can I freeze out my coworkers who aren’t social distancing and refuse to work with them?

A reader writes:

I work in a large furniture warehouse in the UK, employing around 200 people. Despite several national and local COVID-19 lockdowns, we’ve kept operating through the entire pandemic and we are all designated as “key workers.” I’ve worked there for a year and a half and won Employee Of The Month a few months ago. I’m responsible for training all new employees and my appraisals have been excellent, but I’m worried all of this is about to change.

Four of my coworkers have been persistently breaking social distancing laws throughout the pandemic. They are two women and two men who are very close friends, and I suspect each couple is attracted to their counterpart. Their feelings are none of my business, but on an almost daily basis, they are hugging, flirting, sharing sofas in the break room, not wearing masks around each other, sharing e-cigarettes, and getting rides to and from work in cars. They started months ago and I tolerated it (wrongly), but it’s been getting a lot worse recently. Our area of the country has also been placed in Tier 4 (the highest possible COVID restrictions) and has one of the worst infection rates in the country. They have been repeatedly warned by our management to follow social distancing guidelines, but their behavior remains unchanged.

Today I approached one of them and asked, “Do you think I should report people who don’t do social distancing?” He said, “I don’t know… it depends…” and I said, “Well, I’m about to. All of you.” He laughed, and I drove off in my electric order picker. I asked the same question to another of them, and once again the answer they gave was, “I’m not sure…” so I told them I was about to report them and got more laughter. I found the shift manager and asked to speak in private, then angrily told him about all the rule-breaking I’d witnessed. He confirmed that they’d been warned before and I said that they obviously don’t care because they’re still doing it over and over again. He said he would talk to all four of them and issue them with what our company calls a “safety talk” — an informal but written warning which is placed in their employee files.

I believed it would make no difference at all, and I was proved right at the end of the shift. Two of them signed out of the building by standing next to each other together even though there is red tape marking a two-meter boundary around the desk, which permits only one person to enter the space at a time. Knowing that I was the person who’d reported them, they both ignored me on the way out of the door.

Because of how strongly I disapprove of their careless behavior and their willingness to put us all at risk, I’ve decided to ghost them. To be clear on what this means:
• I will not make eye contact with them
• I will not engage in any conversation with them
• I will stand with my back to them wherever possible (if this is not possible, I will keep my arms and legs crossed at all times)
• I will not hold doors open for them
• I will not cooperate in any work with them, will not help them if they need assistance, and will refuse to be helped by them even if I need help
• I will not accept any attempt at an apology — it’s far too late and they have shown no signs of regret
• If coworkers or management try to mediate between us, I will not change my position
• Any coworker or manager who takes their side will also be ghosted
• I will continue to ghost them for the entirety of our time spent at work, however long this lasts

This course of action is obviously drastic and controversial, but it also reflects how angry I am at them and I will go as far as it takes to figuratively delete them from my workplace. However, because I recognize what a hostile decision this is, I am willing to listen to whatever advice you are willing to give. I am worried that I am overreacting and am about to go down a very dark path, but I cannot let go of my anger to these people who I believe are a danger to everybody and should be placed under house arrest until the pandemic is over. I am also worried that I will myself be disciplined or dismissed from my job if I continue this course of action. Is this possible?

Yes, it’s definitely possible that you will be disciplined or fired if you refuse to acknowledge coworkers or won’t cooperate on work with them. In fact, most employers would need to respond that way.

I’m sympathetic to your feelings. Your coworkers are free to take whatever risks they want with their own lives but they’re putting other people at risk, including the health care professionals they no doubt count on to be there whenever they’re in need of help, and they’re prolonging the pandemic for all of us. They’re being cavalier about other people’s safety — about other people’s deaths — and they suck. I’m angry too.

But when you’re at work, you’re being paid to do a job. You cannot refuse to acknowledge coworkers, refuse to cooperate on work, or refuse to provide help to colleagues when directed to. You don’t need to like them or socialize with them, but you do need to work with them without being openly rude if you want to keep your job. Work would be unworkable otherwise.

It sounds like you really, really want to make a point. Much of what you listed that you plan to do is mostly symbolic, like the refusal to make eye contact or standing with your back to them. And I can almost guarantee you, they won’t much care. In fact, some of those behaviors are so far outside the realm of what’s considered acceptable at work that it’s more likely to harm you in the long run than to harm them. It’s likely to lose you allies who otherwise would support you, because it will come across as excessively dramatic and, well, kind of juvenile.

That might seem unfair — why can’t you shun people who are actively harming the rest of us? But this just isn’t an effective way to get the change you’re seeking, and it’s likely to backfire on you.

By all means, work for change in your company! Find other coworkers who share your concerns, band together, and push the issue with your management. It’s ridiculous that your company is content to just repeatedly warn people who violate its social distancing rules but won’t put any real teeth behind that. Push for real enforcement. Push for consequences. Push for stronger safety measures.

But the other stuff — the turning your back and the refusing to talk and the pointed “do you think I should report people who don’t social distance?” conversations — that’s not going to get you anywhere, and will weaken your ability to effect real change. Focus on the stuff that could matter.

{ 400 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. meyer lemon*

    One compromise here might be to keep pestering the coworkers about social distancing (in addition to bringing it up to management). If they’re too close to you, make them stand back before you talk to them. If you see them close together, remind them to stay apart. Maybe they will laugh this off too, but it will make a clearer statement than avoiding eye contact.

    Reply
    1. JMR4*

      Report them to HR and share all of your concerns.
      I’m in senior management at a UK company, and pretty sure your report will be taken very seriously.
      The company itself has a lot to lose.

      Reply
      1. tink*

        Does the UK have a number or email so people can report workplaces that aren’t enforcing social distancing? At some point a place only being willing to warn but not actually discipline also deserves some of the fines and backlash for not doing their part to keep employees from being hazards.

        Reply
        1. Anonymouse*

          Yes we do. Never used it myself but from what I understand the police etc are quite happy to turn up and ruin the days of companies not respecting the rules.

          Reply
        2. Keymaster of Gozer*

          We do, and in areas at Tier 4 (like mine) the authorities are VERY experienced now in shutting that stuff down. An entire building in my town was shut down because there were so many ongoing health violations and management were doing nothing to force staff to wear masks/distance.

          OP: trust me, reporting to the authorities (be they higher up in your firm or our police) is the only effective course of action here. Ignoring your coworkers won’t do anything but stress you out, give them a laugh and potentially cost you your job.

          It’s tempting to think you’ll make a difference by shunning but the kind of people who refuse to take Covid seriously are very unlikely to be at all bothered by one person giving them dirty looks. Sad truth of this currently.

          Reply
          1. yala*

            Man, I WISH we could do that here. There’s a mask mandate and everything, but you wouldn’t know it to see most places. My job’s been alright (tho the students don’t wear their masks much)

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      2. Springella*

        I used on live in the UK, so some thoughts.

        In comparison with continental Europe, UK is pretty shitty when it comes to workers; rights but in my experience, they dread one thing, that somebody would accuse them that the workplace is making them sick. If you say to your boss that you have too much work and this causes you repeated infections, they’ll do nothing. If you say that work related stress negatively impact your health, they’ll all jump and try to (appear) to do something because the employers in the UK have a legal obligation not to negatively affect the health of the workers. In this case, I’d say that the employers lack of action in regards to COVID is creating unhealthy work environment which can negatively affect your health. It’s your employer who should tackle far more more seriously these people. These characters should be in the process of being dismissed, if you ask me. There’re plenty of other people who would want to do the work while respecting the rules.

        Similarly, you could tell your employer that you’re considering leaving you job and suing your company for constructive dismissal because they allowed that the working conditions have become so intolerable that you had no choice but to leave the work.

        Also, right now, the Covid measures are a question of health and safety which these people repeatedly and blatantly disregard. Violating health and safety at work is a sackable offense.

        I’d also call Citizens’ Advice Bureau (for free) for further advice, you can also call bodies like ACAS (also free). But don’t put up with this shit. yes, it’s about your employees but it’s also about your employer because it doesn’t deal with these people effectively and in not doing so, endanger not only the health of their coworkers but also of us, general public. These people don’t respect the rules and then mix with us in the shops etc.

        Final thought. Do you really think that the same company which does nothing to tackle these characters will get rid of you because you do want to tackle the issue? They’re too much of cowards. But please don’t do this passive-aggressive nonsense that you’re thinking of.

        Reply
    2. Not A Girl Boss*

      Yes, I like this. For one, I think at this point not-social-distancing is just plain a habit they’ll need to be reminded to break. For two, if you can make it less annoying for them to social distance than to not, you might make some progress.

      But also, some of this, I’m not sure why you care so much (other than that its super annoying when people don’t care at all about public safety) or why you’ve dreamt up such an elaborate scheme to try to punish them (other than you’ve had a lot of time to dwell on how annoying they’re being).
      For example, them standing too close to each other isn’t really going to put you at much greater risk so long as you keep yourself safe from the lot of them. Even if (best possible case) you can get them to stand far apart from each other at work, chances are they will still meet up and break distancing guidelines outside of work. So if one of them gets it, its a safe bet they all get it. And that is annoying, because 4 people have a greater likelihood of giving it to you than 1. But lets focus on what you can actually control here. So treat them as if they have COVID at all times, and be rigorous about your own distancing boundaries. Sanitize the surfaces you’re about to sit at. Wash up well when you get home. But maybe for your own sanity, let them interacting amongst themselves slide. There’s probably plenty of people at your work who are breaking guidelines with way more than 3 other people – they’re just better at hiding it.

      Reply
      1. Sevenrider*

        I agree with this response. Treat them like they have COVID at all times. The only times I would speak with them about it would be to ask they put on their mask and stand six feet away from me if they are speaking with me. If they refused, I would tell them I cannot speak with them until they mask up and stand six feet away. I have a coworker who refused to social distance and the few times we are in the office together, she has repeatedly come by my desk and stood over me while talking. I finally resorted to taping off an area on the ground around my desk as a “do not enter zone”.

        Reply
        1. Crooked Bird*

          Yes. I worked manual labor alongside people who wouldn’t mask and were being unsafe outside of work. We worked outdoors but too close for comfort (together on a covered porch) so I wore my KN95 around them at all times, and was happy I’d done so when they all got exposed together & half of them got it.

          Reply
      2. Brad Fitt*

        This is a good point. They should all be fired for putting everyone at risk.

        LW should work towards making that happen by reporting them consistently and managing up to make sure managers are documenting and following whatever processes are in place that lead to a term.

        Reply
      3. Snuck*

        This is what I was thinking too Not a Girl Boss.

        The reality is that in a job site like this there’s huge risk – it’s in warehouses and manual handling jobs (abattoirs) that some of Australia’s highest risks (outside of medical /aged care) have come from, and these people are first in line in Australia to get the vaccine because of it. Before the ambulance and police officers even!

        If it’s not one of these four, it could be ANY of the employees. Someone who went out for milk and didn’t wash their hands after taking off a mask. Someone who made your lunch/morning coffee/home delivery pizza (another outbreak in Australia was a pizza maker)….

        If you are this worried about it (I hear you!) then consider everyone a risk. These guys are obviously in for the fight, they are enjoying goading either/both you and your employer – there is no looking good when you go up against people like this. Leave them be. If they bring COVID into the workplace and it gets shut down for a deep clean and you all get sent home for 14 days quarantine trust me… they’ll be managed. If not them, it might be someone else.

        The best thing you can do is manage yourself. Step back gently if people are too close, wear your mask and have a couple of (clean, sealed) spares to hand to people during the day if you feel the need. Stay up in your furniture forklift when talking to people gives you good distance. Eat your lunch and have your breaks somewhere with good air flow (and away from obvious code breakers). Watch your own personal hygiene.

        Separate your indignation and annoyance out, it’s not going to win you friends or influence management (and if they are having a mad couple swap it’s really none of your business, maybe they are just all really good mates…). I feel you’ve fixated on these guys a bit. This is pretty extreme, and if you were in a safety meeting and standing there with your arms and legs crossed you’d look fairly angry – are you angry at ME, or them? You will look angry and unapproachable to EVERYONE – and if you try to explain WHY you are doing you’ll look very immature. Nah. Better to let it go, and do what you can to keep yourself safe.

        If you are going to continue to report them in then a) I’d recommend not going to the police until you give your company time to catch and deal with them – you are likely to cause a shut down of your business and that will jeopardise your own job. And b) go with some evidence. Not just of standing in the same square at sign off, but more than that. Diary notes over several days. DOn’t stalk or harass them though. And if you can take a look around and see if any others are doing this – are you too focussed on these guys and not noticing that many are doing small breaks in the rules – just without the kick back? Factor that thought in too.

        Reply
      4. YoungTen*

        I can’t help but sense the op has a deeper personal issue with them. Yes they are being unsafe but like you said, op can control their own distancing. It just seem like a whole lot of emotional energy is being place on this.

        Reply
    3. Bagpuss*

      OP, check who the Health & Safety officer in your workplace is and speak to them – and to your own line manager.
      Be clear – you have reported them before, you understand they were given a safety meeting but haven’t changed their behaviour, and their behaviour makes you feel unsafe.

      If your workplace has a Covid risk assessment/ safety plan, review it and refer to it and any specific breaches when you raise your concerns.

      I would however agree that following your plan will simply make you look childish and petulant , and is likely to make things worse, both because you will annoy people but also because you will change a fairly simple situation (they are breaking policies and rules, you are raising legitimate concerns with the appropriate people) to a situation where you are they are both behaving badly.
      If their behaviour is actually breaching legal requirements (as opposed to guidelines or internal policies) you can report it to the police who will take it seriously, but I wouldn’t do this unless you have tried internal options first *and* are sure they are behaving illegally as well as selfishly.

      Reply
    4. Alex*

      The current restrictions in the UK are unfortunately designed in a way that is disproportionately affecting younger people and those from poorer backgrounds, by failing to acknowledge that many of those living in house shares have no choice over who they are living with and in many cases do not (and can not due to a lack of communal space or a language barrier) interact with each other. Given this, the fact that warehouse workers are typically low paid and in insecure accommodation, and the fact that these colleagues only seem to be failing to socially distance from one other consistent person I really think the OP needs to get a grip. The risk to you of 2 people who you closely work with ignoring the rules around each other (but not the OP) is effectively zero as it is extremely unlikely that you’d catch the virus from one but not the other of these people, but for them it could well be the only social contact that they are getting and the difference between total isolation and an unbearable life and being able to cope with the current situation.

      Reply
      1. Alex*

        It’s also particularly worrying that the OP thinks sharing a ride to and from work should fall into unacceptable behaviour given that most warehouses operate on shift patterns that mean public transport isn’t an option and many warehouse workers either cannot, or cannot afford to, drive and even those who can may not be able to afford the petrol on a daily basis, meaning that carsharing is often the only choice for people working in such jobs.

        Reply
        1. Observer*

          And when you get down to it, ride-sharing is also a lot safer than public transportation. Forbidding anyone to use public transportation is NOT something you can reasonably do.

          Reply
        2. Kate 2*

          I ride share too but we keep masks on and 1 person sits in the back opposite side. These people are DEFINITELY NOT doing that based on the other dangerous things they are doing.

          Reply
        3. caradom*

          That is so true. 2 colleagues of mine pair up to drive into work – much safer than a very busy train. This woman is so angry she can’t reason clearly.

          Reply
      2. Batgirl*

        For the sake of sanity, I would just go ahead and consider them a four person household or bubble. I’d be more inclined to understand OP’s anger if they were scooching up to everyone randomly, but they are keeping the risk contained to themselves and even behaving more like a quad than two couples.

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        1. Logical person*

          Agreed I was going to say this if you didn’t. Maybe the OP needs to show some compassion. If these people are a bubble why should they separate at work only. When this all started my husband criticized a family walking outside close to each other. I knew they all lived in the same household so I asked him, so it’s ok for them to be together unmasked in their home but if they go on the side walk they need to be 6 feet apart? And what about the toddler we gonna let a child run in the street because of the 6 feet in public rule? He admitted he was being stupid and has never said anything like this again to me. I think this applies to the OP

          Reply
          1. Cassidy*

            The employees aren’t a family. They are choosing to ride share. They are putting other people at potential risk of death.

            Yet they are to be shown compassion? On what planet?

            Reply
            1. Batgirl*

              I think that’s actually more understandable than a decision to pod and it’s certainly more legal. Colleagues who ride share in the UK (remember that car ownership is still pretty low for minimum wage) are reducing risks from public transport use. It’s encouraged at my school and key workers who do so are part of a bubble that would all be isolated if one got sick.

              Reply
            2. Antilles*

              I mean, if they’re ride sharing, that almost certainly means they’re spending time together outside of work. They’re also all close friends and OP seems to indicate they might be romantically involved in some fashion.
              So even if they decided tomorrow that “hey, we’re going to take separate cars to work” (whether because OP pesters them or some other reason like flexibility)…they’d still be just as much of a risk to spread Covid amongst themselves due to all the other time they’re spending together.

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            3. RebelwithMouseyHair*

              Yeah there’s literally no reason for compassion here! It’s not like they’ve offered any excuses or reasons for what they’re doing, they’re just blithely acting like there’s no pandemic.

              Reply
          2. Brad Fitt*

            Being part of a bubble doesn’t magically mean you don’t have to wear a mask around other people or when a mask is required though. I have no issues with people walking outside with people they live with or standing next to people they live with indoors, but it’s rude to march your whole crew into the store maskless just because you don’t care if other people die.

            I take more issue with them not wearing masks because even if they’re a bubble/household (which is fine), the warehouse isn’t their home and there are other people there. Also the air quality and circulation is most buildings isn’t made to change out the air in way that scrubs the virus, it just floats though the air: that’s the whole thing about why we mask indoors.

            Reply
            1. Lp*

              Yes they should mask at work because of others but they really aren’t anymore of a danger to each other at work than in the car. I think the OP has a valid point about that but if they hang around each other outside of work why can’t the be together at work. I also don’t know the ventilation in the building or any of that. Nor do I know if OP even needs to be that close to any of them. Sounds like it’s just the 4 of them. And is OP looking for something to grip about or is it a personality issue because he’s not part of the four . I wouldn’t have even thought that if OP didn’t go on to tell us all the list of ways to retaliate. OP is being juvenile in his/her response their are better ways for OP to handle this. 1 report violations to management don’t take it up one themselves to police the work force 2 the list of ways to get back at coworker is laughable and likely to get the OP fired. 3 report the business. None require trying to provoke his coworkers by confronting them

              Reply
            2. Alex*

              The problem is masks are *not* typically required in UK workplaces (except those with public access), and are certainly not expected in break areas in the vast majority of cases.

              Reply
              1. allathian*

                Yeah, it’s impossible to eat or drink with a mask on. And that’s what breaks are for. I don’t understand how people are suddenly expected to go without eating or drinking all day at work.

                Reply
          3. ceiswyn*

            I guess that if three of them live together and the fourth lives alone they could be a bubble, but I’d expect the OP to know if that were the case.

            It seems likely that if they are socialising outside work they are breaking the law.

            Reply
        2. JSPA*

          That was my reaction; they may be a de-facto pod (or an actual poly household without any other members). At which point, the main issue isn’t increased Covid risk; at most, it’s breaking an employment rule about working with significant others.

          Given that in some places, poly relationships are still considered cause for firing, it’s probably not realistic to say that, if that’s the case, they should just out themselves as a household.

          In any case, your risk from them (collectively) is no greater than your risk from someone who’s careless outside of work. (With the proviso that, with the new strain, you might be at risk from anyone unmasking in your airspace…but the fact that they’re riding together or sharing e-cigs is not putting you at greater risk, per se).

          Refusing to be in a breakroom where someone is or has recently been unmasked–in the UK, currently, and soon, everywhere else on the planet–strikes me as eminently reasonable! Policing their proximity to each other, or their mask behavior with each other, especially when it’s the continuation of something they do outside of work, is misplaced focus.

          Reply
          1. Alex*

            The current guidance in the UK does not require masks in break rooms (and generally tries to minimise the use of masks), which is an important difference in the Covid response between the UK and USA which the OP neglected to mention and which is probably relevant to the question.

            Reply
          2. allathian*

            Where do US employees who don’t WFH eat lunch if not in the break room and if restaurants are closed? Are you seriously saying that there are employers who expect their workers to work 8+ hours a day without eating or drinking anything? I know covid testers here do 6-hour shifts with full PPE, but that’s the maximum legally permitted time to work without the possibility of eating or drinking here.

            Reply
            1. Pescadero*

              At my employer if you don’t have an office – you are expected to leave the building to eat.

              What hardships that imposes are your problem. They are only legally required to give you the break, not make sure adequate eating facilities are available during it.

              Reply
        3. Anonymous 2*

          Yes, she doesn’t seem to like the closeness of the 4 co-workers (seems a bit jealous maybe?) the only thing she should focus on is maintaining her distance from them, she seems overly concerned with their interactions with each other. If she goes through with her ghosting plan, she’s guaranteed to come across so crazy and off putting, it will not make her any friends acting that way (at work?!?) if she saw how it really is at other workplaces, she would sadly see that social distancing infractions are taking place every second

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        4. Anonymous 2*

          Yes, I these 4 are around each other outside of work a lot it seems, I’m not sure why she’s so concerned about these 4 in particular? Just stay 6 feet away from them, assume they all have Covid, it’s not like they’re going around in a group of strangers without masks. Just weird to me that these 4 are causing her to have so much stress and going forward with her plan will make her a very unlikeable co worker!

          Reply
          1. Buu*

            In Tier 4 you are only meant to meet one person from another household outside at a distance for exercise. Indoor with another home only if you live alone or are caring for someone. Four people ride sharing, breaking social distancing is breaking the rules several times over. A friend of mine got Covid from work and almost died from it so I sympathise.

            If you want to report it externally it’d be HSE you need to talk to. https://www.hse.gov.uk/contact/concerns.htm

            Reply
      3. inksmith*

        They (from the sounds of it) live with their partner, so they’re not totally isolated. I live by myself, I’m not breaking social distancing rules and laughing about it, and I genuinely am totally isolated, as none of my friends or family live close enough for me to legitimately visit. The OP is over-reacting, but the four of them need to get a grip and follow the rules like the rest of us.

        Reply
    5. Kes*

      I mean, every time OP has said anything prior, including that OP will report them, they’ve laughed it off; I think continue to pester them or to try and change their behaviour is just going to lead to more frustration for OP. Unfortunately OP can’t force these people to change their behaviour, so OP is better off just staying away from them as much as possible honestly. (That said, if OP is directed to work with them better to obey orders, but insist on them keeping their distance and wearing a mask – I think if you have to work with them and they won’t mask or distance from you then you report them again and say that you’re not comfortable working with them while they refuse to follow safety rules)

      Reply
    6. ...*

      Yes, it would be far more effective to ANNOY them into compliance than to ghost them. It almost seems like they might like being ghosted by OP, because that means they get to keep violating the rules without being reported.

      Reply
  2. PT*

    Don’t ever threaten to report people, just report them. That interim period where they know you’re the one that reported them is always unsafe for you, no matter where you are, who they are, and what you’ve reported them for.

    Reply
    1. Grits McGee*

      Yeah, the way OP approached their coworkers felt just weirdly passive-aggressive. Report or don’t report; there’s no need to bring trick questions into it.

      Reply
      1. anne of mean gables*

        Agree, but also not going to lie – I wish I had an electric order picker to drive off in every time I felt like being sassy with a coworker.

        Reply
      2. JC*

        The whole thing feels a very immature/ passive aggressive response. “Ghosting” anyone in a work setting will likely show you to be a poor communicator, team member or future manager, and will likely hamper your progression or any future promotions (as much as I agree the co- workers seem like trash humans for putting everyone at risk). I actually wonder if they are in a bubble outside work that OP isn’t aware of. Either way, just keep reporting to HR and make the point they are putting everyone’s safety at risk, inside and outside the company.

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      3. MsClaw*

        It was staggeringly immature. Basically ‘do you think I should report you? Because I’m going to report you!’ and then declaring basically a pout out until they change.

        Yes, these people shouldn’t be behaving this way, but I’m trying to imagine a worse way to go about it.

        First of all, distinguish at-work behavior from off-work behavior. You don’t really have a lot of say in whether these people give each other rides to and from work, for example. You can insist they put their masks on when directly interacting with you. Keep reporting them for non-compliance if you see them maskless as you drive by on your cart. But absolutely do not sit around curled in a ball refusing to acknowledge them in the course of your work day. Not only will it not get you what you want, it makes *you* the problem employee.

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        1. Alice's Rabbit*

          Yup. This is not how you convince people to change. This just makes LW look like a bad employee and coworker, which is only going to encourage people to ignore her requests for safety precautions.

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      4. The Rules are Made Up*

        The whole thing was very…. Dwight Schrute-esque. Plus, like Allison noted, they 100% won’t care. OP not speaking to them (aside from the inconvenience for them needing to do their job) isn’t going to have an effect on people who they clearly aren’t even friends with. They probably wouldn’t even notice. If some coworker I don’t really talk to started doing this I would either have no idea, or not connect the behavior to me and assume they were in a bad mood about something unrelated. The truth is, these coworkers aren’t thinking about OP as much as the OP is thinking about them. So in the OP’s mind it’s obvious that the chilly behavior would send a message. But in the coworker’s mind “Hm isn’t OP acting weird today. Anyway where’s everyone eating lunch?”

        Reply
    2. Caramel & Cheddar*

      Yeah, not sure what the point of that was considering it seems clear they don’t care if they’re reported since they’ve already been talked to once and continue to do it.

      Reply
      1. Ryn*

        Yeah this feels like one of those situations where doing what you want and getting what you want are at conflict with each other. Seems like OP wants to chastise/enact social consequences on these people but needs to realize that those actions won’t lead to the desired goal of these people changing their behavior. While social shaming can be a useful tool, social shunning is rarely helpful at getting people to change.

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        1. fposte*

          That first sentence neatly encapsulates a concept I often find myself trying to explain. Thanks for condensing it.

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          1. Not A Girl Boss*

            As my dad used to say “you’re right but you aren’t correct” when I wanted to beat people over their head with their wrongness, but it would be a big-picture mistake to act on that impulse.

            It might feel good to shun these people, I suspect it’ll just give them something to make fun of you about behind your back (or, you know, in front of it) and make you look like the weirdo to the outside observers.

            Reply
        2. Damn it, Hardison!*

          Exactly. I often have to ask myself do I want to be right, or do I want to be effective? As I love being right, this is really hard to do sometimes.

          Reply
          1. UKDancer*

            Yes. I am having this discussion with one of my staff. He is probably right on how we handle a teapot maintenance issue but the way he’s going about trying to make other people maintain the teapots is annoying everyone in the virtual vicinity. Everyone switches off when he starts complaining about it because of the way he does it.

            Reply
        3. EventPlannerGal*

          This. And I mean, these people have no particular reason to care if OP socially shuns them; shunning doesn’t really work when one person is trying to ‘shun’ a larger group of people who know and like each other. Like, what, are they supposed to be sad that OP won’t talk to them at lunch? Is OP totally NOT going to vote for them for prom queen, either? The ‘social consequences’ are totally meaningless.

          Reply
    3. Cat Tree*

      To expand on this, OP should report them every single time. Make it harder for management to ignore the problem than to just freaking deal with it. This is a serious safety concern.

      Reply
    4. Antilles*

      Agreed.
      Especially in the “should I report it? WELL I’M REPORTING YOU!” way.
      I mean, if their manager approached them about it and they told that little anecdote…he’s likely to mentally discount your complaint a little. Obviously, this is an objective health decision here so it shouldn’t stop them from enforcing proper consequences, but that kind of passive-aggressiveness (aggressive-aggressiveness?) would still make a lot of managers roll their eyes a little bit.

      Reply
    5. Anonymouse*

      Exactly. The way to handle situations like this is, in my opinion, to go straight for the metaphorical jugular – do not engage the coworkers unless they are encroaching on your personal physical space, and report them directly to management or HR (or the hotline).

      At the moment, the majority of the people repeatedly breaking the COVID rules do not give a damn, an the only way to make them buck up their ideas is to have someone in authority over them effectively threaten them.

      If they don’t suspect it was you, then they can’t harass you.

      Reply
    6. Batgirl*

      I feel like OP is… not young or immature exactly, but that this may be her first rodeo of this type. Everyone has their Waterloo; an issue that scares you so blind that all sense goes out the window. I sympathise with it, certainly in days like these, but also know from personal experience that it never works to decide you “cant let go of anger”. Try harder and refocus so it’s not about you. Logically, why focus your energies on informing the very people who know best and care least? Work smarter; consider reporting systems that will actually work.

      Reply
      1. Maltypass*

        To be fair, we’ve gotten far enough into the pandemic that it’s easy to forget it’s still all our first rodeos. -I know what you mean of course, but we’ve all adjusted to the madness when ‘repeatedly have to report co-workers who won’t take worldwide pandemic seriously’ is still pretty new on our collective lists-

        Reply
    1. It is a big deal.*

      It’s good to spell out exactly what steps you’re considering taking when you want to shun someone.

      Reply
    2. Alison*

      It’s probably because you’re imagining them standing facing their coworker with crossed arms and legs like they’re in a straight jacket and they need the bathroom. That’s how I’m imagining it anyway.

      Reply
    3. Let's Just Say*

      It’s a very organized Shun Plan. LW seems extremely diligent and organized! Shame that they have to work with such selfish, reckless people. (But I agree with Alison’s advice – the Shun Plan will get LW fired, and it won’t change the horrible coworkers.)

      Reply
    4. LilyP*

      I’m glad they included it because otherwise the whole comment section would be one big debate about what the heck it means to “ghost” a coworker at work!

      Reply
    5. pancakes*

      Do you also like the part of the letter that says, “I am worried that I am overreacting and am about to go down a very dark path, but I cannot let go of my anger . . .”? Hopefully the letter writer has found a bit of peace of mind since then, and will find more in Alison’s advice, but it seems pretty clear they were seething at the time. I’m not sure why anyone would like that. This is a real person with a distressing dilemma, not a fictional character.

      Reply
    6. Batgirl*

      It’s a really good list actually. I might not ever enact it, but I might write it out and then burn it under the light of a waning moon.

      Reply
  3. Grits McGee*

    Your coworkers’ disregard for their and others’ safety has got to be so maddening, but you are going to come off like Dwight Schrute from the office if you go down this path. It will not accomplish what you want it to accomplish, and will shift focus from where you want it to be (their unprofessional/unsafe behavior) to your unprofessional behavior. If you really want to make a stand, I think you would be far more successful banding together with the rest of your coworkers to complain about the lack of enforcement of safety rules.

    Reply
    1. Managerrrr*

      Agreed. Also, assuming the coworkers are in romantic relationships, does it really matter how closely they stand/sit in the office if they’re spending free time together outside the workplace?

      OP, it sounds like you’re really angry that they’re too close to *one another*, and not to you, if I’m reading correctly. In total, we’re talking about 4 people who tend to pair off into couples, right? Not 20 people huddled together in a small room, which would understandably increase everyone’s risk. Why not just make a strong point to emphasize social distancing *as it pertains to you*? Like asking people to step back when they get too close?

      Reply
      1. Alison*

        I had the same thought…OP seems to think there is “attraction” to the point where they are showing up to work together. If these coworkers are already in a physical relationship there probably isn’t so much of a problem as long as they are still distancing from other coworkers, which OP doesn’t say anything about.

        Reply
        1. AMT*

          Yes, I was similarly confused about why it’s such a big deal that they’re not socially distancing from each other at work if they’re all hanging out socially anyway.

          I mean, yes, you do somewhat increase your risk by socializing with people from different households, but interacting with non-household romantic partners or forming a “pod” with close friends is fairly low on the COVID-sins-o-meter—more of a “roll your eyes and ignore it” thing than a work tantrum thing. This sounds more like a reaction to being left out of a clique than to poor social distancing practices, especially since these measures don’t even decrease the LW’s risk.

          Reply
      2. Not So NewReader*

        That is the way I read it, OP is made at two couples… for doing couples’ type stuff.

        If I were the boss I would be just as concerned over OP’s level of anger. It’s harder to get buy-in that someone else is doing something wrong when we are selves are adding fuel to the fire.

        I call this stuff, “good message, bad delivery”.

        A long time ago, I realized that if I wanted my message to come across I had to think about the way I said things. I had to tailor my message to fit the recipient. This means figuring out what people will actually be able to hear and respond to in an appropriate manner.

        I think a lot of people are held to the standard of good message and good delivery. My husband left one of his doctors because of the way she spoke to us. She was very offensive. We did take her advice because it was stuff we had talked about anyway. But we left her behind in a cloud of dust.

        Reply
        1. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

          Exactly. Bad delivery types often don’t get why their delivery is bad, why anyone should pay attention to their delivery, or that they do not get to choose how their delivery lands with someone else. Honestly, I would put a bit of money on OP being the sort of person who has a habit of assuming other people are “too sensitive” or similar for not being okay with the way she behaves towards them.

          Reply
      3. Anonymous 2*

        Yes, she doesn’t seem to like the closeness of the 4 co-workers (seems a bit jealous maybe?) the only thing she should focus on is maintaining her distance from them, she seems overly concerned with their interactions with each other. If she goes through with her ghosting plan, she’s guaranteed to come across so crazy and off putting, it will not make her any friends acting that way (at work?!?) if she saw how it really is at other workplaces, she would sadly see that social distancing infractions are taking place every second

        Reply
    2. Kitano*

      Agreed. I had a friend who worked in a different dept of a company I once worked for who was legitimately wronged – like, everyone involved in the original incident should have been fired on the spot levels of wronged. Sadly, her manager at the time was terrible at managing and just tried to sweep the incident under the rug.

      Her reaction to this was to project a demeanor that passive-aggressively screamed ‘NOTICE HOW MISERABLE AND VICTIMIZED I AM’ – stuff like looking straight down at her shoes while walking (bumping into people in the process), answering in monosyllables to every request, not speaking unless spoken to, and refusing to make eye contact with anyone. All it accomplished was to make everyone lose respect for her, sadly. The people involved in the original incident were eventually terminated, but her working relationship with her superiors was permanently damaged at that point.

      Afterwards, most of that dept’s assignments went to other staff who were not as ‘difficult’ to work with. Now she’s trapped in a job she hates with terrible managers who dislike her and deny her opportunities for advancement because they claim that she’s too immature to trust with additional responsibility.

      Reply
      1. Junior Assistant Peon*

        I had a coworker like this. He was treated unfairly by a past management team, and had legitimate reason to be angry at the company. By the time I left the company, the people he had a problem with were long-gone, but he was still known for having a rotten attitude, and stuck in a job beneath his abilities.

        Reply
  4. HungryLawyer*

    OP, your anger is understandable. Instead of ghosting them as you described, can you ask your direct supervisor what steps you should take if/when you notice this group breaking COVID-19 protocols again? If that step is to file another report, then do so without giving them a heads up. You may also consider asking your boss what to do if you feel like they are jeopardizing your health directly, for example, if they step within 2 meters of you, don’t wear a mask in your proximity, etc. Look to your boss for specific guidance and then follow that. Doing so will help keep you from looking juvenile and petty, which as Alison said, could be very harmful for your career. Good luck!

    Reply
  5. An American(ish) Werewolf in London*

    We’ve now been moved into (semi) lockdown (I live in the UK too) – higher than tier 4 (Tier Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter?). May I ask the OP if your colleagues are still behaving so cavalierly despite the increasing case and death rate and the increase in restrictions?

    Alison, if the answer is ‘yes,’ would it be outside the OP’s remit to report the infractions to the ‘authorities’ – in that, if the furniture warehouse (which I’ll bet has a sale on – the British readership should get that joke) is flouting the rules in place, perhaps it’s time for more official intervention? In the news today, after all, was the story of two women, socially distanced on a walk five miles from their home (which is supposedly allowed – their fines were eventually cancelled)?

    Reply
      1. Retail Not Retail*

        I called the health department on my employer last week because our social distancing/masking practices got WORSE after being shut down by them. When it’s so
        many employees doing it despite being told, it’s on the bosses.

        I also emailed the same complaints to our president when he announced our reopening. “I’m sorry, what are the new safety standards? I haven’t seen anything.” (They’re about customers. Not us. He then sent another email reiterating that we need to wear a mask etc or there will be “disciplinary action” – people still eat lunch together indoors. Whee!)

        Reply
        1. SomebodyElse*

          Aren’t people allowed to eat lunch together in a restaurant? (at least where I am they can) So I can’t really be bothered that people are eating together in a different place… i.e. it would be fine if they nipped out to the local fast food, but not fine if they are in the company lunch room.

          Reply
          1. Adereterial*

            No. All restaurants/cafes etc in England and Wales are shut and can only offer takeaway or delivery. Also in Scotland, I’m not sure about Northern Ireland.

            Reply
          2. Ellen N.*

            Where I live, Los Angeles, CA, prior to all on-site dining being banned, restaurant employees were not supposed to knowingly seat people from different households together.

            They were also not supposed to permit people from visiting other tables. Patrons were required to wear masks when they weren’t actively eating and whenever restaurant employees approached. This was all in addition to only outside dining being permitted.

            Reply
          3. Retail Not Retail*

            Yeah, restaurants aren’t open here anymore. And they had us break up our lunches this summer after one department had cases rip through because they were eating lunch together.

            They built us new outdoor break areas and closed off bigger indoor spaces (and banned us from others) to reduce the number of people in traditional breakrooms.

            So no. People should not be sharing a square table indoors.

            Reply
            1. Retail Not Retail*

              They set aside new spaces, forgot to unlock them, changed them, and as of right now neither is a substitute breakroom so we have way fewer options as winter actually hits which sucks and is stupid.

              Reply
      2. CM*

        I was thinking this too — nobody in your company seems to care, so if you have health authorities that care, report the company to them. Unfortunately, if you are in a state where everybody is in denial… there may be nobody you can go to.

        Reply
            1. Black Horse Dancing*

              Come down near El Paso, Texas or many other cities where simply no one cares is COVID runs wild… I sate El Paso because it is about and hour and a half from my small town and they keep coming here!

              Reply
      3. Abogado Avocado*

        By all means, please report it to your local health authorities! They can’t help stop the spread if they don’t know about unsafe work practices.

        Also, when reporting concerns of this nature to managers, put your concerns in writing. This allows you to be specific. And it shows management was warned that employees aren’t following the rules.

        Reply
    1. A Simple Narwhal*

      I’m going to guess that yes, they’re still behaving just as cavalierly. I’m in the US and sooooo many people just do. not. care. Or they think they’ll still be safe so it’s ok that they do whatever, or policies are just so lax that they’re technically not breaking any rules but from a common sense perspective they’re still being incredibly reckless. As someone who’s barely left their house for 11 months, it’s been infuriating to watch people go out to bars, go on vacation, and overall continue to live as though a deadly pandemic isn’t raging all around us.

      I know it’s not everyone – there are a ton of people who are taking things seriously and are just as mad as myself and the OP – but a lot of people aren’t. And it certainly isn’t helped by a lack of support and policy creation from the government, too many people have no means of supporting themselves other than putting themselves at risk, which is just horrible.

      I’ll wrap up my rant with a quick ranty story – this morning I was on a conference call, and my boss asked how a UK counterpart was doing, how things were over there. He said that honestly things weren’t great, that cases were rampant and the city was a ghost town because everything was shut down. My boss offered sympathy, and then said something along the lines of “oh man, I hope it doesn’t get that bad here, but fortunately schools and stores are still open”. I wanted to flip my computer – things are just as bad here! Possibly worse! We just haven’t shut anything down and instead force people to choose between possible exposure and homelessness/starvation.

      Reply
      1. A Modest Proposal*

        “As someone who’s barely left their house for 11 months, it’s been infuriating to watch people go out to bars, go on vacation, and overall continue to live as though a deadly pandemic isn’t raging all around us.”

        Please stop the virtue signalling. There are intermediate positions between “never leaving the house for 11 months” and frequenting bars and Club Med (particularly back during the summer, when we were in between waves). The public health community recognizes that abstinence doesn’t always work best and that sometimes it’s preferable to promote harm reduction principles.

        Reply
        1. Roscoe*

          Thank you!

          People who do this drive me crazy just like the people who flaunt the rules drive me crazy.

          Here is the thing, most people haven’t followed ALL reccommendations to the letter. But many people think THEIR level of caution is the right one. To much stricter and you are “crazy and paranoid” too much looser and you are reckless and ignoring the pandemic. But most people I’d argue are somewhere in the middle. Good for them for not leaving their house in 11 months, but I don’t think everyone needed to follow that level of scrutiny.

          Reply
        2. Three Flowers*

          That’s not at all what A Simple Narwhal is saying. Why would you read it that way?

          Furthermore: I intensely dislike characterizing the people who are being as careful as they possibly can as anything other than folks who are doing their absolute best to take care of themselves and others with the considerable privilege they have. Maybe you haven’t been home for 11 months, but it is draining and frustrating. Those of us who have been fortunate enough to be able to isolate ourselves in the service of not contributing to the pandemic do not need people telling us we’re “virtue signaling”. We recognize we’re very lucky and there are people who are doing everything they can to be safe and keep others safe even though they have to go to work. Geez!

          Reply
            1. KayDeeAye*

              I had never heard the term “virtue signaling” before, though I am familiar with the general concept, and I agree that the way it’s used here is kind of unpleasant, and I don’t see that A Simple Narwhal said anything that deserves that degree of unpleasantness. Some people haven’t been able to stay home, but that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with staying home if you can, and I also don’t see anything terribly wrong with pointing out that staying home is still the very best thing to do if you can manage it. ‘Cause it is. Facts are facts.

              Reply
        3. A Simple Narwhal*

          ?? I’m very aware that there is a wide chasm between people who are able to stay at home 100% and people who still go to bars and on vacations, I never claimed that those were the only two options. I understand everyone is doing what they think is best and taking on what they deem an acceptable risk, but a lot of those behaviors are still incredibly risky, and it’s hard to watch people take on those risky behaviors, especially if they lean on the more indulgent side and away from the necessary.

          It’s hard to pretend that we’re doing just fine as is with so many people sick and dead, and when the US numbers are significantly worse than other countries with stricter mandates and policies that pay people to stay home.

          Reply
          1. KayDeeAye*

            I don’t think you said anything wrong, A Simple Narwhal. I really don’t. I mean, is everyone who says “I am staying home as much as possible and I hope that other people who has the ability does so as well” doing this horrible thing known as “virtue signaling” too? I don’t think so. It’s difficult to judge tone online though – maybe the people objecting to your comment are hearing it said in a snotty way or something?

            Reply
          2. Helen Knows The Owner*

            The issue is that saying things like this imply that some people deserve to get COVID more than others and it further builds the stigma around the virus. The more stigma that exists, the less likely people are to disclose the illness. Anyone immunologist and people who studied the AIDS crisis will tell you the exact same thing and how dangerous it is.

            Reply
            1. KayDeeAye*

              I am sorry, but I think you’re reading far more into it than the comment deserves. “If you are able to, stay home as much as possible”=/=”If you go out, you deserve to get a potentially deadly disease.” Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely have heard some people imply that, but I don’t see that Narwal has said or implied that.

              Reply
            2. Three Flowers*

              1) nobody is saying anybody deserves Covid more than anybody else. People are saying it’s really frustrating to be put at risk because other people are careless.

              2) the stigma around AIDS and people refusing to follow Covid restrictions have zero, literally nothing, in common in this context, and that’s grossly insulting to people who actually have stigmatized diseases and disabilities.

              Reply
        4. Homo neanderthalensis*

          The term “virtue signalling[sic]” has become the new “sjw”. If someone uses it seriously, I know to ignore the rest of their argument completely.

          Reply
          1. Ash*

            This. Harm reduction is good and well when the individual is the one being harmed, but the coronavirus doesn’t discriminate if you weren’t “completely reckless”. It only takes one instance to spread.

            Reply
        5. Insert Clever Name Here*

          A Simple Narwhal was clearly talking about people who are not enacting any harm reduction principles, much like the asshat I saw at Target last week with his mask around his chin sneezing and coughing loudly immediately after the “all guests are required to wear a mask at all times” announcement that plays once every 10 minutes. We are allowed to be mad at the asshats without being accused of virtue signaling for doing what literally everyone is supposed to do if they are able to do so.

          Reply
          1. Three Flowers*

            “We are allowed to be mad at the asshats without being accused of virtue signaling for doing what literally everyone is supposed to do if they are able to do so.”

            Thank you! I am so confused over why a couple of people in this thread are jumping down the throats of anyone who dares to say that there are a lot of people out there being willfully reckless about the pandemic.

            Reply
            1. Cassidy*

              Yep. Perhaps the cavalier ones should spend some time in an emergency room these days. “Virtual signaling.” Please. PLEASE.

              Reply
            2. Julia*

              This. I am glad and grateful for every person who has the means to stay home, and actually stays home, because it makes life safer. I have to go to work and use public transport to get there, and I am allowed to be angry about having to be in the same train car as maskless idiots talking loudly or keeping their mask off to sip their bubble tea.

              Reply
        6. Really?*

          A Modest Proposal: Are you part of the public health community or are you invoking them because you want to make it seem as if you have back up to be snarky to someone who is keeping themselves safe and possibly helping their community stay safe by not doing anything they don’t absolutely have to do?

          Reply
      1. An American(ish) Werewolf in London*

        Briefly off topic, Mr Jingles – I wonder if anyone every buys a sofa at full price ;)

        Back on topic – I try (in the outside world, rather than at work – I’m fully WFH anyway) to try to remind myself that I can control my own behaviour (and, to some extent, influence the behaviour of my loved ones). People hanging around the Green (which is currently not allowed with people outside your household. You can exercise with ONE person outside your household unless you’re in a bubble…yeah, the rules can be contradictory and confusing in the UK) annoy me, but I cannot do anything about it and furthermore, I don’t know what the circumstances are – maybe they ARE in a bubble or DO live together.

        This is different, of course, from your situation OP, where your colleague’s behaviour is potentially threatening your health and the health of the business for which you work.

        Reply
  6. Starbuck*

    Ugh, I feel for OP. It’s so tempting to try and impose your own consequences for their terrible behavior when management seems to be refusing to. Their rule breaking at work ought to be treated like any other performance issue – you get a few chances to correct it but eventually if you don’t fix it or even seem to be trying, you’ve got to go. Your management has put you in a crappy position. Definitely keep reporting them, and I’d be tempted to go to whatever relevant higher authority outside the workplace there is for enforcing the restrictions.

    Reply
    1. tangerineRose*

      Instead of shunning them, would it be possible/reasonable to just insist they keep their distance (maybe more than 6 feet since they’re being careless) and at least try to not do anything that could infect you or others? At this point, that would probably be my main concern.

      Reply
  7. voyager1*

    Honestly, since management has warned them, I would be more mad at management. They are letting this go on with no consequences for your coworkers.

    Reply
    1. Dave*

      This is a good point. Is there a higher level person you can report this too that this is an ongoing issue?
      At some point this does become the company doesn’t care as well as these four individuals not caring, and the job must be considered in those terms.

      Reply
    2. Momma Bear*

      Could they consider themselves a “pod”? Perhaps management determined that as long as this socializing is just between themselves, they aren’t going to push it. I would focus on things that affect me – “Please stand back 6 ft. You are too close.” or “Please put on a mask before coming into my office.” If they refuse, suggest a phone call or email or video chat option instead. I have a coworker who literally put a “social distance line” on their floor but they don’t refuse to interact with people. They just want to enforce space.

      I agree that what OP is doing right now is mostly hurting themselves. It sounds like there have been attempts at mediation and apologies. OP needs to take seriously their own behavior and how it impacts not just these people, but the whole office. Time to sit down (perhaps with HR or management) and hash it out before OP gets fired. I am not saying they are right, but OP’s tactics are unlikely to get OP what they really want.

      FWIW, we had a few people skirting the rules here and I brought it up to HR. After that, the rules were mentioned a few times by the CEO in manager’s meetings and since the behavior has stopped. Maybe OP needs to talk to someone different about it.

      Reply
      1. Zillah*

        yeah, i’m wondering this, too. i have one friend i take no significant precautions around; we both live alone, work from home, and don’t do gatherings. avoiding all human contact for months was destroying my mental health, and while this is more risky than staying home alone all the time, it’s the low level of risk i need to not end up with a different health crisis.

        Reply
        1. tiasp*

          For what it’s worth, where I live social gatherings are prohibited but people who live alone are allowed to have 2 close contacts. Supposed to be the same 2 people for as long as the measures last and you can’t go to their home if they live with other people but they can come to your home. So eg I am one of the 2 for my mom so I can stop in there if she needs me.

          Reply
      2. londonedit*

        No. There are things called ‘support bubbles’ here, but that’s clearly defined as meaning that a person who lives alone can ‘bubble’ with one other, fixed, household. You can’t form a ‘pod’ of people who don’t live together. Current lockdown rules prevent any mixing between households unless it’s a support bubble – you can meet one other person outdoors for exercise only (and the government is currently desperately trying to convince people that it should only be for exercise, because people want to meet up ‘for a walk’ that’s blatantly actually just standing around chatting to a friend).

        Reply
    3. juliebulie*

      Yes. When you went to the manager, they just got a talking-to? After several previous and ineffective talkings-to? That’s weak.

      Reply
    4. Not So NewReader*

      I remember in a leadership course we talked about if the people are all fighting among themselves that is because management isn’t leading. Nature abhors a vacuum. So something has to fill in.

      Of course it would be unacceptable for OP to have this much anger toward a boss. It’s a much easier route to be angry at the couples.

      Reply
    5. Batgirl*

      Yes I’m puzzled why the ire is at the colleagues, not at management. If management truly is toothless then it’s actually relatively fortunate only four people are being a problem.

      Reply
  8. AnonForThis*

    OP, I am sorry, but I think you were right to write in and wonder about your anger. These behaviors won’t help fix the problem and would just make things worse for you…I would follow Alison’s advice.

    One other note, having worked in a furniture store through college, I bet $150 that there is canoodling on more than just the breakroom couches. AAM readers, please know that if you purchase a floor model bedframe or mattress, there is a decent chance activities have occurred on said item.

    Reply
    1. Phony Genius*

      Based on what you’ve said here, I think my upcoming mattress purchase will have to be based on what looks comfortable, hoping that I’m right. I will no longer be testing furniture in the showroom by sitting on it, nor even touching it.

      Reply
      1. Firecat*

        Meh. To me this has about as much merit as spitting on your food. I’ve worked at so many fast food restaurants and never saw this.

        Similarly – floor models are in a store with cameras everywhere. The warehouse beds are boxed or bagged. Just seems unlikely.
        Is there a warehouse with a duck club? Probably. Is it every warehouse? No.

        Lastly you can’t tell how comfortable a bed is unless you lay on it at least 15 minutes.

        Reply
      2. jenny20*

        what’s the difference between testing a mattress in a store, in your clothes, and staying at a hotel? You KNOW those mattresses have been “test-driven” hundreds of times. It’s a weird distinction to make.

        Reply
  9. Three Flowers*

    I think Alison’s advice is right, but OP, I am right there with you. I’d be spending my free time fantasizing about ways to make it clear to them *and everyone else* what horrible excuses for humans they are.

    I do think it’s fair to walk away from social/break-time situations where they are: don’t hang out in the break room with them. Turn around and leave if they’re in there; get up and leave if they come in. (You can reasonably say this is about your safety, not pettiness, because it is.) Walk away from them if you’re at the same bus stop. If they try to strike up a social conversation (unlikely since they know you reported them), say you have to get back to work and make a beeline for the other end of the warehouse. But refusing to work with them is going to hurt your standing much more than theirs, since obviously your boss doesn’t care enough about health and safety to do what they should, which is fire this set of assholes.

    Reply
    1. Lizzo*

      +1 to all of this advice + Alison’s advice, and also empathy to you, OP, because I share your anger and frustration with the selfishness and ignorance that has been on display with this pandemic.

      Reply
    2. Aggretsuko*

      Yeah, this is what I would do. Avoid them whenever you can, especially physically, but you can NOT refuse to not speak to them, not help them, not work with them.

      I also suspect they would argue that they are a “pod,” but if your management doesn’t care, what can you do as a peon?

      Hell, I still have to deal with my bully at work once in a while even though we are very separated these days, but that’s a job requirement.

      Reply
    3. allathian*

      Yeah, this.

      The passive-aggressive ghosting is only going to hurt the LW in the long run, and will give them a reputation of being difficult to work with.

      That said, it’s entirely OK to just be professional with them. Stick to your guns and don’t allow them to approach unless they’re wearing a mask, ask them to stay 2 meters away, etc. The LW can’t really police the way the coworkers behave towards each other at work since they’re coworkers, but they’re entirely entitled to state their own boundaries. Sticking to just work-related chat is fine. My bet is that the four are so involved with each other that they won’t mind if the LW stops talking to them except in work-related matters.

      Social shunning only works if the shunned are a minority, or if the shunning person has much higher status than the shunned. Shunning the four won’t make things any better for the LW at work and it won’t change the bad behavior either.

      Reply
      1. Snuck*

        I like how you’ve said “just be professional with them”.

        As hard as it is, treat them the same way you’d treat any other coworker who is breaking the rules. Ignore their repeated transgressions. Politely exit when they enter. If they ask a question politely answer (step back a little if you can – great time to turn away and put something in the bin or wash up a cup as you answer over your shoulder)… spend some time imagining little scripts and acts you can carry out in different places that allow you to put some social distance between yourself and anyone who breaks your COVID safe bubble. The rules of these scripts is they should be polite enough to say to your supervisor, delivered in a light upbeat or at worst neutral tone, follow the THINK principle (True, Helpful, Informative, Necessary, Kind) and not inflame any ruffled feathers. That’s professional.

        Little actions with your body – stay in your forklift if you see them in corridors, as you hear them approaching the break room pop your mask back on (so you are mid act as they walk in, not blatantly starting as soon as you see them like some great dramatic storm), pack up your stuff, and quietly exit (‘Excuse me folks, got to make some personal calls’ – exit stage left). Is there anywhere else you can eat or relax, it might not be as nice, but is it a healthier place to be? Don’t talk about them, COVID, or breaking the rules, instead talk about anything else – football teams, books and shows you are currently enjoying, what colour to paint your lounge room – neutral enough topics hopefully. Then you aren’t being remembered as the person who always talks about the negative thing, you are seen as a person with strong healthy outside interests who isn’t getting dragged down by this. If all else fails it’s time for a toilet or water break, walk away politely.

        Reply
  10. PlantPerson*

    I completely understand how you feel. I work for a small company in the states, and we were also deemed essential workers early on during lockdown. However, one thing I would like to point out is the possibility that these 4 coworkers have created a pod. I have 2 coworkers who bike to work together since they’re neighbors, and their children also do online school and play together. It is a little off-putting to see them interact so intimately, but once I got more context it seemed a lot less inappropriate. I agree with other readers that you should stand your ground and demand proper distance and masking when they’re interacting with you. Awkward, but necessary confrontation.

    Reply
    1. Massive Dynamic*

      Seconding this… doesn’t really matter if they are all sleeping together or just super close buddies – they’re presenting themselves as a pod. What I want to know is, how much safety do they show everyone ELSE they work with. Are they following the guidelines and rules for all interaction except with each other?

      Reply
      1. Ashley*

        I get the pod idea and different areas have different rules for mask wearing, but it just seems odd that even if I work with someone in my pod that it is ok for them to be mask less together outside of their homes. The air particles from them not wearing their masks are still handing around for everyone else to inhale.

        Reply
        1. Massive Dynamic*

          If these four people are not masking appropriately for safety guidelines set by the gov and the workplace and therefore putting OP and other coworkers in danger, then that is a different story. But the OP didn’t say that. A little clarification would be beneficial here, as OP seems to me to just be hung up on the fact that these four are not social distancing from each other.

          Reply
    2. Bubbles*

      Under UK Covid guidelines (for both our current semi-lockdown and the previous Tier 4 rules) pods/support bubbles are only allowed between 2 single households – so if you live alone, you can pod/bubble with someone else who lives alone, but as far as I am aware two households of adult couples cannot form a pod or bubble.

      Reply
      1. Alex*

        Yes and those rules are nonsense and dripping in privilege. Essentially whether or not a single person can see any one they care about depends solely on whether they can afford their own accommodation or whether they are stuck in shared accommodation. In the grand scheme of things workers failing to social distance from the same one colleague is hardly the biggest risk and may also be the sum of the close contact these people are getting (given that those working in warehouses are often low paid and unable to afford to live alone).

        Reply
        1. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

          Also remember that there’s a lot of people who’d argue that single people ought not care about having close contacts at all.

          Reply
        2. Batgirl*

          Exactly – my partner and I both moved ‘ back home’ temporarily during a house hunt because we can’t afford to rent and got stuck there. If either myself or him had larger homes, or lived alone, we’d move in with each other to shelter during the pandemic; the blithe suggestion of the Tories. We can’t possibly do that without overcrowding our parents, so we were separated for months during the first pandemic, and are doing so again. This, even though there would be no harm in considering both two person households as a four person pod. At least my mother is a nice person. My poor fiance has no one.

          Reply
        3. Bubbles*

          I know that, I wasn’t saying the rules are particularly fair or right, just pointing out that the two couples couldn’t be in a pod because our rules are different to a lot of US states’ concept of household and social pods. And it’s not like it’s only single people who are limited to who they can see – I’m in a household of two and haven’t seen any of my family since Christmas 2019, as they live in another county and my area has been under strict restrictions even after the first lockdown was eased, and I know a lot of other households in the same position. Other than my partner who I live with, I’ve seen one friend, in July, for an hour on a park bench, sat 2 metres apart.

          Although I would say that if a group of 4 aren’t social distancing at work and not taking the rules seriously, it’s likely that they’re doing the same outside of work too, thus increasing the risk of infecting their colleagues and customers if they’re coming into contact with other people outside of work and being as lax as they are at work.

          Reply
          1. EchoGirl*

            If I understand correctly (and please correct me if I’m wrong), what Alex is saying is that these people don’t get to be with *even one* person they care about. If it’s a couple living together, they at least get to see ONE loved one (i.e. each other), and the same goes for people who live completely alone, but someone who lives in shared accommodation and isn’t fortunate enough to be sharing with a friend (based on what I’ve seen elsewhere in the thread, it seems like some of these situations are something where it’s the people that one “lives with” might be virtual strangers) doesn’t get to spend any time with even one person they actually have any kind of relationship with.

            Reply
            1. Bagpuss*

              Yes, that can be the case. If you are a single person living alone you are allowed to form a support bubble with one other household, but if you have people in a house share you can’t form a bubble outside the shared house.

              (One person in the house could form a bubble with a single individual outside the house, but that would ‘use up’ the bubble for the shared house, so none of the other housemates could form a different bubble with anyone else, although they could all meet with the external person, if that makes sense. So I, as a single person living alone, could form a support bubble with a friend living in a house share, but that would mean that all of their housemates would be classed as being part of *my* bubble, and therefore would not be allowed to form a bubble with any other person or household.)

              Reply
            2. inksmith*

              But it’s not about “gets to see loved ones” it’s about “gets to see another human being”. I know it sucks to be living with people you don’t know/don’t like, but at least they’re with people. If you live on your own, you’re with no-one.

              And how would a bubble system even work for people who don’t like/know the people they live with? If I live in a six person shared house, we can all form a bubble with another household? Cos that sounds really safe!

              Reply
              1. RoseDark*

                It is absolutely about getting to see loved ones. In college I shared a room for a year with a literal stranger. We were on good terms, polite, had friendly conversation, but kept to our own sides of the room for the most part. We had no friends in common, no academic interests in common, and did no activities together. If that were the year of the pandemic and I could see no one except for her for the better part of that whole year.. I’d probably be in hospital after an attempt, honestly. It IS about seeing loved ones. Being with a stranger is often worse than being alone, particularly if you know that stranger is what’s keeping you from seeing anyone you care about.

                Reply
              2. EchoGirl*

                I get where you’re coming from, but I agree with RoseDark. For SOME people, just not being alone makes the difference, but there are other people (and I put myself in this latter category) for whom having a person they don’t really know in their living space during a time they’re not allowed to have contact with anyone else would be more of a stressor than a benefit.

                I do think your second point is fair; the actual logistics of the situation are kind of a mess, and I’m honestly not sure I know what the solution is. But beginning the dialogue from an assumption that those people are automatically not in as bad a situation as someone who lives alone is really dismissive because that’s simply not true for everyone.

                Reply
              3. Alex*

                But these people probably aren’t seeing another human being. Shared houses (especially at the lower end of the market) don’t typically have any communal space other than kitchens and bathrooms that aren’t big enough for more than one person to be in at once.

                Reply
                1. EchoGirl*

                  That too. I was thinking of multi-bedroom apartments in the US, which often have some kind of shared central space, but it sounds like it may be more like a dorm almost, with each person having a room and then just the basic amenities shared.

      2. Adereterial*

        Not quite – if you live alone you can bubble with another household of any size. Doesn’t have to be two single people.

        Reply
    3. Bee*

      The thing about pods is that they’re really just groups of people who all accept that they’re willing to get sick from each other. There can be good reasons for that – if you live alone and want to see your nearby family often; if, as in your example, your work exposure is the same anyway and it’s helpful to share other resources to limit outside exposure – but there’s no extra protection just from being in a “pod.” In this case it just means if one of them picks it up at the grocery store there will likely be four vectors in their workplace instead of one.

      OP, I don’t think you can completely freeze out both them and anyone who talks to them, but you can certainly double down on keeping your distance from them (and everyone else who gets too close to them), leaving any enclosed spaces when they come in, and reporting them to management every time their behavior gets egregious (particularly anything mask-free, I’d say). But your limits have to be about protecting yourself, not punishing them.

      Reply
      1. Zillah*

        this isn’t really accurate. there obviously isn’t extra protection relative to staying home, but there is a significant amount of extra protection from being in a pod versus socializing with multiple other households. it’s not just that you’re accepting they might make you sick. you’re still limiting the number of people you’re coming into contact with.

        Reply
    4. Adereterial*

      Pods have no standing in the UK.

      You can form a support bubble in one of two circumstances:
      1 – you’re a single adult living alone (or with children all under 14)
      2 – for informal childcare purposes but only if essential.

      No pods.

      Reply
      1. Massive Dynamic*

        I did not know this about the UK – thank you for clarifying! I was looking at this through my US lens. Seems like if the four wanted to be their own illegal pod, they should be doing whatever they can at work to hide that info, not the opposite.

        Reply
        1. Three Flowers*

          Some parts of the US have actually gone this route too. My state banned pods in late fall (although they can’t really enforce it). For Christmas/Solstice/New Years, each household could meet up with *one* other household, only during that window. We don’t yet know exactly how bad of an idea that was. I believe we’re now back to a podless existence. It sucks (and must suck epically for families with bored kids), but our stats are not as bad as most of the country. I hope the UK gets good compliance and sees a decrease in cases.

          Reply
  11. Nea*

    At the end of the day, your employer needs the work to be done. If you are refusing to help others/take help when you need it, then the work will not be done. And THAT is the angle your employer is going to take.

    Reply
  12. Anna*

    Has your employer done a COVID-19 risk assessment, as I believe it is required by the HSE in the UK? Persistent failure to stick to/enforce it becomes an HSE issue, surely?

    Reply
    1. Emma*

      If there is a union rep in LW’s workplace, they should speak to them. Both employers and unions are very aware of the situation in schools* at the moment and a good rep will use that to exert some serious pressure on an employer that is allowing this dangerous behaviour to continue.

      * For those who are unaware, the National Education Union, which represents teachers and most school employees in the UK, had a meeting recently – which was watched by 80,000 people – in which they advised their members that they were within their rights to refuse to go back to work after the christmas holidays. The UK has a clause in legislation which gives workers the right to refuse to work in unsafe conditions, and makes it illegal to fire or discipline someone for doing so. The government was insisting that schools should reopen for in-person teaching for all students, and the NEU’s judgment was that this was sufficiently dangerous to staff that the above rule would apply. In response, the government backed down and schools are now only open to vulnerable children and those whose parents are critical workers (though there are still big issues to be addressed there).

      Reply
      1. happybat*

        National Education Union has little standing in Scotland, although I understand it is popular in England? In Scotland, the EIS is the main teachers’ union. OP, please consider joining a union, perhaps USDAW. They can’t help you with issues that occurred before you joined – but if this problem continues to exist after you have joined, you can ask for support.

        Reply
  13. T.*

    I believe in the bubble theory. Keep to your bubble of people. Maybe these 4 people are in their own bubble limiting contact to all others outside of the 4 of them. It’s awfully lonely to be isolated these days. Are they being cavalier with everyone or just among themselves? Don’t be an ass about it but voice your concerns to mgmt and ask to work away from them if they aren’t respecting your boundaries.

    Reply
  14. EnfysNest*

    Their behavior is absolutely frustrating and irresponsible and dangerous, but it’s also not yours to control. You have voiced your concerns and you can absolutely refuse to be within 6 feet of them if they don’t have masks on and other things to make sure you yourself are following all the guidelines, but, as frustrating and seemingly unjust as it will feel, you have to acknowledge to yourself that that’s just the way they are. Can you reframe this group in your mind as if they were roommates? Assume that they have decided to be a group or “pod” together, as if they were family members and see if you can look at them in that light. But even if you can’t think of them that way, you’ve got to find some way to stop fixating on it and to get past your anger. I know it stinks and it’s unfair, but if they’re not taking the pandemic seriously at this point, they just aren’t going to. Give yourself permission to stop trying to correct or fix them, because you can’t, and just focus on keeping yourself safe and doing your part.

    I’ve been dealing with this with friends who keep having group events and with coworkers who keep going out to lunch together and even though it originally made me angry, at this point it just makes me sad. I’ve brought up why I think it’s a bad idea, and I decline to participate every time, but at the end of the day my anger or my criticism isn’t going to change them. I don’t know that I’ll be able to look at them the same way after all of this or what those friendships will look like going forward once things are safe again, but I do know that the anger I was feeling wasn’t productive and it wasn’t helping me anymore and I just had to set it aside. I’m still disappointed and I mourn knowing that people I cared about weren’t willing to follow the safety guidelines to protect others, but I had to let go of my anger or else it was the only thing I was feeling day after day after day, and that’s not any good either.

    Reply
    1. EnfysNest*

      Another idea based on something I’ve seen recommended here before is to make it a sort of “Bingo game” for yourself – maybe every time you see them without their masks on, you mark off a square on a grid or put a quarter in a jar or something and when you have filled the grid or collected a certain amount you can get a treat of some kind for yourself (or donate to a COVID relief fund or some other “goal”). Just something so that you now associate their bad behavior with scoring a “point” of some kind for yourself as a distraction, instead of only having anger that you can’t do anything with when you see them.

      Reply
    2. tangerineRose*

      I recently talked to a relative who said stuff like “Who do you know personally who had a serious case of COVID-19?” as if almost no one dies from it. I mentioned the 300,000 deaths in the US alone. Something’s causing this.

      I personally have a hard time believing that the CDC, WHO, at most of the news reporting are in some conspiracy, especially one that’s lasted for so long. So I wear my mask, and I isolate, and I get most of my groceries from curbside pickup. I don’t enjoy it, but I don’t want to get sick, and I don’t want to infect anyone.

      Reply
    3. Kes*

      I agree that OP should focus on what they can control and on protecting themself, and let go of trying to force them to change when OP doesn’t have the standing or the ability to do so.

      Reply
  15. Colleague’s Dog’s Viking Funeral*

    There was a line from the 1970’s movie, Heaven Can’t Wait. Warren Beatty asks, “what do you do when you are ahead?” and he answers, “you don’t make any mistakes.”
    You are completely right here. You are protecting yourself and the company, medically and legally.
    Don’t make mistakes.
    By acting out (ironically I think being antisocial) you are making a mistake that undermines your whole concern.
    You told them you were going to report them. And you did.
    Now you are going to shun them (and pout) because they are not changing.
    Get back on the side of right and defensible.
    “You are not social distancing. You need to stand on separate red lines.”
    “You don’t care about the law, management doesn’t care about the law, but I do. You have to wear a mask around me.”
    Use your words.

    Reply
    1. Ms. Yvonne*

      This, right? I was in a store that sells food the other day, one of the few types of businesses open where I live, and I asked an employee to put his mask back over his nose as he was about to handle the food I was about to buy. It was awkward, but I couldn’t not do it! If I were the LW I’d get rid of the list and start there: tell those co-workers that if they need my attention, then get that mask on.

      Reply
      1. A Modest Proposal*

        That’s a bit of a different context, though. You’re the customer; you have the right to tell your vendors what to do. Between peers, not so much.

        Reply
          1. A Modest Proposal*

            Of course LW can “insist” on whatever she wants; but she has no power to make them comply. A customer in a store has power over non-compliant employees (assuming their boss isn’t some kind of Covid denier).

            Reply
        1. Shan*

          You absolutely have the right to tell your co-workers to put their mask on, if official policy is that they’re required to wear one. We’re required to have one on if we’re outside of our personal offices, and while most people do, I don’t hesitate to remind my coworkers to put one on if they’re out in the halls without one. I’m not rude about it, but I am blunt.

          Reply
          1. pancakes*

            +1. And there’s absolutely no need to ask them how they feel about it. Asking them undermines the point that the guidelines are 1) clear and 2) not being followed.

            Reply
        2. Archaeopteryx*

          You absolutely have the right to ask peers to mask properly. But they’ll probably only do it if an authority figure enforces consequences.

          Reply
        3. Roci*

          I asked my boss to put on a mask. In a workplace that cares about safety you should be able to remind everyone of the safety rules.

          Reply
      2. Colleague’s Dog’s Viking Funeral*

        This pandemic is making extroverts out of us all. It’s so awkward, I hate it. But yeah, you really have to speak up. And OP has already done the hard part. Stay the path. You have the right and responsibility to yourself to say no, wear a mask.

        Reply
        1. Annie*

          “This pandemic is making extroverts out of us all.”
          Having to speak to someone in a store on occasion is not extroversion lol. Unless you’re interpreting introversion to equal “misanthrope who actively avoids speaking to other people whenever possible.”

          Reply
          1. Self Employed*

            There’s a difference between being assertive about asking strangers to follow public health rules and making pleasant small talk. I think “extrovert” might not be the best term, but most people want to avoid conflict. We are being pushed into a situation where others are being careless and we care enough to speak up. That’s definitely not the same as the usual greetings etc.

            Reply
    2. allathian*

      The LW can definitely ask/tell the coworkers to stay at least 2 meters (closer to 7 than 6 ft) away from them, but they can’t really tell the coworkers to keep a safe distance from each other. A manager could do that, but not a peer.

      Reply
  16. Glacier*

    OP, I’m furious on your behalf. Can you document and report them to your local health authority? That might feel more satisfying than the behaviors you listed in your letter. You ignoring them won’t matter to them, but being contacted by local government might have an effect. Good luck!

    Reply
  17. mightbeanunpopularopinion*

    While AAM is correct in how this will likely be taken by her employer and employees, I can absolutely understand feeling powerless about this and wanting to DO something, and I think Alison is taking a US-centric opinion here.

    If you feel unsafe, I believe asking not to work with these co-workers is a reasonable ask. It’s not about your co-workers willingness to social-distance (though they’re not being good people), it’s about your employer not doing everything they can to make you feel safe, and not enforcing social distancing in the office is doing that. You can ask for this accommodation, you can report your workplace, and failing that, you should be able to consult your government’s version of employment insurance, you might be covered if you quit for safety reasons. You can choose not to act on it, but I think KNOWING is almost half to battle for feeling safe at times like this.

    If these co-workers aren’t social distancing AT work, can you imagine how they’re not social distancing outside of work? I wouldn’t work with them.

    I agree, avoiding eye contact is going to read as juvenile, but there are steps you can take to protect yourself, and this isn’t a situation where you have to “accept it or quit” either.

    Reply
    1. Observer*

      I don’t think that Allison is being US-centric here.

      Coworkers acting like irresponsible idiots (even if they are a legitimate bubble); management handling this kind of misbehavior badly; coworkers being angry are all things that happen in many countries. And, I don’t think there is any country where the OP could get away with responding the way they want to.

      It’s not that I don’t think they have a valid reason to be angry. But, no matter what country they are in, they won’t accomplish anything useful and they are likely to suffer some significant consequences to reacting this way.

      Reply
      1. allathian*

        Yeah, this. The LW is also working in a furniture warehouse. I can well imagine that sometimes you need a coworker’s help to lift a heavy and awkward item, although most of this work is probably done with with forklift trucks, no? To be fair, my only experience of a furniture warehouse is as a customer at our local IKEA.

        Refusing to work with a coworker is acceptable in a very limited set of circumstances. Let’s say someone is being bullied, and the bully and victim don’t have the same boss. The victim’s boss may not have the authority to get the bully fired, but they might be able to ensure that the victim never has to interact with the bully.

        Reply
  18. cat lady*

    I would go back to management and say you don’t feel safe working in proximity to people who so persistently break the social distancing rules. Could you ask for a different shift? Ask what repercussions there are for employees who ignore the safety talk? Ask whether the company will pay for large-scale testing for any employees who work with the rule-breakers? Confirm whether the company will offer paid leave for anyone exposed to someone who is COVID-positive or who tests positive themselves? In other words, express your concern about the serious danger they are putting you all in with detailed specifics.

    Reply
  19. Observer*

    Do yourself a favor and quit. I’m serious. If you actually do this, you WILL get fired. You will also burn a bridge, be unable to use this place as a reference and you will create a really, really memorably bad reputation that could come back to bite you for years to come.

    If you leave because you believe that your company is not handling covid precautions adequately (because they are not adequately enforcing the rules with these 4) you’ll still be out of a job but you won’t have torched your relationships and reputation.

    Reply
    1. Not So NewReader*

      I was just thinking this. Observer’s nailed it here, OP.
      This job is over for you. And here is the reason why taken out of your own letter:

      • I will not accept any attempt at an apology — it’s far too late and they have shown no signs of regret
      • If coworkers or management try to mediate between us, I will not change my position
      • Any coworker or manager who takes their side will also be ghosted
      • I will continue to ghost them for the entirety of our time spent at work, however long this lasts

      You just painted yourself into a corner that you cannot get out of.

      I remember in grammar school kids did stuff like this to each other. And what happened next was every one linked arms and happily went off into the sunset together. The person who made these types of threats was left standing alone. Permanently.

      Just my opinion, but when a person gets to the point that they can say stuff like this all that is left is giving notice.

      Reply
  20. HR Exec Popping In*

    Letter Writer, I am sorry you have jerks that you work with. And that your managers are not appropriately addressing this. If your company has a formal compliance violation reporting mechanism, please use that. Many companies have a way to officially report a potential compliance violation. If your organization does not, raise your concerns to either the HR Department or the Safety Department if you have those. If those are not an option, go to your manager’s manager or equivalent “Big Boss”. Another option is to report the company to your local health department. You should absolutely continue to raise the concern and should try to find like-minded coworkers that feel the same way to also report the issues.

    However, you should not “ghost them”. As was noted, this will be seen as being immature and will likely backfire on you. You and your behavior will become the issue, not the individuals that are breaking COVID safety rules. Good luck.

    Reply
    1. Heidi*

      I agree with this. I get the impression that the LW thinks the ghosting plan is going to make these offenders feel bad about what they’ve done or win over others to their cause. I doubt either will happen if it hasn’t already, so the LW would be putting in all the effort and risking their job without actually improving the safety of the situation. Sorry you have to deal with this.

      Reply
  21. Tinker*

    Honestly, it seems to me that this would mostly serve to entertain the offending parties. Even as someone who is probably a bit less of a jerk and less careless than these people, having someone do this sort of ostentatious shunning behavior around me would probably end up on my list of funny anecdotes. Folks like these people, if they’re being accurately described, I could see them playing with LW — “haha, look, they’re standing with their back to us again, let’s go over here, I bet we can make them spin around in circles” and such like.

    I also would figure someone who flat refused to work with other coworkers, would not accept anything to repair the relationship, and who would add to the shun zone anyone who seemed to take up for them wouldn’t be long for the job even if the other people did end up also being disciplined for their safety violations.

    Reply
    1. CR*

      Yeah, if I saw someone refusing to even look towards the offending party with their arms crossed I think I would just laugh.

      Reply
    2. Myrin*

      I, for one, am definitely reminded of a funny anecdote my best friend when we were eighteen told me back then. She worked at a supermarket and one of her coworkers, who was strange in a socially awkward way at the best of times, decided that he disliked another coworker and behaved much like OP’s list details; the most remarkable thing was that whenever he had to pass by the other coworker, he would hold up his hand next to his face so that he wouldn’t have to see him.
      This was almost exactly twelve years ago and I’ve never forgotten it because it was so ridiculous, and I’m not usually prone to finding others’ expressions of dislike amusing.

      Reply
    3. Lalaroo*

      Honestly this part:

      Today I approached one of them and asked, “Do you think I should report people who don’t do social distancing?” He said, “I don’t know… it depends…” and I said, “Well, I’m about to. All of you.” He laughed, and I drove off in my electric order picker.

      made me laugh out loud. Just picturing someone driving away after that, thinking they had a real mic drop moment…

      Reply
  22. Kate, short for Bob*

    Well you shouldn’t be holding doors for *anyone* because it puts you too close.

    But like others have said, don’t ignore them. Use your words, every time.

    “Put your mask on” every other sentence. “Keep your distance”. “I can’t do that for you until you… Mask up/step away/whatever”.

    You’ve stopped giving a flying one what they think of you so just deadpan tell them what they should be doing, and otherwise be professional and do what you need to do.

    And notify every infraction to management, every time. Make it their problem.

    Reply
    1. Colleague’s Dog’s Viking Funeral*

      Use your words, every time.
      This is what I used about a thousand words to try saying clearly.
      This, all day.
      Don’t pout, speak up.

      Reply
  23. pcake*

    I wouldn’t have talked to them or to the immediate manager. I’d have either gone to HR or the health department, although my city isn’t enforcing anything at all, not even though we currently have more Covid cases than most countries, and our hospitals are so full they’re literally putting desperately ill people in the gift shops and chapels.

    Btw, turning your back probably won’t make you any safer assuming they and you all breathe, and they won’t care. They probably think it’s all very funny.

    Reply
  24. Roscoe*

    I really agree with this part “It’s likely to lose you allies who otherwise would support you, because it will come across as excessively dramatic and, well, kind of juvenile.”

    I more or less agree with your frustration. But your list of things sounds like a Child throwing a tantrum who didn’t get their way. I mean, the way you talk about asking them a question then zooming off in your little car before doing it to someone else just comes off as petty. Like you won’t cooperate or anyone who you perceive as “taking their side” will also be ghosted. Like, its a bit much. This is one of those things that won’t anger everyone equally. You seem to be on the more extreme end of it, but you can’t get mad at others for not reacting like you are.

    Also, is it possible they just decided that they are just each others social bubble? If they are hanging out on weekends, and riding together, I guess I don’t see it as that odd that they wouldn’t keep 6 feet apart at work. Hell, depending on their outside behavior, it may not even be that irresponsible if they have just decided they will see each other and that is it. Like, if they were actually dating, would you still expect them to stay 6 feet apart even if you knew they spent the night with each other the day before?

    Reply
    1. Not So NewReader*

      I can’t see OP’s plan working in any situation imaginable. It will just lead to more sadness and misery for OP.

      Reply
    2. ceiswyn*

      If they are hanging out at weekends, and they do not live together, then they are breaking the law.

      In the UK, you do not get to just decide you are someone else’s ‘social bubble’. Social bubbles are permitted only under specific circumstances; for example for people who do not live with any other adults, or for childcare.

      Reply
  25. Elle by the sea*

    To be honest, whether or not it is considered acceptable, if I were in OP’s situation, I would do what OP proposed. With people like this, constant pestering and explaining why social distancing rules are important is a futile endeavour. But I think that reporting someone behind their back without warning them first is dishonest and cowardly. At least, you should give them a chance to come to their senses. So I would definitely have asked the “Do you think I should report people who don’t follow social distancing rules?” question myself. They laughed because they didn’t believe you would report them. That’s how seriously they take the situation.

    See, the thing is that you indeed go to work to do your job and can’t refuse to collaborate with your coworkers – I agree with Alison on that. However, this applies under normal circumstances and not necessarily in a crisis situation. In this case, not showing your disapproval openly might damage your health and possibly your customers’ health. Desperate times call for desperate measures. You do not need to wait until you find likeminded colleagues who help you raise the issue with your manager. If they didn’t respond to your “threat”, go and report them directly. If your manager is not receptive to your concerns, you might start wondering if this workplace is safe for you physically and mentally.

    Of course, if you are in a desperate situation because it’s hard to find a new job these days, do what doesn’t jeopardise your position, but do take action and there is no need to be gentle in your approach.

    Reply
    1. cat lady*

      I agree with the sentiment, but there are more effective ways of communicating disapproval/possibly effecting change than ghosting the offenders.

      Reply
    2. Observer*

      The issue here is not about being “gentle” or not. But about being effective and acting like an adult. The OP’s course of action meets neither criteria.

      Keeping physical distance? Yes. Kicking it up the chain of commend? Depends on the company. Reporting it to whatever authorities are in charge of this? If going up the chain is not an option or doesn’t wot? Definitely.

      Reply
      1. Elle by the sea*

        I agree, but I don’t see any of OP’s proposed moves as the sign of not acting like an adult. In my experience, this sort of behaviour sends a much more powerful message to people than other strategies under these particular circumstances. Probably there are cultural differences, though.

        Reply
        1. HungryLawyer*

          Refusing to make eye contact with a co-worker and standing with your back to a co-worker is childish in any circumstance. As others have said, there’s more effective ways to deal with the situation without being immature. And the reason maturity matters is because being immature will not help accomplish what OP needs, which is a safe work environment.

          Reply
        2. Me*

          Did we read the same list? EVERYTHING on here is immature. They literally want to turn their back or stand pouting by crossing their arms if that’s not possible. All of these are tactics once employed by my child when she was a pre-teen when she didn’t get her way. And not cooperating with them to get assigned work done is just going to get OP fired. The only powerful message being sent by the OP would be that they are not above acting like a child.

          I will not make eye contact with them
          • I will not engage in any conversation with them
          • I will stand with my back to them wherever possible (if this is not possible, I will keep my arms and legs crossed at all times)
          • I will not hold doors open for them
          • I will not cooperate in any work with them, will not help them if they need assistance, and will refuse to be helped by them even if I need help
          • I will not accept any attempt at an apology — it’s far too late and they have shown no signs of regret
          • If coworkers or management try to mediate between us, I will not change my position
          • Any coworker or manager who takes their side will also be ghosted
          • I will continue to ghost them for the entirety of our time spent at work, however long this lasts

          Reply
          1. Elle by the sea*

            I think you are interpreting these gestures completely differently. The list doesn’t contain pouting or tantrum throwing. These are behaviours that signal that you want to keep your distance and that the person towards whom this sort of behaviour is displayed have crossed the line and are not worthy of being treated like someone who is on the same level as you. That’s all it signals. It’s adult passive resistance in many cultures, including here in the UK, if carried out with poise. Although I don’t agree with refusing mediation – that can actually be a step towards resolving this issue.

            Given that it’s full lockdown here and you are expected to follow social distancing rules rigorously, I’m surprised that every second commenter brings up the possibility of OP being fired, instead of expressing shock over the fact that those immature people haven’t been fired yet.

            Reply
            1. Catriona*

              Are these really moves that are common in the UK??? Refusing to make eye contact and whatnot??

              (I COULD see a list like,
              *Refuse to stand within 6 feet of them
              *Refuse to engage in conversation when they’re not wearing a mask
              etc –
              But presumably this Letter Writer is already doing all of those things, with every human not in their household, as we should all be doing.)

              Reply
              1. Elle by the sea*

                No, they are not common and not recommended, but are not particularly outlandish in situations like this.

                Reply
              2. Media Monkey*

                no they are not acceptable in the uk. if one of my coworkers behaved like this for any reason they would be laughed out the door.

                Reply
            2. Not So NewReader*

              It can’t be adultlike to vow to never forgive them and vow to never communicate with them for the rest of their working life.

              Reply
              1. Elle by the sea*

                Well, I agree with this part. I guess OP meant it as the last resort strategy, because based on what is described in the letter and given how seriously their concerns and complaints are taken at that workplace, they are at their wit’s end.

                Reply
            3. HungryLawyer*

              Really? I have a hard time believing that refusing to make eye contact, refusing to respond to your manager, and actually turning your back to a co-worker any time they are nearby is culturally acceptable as “passive resistance” in the UK. The fact that so many commenters read these actions as being immature and unacceptable is pretty revealing. Also, I am reading a lot of empathetic comments! We’re saying that OP shouldn’t act like a child because that won’t get the result they want. No one is saying their anger is unreasonable.

              Reply
            4. EventPlannerGal*

              I’m also British and I find your idea that these things would not be considered childish here to be utterly bizarre. Of course they would be considered childish. You could perhaps get away with a few of these behaviours, but as a whole? Ignoring them, refusing to make eye contact, standing with your back turned at all times, refusing to work or cooperate or accept help from them, ignoring people who are associated with them? Absolutely passive-aggressive, childish behaviour, regardless of the degree of poise.

              Reply
              1. Elle by the sea*

                Well, it’s only my opinion, my upbringing, and this particular situation. It’s not that everyone in this country will agree with me. I don’t expect people to agree with me on this.

                Reply
                1. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

                  Then if it’s just your upbringing don’t try to generalize it as a cultural norm. Norms are things that exist outside of a person’s individual experience, and norms exist whether you agree with them or not.

                2. Elle by the sea*

                  Then I’m going to say my social class. I didn’t want to use that expression, that’s why I said upbringing. Look, I don’t glamourise passive aggressive behaviour, but I have seen this strategy work in crisis situations. When there isn’t any other sensible, workable option. And based on OP’s letter, all options have been exhausted. And this type of ghosting is nothing but extreme social distancing.

        3. Catriona*

          These are really, really childish, petty, passive-aggressive tactics that have been outlined by the Letter Writer. I can see they’re frustrated, angry, and perhaps frightened – and I get it, this is such a terrifying time and so many people aren’t taking it seriously. But using moves like turning one’s back to someone and blatantly stating that they’re in a place where they won’t even assist them with work-related tasks, at work, is…I don’t know, I’m a middle school teacher. These are moves I’m trying to coach my middle school kids out of.

          If it’s serious enough behavior to reach this level of anger over, it’s serious enough to report it all the way up the chain and try to enact real change. Staring over people’s shoulders and whatnot does not enact real change.

          Reply
          1. Elle by the sea*

            I understand it’s rude and I wouldn’t recommend it under normal circumstances. But OP has done everything that’s in the realm of normal, professional communication. I don’t care about norms of society at this point – I would willingly follow suit and support OP in this if I were their colleague. If everyone distances themselves from the rule breakers, they will understand, I can guarantee. But it only works of there is a critical mass. People usually don’t have the guts for this kind of thing, and my best bet is that OPs colleagues wouldn’t support OP, either. Therefore, I don’t recommend OP’s plan – they should not be the one bearing the brunt of this.

            Reply
            1. Observer*

              Actually, they have NOT done everything that they could do – people have discussed things that they COULD do that that they have not.

              On the other hand the idea that ANY of this, much less the whole taken together, could actually make positive change happen is incredibly naive. Dangerously so.

              Furthermore, given that the OP claims that they will not accept an apology because it’s too late, it seems pretty clear that they are not looking for behavior to change or even just for their employer to ensure their safety. What they are looking for is to force these people out of the workplace.

              Now, I think a lot of people could sympathize with that feeling. But it is NOT a reasonable thing to insist on – all that they have standing to push for is for reasonable safety precautions to be taken, regardless of what it takes.

              Reply
              1. Elle by the sea*

                I agree that OP’s proposed strategy is not ideal. But do you think that people who flagrantly disregard social distancing rules and laugh at the possibility of being reported for that will care about safety precautions? Pushing for more reasonable safety precautions is too general and is not going to change these people’s behaviour. Something has to be done about these people – laws and regulations are already there.

                I seriously fail to understand why the managers don’t take any serious and immediate action. I’m not surprised that OP wants to push these people out of the workplace and I don’t see anything wrong with that. At most workplaces would have already fired these people.

                Reply
                1. Observer*

                  At this point, it’s not just about safety anymore but about punishing these people.

                  If it were simply about safety they would have gone above their manager’s head and / or reported the company to whatever agency deals with this, and would continue to insist that they are not going to work in proximity to these people – even 6 feet away, if they don’t mask.

                2. allathian*

                  As an entry-level worker, and in a warehouse rather than an office, all the LW can expect to reasonably do is to maintain their own boundaries by asking people to mask up and stay a safe distance away. Getting all passive-aggressive about it isn’t going to get the result the LW wants. The LW seems to be at the end of their rope, but ghosting/shunning the badly-behaving coworkers and especially any other coworkers who don’t agree to do the same, is only making the LW look childish and will get them fired, rather than the four.

    3. Batgirl*

      Elle, I really cant agree that blatant “I am ignoring you” passive aggressive behaviours are socially acceptable in Britain’s workplaces. The cut direct is for your social life, not your job. Then, to suggest apparently OP has enough privilege and clout to deal with every rulebreaker herself because “reporting someone behind their back without warning them first is dishonest and cowardly”. That’s just going to make her look out of touch and as though she doesn’t know her place in the organisation. You report people to *see whether* the business is interested in taking action, not because you ordered them to and because… people have been personally warned by a peer and didn’t stop (well, she’s a peer; why would they?) As it is, OP may have to go over their heads to government authorities so she really, really does not have the power to issue edicts from the shop floor. It’s a great way to make yourself look ridiculous.

      Reply
      1. Adultiest Adult*

        I was waiting for the first person to reference the cut direct! It’s a fascinating concept, but I agree that it’s unlikely to work in the workplace. OP needs to work on reporting persistently to management/HR/health and safety as indicated, and otherwise deciding what they are willing to live with and when they need to just walk away from the situation. I would feel somewhat differently if they were encroaching on the OP’s space, but it’s not clear that’s what the coworkers are doing, and I think the OP’s planned actions will bring all the attention to the wrong person.

        Reply
  26. SheLooksFamiliar*

    OP, you can’t ‘make a point’ that hasn’t already been made – your co-workers know what’s what, they just don’t care. Trying to shame and/or shun them into submission to or acceptance of policy won’t work, either, for the same reason. If you go on your planned course of action, you’ll amuse your co-workers more than anything, and make yourself look bad.

    Your management has to put a stop to this, not you. So keep your distance by using the good ideas already shared, but be cool yet civil when you must interact with them.

    Reply
    1. V*

      Seconding this. Keep pressuring management to make them comply with the rules. That’s what I’ve been doing (in the US, where the virus is made up and there are are no rules! *sarcasm*). Also, even though I have to be in the office (required, not by choice), I am basically avoiding contact with anyone in person whenever possible, and only interacting in person with them if absolutely necessary because I’m seemingly the only person in the office who cares. Luckily my job mostly requires independent work so I can get away with that. Good luck to OP!

      Reply
  27. PansyParkinson*

    If OP is truly that concerned about it, just stay home. Protect yourself. Seriously. You’re life is more important than a job.

    Reply
    1. JimmyJab*

      May not be the case for LW, but for many life cannot go on without a job and the attendant money – food and shelter cost, you know, money.

      Reply
    2. Not So NewReader*

      OP now has a second health concern because this level of upset cannot possibly be good for OP’s heart.

      Reply
    3. pcake*

      Without a job, one can’t pay for one’s home, and being homeless won’t be an improvement over the irresponsible jerk co-workers as out on the street, there’s no way to distance.

      Reply
  28. Bean Counter Extraordinaire*

    (Partly serious/mostly joking) – It’s a shame we can’t tar and feather people anymore.
    I’m just now back at work (in the US) after my own bout of covid, which I caught from work, thanks to our own Covid-Denier Cathys.

    Reply
  29. Retail Not Retail*

    I still talk to the maskless people at my job, I just do it outdoors and well away from them. That’s also how I talk to people when they are masked. I spend a lot of time outside (our designated indoor spots for breaks are too small for two people these days in my opinion). I’m “late” clocking in (we’re expected to clock in as early as :53 but we’re not late late until after the hour) because I won’t go in the clock building until it empties out – whether the people hanging out in there are masked or not.

    I won’t get in a vehicle (even the open air ones) with someone with their nose out, but I’ll work with them – this does involve like revolving closeness for tools or into spaces, but not extended.

    I will say it was quite surprising to see an immediate consequence as someone got banned from a third party site for not masking up after being told once. It’s their property, what can you do? Wear a mask. (And it is indoors though more on par with a giant warehouse than an office.)

    As for the pod idea floated here – no. You can’t have a meaningful “pod” if any member works outside the home, even if you all work at the same place!

    Reply
  30. Shuri*

    I sympathize wholeheartedly but this is straight up childish. You dont have to socialize but throwing the equilvalent of a tantrum at work to the point you refuse to acknowledge them would be grounds for discipline on your part. Take it up with HR and do your job without the theatrics

    Reply
  31. irene adler*

    One thing you can do, is every time someone approaches you, hand them a mask. And then remind them to socially distance from you.
    Instruct them to put on the mask if they wish to talk with you. Don’t ask- instruct. “If you need to speak with me, put on this mask-properly!- and then step back a few steps. Thank you. Now, what can I do for you?”

    (course, the cost for these masks should be borne by your employer-not you.)

    Reply
    1. pcake*

      The problems are that A) masks aren’t 100% effective, B) you’re too close already if you can hand them a mask and C) they sound like people who would say no to the masks.

      Reply
      1. SheLooksFamiliar*

        A. Masks are more effective than wishful thinking;
        B. If the OP is wearing a mask while handing one to her co-worker exposure is limited, but she can use sanitizing spray or wear gloves to further protect herself;
        C. You’re probably right, but that doesn’t mean they dictate how others handle safety at work.

        Reply
      2. Generic Name*

        Uh, do you wear a seatbelt? They aren’t 100% effective at preventing death during a collision, either, but we (most people) still wear them. You are using faulty logic.

        Reply
      3. pancakes*

        Absolutely no one is claiming that masks are 100% effective. States, cities, counties, etc., and employers are nonetheless well within their rights to mandate that people wear them, and your personal feelings about their effectiveness are beside the point.

        Reply
  32. bookstrategy*

    I share your anger and echo the sympathy of other commenters here. In my US state as well as the US more broadly and the UK, there are myriad people behaving really irresponsibly at a time when that is literally a matter of life and death, as well as myriad employers that don’t enforce safety rules sufficiently. It is seriously difficult not to act as well as feel enraged.

    But I also share the belief that the approach you outlined won’t serve you well. In fact, it takes attention off their actions by pulling the focus onto your own dramatic behavior.

    In situations like this, I’ve found it’s essential to find other places to vent and release our anger. Your emotions are entirely legitimate and they deserve an outlet! To the extent you can let off steam with people and in places beyond your job, you’ll probably find it easier to advocate effectively at work.

    It might also help to distinguish anger from the impulse to punish. Even when both are justified, they’re really two different things that lead in two different directions. What you actually want is for your management to discipline rule-breakers appropriately rather than to have to impose punishments yourself.

    Of course, take every single action you need to take keep yourself safe, not just in working beside these colleagues but also in holding your management accountable. But avoid every possible impulse to take actions that are merely punitive, such as not making eye contact or avoiding necessary work conversations even if the colleague is at a safe distance.

    The stance most likely to protect yourself as well as to make change is always something that looks more like “I need to keep myself safe as well as do my work excellently. I’m therefore going to do A and B and ask again about your plans to enforce X and Y fully” rather than “I need to keep myself safe, so I no longer feel obligated to do my work well.” I’m not saying those are the right words, and the phrasing of that first sentence necessarily changes over time if your needs are not accommodated. I’m just saying that strategically, the most effective approach affirms your commitment to doing the job well at the same time it holds management accountable for their end of the safety “contract.” That positions you as a team player even in the midst of conflict, where the other approach positions you as someone “going rogue.”

    Reply
  33. EventPlannerGal*

    I understand the frustration and anger here, but this list reads like a stroppy child giving someone the silent treatment. This is maybe the least effective method that I can imagine to get these people or your management to take the situation seriously. All they are going to do is laugh even harder, and your management are going to write this off as some kind of bizarre interpersonal feud. Sorry.

    Also, you plan to also ‘ghost’ managers who take their side? I mean, you can if you want but you are for sure going to get fired. You cannot ghost your managers. I’m really hoping that this letter was written in the heat of the moment because if you genuinely are wondering if you can pretend that your coworkers *and managers* do not exist then I’m not sure what to say.

    Continue to follow up with your management about this, talk to your company’s health & safety team about it if they have one or report the breach – you can do it online anonymously. A friend of mine also had good results writing to her MP about her company not enforcing social distancing – she emailed his office and the company was contacted within a day or two. There are other options here beyond the silent treatment.

    Reply
    1. Anonymity*

      Assuming she can ghost her managers without serious repercussion is magical thinking. Her anger overrides common sense. Steady jobs are not so easy to get during a pandemic. I’d just wear my mask and tend to my work. Like I already do.

      Reply
      1. Observer*

        Assuming she can ghost her managers without serious repercussion is magical thinking. Her anger overrides common sense.

        Exactly this.

        Reply
      2. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

        Ugh. Not just magical thinking, but a lack of emotional intelligence. Having emotional intelligence does not mean that you never get angry or frustrated (or insert intense emotion here). Heck, it doesn’t even mean that you never show your anger. It’s about recognizing that acting on your anger and that alone isn’t going to be useful to anyone else involved. Ghosting your manager is an act borne purely of anger and frustration, not at all a display of emotional intelligence.

        Reply
  34. Pumpkin215*

    LW, you forgot to add: “I will give them the evil eye whenever we pass in the hallway”, “I’m adding them to my Slam Book under ‘Rulebreakers'”, and finally “They are off of my Christmas Card list”.

    Reply
  35. Balletslippers*

    I completely sympathise with this. The situation in the UK is awful right now, because of selfish people like this who won’t follow the rules. I would report your company. There’s no health authority for that (as far as I’m aware, anyway!) it would be a report to the police – which you can do through an online form on the site for your local force, OP (eg the Met website if you’re in London)

    Reply
    1. Regular Reader*

      The UK Health and Safety Executive has a page all about reporting a health and safety issue and Covid is specifically mentioned.

      Reply
      1. Batgirl*

        Yes I honestly don’t understand why the law of the playground is being considered when there are direct numbers to report this stuff to!

        Reply
    2. Batgirl*

      Yes I honestly don’t understand why the law of the playground is being considered when there are direct numbers to report this stuff to!

      Reply
  36. OwlEditor*

    OP, I do understand your frustration! My own family got together over Christmas, my mom driving 500+ miles to see her grandsons. Sadly (and yet also a good thing), no one got sick. But she was upset that I wouldn’t go or let her stay at my place (‘I’m about halfway between them) overnight. Even having her in the house caused anxiety!
    But don’t do the shunning. It won’t affect them or their actions, but it could have negative effects on you and your career! Take care of yourself first.
    If you need to quit, then quit, but if you do these things in retaliation, it will only hurt you. No one wants that.

    Reply
    1. NYC Taxi*

      Sadly no one got sick??? One of my coworkers lost BOTH of his parents over the holiday. One on Christmas eve the other on Jan 2.

      Reply
    2. Observer*

      Sadly (and yet also a good thing), no one got sick.

      I can imagine that your conversations around the matter did not go well! No one getting sick is not “also” a good thing. It *IS* ans unequivocally good thing. Full stop! Being sad about this speaks to an extremely disturbing attitude. And one that frankly makes it reasonable to ignore anything you have to say about the matter. Because that’s vengeful and immoral but moralistic stance that has nothing to do with health.

      Reply
    3. Maggie*

      Did you….want….. your family to get sick? If covid is as dangerous as reported then im not sure why it would be “sad” that your mom and family didn’t catch it. Wow, thats an interesting stance.

      Reply
      1. Ali + Nino*

        I know why you’re responding this way – of course it’s tragic and scary every time someone contracts Covid – but I also understand OwlEditor’s sentiment.

        My relatives have been getting together throughout the pandemic like it’s no big deal; my sister and her fiancé even shared a summer house in the Hamptons for two weeks with their 20 closest friends. Lo and behold, after combining FIVE different households for a Thanksgiving meal at a restaurant, everybody tested positive for Covid. Good! I thought. Now they’ll take this thing seriously! Of course I didn’t want anyone to suffer seriously, but I wanted them to deal with some kind of consequence for their selfishness and carelessness. I’m not saying it’s nice or even right, but I think it IS human. In the end, though, it didn’t change anything – now they all just feel emboldened to do even more than before, since now they’ve already had Covid!

        Reply
        1. Roci*

          I think it’s a sign of extended stress and burnout to if your desire to see your own family be punished for breaking the rules overrides your desire to see them not contract a potentially fatal illness. That is seriously cause for concern.

          Reply
        2. Pennyworth*

          My family are all being super compliant about Covid, so I have never been in the position of thinking their behavior warrants some sort of Covidesque punishment, but when I read about people breaking the rules and putting others at risk I will admit to wishing them ill. Sometimes very ill. I don’t care if someone wants to put their own life at risk, but have a hard line when it comes to harming others.

          Reply
          1. Scarlet2*

            But you’re fine wishing harm on a grandmother visiting her grandchildren? I’m speechless. I’m not the most charitable person in the world and I too am frustrated by people who live like covid doesn’t exist, but I honestly cannot imagine wishing sickness on anyone. I think people are becoming more and more scary.

            Reply
    1. Balletslippers*

      This seems a little unnecessarily rude, to be honest. And in the UK the rules mean it is not possible for them to be in a bubble together.

      Reply
  37. NYC Taxi*

    All that passive aggressive behavior is ridiculous and makes you look bad and if one of my direct reports was doing that I would tell them to knock it off. Just keep reporting them.

    Reply
    1. Maggie*

      Also none of it prevents covid! You’re better off keeping your distance and saying minimal to them, and taking it up with management.

      Reply
    2. Black Horse Dancing*

      I would hope if one of your direct reports told you their co workers were flouting company and government rules, you might also say something to the law breakers…

      Reply
    3. Maltypass*

      Can we have some sympathy here? It may not be the best way to go but you do some counter productive things when you’re angry and people continually flouting your literal life and death safety on a daily basis does things to you. Let’s not lose sight of whose actually in the wrong

      Reply
    4. Lp*

      I think op does have a legit concern. She or he needs to report it and keep reporting it to management, I’d take it seriously if I was informed of this but op’s behavior is concerning also

      Reply
  38. StressedButOkay*

    While I get – trust me, I GET IT – I’m impressed by the petty nature of some of the stances you’ve decided to take. Things like opting to put distance between yourselves, as that’s what your company is directing you to, makes sense. Refusing to admit that they even physically exist in the room….

    OP, you run the risk of your judgement being called into question. This isn’t professional behavior. You might feel better about it but at the end of the day, it’ll impact your ability to get your work done and that is going to be judged.

    I think you’re taking your anger at them, which is legitimate, but combining it with the anger and frustration and sheer helplessness of the entire COVID-19 situation. Do what you can in a calm, rational manner.

    Reply
  39. Catriona*

    It sounds like the four of them are being rude, but the OP (and many commenters here too!) are being SO mad! I feel like I’m missing something. It’s two couples, right? So of course the couples don’t need to distance from one another, they presumably are a pod. And then if the two couples are breaking distancing amongst the four of them (basically treating it as a four-person pod), sure, it ups the risk for all four of them, but it’s not increasing the risk for their coworkers.

    If they’re taking masks off indoors, in a space that contains more than the four of them, THAT is a big issue – but it’s its own issue. If they’re having a cigarette break outdoors, away from the building, and taking masks off to talk to their partner or whatever – not a problem for you guys who aren’t there.

    Reply
    1. Catriona*

      Maybe the anger comes from the fact that the Letter Writer is assuming, “Hmmm, if these two couples have illegally decided to form a pod, they’re likely doing other risky stuff as well, and thus they’re a person who might be more likely to bring germs into the workspace, which angers me.” I DO see that argument – people completely ignoring mask-wearing requirements, socializing indoors with lots of different people, etc, really gets my goat. It just seems like the Letter Writer is making some assumptions. If these two couples have always been really close, and they’re now continuing to be close as a foursome – but NOT demonstrating cavalier risky stuff otherwise – it doesn’t signal to me that they’re necessarily flaunting every safety rule.

      Reply
    2. Person from the Resume*

      The LW has seen them not wearing masks around each other which means they are not wearing masks in the officer where she can see them. That endangers the LW.

      Also people who ignore COVID-safety precautions at work where there are rules about are not likely following safety precautions anywhere else where rules are less enforced so you have people blasé about safety precautions that are exhaling in the office while not wearing masks.

      They are a danger! They are part of the problem!

      Solutions:
      – Ask them to put on a mask every time you see them without a mask. Stay more than 6 feet away from them.
      – Report them to management every time you see a violation.
      – Call the health department and tell them your company is not following proper COVID safe working conditions because they are no enforcing the rules.

      Reply
      1. Catriona*

        I 100% agree that if any of them are going mask-less while indoors, around coworkers, that’s a huge issue. I just got the sense from the letter that they were going unmasked around each other while outdoors and carpooling in. The fact that the LW wrote “Do you think I should report people for not distancing?” made me think that the four of them not following distancing rules was the biggest issue. To me, if they were taking off masks indoors in shared spaces, THAT would be the thing highlighted.

        Reply
      1. Catriona*

        Not if they’re just passing their own germs around the four of them. Like if they’re Persons A, B, C, and D. If Person A is carrying COVID, they’re more likely to give it to Person B (their partner) and to Persons C and D if they’re not distancing from one another. But IF they’re wearing masks indoors and staying distanced from everyone else who’s NOT in their foursome, and if the workspace has air ventilation and decent humidity levels, the risk of one of the four of them passing it to a coworker is still relatively low.

        I suppose if Person A passes it to Person B, there is then double the amount of COVID in the workspace, assuming both are asymptomatic and continue coming to work once infected.

        Reply
        1. Lucy*

          I still don’t see how the risk isn’t increased. It may be low risk, but it’s increasing the risk if it’s 4 people who are infectious rather than one or two. As people have posted below, these four people are realistically not entirely self-contained within their ‘pod’. Also, I wouldn’t assume a furniture warehouse is well ventilated.

          Reply
    3. Bee*

      Well, four people who are contagious at work is indeed more dangerous than one person who is contagious at work: the more people who are shedding virus, the more likely it is that you’ll come into contact with a large enough viral load to get infected yourself. The more cases you have in a place, the more likely it is to spread.

      (Also, I don’t think it’s two couples: I think it’s four individuals with two pairs who are into each other. But yeah, I think the OP needs to assume they’re socializing outside of work and just assume they’re all infectious at all times.)

      Reply
      1. Shan*

        Yes, I feel like people are acting like the four people in question are somehow completely self-contained, which I highly doubt is the case. The reality is that if Person A gets it, and slobbers all over B, C, and D’s e-cigs before realising she’s ill, there are now three additional people who are potentially spreading it as they go about their days.

        Reply
    4. EvilQueenRegina*

      If I’m reading it correctly, they’re not actually confirmed as official couples, just act in a way that makes OP suspect there is attraction there – either way they wouldn’t meet the guidance for social bubbles in this country. (fellow Brit here)

      Reply
      1. Catriona*

        The Letter Writer used the word couple (“They are two women and two men who are very close friends, and I suspect each *couple* is attracted to their counterpart”) but I agree, it’s not totally clear.

        Reply
        1. iliketoknit*

          I took that to mean that one couple was the two women, and one couple was the two men, and the women are each attracted to one of the men and vice versa. If they were established couples/partners, I think the description would have been something like “there are two couples who are very close friends.”

          Reply
      2. Catriona*

        Question about the requirements in the UK currently – does that mean that if you live with someone else, you’re not allowed to see anyone else indoors ever in a social context? So you couldn’t form a three-person pod with a couple and a singleton, or a four person pod with your neighbor couple, or whatever? What about quarantining for two weeks, taking a test, and then seeing your parents indoors one day, or something like that? Just curious about how the legal restrictions differ (I’m in the US.)

        Reply
        1. Clare*

          These are the current rules: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/national-lockdown-stay-at-home

          Good luck making sense of them all (stay at home, only go out for essentials, exercise once a day and work if you can’t work from home but ‘essential’ retail like off-licences (liquor stores) or garden centres are open and, presumably, it would be OK for me to leave my house to visit them….). Don’t get too attached to the guidelines though, they’ll probably change in a day or so and it’s entirely possible that the majority of people working in places like furniture warehouses will be told to stay at home anyway.

          Reply
        2. Batgirl*

          Basically, you can’t mix with another household unless you live alone or co-parent. So if they have decided to “pod” it will be an illegal decision.

          Reply
  40. Anonymity*

    Be prepared to look for another job. This is so over the top. Yes, they should abide Covid policy precautions. But you are taking this way too personally.

    Reply
    1. Lp*

      I think op does have a legit concern. She or he needs to report it and keep reporting it to management, I’d take it seriously if I was informed of this but op’s behavior is concerning also.

      Reply
  41. Archaeopteryx*

    You’re not overreacting, you’re… diagonal-reacting. You have an appropriate amount of ire at this but it’s all coming out in an ineffective and childish direction about 40 degrees off from the right direction.

    You should have reported them without the weird “Do you think I should report…” question, and if the response was that they’ll just get another warning, pushed back at your manager or over your manager’s head for a stronger response. Heck, tell a journalist if your company isn’t enforcing restrictions! But the silent treatment is just so far afield from adult behavior that you’re just going to lose all credibility for your utterly reasonable complaints.

    Reply
  42. MyDogIsCalledBradlyPooper*

    A couple of thoughts. You cannot refuse to work with these people because you think they are breaking the rules. You may be able to refuse work because it is unsafe. I am not sure if saying working closely with them is unsafe it 100% accurate, I think there is more risk but risk does not equal unsafe.

    Also I hope you have not gone to management and given them a list of the things you will not do because of this. You need to frame this as a conversation about how can this be addressed. It should not come across as a list of demands or ultimatums unless you are really ready to leave this company.

    Reply
    1. Batgirl*

      That’s a super important distinction and what a great reminder to make sure you are not attacking people, when what you want to tackle is conditions or behaviours. It’s a world of difference between saying to your boss “I need x and y before I can do z” and pouting at less interested-in-you people to make a point (however understandable the urge).

      Reply
  43. CommanderBanana*

    OP, I totally get your frustration and anger, but if you direct it this way I think it’ll really backfire on you. Focus on keeping yourself safe from your coworkers and escalating to management as best you can, but ultimately you can’t control what other people do outside of work and can’t force them to take this seriously.

    Reply
  44. Essess*

    They are putting coworkers at risk in the workplace. This is illegal. Tell HR since you’ve already tried going to the supervisor and having it handled in the chain of command.

    Also send a complaint to https://www.coronavirus-business-complaint.service.gov.uk/

    You say you are in a warehouse, so if that’s part of a factory then you can also complain to https://www.hse.gov.uk/contact/concerns.htm

    There’s also a whistleblower hotline for covid violations – https://www.cieh.org/ehn/health-and-safety/2020/april/hse-opens-up-anonymous-hotline-for-workers/

    Reply
  45. staceyizme*

    It’s distressing to deal with people who don’t respect social distancing requirements and I can see your point that they are, essentially, increasing the risk of exposure to Covid-19. Really, though, your efforts to control them are going to backfire. Practice your own standards and that will (hopefully) be enough to safeguard you from the disease. I don’t think that you can cajole these scofflaws into compliance. So, just report as needed, without warning and without worrying. But don’t be a social scofflaw. Don’t argue, demonize or make a big point of not interacting with these coworkers. It will most likely backfire and it will also add to your own stress, which is unlikely to have a positive effect on your own health.

    Reply
  46. Postess with the Mostest*

    Oh no. No, no, no, no.

    I get how strongly you feel about this but that is an absolutely unacceptable way to treat a coworker, let alone four. Terrible look and I don’t see any way it ends well for you.

    I had a colleague ghost me in much the way you described a few years ago (for far less valid reasons, I never actually discovered WHY she did it – I just know that she did). Not only did she make my working environment intolerable, she absolutely ruined my opinion of her as well as her manager who permitted the ghosting to continue.

    Let me be clear – we live in a small town and everyone knows everyone. I would do WHATEVER it took to avoid working with this person again, as well as bar her employment at my current workplace (which is far healthier, and all I would need to do to accomplish this is truthfully explain what she did). She is a terribly toxic person and I want nothing at all to do with her.

    You have valid reasons for your feelings but trust me – this would also be the narrative going around about you. Justified or not (and I really do get where you’re coming from, this would piss me off too) your instincts about going down a dark, bad path here are spot on. No way this ends well for you.

    Reply
  47. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

    As controversial as this is, I wonder if part of what’s happening here is about non-white-collar workplace conflict resolution norms. Of course this doesn’t happen everywhere, but environments where there’s a very us-versus-them relationship between employees or managers, or where unions play a heavy role in conflict resolution, shunning colleagues or being passive-aggressive may not necessarily seem less appropriate than going to management. A lot of us commenting here may be more familiar with workplace norms where it’s a much bigger deal to not effectively manage your relationships with your colleagues, and where reporting an issue may not make you seem like a “tattle-tale”. But OP’s “Do you think I should report…” question to the offending parties sounds a lot like what I hear from relatives in these types of workplaces who like to warn their colleagues that maybe someone might report them for what they’re doing.

    OP, if part of your concern with continuing to report these people is that you don’t want the report attached to your name and that you’re concerned about repercussions…you’ve already publicly associated yourself with your concerns. People aren’t oblivious to obvious disapproval.

    Reply
    1. James*

      I work with a lot of blue-collar types. In those situations, if one of my team acted the way the OP describes someone would die. My teams know, and we make it clear to them, that we rely on each other to stay alive–from the senior program manager to the most junior laborer.

      Maybe the LW’s behavior would be okay if the LW worked in a different division/section/whatever from the other team, but that doesn’t sound like it’s the case. They at least work close enough to see each other routinely.

      I get the wall of silence thing. I’ve been part of it, in a previous job. But there’s a difference between not being a snitch, and creating a hazardous work environment.

      Reply
    2. Batgirl*

      I’ve worked in UK warehouses myself and …. it depends on what you’re after. If OP wants to be seen as, ahem “cock(rell) of the walk” then directly telling peers to pack it in (could be) about right. When successful, it’s the kind of thing that would make her be seen as an up and coming shop steward; someone who has the ear of the workforce and can negotiate for them with management and in turn promise management certain things on behalf of the workplace. But to pull it off you have to be calm, not lose your cool at all and have huge popularity as well as having earned some respect in advance of trying this. You’d be spending capital and have the support of other peers as a group who looked to you for leadership. Not only is OP not in that sort of position, these are times which are too serious for pecking order jostling. If it’s really serious enough to endanger the workforce just pick up the phone and report them without making it about you at all.

      Reply
    3. pancakes*

      No, I couldn’t disagree more. Many of us who work in white collar jobs were raised by parents and grandparents who worked blue collar jobs. Class differences are culturally important to keep in mind but are nowhere near as fixed or intrinsic as you’re making them out to be. Being self-defeating about reporting co-workers to higher-ups, for example, is not caused by being blue collar. I think it’s more stigmatizing to treat people as representatives of their class background than as individuals.

      Reply
  48. Lala*

    “• I will not accept any attempt at an apology — it’s far too late and they have shown no signs of regret”
    Well, I don’t think you have much to worry about there.
    I understand your anger and think you probably wrote to Alison in a justifiable rage. But don’t hurt yourself over this.
    Some of the things they are doing are no doubt terrible (like the no mask.) But others just aren’t. Standing close together? Let’s be real these couples are likely actual couples and are sleeping with their couple counterpart. They are allowed to stand near each other by any metric.

    Reply
  49. Deloris Van Cartier*

    I totally get the frustration OP and they’re being pretty crappy coworkers by continuing to not follow the rules and ordinances of your area. I’m also totally a rule follower so I get really angry when people can’t follow basic rules about social distancing/wearing a mask.

    While I get that you want to completely ice them out, I will agree with Allison that this could isolate your other co-workers, even if they don’t agree with what the others are doing. I had a coworker once who would get upset about lots of things (this was pre-covid so nothing about safety). Sometimes she was right, sometimes she wasn’t. She would become so extreme about not talking to people and changing her behavior around someone she was angry with at the moment that it became an issue. She isolated herself more and more and even if you agreed with her about the actual issue, you couldn’t support her because her behavior wasn’t professional. She ended up being let go because she made a bad decision which then spiraled and caused a lot of issues among our small staff. It took about a year from her starting her more extreme behavior to when she was let go.

    I think you are totally in the right to protect yourself however you see fit from getting ill but I would say, don’t lose anyone else who can help advocate as you may need the support if they continue.

    Reply
  50. Analyst Editor*

    If these people are sleeping together, perhaps authorities should verify that they also only use approved positions with no face-to-face contact while going at it. Also no kissing.

    Reply
    1. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

      Several months ago, the New York City Department of Health said more or less that, and actually suggested cutting a hole in the wall so you could have sex with someone without breathing on them. Yes, the city government was recommending glory holes. (If the term isn’t familiar, let’s just say it’s emphatically not safe for work.)

      Reply
      1. Analyst Editor*

        There was a “coronavirus sutra” going around specifying hypothetical approved and disapproved positions.

        Reply
  51. Akcipitrokulo*

    Talk to your union rep. (If not in a union, join one!)
    Also talk to H&S rep. And call hse (dot) gov(dot)uk on 0300 790 6787

    Reply
  52. Kelly H*

    Except: are they breaking social distancing from other people? There’s no clear mention of that, just the two couples mixing. If it’s just each other, I suspect these people are a pod (and might secretly be a poly quartet?) In which case all the hugging at work is a bit unprofessional (including with the official spouse), but not a big deal? Not a significant COVID risk unless they’re mixing pods.

    Reply
    1. Jennifer*

      This is a great point and is making me rethink my answer. If they all are friends and keep all the hugging and such within their little foursome, it’s not really a problem, as long as they wear masks all the time while indoors. I didn’t see anything in the letter to indicate they weren’t wearing masks. It REALLY makes the OP look petty. I would probably laugh too if someone told me they were going to report me for standing too close to my husband. Who I live with.

      Reply
      1. Maltypass*

        It says they’ve been warned about social distancing guidelines by management and presumably if they were together they would have said that – also you might laugh but you’d probably also explain that you’re together. Also it says in the letter they’re not wearing masks around each other

        Reply
        1. Jennifer*

          None of that is really a big deal if they are in the same bubble and keeping their distance from everyone else.

          Reply
          1. Maltypass*

            I don’t know if you’re in the UK but in tier 4 households shouldn’t be mixing – bubbles aren’t really a thing right now, I see why OP is upset. And I mean if OP wrongly thought you weren’t together, said she was going to report you for breaking government mandated guidelines, it would honestly be kind of weird to laugh in her face and not just explain you were with your husband? But whatever you do you

            Reply
    2. ceiswyn*

      Why do people keep talking about couples being in a ‘pod’ when that is not a thing in the UK?

      US Covid rules are not international, you know…

      Reply
  53. Jennifer*

    This just seems very passive aggressive and immature. Yes, you are right of course about social distancing and being responsible, but behaving like this solves nothing and comes off as really holier than thou. Telling people you’re going to report them does no good either. Clearly they don’t care.

    There are always going to be people that do the wrong thing. Focus on what YOU can do. Back up if they stand too close to you. Leave the room if there’s no space to social distance. If there is someone sensible in management that may do something about this, report it to them. I suspect there may not be, since these employees feel so emboldened to flout the rules. Keep doing the best that you can, and hope we can all get the vaccine soon. That’s all we can do right now. I know it’s frustrating.

    Reply
  54. Robin Ellacott*

    I’d advise the letter writer to simply maintain her own safety boundaries, and report anything that looks like it places the workplace or her colleagues at risk. I’d advise her NOT to try to signal to these folks and others that she strongly disapproves of them by ignoring them pointedly or whatever.

    If you start shunning people at work you cede the moral high ground, and it starts looking like a petty “personality conflict” in which you are the one causing issues.

    Reply
    1. UKDancer*

      Definitely. Report it through your management chain and through the HSE and other channels provided for. Follow the processes correctly for escalation.

      Shunning people, refusing to engage with them and turning your back just makes you look like the problem and come across as unhelpful. I can fully understand why it’s so frustrating and you might want to but if you go ahead with the shunning you’ll just alienate everyone else and be perceived as the problem.

      Reply
  55. burble*

    OP, my first thought — are they dating? Have they intentionally bubbled? Would you be feeling this way if you knew they lived together?

    So many things can be solved with communication that I’m somewhat surprised it wasn’t in Allison’s answer –
    if the only people you see them breaking social distancing protocol with is each other, say something like, “Hey, this is awkward, but I see you and Name breaking protocol all the time. Did y’all bubble up or are you forgetting the rules?”

    Reply
    1. not that kind of Doctor*

      This was my first thought as well. How do you know they’re not all bubbled together? Are they standing too close to customers or other coworkers, or only each other? The complaint seems to be only about behavior within the foursome, which if kept within the foursome is not anyone else’s problem.

      Reply
      1. ceiswyn*

        The OP knows they’re not all bubbled together because that is not a thing in the UK.

        Bubbles are permitted only for specific people for specific purposes. Separated parents with shared custody can meet to move their child(ren) beetween households, lone adults can bubble with a single other household, that sort of thing. Random households don’t get to buddy up.

        Reply
      1. Analyst Editor*

        Yeah but two households mixing is a minor violation and a 70 person house party is a major violation, or general flouting of rules. Reporting the latter two has much more basis than the first.

        Reply
        1. Maltypass*

          Well if they have a massive house party in front of her I’m sure she’ll report that? But at work you can only report what you see

          Reply
  56. Maltypass*

    I get the feeling a lot of people in the comments aren’t working with others right now – there’s a lot of judgement towards OP that is rooted in sound logic but is frankly coming off unkind. I work in a situation where my colleagues frequently talk about doing things that are outside my areas rules -also in the UK- and for months I’ve had to remind colleagues about social distancing DAILY and you don’t know what it’s like feeling constantly violated that way unless you’re living it. OPs behaviour may seem over the top, and I agree with Alison it’s not the way to go, but you do go a bit insane when you’re surrounded by people who don’t care about your safety or the safety of those around you. You want to reclaim your boundaries any way you can. It can literally feel disingenuous to even be polite to those who are acting like OPs and mines colleagues because you know they don’t care about you on such a base level, so why should you bother being polite? That’s a lot to deal with while also working in proximity to people during a pandemic, just bear that in mind -and also ‘be kind’ is literally the first line above the comment box.

    OP: In my experience, your best move is to become a bother. Report frequently, follow the guidelines to a tee, and try your best to not observe the four who are bothering you, though I know that’s hard when your animal brain is literally telling you to for survival. If you can go to higher management under the guise of looking for clarification, that helped me with some aspects. Sorry you’re dealing with this

    Reply
    1. Eirene*

      I dunno, I’m not terribly inclined to think charitably toward someone whose first reaction to people not taking their concerns seriously is to actively plan to treat other people like garbage on purpose in a manner more befitting junior-high students than adults, which is not actually the same thing as setting boundaries. It’s not that I don’t sympathize or that I don’t think the coworkers are behaving improperly, but OP’s fear does not give them a pass on behaving as professionally as possible while setting those reasonable and actionable boundaries you outlined in your last paragraph.

      Reply
    2. Blue*

      +1 Yep. OP really shouldn’t do what they’ve described wanting to do, but honestly, having to get up every day and spend your working day in a place where you are in immediate physical danger from people around you who refuse to do any of the things they could and should do to mitigate the danger – that wears you down mentally and emotionally in a really horrible and inescapable way.
      No, OP shouldn’t do this and it won’t work, but I’m not interested in judging or mocking them for being driven to a point where they’re thinking about it.

      Reply
  57. I'm just here for the cats.*

    I would just be really cold to them. Still acknowledge and work with them if you have to. No chit chat. Just keep it cool.

    Reply
  58. Junior Assistant Peon*

    Remember how both kids involved in a fight in school would get punished because “fighting is bad” even if a bully was kicking your ass and you were engaging in legitimate self-defense? I was much older when I figured out that teachers and principals are usually too lazy to spend time and effort figuring out what happened. The working world is no different – management is annoyed that Wakeen and Fergus are having a conflict or being dramatic, and most of them can’t be bothered to spend time figuring out if one person is the instigator. The OP has a legitimate reason to be upset, but is going to be seen as dramatic and a troublemaker by management.

    Reply
  59. the VikingDiva*

    Can we please make “I drove off in my electric order picker” the New.Best.Way. to flounce off? I want one myself!

    Reply
  60. Maxie*

    Alison and enough other readers addressed why this is not a good idea. I imagine many of your other co- workers also want to be safe. How about if a (socially distanced, masked) group of you go to management together about the quad flagrantly defying COVID safety protocols? Alison has frequently pointed out that it is harder for management to ignore a group than a singleton. Could you go to a higher level than shift manager? The point is that these four are continually putting the rest of the staff at risk. I’d also recommend that you try to control your anger when you do have the conversation. You have Wendy right to be v angry- these people are taking risks with your life- but it will be received better if you can remain calm and professional when you speak. Eye on the prize: getting the 4 to obey the rules or get fired.

    Reply
  61. mimifrog*

    I would so report them to the police, or even your work place for not enforcing social distancing. This new variant is out of control and so very scary.

    Reply
  62. Kryssi*

    Report them to public health, your HR department and your manager (again), if its really making you feel this strongly and angry.

    I know a few that have been fired for such blatant disregard for the laws.

    This is highly illegal in the UK at present and if they’re doing it now, as we are now in national lock down they deserve the repercussion of it.

    Reply
  63. SO frustrated*

    I did a double take when I read the question title because I’ve been SO struggling with this and reached an absolute breaking point two weeks ago myself. BUT I’m a boss, so I have continued t0 be available and to answer questions in a patient, friendly manner, etc. but I have made literally no effort to initiate any chit chat with anyone and have been entirely focused on the work. Nearly the entire staff has continued their regular lives since the start of the pandemic and even having immediate family test positive and exposure scares, they are STILL gathering and I feel like I am losing my freaking mind out of frustration – and then when the staff that wasn’t out on COVID exposure leave after Christmas started talking about their New Years plans I reached that peak moment of I’M DONE and shut down thereafter because I am on the verge of telling every single one of them off. I am not proud of this and I feel like crap about not giving them my best, but I am completely depleted and fed up.

    Reply
  64. hawaiianon*

    Honestly, I am both really frustrated by people who don’t give a care, but also see the negative mental health effects of not going outside/anywhere, especially in cold climates. My parents live on the coast and can walk outside daily- I live on Hoth!

    I really think, whatever these four do, they should do so as safely as possible. This includes masks and backing up and not canoodling at work! That’s my standard for myself now.

    I’m so depressed these days that my spouse and I planned a very careful April trip to Hawaii. Yes, I know, terrible idea, but I don’t know how safe I’ll be able to stay, even with mental health support, if I don’t make some kind of change and get some sun. We don’t want to visit my parents because we don’t want to risk them, and we would have to fly to go there anyway.

    We’ll get tested before and at vacation, per state protocol, wear masks, find an airline that blocks adjacent seats off or buy a third, not eat or drink on the plane, do all our own driving, stay outside, and generally find a place to be that’s as remote as possible. Even if that means milk for the hotel or Airbnb coffee is $13/gallon (Hana, anyone?). No indoor activities or chopper flight, maaaaybe whale watching if safe/small group. I just want to lie in the sun and go for walks and see color!

    Of course I am not an anti-masker, but I think people who are able to totally stay home must have certain health privileges- they are better able to stand the isolation. Everyone has taken risks by this point.

    Reply
    1. In my shell*

      I mean this as kindly as possible, have you considered how your post reads as a series of rationalizations? Just food for thought –

      Reply
      1. hawaiianon*

        Safer, cheaper, and less traumatic than a hospitalization for mental health due to staying inside for 11 months. Those are the factors. I feel good about my ability to protect others and hope to be vaccinated by then, since I may rate a slightly earlier phase due to severe allergies.

        Reply
        1. Eirene*

          Have you considered perhaps a sun lamp instead? It’s quite a bit safer and cheaper than flying to Hawaii, if you need sunlight that badly. I know it’s cold now – it is here, too, where I live – but you haven’t gone on a walk at all in the past 11 months when the weather is better? Or are you speaking more hyperbolically when you say you’ve been inside for all this time?

          Reply
  65. GreenDoor*

    What you’re up agaist are two couples who are possibly cross-coupley and OK with that. Which means is you, OP, against a four-person army. You need an army of your own. If you have co-workers who are just as angry and concerned, work together as a group to report it to your Personnel and to the authorities. And push back on these four – and back up your colleagues too. If one of you says, “Hey you’re both in the red box. One of you needs to step out.” And then four more of you are all saying “yea – one person to a red box. How hard is that to rememer??” now you have the advantage of adding social pressure. The passive aggressive stuff does nothing – most people won’t even realize that you’re lack of eye contact or not saying hello means anything specific. They’ll just thing you’re being extra stand-offish.

    Reply
  66. AdamAndThePants*

    Hi everybody, nervous OP here

    I originally emailed Alison with *THAT* post on the 28th of December and it’s been a while since then. Alison notified me a few days ago that my post had gone up and she encouraged me to interact in the comments. I have been reading all your comments for a while, but please forgive me if I’ve missed something because there are 393 comments at the time of writing!

    Firstly – I DID NOT GHOST THEM. As some of you correctly guessed, I was enraged and had boiling blood when I wrote that list, and I was quickly talked out of it. I’m glad a few of you actually liked it though and praised me for being ‘diligent and organised’ with it… er, thanks!

    Secondly, this is what happened two days after I vented everything to my shift manager: all four of the Covidiots were given formal warnings. One of them is now on a final written warning, so she and her male counterpart have (finally!) been following the rules ever since. Following this, on the next two shifts, the entire workforce was divided into two groups and given separate break times. The Covidiots were, of course, split either side of those two groups and could not interact. I loved this course of action, not just for splitting them but also because there were half the usual amount of people in the break room, it felt so much safer! Sadly it only lasted for two days, after which the management team put us all back on the usual break time (albeit with a warning that they would split the breaks again if social distancing rules weren’t followed).

    I’ve been really impressed with how insightful and observant many of you have been in your comments, so you may have noticed that only two of the four Covidiots have started following the rules. What about the other boy and girl? Sadly they are as selfish as ever. To everyone that asked, “Are they in a hub/social bubble?” They are not, they are definitely from separate households. They aren’t a couple (the girl has a boyfriend at home) but there is clearly a mutual attraction. It’s also worth saying now how much more serious the COVID-19 situation is here: the UK is in a full national lockdown, hospitals are overcrowded, deaths passed 100,000 today and the region in which I live and work is where the new variant/mutation ORIGINATED. I am still required to work as a key-worker and none of us can choose to stay at home. So I am still ‘triggered’ and seething with anger whenever they walk around the warehouse unmasked with hips touching, hands grabbing and no f***’s given. Somebody suggested I might be jealous and there’s a half-truth to that: I do miss that kind of intimacy, but a pandemic is NOT the time and that kind of behaviour right now is selfish and dangerous from anyone, whatever the reason, period. They are the only four in the workplace who have been breaking the rules consistently, all day, every day. The rest of us make the odd mistake, such as me getting a pat on the shoulder in the midst of a congratulatory moment followed by a swift apology! With the Covidiots it is constant. They were also overheard planning a party on New Year’s Eve by several different colleagues, sadly hearsay isn’t proof – but I would bet a lot of money that they did.

    Some of you thought I should be more sympathetic to their car-sharing. You are all right to say that travelling to an out-of-town warehouse with no public transport on a low salary is not easy and we all have been very understanding and lenient on it where I work (it is also permitted by the government for essential work purposes). However, there is no excuse for not wearing a mask when you are doing this and I have witnessed them all climb into cars and drive away unmasked many times.

    You might be wondering if I haven’t ghosted them, how well are we working together? The answer is: the bare minimum. The work gets done, social platitudes such as, ‘Thanks’ are exchanged, but that’s it. They know exactly how I feel. I would actually love some more advice on this part: can this state of icy tolerance continue in a workplace? Is it just best if I left? I get the feeling my managers are willing to use further disciplinary measures but are reluctant to fire anybody because we are understaffed and trying to get through about 3,500 orders per day (we’ve also been recruiting and I am still training new recruits). What do you all think? Some of you suggested going outside the workplace and contacting a UK authority such as the HSE. I’m understandably reluctant and unsure about doing this – but what I am sure about is that the Covidiots will not stop, so maybe you’re right.

    Finally, thank you so much for all the comments and I hope you are all holding up well in these crazy and dangerous times. Let’s all keep each other going. X

    Reply
    1. An American(ish) Werewolf in London*

      I just want to say I love this reply – I am so glad you’ve had a chance to breathe and that some actions have been taken.

      The only advice I have is to keep breathing (though not near the Covidiots) and to keep reporting them, at least for the most egregious infractions. Also, it may be worth suggesting splitting the breaks again – not just because of those four, but keeping the room as empty as possible (especially if it isn’t ventilated) is just a great idea regardless.

      I had to laugh – I was looking at the official guidance today on the gov.co.uk website and came across this gem (this was under the advice about opening windows to keep rooms ventilated): “You can wear warm clothes or layers if you’re cold.” Thanks, mum.

      Reply
    2. Ann O'nymous*

      Personally, I’d definitely file a report with the HSE and have a look at the COVID whistle blower hotline, although I understand why you might feel hesitant.

      Reply
    1. An American(ish) Werewolf in London*

      It is their business in the workplace. I’d imagine the OP neither wants to get sick nor wants their (other) colleagues to get sick.

      Reply

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