beside you (or, in my case, yelling or trying to bolt because someone’s touched me from behind, or whatever). That is harmful and disruptive.

          You can understand that something’s out of someone’s control, and sympathize with them, and still not accept the behavior.

          1. Kalros, the mother of all thresher maws*

            Yes, exactly this. I have the impulses but it’s on me to manage the behaviors.

        4. Nep*

          I have misophonia, it does cause EXTREME ANGER, but they still have options besides blowing up at their coworkers. I absolutely think that accommodations are necessary (and being given!), but I also think they need to regulate their reactions better.

        5. DreamingInPurple*

          There is such a thing as coping ahead by putting measures in place to prevent or decrease the chance of that type of reaction. Her not being willing to try any of those tactics is the problem commenters are getting at, not whether she has “control over her brain” during her reaction.

        6. Observer*

          But that’s not what is happening. People are saying that she needs to understand that her reaction is not reasonable – which is true – and therefore she needs to find a way to manage her reaction rather than actually lashing out at people. And that she is clearly NOT making any effort to reduce the problem and is putting the ENTIRE burden on everyone else. That’s just not reasonable.

      2. Jamie*

        I agree the co-worker has a responsibility to try to mitigate her own distress to the best of her ability, and that her demands to control the eating of others is completely wrong.

        But therapy, medication, etc. references isn’t up to the OP to comment on as that’s a lot more complicated than she seems to think, but it’s also not the point. The point is the co-worker needs to work out reasonable accommodations for herself and she’s not being reasonable.

        Misophonia isn’t a mental illness, but what the great Marcus Parks says in regards to mental illness applies here, too…”It’s not your fault, but it is your responsibility.”

    4. Rosaline Montague*

      I think the issue isn’t the folks on the other end of the teleconference, but that the timing of the teleconference means people eat lunch during, near the person who hates the chewing.

    5. Observer*

      The key problem is that the coworker has not done ANYTHING about this, and is putting the entire burden on everyone.

      Maybe noise cancelling headphones would not work for her – but she has not even TRIED. And that’s something that is so simple to try.

      She’s making life difficult for others because her problem, she’s doing nothing at all to help herself and she complains when people don’t fully accommodate her. She clearly seems no problem with this set up. This makes it hard to have a lot of sympathy for her.

  35. Phony Genius*

    For #1, I would be very careful about saying that somebody has an undiagnosed condition if you are not qualified to make that diagnosis yourself. You can cover yourself by saying “appears to have” or “may have” before naming the suspected condition. It may not be a big deal in this case, but in other situations it could cause trouble.

  36. Blue Eagle*

    Hey, no disparaging the horses! When I feed apples to my horses, I cut them in quarters and they hardly make much of a sound when chewing.

    1. ScarletNumber*

      > When I feed apples to my horses, I cut them in quarters

      If only humans had this much common decency.

  37. It's mce*

    #2: Don’t feel you have to say anything if you feel that it might put you in an uncomfortable situation. Or announce it once you’re gone. I got a new job where ironically a laid-off ex colleague applied for the same position; sans colleague did not care for me and let everyone know I was a “terrible person.” I made the mistake of telling colleague’s work friend where I was going; friend that job was supposed to be the colleague’s, not mine. Thus, all gossip hell broke loose, including colleagues’ cruel joking and even as far as the ex-colleague contacting my new employer about me. It was a very uncomfortable few weeks at my new job. Luckily, my new employer realized I was a good person.

  38. Anon4thisone*

    I have certain *visuals* that trigger me the way apples seem to trigger so many. One of them is seeing exposed flesh on very overweight people. Another is just seeing ears in general. But I understand that I am the one with the problem, that my response is weird and unfair, and that my coworkers have no responsibility to hide their ears or go on a diet. I do have a coworker who has migraines from perfume, so I don’t wear it, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to refrain from eating my lunch salad because someone doesn’t like a crunchy sound.

    1. ACDC*

      +1 this is exactly the sentiment I expressed in my comment below. It is my duty to deal with things that bother me, not other people’s.

    2. Kristin*

      It’s not a dislike of a crunchy sound. It’s nails on a chalk board paired with panic feelings for me. While I don’t think the whole office has to change, the general population has to understand it’s not just a dislike of something. I’ve tried various therapies and none work, so I get up and walk away if someone insists on eating next to me.

      1. Observer*

        Well, it’s a LOT easier to get someone to understand that you actually have a SERIOUS problem rather than just a dislike if you actually behave like this is a serious problem that you are trying to handle as best as you can.

        Now, I’m sure that you are actually doing that. But the OP’s coworker isn’t.

  39. voyager1*

    LW1: If someone got into a “verbal altercation” about what I eat. I think I would just tell her they isn’t the boss of me and then bring in whatever that is…Every.Single.Day.

    But I am petty sometimes that way.

  40. ACDC*

    As a fellow hater of chewing sounds, I could never imagine acting like OP #1’s coworker. I fully recognize that it is my quirk to deal with so when coworkers close to me are eating, I put on my headphones or take that time to go for a walk. Good grief, it’s not other people’s job to make me feel more comfortable. Sorry you have to deal with this, I hope you and your coworkers can come up with a reasonable solution for everyone!

  41. rageismycaffeine*

    I want to jump in with a corollary question to #4. I have a Director title under an Executive Director. Think Director of Teapot Research under the Executive Director of Teapot Services. Over time, it’s become clear that I’m more accurately the assistant director of Teapot Services, as my job duties have expanded past the Research role – but this does look like a step back, even though it’s really an expanded responsibility, so we haven’t done it yet.

    Any thoughts on this? Does it fall into the same category as “just make your responsibilities clear on your resume”?

  42. Jennifer*

    #2 I think you’re smart not to mention where you’re going if it’s a competitor. Someone mentioned that they were going to a competitor after they gave their two-week notice and they were told that that day would be their last.

  43. MsClaw*

    The guy on the other side of my cube wall makes so many sounds with his mouth and throat; it’s truly impressive. Every time he takes a drink of water, it sounds like someone is doing a plumbing repair. When he yawns, it’s like a pr0n-worthy orgasm of sound. When he eats? You don’t want to know. I had no idea a person could be that loud with basic bodily functions. The amusing thing is that everyone says he’s so quiet, because he’s not chatty. They’ve never had to listen to him have a cup of coffee and a donut, I suppose.

    I live in headphones. It’s annoying, but it’s not like I’m going to demand he not drink water or yawn. My hunch is if he knew any other way to do these things without sounding like he was hoovering up the ocean, he would.

  44. ohdear*

    #4 – Have you tried asking for a new title? It may be that the organization didn’t realize it was being viewed as too junior of a role and this seems the easiest if they agree.

    1. OP#4*

      This possibility has definitely been on my radar! Especially as I start to build up more seniority at this org, I might make the request. Thanks for your input! It’s appreciated.

  45. A Horse Eating Apples*

    I think the big problem with LW #1’s office is the same we see on many other letters – managers thinking they have to accommodate an employee’s condition no matter what – not make reasonable accommodations.

    Anecdote: I worked with someone who had anger management issues and her response to work requests was a massive tantrum (up to and including yelling at coworkers that “she had to do everything around here” – when she was the only person whose job it was to do the thing) and to actually refuse to do her job because she didn’t feel like it. My boss “accommodated” it for years with the reasoning that someone else could learn how to do her job. She then got another accommodation of leaving early to go to therapy, but stopped going and kept leaving work early anyway. We didn’t complain about that, though, because it was a much nicer environment without having to wonder what would set off a screaming rage on her. Sometimes it was the lunch her mother had packed (because her mother knew she didn’t want that food today, apparently). Sometimes it was the fact that someone forgot to close the bathroom door after using it. Sometimes it was because someone had used her favorite mug for coffee and she couldn’t have it when she wanted it. Basically, we never knew what it was and how to prevent it, and it affected morale really badly, to the point where two people quit over her behavior.

    Another thing here that’s worth remembering is that THE EMPLOYER has to provide the reasonable accommodations. The burden shouldn’t fall on the coworkers to disrupt their normal workflow so that the accommodations can be accomplished.

    (As for my coworker, she eventually left the company of her own volition to go back to school in order to change careers).

    1. fposte*

      In some cases it can involve the other employees, though. The ADA doesn’t forbid the employer to involve them, and moving employee seating would likely be fine if done correctly. If Jane fosters cats and Bob is allergic, but Bob has to be near the printer/bathroom/whatever, moving Jane is fine. It’s just the moving target approach here that makes it untenable.

      1. A Horse Eating Apples*

        True, I probably worded it the wrong way. What I meant is that it’s the company’s job to provide the accommodation, not other people’s on their own. The example you gave is reasonable. “Just do her job for her and take being yelled at” and “never eat in the office” are not reasonable things to expect from coworkers, though.

      2. That Girl From Quinn's House*

        Yes, it would be OK to keep Bob near the bathroom and move Jane away from Bob, but it would not be reasonable to tell Bob or any other cat-owning employees to rehome their cat to accommodate Jane.

  46. Dinopigeon*

    I don’t think OP1’s company has actually dealt with the problem yet. Instead they’ve just made small ad hoc shifts to try to grease the squeaky wheel, which have added up to a major inconvenience. The management needs to actually discuss the issue and assemble a strategy that isn’t solely fixated on getting the coworker to stop complaining, but rather solving the problem in a way that is minimally intrusive for all parties.

    1. QCI*

      So…buy her really good headphones, and tell her “this is your problem to handle, not everyone else’s”. I have misophonia and this seems totally reasonable to me.

  47. Third or Nothing!*

    #4: That happened to me too! My first full-time job after college was at a small energy management company that wanted a marketing person (yes, ONE marketing person). In some ways it was nice because I got to do a lot of different things, but in other ways it was frustrating to not have anyone to collaborate with. I’m still with the company that bought out my previous company, but now I’m in more of an account manager role.

    From time to time I put out feelers for marketing coordinator positions, but haven’t gotten any offers. The last place I interviewed straight up asked me how I’d feel about being managed by someone younger than me, so it seems that people perceive coordinator as a step backwards for me. Oh well.

    1. OP#4*

      It’s such a difficult situation to be in! I’m actually incredibly envious of all my friends who landed roles in large, robust marcomm departments right out of school. It just seems like they have such a huge advantage having mentorship and guidance. It makes a difference for sure!

      Having said that, I think that folks like us who have experience operating as one-person departments have advantage of being diversified in our skill sets. It’s all about perspective, I guess.

  48. Brian*

    I have an irrational grudge against peer interviews.

    I once was up for a dream job at a Fortune 500 company. I had a set of three interviews, the first with a peer for the position, the next with the boss, the last with the grandboss. I really flubbed the peer interview. From my point of view, the woman had a bunch of gotcha questions about esoteric aspects of the position which I was unprepared for. We also personally seemed to just grind gears.

    Despite that, I really nailed the boss and grandboss interviews. Like they were among my best interviews ever, from my point of view. So I knew the peer woman didn’t like me but there was a chance the boss and grandboss could overrule her. I ended up not getting the job and I’ve had an axe to pick with peer interviews ever since.

    1. The New Wanderer*

      I had a similar experience. The peer interview part of my all day interview circuit was just not great. This was set up as a peer thing for general company fit but the two people were completely unfamiliar with my type of work and asked general questions with kind of a fixed attitude about how the answer should fit a certain template. The interviews I had with the manager, her boss, and someone who would have been a direct peer on the team went super well IMO. The job went to the other top candidate, who probably nailed the peer review too. Ah well.

      I’ve been on the peer side of an interview as well, and although I think the candidate would have been passed over just on the basis of management, it was obvious to the team that the candidate was not going to be a good fit (could not explain their own grad school work to people who were very experienced in the topics; our job requires being able to explain why and how we do research). So they can be good, but if it’s on the basis of someone’s opinion about you, they can sink an otherwise great candidate.

    2. Curmudgeon in California*

      If you had gotten the job you would have had to work with the woman who did not mesh well with you. That would have been hell.

      The peer interview helped you dodge a bullet, IMO, and avoid what would have been a very uncomfortable work environment.

      I think she did you a favor by recognizing that the two of you would not make good coworkers and telling her boss.

      1. tamarack & fireweed*

        Well, maybe, maybe not. One problem with peer interviews seems to be that the choice of interviewer can be random and not very well thought out. Also, interviewers need to receive some form of training or guidelines in how to conduct themselves. I think the idea is very valid, though. When well executed, it’s a great addition to an interview process that can ferret out problems that higher-ups may not be perceiving.

        I’ve seen peer interviewers who were very taken by the idea of getting out of their regular work and being asked to judge someone (and overly harsh, just like student peer-evaluators tend to be way harsher than the instructor). OTOH, I’ve also known applicants to get chummy with the peer interviewer, not take them seriously and, when feeling that their own skills were superior to the interviewer’s, being rude and condescending.

  49. annon*

    #2. In most situations I’ve found I’m ok to share that information, and it’s even been helpful at times. They may have connections in the new company or city that can help you get moving a bit faster.

    The most recent position change I had, I flat refused to say where I was going. Even going so far as to give answers like “well, maybe I’ll go to Alaska, or you know Maine always seemed like it would be nice.” I was quitting the job without a replacement because the owner’s wife wanted me to submit false financial documents to the bank so that they could secure a few million for a construction project. The company wasn’t profitable and other banks had already turned them down. The owner’s wife was the one pressing for info, asking 2-3x per day where I was going. That was enough of a flag for me, then a colleague confided that this wife was deadset on getting me fired from my new position.

    I’m glad I walked out of that job. The broken promises were frustrating, the pressure to commit fraud was terrifying.

    1. Veronica*

      Wow, that wife sounds toxic to the point of criminality! She wanted to get you fired from your new job, why? Just for revenge for not doing what she said? O_O
      This is why I’m always cautious on general principles. You can’t always tell who’s crazy and who is reasonable. Though luckily you had some clues from her trying to commit fraud!

      1. annon*

        Yup, she wanted revenge. Her husband (the owner) and her were convinced I was the reason their business was failing.

        I had joined because they were already on a two-year spiral into failure and they wanted help correcting that. They only kept afloat by people’s generosity, they had zero business acumen.

        Besides her “ideas,” the owner wanted me to encourage staff to volunteer time instead of clocking in. Super toxic environment of “we’re a family” and “you shouldn’t be here for the money, you should be here because you want to see us succeed.”

  50. Sharikacat*

    LW #1: Since her condition is undiagnosed, doesn’t that technically mean screw her accommodations? An employer can’t be forced to accommodate a condition if there is no proof of said condition. I think an employer can require her to submit paperwork documenting her need to be accommodated, which they probably can’t admit to out loud without violating her privacy. So how does the LW know it’s undiagnosed? At this point, it feels like the manager just caving to the coworker instead of, y’know, managing the situation.

    LW #2: It’s really no one’s business where you’re going to work next. You can quit your job to go work for a competitor or move to Montana to be a llama farmer, and you get to keep that information to yourself- especially if you believe Bianca is just going to make that whole process unpleasant. I believe that in situations like that, Alison has reminded people that they do not need to fulfill their notice period (unless not doing so would impose some real penalty) if they are feeling harassed. If Bianca has been told to cut that out before, then she likely knows she’s overstepping.

    Quite frankly, her tactic of trying to make offers to retain an employee at that point isn’t a good idea. If that person was already on their way out of the door, it’s just a powerplay on her part to get them to stay. Depending on the reason for departing the company, being offered more money or some small increase in benefits won’t change your mind. If that would change your mind, then that’s really something that should have been addressed before it got to that point.

    1. Close Bracket*


      No, it does not. ADA reasonable accommodations don’t require a diagnosis, and they don’t require the person with the condition to do anything to alleviate the condition themselves. Diabetics are not required to eat low carb and exercise in order to request time away from their duties to test blood sugar and inject insulin. People with obesity are not required to lose weight before requesting a chair with a higher weight capacity. People with anxiety are not required to see therapy to request a workplace that minimizes their exposure to triggers. The law is very clear, and it is not up for debate.

      1. fposte*

        They don’t have to manage the medical side of a chronic condition the way an employer might desire, but they absolutely can be provided with an accommodation that involves their participation, like earbuds.

      2. Lissa*

        This seems – really different from the situation we’re discussing, though? Nobody is saying “the coworker has to go to therapy to manage her condition in order to get any accommodation” but just questioning what is actually legally required (which of course can be different from what’s helpful.)

  51. Kristin*

    I have misophonia, which goes along with my Sensory Processing Disorder. I can tell you that exposure therapy, talk therapy, white noise machines, medication, ear plugs, listening to music do not work for me. I can hear you eating and it invokes sheer panic in me. I’ve tried Cognitive Behavioural Therapy but it doesn’t work for this. Noise cancelling earphones work but then you can’t hear anything!

    I get up and walk away if I hear people eating. If they’re going to eat at their desk and it’s near mine, I have to leave. #sorrynotsorry

    1. Curmudgeon in California*

      But you don’t demand that the entire office not eat lunch to accommodate you, which is what the OPs coworker is doing.

      IMO, your way of handing it is perfectly reasonable.

    2. Observer*

      You’ve obviously tried all of the expected and some unexpected ways of remediating the problem. And, ultimately, YOU leave.

  52. Close Bracket*


    When you talk about disability, you usually make the point that ADA reasonable accommodations don’t require a diagnosis, and they don’t require the person with the condition to do anything to alleviate the condition themselves. Diabetics are not required to eat low carb and exercise in order to request time away from their duties to test blood sugar and inject insulin. People with obesity are not required to lose weight before requesting a chair with a higher weight capacity. People with anxiety are not required to see therapy to request a workplace that minimizes their exposure to triggers.

    All of this applies with respect to misophonia. If bad enough, it can interfere with major life functions, like working, and as such, it counts as a disability. LW and everybody else who are emphasizing the undiagnosed aspect are out of line. Likewise, claiming that the coworker should be doing something about it in order to request reasonable accommodations is also out of line. The emphasis of your answer should have been with regard to what constitutes reasonable in a legal sense and how to push back on the requests being made on LW and everybody else starting with regard for the burden on the company, eg, the basis for “reasonable” in the first place. The comments about alleviating the impact on the coworker and seeing a doctor were not constructive.

    1. Anonymous 5*

      Uh, Alison’s answer *does* address that. She made clear that the coworker is out of line and that the expectations are not reasonable, and recommended the way to bring it up as a group so that the accommodation can be arranged appropriately rather than kowtowing to unreasonable demands.

    2. Observer*

      From the point of view of just being a decent reasonable person, not trying even the most basis and simple steps to alleviate a problem is just garbage behavior.

      And, as others have pointed out, reasonable accommodations absolutely can require the person to participate. Which, in this context, could mean providing the person good noise cancelling headphones and expecting them to use it.

      I suggest you look at the JAN page.

  53. Sharon*

    #1: I agree that you should push back on management as this situation is unreasonable! I have misophonia and my biggest trigger is the sound of people eating crunchy foods (ice and raw carrots are the worst), but I recognize this is MY ISSUE AND I HAVE TO DEAL WITH IT!!! Over the years, I’ve built up a tool kit of coping skills. In this age of accommodation, sometimes people lose sight of personal responsibility. Yes, my husband, close friends and some coworkers who are well aware of my issue will try their best to not crunch around me, but if they do, I handle it like an adult. I don’t expect the whole world to not eat around me! Accommodations are supposed to be reasonable and people not being allowed to eat is not reasonable.

  54. agnes*

    I have a lot more sympathy for people with misophonia or other disorders after my experience with our building’s fire alarm last week. It was so loud and piercing that I literally lost my eyesight for a brief period. I threw up and almost passed out from it. Others were not affected. They said, “yeah it does seem to be really loud” while I was holding my head, crying, and thinking “I might need medical attention for this.” This is the first time this has ever happened to me and oh my god I am still living in fear that the damn thing will go off again.

    I hope you can all work something out that makes everyone’s interests. In my case, I am stuck. I was told they cannot turn down the volume on the alarm due to regulations.

    1. anonagain*

      Has that happened to you with other fire alarms before? I worked in a new building where a few people got sick after the first fire drill. It turned out the alarm was too loud (i.e. loud enough that it violated some safety standard).

  55. Jan*

    Re the co-worker who gets angry when people chew – 20 years ago, this would not have been considered a disorder or diagnosis and multiple ways to mitigate the resulting discomfort would not have been suggested. It was understood people are in close quarters, be considerate, sometimes you have to put up with things that annoy you. Period.

    1. fposte*

      I’m not clear what you’re saying–the fact that it’s now recognized as a disorder doesn’t mean that it was good that people didn’t use to know that. People with ADHD used to be told they were lazy and undisciplined, too–was that better?

      1. ScarletNumber*

        If you review my comment, it doesn’t violate any of your rules. I compared MY coworker to a horse eating apples, not the OP and not any of the commenters. I was perfectly civil to everyone here on your blog.

  56. not neurotypical*

    I really want to push back on this “Coordinator and assistant aren’t all that different,” which mirrors comments Allison has made in the past and suggests to me that she is not conversant with the norms in the subsector of the nonprofit sector that includes organizations that mindfully strive for workplaces that are as egalitarian as possible.

    My title is “Coordinator” and legally I am the CEO. This is the third nonprofit (over 30+ years, I’m not a job hopper) at which I have held the title of “Coordinator” and in fact been the CEO.

    Nonprofits like ours tend to use “coordinator” where more authoritarian organizations use “director.” So, for example, there might be a “Development Coordinator” (who does everything that a “Director of Development” would do) and a “Campaigns Coordinator” (who does everything that a “Director of Campaigns” might do) all reporting to the “Coordinator” (who does everything that an “Executive Director” does).

    It’s a matter of tone mostly, but does in its reflection of an ethos of cooperation and consultation, tend to cut down on hubris and bossiness. NOT saying that everybody ought to do adopt this nomenclature, just that in my world the idea that a coordinator would be the equivalent of an assistant is head-spinning. The first time I saw Allison say that, I was utterly mystified, since coordinating projects and people is such advanced level work. Now that I know the word is used both ways, I’ll be mindful to look closely at duties and achievements if someone has listed that on a resume, and I hope others will do the same, especially if they have been assuming that coordinators are assistants!

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      As has been noted here a bunch of times above, a good hiring manager is looking at the totality of a resume. So if it’s clear from the context that you’re in a much more senior role, they’re not going to think you’re an assistant. But it’s absolutely true that coordinator is indeed very junior in nonprofits, which you can see reflected in few a few comments above.

      But you’re right — I’ve seen very few organizations that use “coordinator” instead of “executive director” because it’s not a mainstream nomenclature (which I think you’re acknowledging too). It’s likely useful for your organization to be aware of that — not because it should change what it’s doing, but so that everyone is aware it can be misunderstood outside of your org. (But I recall you’ve used “director” to describe your role in previous comments so I suspect you know this too!)

  57. RuhRoh*

    Re: OP1 I agree that there are so many things Miss Misophonia can do while at her desk to more gently work with her colleagues. Personally, I got some amazing headphones to deal with a loud smacker /sucker / chewer in the cube next to mine, but I also don’t mind getting up and taking a break when PigPen gets really into the frenzy of sloppy eating. While we like to think that everyone was raised with a baseline of manners, that can vary whether culturally or personally. I’m happy that nobody is there to hear me eat noodle soup takeout at 9 p.m…..I’m sure that my noises are just as annoying, and that’s where empathy helps.

    I am also curious — to the group — about your thoughts about eating in meetings? While I can control the situation in my cube around lunch time, I can’t do anything about the bug-eyed, belching blonde who chomps on baby carrots in every staff meeting and even on conference calls….they promoted her to director, so obvious the company doesn’t care much about manners.

  58. Clementine Danger*

    I also have severe misophonia with rage triggers. I think it would be helpful for LW1 to know that “having it diagnosed” is not as black and white as all that. It’s not currently in the DSM and even medical professionals who agree to treat treat it differ on what that treatment should be. Exposure therapy as a whole is losing credibility in some circles and has very mixed results with treating misophonia. It can actually worsen the condition and create new trauma. There is no medication for it and not much research being done.

    I speak from experience when I say it’s INCREDIBLY debilitating. My social life became non-existent at its worst, because I couldn’t risk a rage trigger and there was pretty much nothing I could do about that. These days I get around it by growing out my hair and using it to hide the fact that I’m wearing earplugs during meals. But it’s imperfect at best. I can’t go to movie theaters, or have a night in with friends where everyone’s snacking for several hours straight. I have NEVER had anything but incredibly annoyed reactions when I politely ask someone to please chew with their mouth closed. And I can hardly risk going into a blackout rage every time someone has a snack. So I hide in bathrooms, wear wax earplugs, contrive situations where I’m late for dinner but in time for drinks after… It’s exhausting.

    Yes, the coworker should absolutely wear headphones/earplugs or move to a more private area if possible! Absolutely. But if that’s somehow not an option, maybe it will help to know that it’s a truly debilitating condition and “getting diagnosed” is not really possible given that the status of misophonia as a mental disorder is kind of shaky at the moment. The best two therapists could tell me was, well, that sounds like it really sucks, fucked if I know what to do though, earplugs maybe? It is a disability. I promise this isn’t meant to be glib, but it’s worse for her than it is for you. Mental illness in the workplace (especially in the US) is so tricky, and people with mental illness can absolutely be assholes about it, but I get so desperate and disheartened when I realize I can either have an accommodation that makes everyone resent me or go through severe mental distress every single day at the office. She needs these accommodations and I’m actually in awe that a workplace would provide them. I suppose I disagree with Alison here, in that I think it’s not a huge imposition to eat lunch in a designated area or chew with your mouth closed. It depends on the workplace, of course! It always does. And there’s no easy answer. But I hope LW1 can muster some compassion. I literally shuddered at the thought of my coworkers banding together as a group to protest the accommodation I desperately need. If that happened to me, I’d be utterly devastated.

    Tl;dr Misophonia is not currently diagnosable or treatable, it’s incredibly debilitating, and just because it comes across as fussy/entitled doesn’t mean your coworker doesn’t desperately need this accommodation.

    1. Krakatoa*

      Eating in a designated area wouldn’t be a huge accommodation if eating at someone’s desk wasn’t temporarily required for workflow. If it is though, is it really reasonable to require other employees to either skip lunch or stay late/come early to meet a deadline? Can you teleconference effectively in a cafeteria? Is it really the place of an employer to police other people’s eating habits and, if so, how far can they really go with it? Would you write someone up for chewing with their mouth open?

      I’m sorry that you have such a debilitating condition, but there are times when reasonable accommodation crosses the line into overly disruptive for everyone else. This employee should have her own private space, an office or a quiet corner away where she may not have to deal with the noises. To me, that’s the best, and possibly only, reasonable accommodation to what she has. I think it’s awful that it’s come to that, and I do feel bad for the coworker who has to struggle with the condition, but to me that’s about the only real thing that can reasonably be done in this case.

      And regardless of condition, no one should be subjected to rage-filled outbursts at their place of work, whether by management or by other coworkers. And that has seemed to happen with impunity in this case. If you were on the other end of one, I’m sure you’d wish management would also be willing to stand up for you.

      1. Clementine Danger*

        Yeah, it’s so hard to try and accommodate conflicting needs. I run a community space and I’ve got a regular with a dog allergy and a regular with an emotional support dog. It’s so hard to figure out how to do right by everyone and sometimes you just can’t.

        I obviously agree that nobody should be subjected to angry outbursts at work. Absolutely! I have so much sympathy for the people trying to work around this. It’s one of those situations where there’s just no clear solution if a separate area isn’t available for this person. I’m really baffled as to why headphones aren’t an option for her. Her coworkers seem to know about her condition, so it’s not like she’s trying to keep it private. Trust me, I’d be annoyed by me and my garbage fire of a psyche too. But I did want to point out that it’s not as simple as get diagnosed, treatment, all better now. I thought maybe it would help the LW to know that there’s really not very much the coworker can do in that regard. It sometimes helps me when I’m annoyed, to know that someone I thought was being rude actually can’t help it.

        But again, angry outbursts are 100% not okay. Ever. That’s definitely not part of any reasonable accommodation. There’s no room for debate there.

    2. Observer*

      Accommodating ONE person at the expense of every single other person is not awesome. If people did not ever have an issue of being able to eat when they need to, that would be one thing. But the OP was clear that this is not the case. People are being expected to either go hungry or seriously limit what they eat (not just eat with their mouths closed.)

  59. nora*

    I was surprised to see that coordinator and assistant are sometimes equivalent. I’m in a technical position (think “specialist” but not) and my supervisor is a coordinator. Next up is assistant director and then director. I’ve been a coordinator before who supervised administrative assistants and interns. I’ve never been a coordinator that could be compared to an assistant. Hm.

  60. His Grace*

    LW #1: Does your co-worker have something incriminating of the higher ups? If not, I cannot imagine for the life of me why she is still working there. This is a sign of a very dysfunctional workplace, and if I were you, I’d be looking elsewhere.

  61. Nina Bee*

    I do have sympathy for the coworker in #1.. I have misophonia with whistling (to me it’s a voluntary, unnecessary noise – whereas chewing or breathing isn’t something that can be helped – so I have less patience with it and it drives me nuts!). You can still hear it through headphones :) But I do think it’s unreasonable to make everyone around you not do normal body functions because you find it horrible.. sounds like the office has tired their best to accommodate her needs and she needs to realise it has to go two ways! Maybe she doesn’t realise what’s happening, does she know about misophonia? Might make her feel less nuts (and we do feel nuts sometimes!) and help her deal with triggers better.

  62. Luna*

    LW1 — Why don’t they just have she be the one to be moved away from others? Sounds like a much simpler, and better long-term solution, than multiple people being moved.

    Lw2 — “I do not feel comfortable telling you that.” especially since it’s none of their business what you do with your life, even worklife, once you have left the place. But don’t tell them the second half of that sentence. Or just refuse to answer by saying you won’t tell them, then proceed to become temporarily deaf whenever the topic gets brought up.
    Or go the whole confrontational route of, “Why? So you’ll harass *me* with phone calls for the next few weeks, like you did with (coworker)?” because, hey, you have resigned. Not much they can do to you anymore.

  63. OP#1*

    Thank you, Alison, for posting my letter and to commenters for providing many varied viewpoints. Whether I agree with all of them or not, I think it’s important to hear and try to understand other opinions.

    I will reply to some comments directly, but add some general comments here.

    1) At present, as some have assumed, we do not have an appropriate designated lunch room. We are undergoing renovations and there is supposed to be a large-ish space to be used as a lunch/break room, but that would not help those of us who have to work through lunch. We often have colleagues across the country, so we often have teleconferences or web conferences between 10 or 11 and 2, and sometimes have consecutive meetings which don’t end till 3:30. So it’s either eat at 10, don’t eat, or eat at your desk. We all have and use mute buttons, and others on the line are not shy about politely reminding people to use them.

    2) I should have been clearer about the altercation between her and the co-worker. The altercation was not 100% her fault. The other co-worker was eating an apple, she closed his office door, and he became angry and confronted get. So really, he instigated the altercation, but it began because of the chewing sounds. (Actually, a different co-worker had advised her to close his door if it bothered her so much, so she did). The other co-worker also has issues (don’t we all?) and those contributed to his reaction which set off the altercation.

    3) She is actually seated in a more isolated area than the rest of us, but since we have a mostly open workspace, it doesn’t really matter where she sits.And right now, every desk is occupied. Our workspaces are becoming even smaller, so we are going to be in even closer quarters with each other. At one time, she had the opportunity to move to an office with a door she could close, but it had no natural light, so she declined. After the renovation, there will be no offices, so it won’t even be an option for her.

    4) I was told by her manager that she doesn’t think she has a problem. She thinks everyone hates chewing sounds as much as she does. What he said was, “She doesn’t have the self-awareness that other people do.”

    5) I have no idea why she doesn’t want to use headphones or earplugs. I have seen her use them occasionally, but rarely and not to drown out chewing sounds. I understand they can be uncomfortable (I will use earbuds but not headphones because the latter squish my head), but even I use earplugs when I need to drown out other people talking.

    6) I actually don’t believe my work environment is dysfunctional, at least not any more than usual (I think workplaces are like families, they are all dysfunctional in their own functional way). In general, we all get along and help each other when needed. She kind of does her own thing, but it’s usually respected. I think management knows most of us are reasonably considerate, which us why they put the onus on us, rather than her, to change.

    7) I’m not in the US so ADA does not apply in this case. My workplace is unionized, and I know doctor’s notes are required for some accommodations (as opposed to conditions), but not others. I have no idea how it’s decided which do or don’t.

    I may add more general comments later, and will add the direct replies when I am able, but this is all I can think of at the moment.

    Thanks again!

    1. New Jack Karyn*

      Thank you so much for checking in! The context of the altercation makes a huge difference. All she did was close the guy’s door, and he came out breathing fire? He sounds like the jerk, there.
      However, has anyone ever told her that no, really, most people aren’t that annoyed by normal chewing sounds? And that her reaction is out of the ordinary? If her outsized reactions are disrupting workflow, and managers aren’t trying to deal with it, then your workplace is a little dysfunctional. Has anyone recommended that she try headphones, etc.?

  64. Jennifer Juniper*

    OP1’s company could find itself in hot water if someone with diabetes or hypoglycemia had a blood sugar crash because they couldn’t eat at their desks.


  65. fanofdirectcommunication*

    OP#2: Consider, if you’re feeling confrontational, telling the COO, “Due to the reactions and climate after [colleagues x, y, z] continued their careers elsewhere, I’d rather not say.” Perhaps also on the record with another coworker or someone in an admin position . And that way, if she wants to press you for details or try to make you feel worse about your leaving, she’ll have to reckon with how she’s affecting the office atmosphere.

  66. anneshirley*

    As someone who also has misophonia, it’s definitely incredibly difficult to deal with sometimes (every day I’m thankful I share a space with 2 other people and don’t work in an open office) but the key is finding ways to deal with it. This doesn’t mean saying no one can eat around me, it means putting on headphones while my coworker is eating/talking on the phone/the guy outside is mowing the lawn/etc. That being said, good noise-canceling headphones are expensive which can be a barrier, though I’ve found my Taotronics 40 dollar in-ear headphones pretty good. Honestly, I think the best thing for your company to do OP in terms of accommodations might be to offer her a pair of noise-canceling headphones but NOT ask other coworkers to lower their own noise. I wouldn’t expect my work to provide this, but since your company sounds like they are trying to accommodate this might be an option.

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