flotsam, peeves, there is something wrong with me


I need to preface this post by saying that workplace violence is a serious issue. A sometimes deadly issue. An issue that is not to be made light of.

And for those of you who don’t know me, understand that I’m generally mild-mannered. Meek, even. Not prone to violent outbursts, at all.

But I’m also sitting beside The Sniffler. The Sniffler sniffles and snuffles and snorts all day long – some days more than others, some days louder than others, some days wetter than others – apparently clueless to its effects.

Clueless to how annoying it is. Clueless to how infuriating it is becoming.

Yes, I know: he’s not doing it for fun. I should have sympathy for his plight. I should try to block it out as best I can.

And I know that I’m noise-sensitive. It’s actually something of a running gag here, that I have a low tolerance for things like computer chimes that are turned up too loud and cellphones with obnoxious rings that go unanswered and excessive, ongoing tea-slurping and, well, the sniffling.

This is how corporate life works now, you know. We sit people together in closer and closer proximity – to conserve space or to “promote collaboration” or whatever – without thought to which ones need a quieter work environment or whose role might be louder than others or which ones need more interaction to do their best work or which ones need less interaction in order to process.

Or which ones don’t understand that inflicting your bodily fluids on others is really not acceptable office behavior.

Headphones are the new walls, so in an attempt to keep some semblance of peace, my “white noise” is turned up loud enough that I can’t hear my phone ring. Can’t hear people coming up into my work space. Can’t hear people conversing with me. Can barely hear myself think, and secretly worry that I might do damage to my hearing.

But despite all this, I can still hear The Sniffle, punctuating right through my white noise.

And I should note that I’m not the only one that’s noticed it. The people with office doors are closing them. Not all of us are so lucky.

  • I tried subtle: inquiring after his health, noting that it *sounds* like his allergies are acting up (or like he has a cold, or whatever).
  • I tried less subtle: offering him a tissue in response to particularly egregious or wet-sounding sniffles.
  • I tried being as direct as I think you can politely be (because honestly, about half the population isn’t good with subtlety): I gave him a tissue with a sticky note pinned to it, saying that I could hear him sniffling, and thought this might help. (With a smily face to soften the blow. So to speak.)

All to no avail. Today he’s been slurping up a particularly wet sniffle all the day long. I offered him a tissue and once again he assured me he doesn’t need one, punctuated by the very sniffle I am trying to end.


WHY??? Won’t we both be happier if the sniffling ends, fortheloveofGod? 

Seriously, I understand that perhaps this isn’t 100% in his control, but the lack of willingness to do anything about it, only makes it worse. And it lowers my toleration for any other sound he makes, like eating crunchy foods. Or clipping his nails in his cubicle. (No. I am not making that up.)

Sidebar: Do you ever notice how often the person who “goes postal” is usually described as being “the quiet type”? Probably it’s just that I’m dealing with this stupid thing all day, but … does anyone else start to wonder what the impact is of putting “quiet” people – people who are quiet and perhaps prefer or even need quiet in order to do their work – next to people who will grate on them all day long every single day of their work life? OK, OK, usually they uncover some other factor that was going on – a love affair gone bad, a promotion passed over, some kind of unrealized mental disorder. It probably isn’t because of someone’s incessant sniffling. Or drink-slurping. Or key-jingling. Right? Right???

It’s gotten so that – even though he’s a friendly enough guy – I don’t like him. I mean, I actively dislike this person, because he sniffles in my ear all day. That isn’t right. When it’s really acting up (and I realize that means he’s probably suffering) instead of any kind of sympathy, I really do start to feel like I might snap.

What might that look like? Am I going to yell at him? (Not office-appropriate.) Slap him? (Firmly in violation of the workplace violence prohibition.) Curl up in a fetal position and sob and wail until they hospitalize me? (Much more my style, but still career-limiting.)

I don’t know, but something inappropriate is getting closer and closer to happening here, folks.

So I need some advice.  Anybody successfully broken through this issue? Anybody in HR out there who can tell me how to address this in way that would be office-approved and not career limiting?

There’s got to be a better way.

7 thoughts on “WHY???”

  1. Request that one of you be moved. Explain the situation to someone who has the authority to move you. Or, get a radio and turn it up LLLLOOOUUD. When asked to reduce the volume, explain to your sniffler that this is the only way you can survive the psychological torture of his sniffles. Perhaps NOW he’d like to dry a tissue, or a decongestant?


  2. LOL at ” Explain the situation to someone who has the authority to move you. ” My boss is WELL aware. She’s one of the people closing their doors and putting on headphones of their own to stop it. (She’s not HIS manager, obviously.)
    Unfortunately, there currently isn’t room to move either of us. But I am confident that in the event a space *distant from him* opens up, I’ll be in line for it.
    I suppose force-feeding him a decongestant is also not a viable solution. Probably. 😉


  3. Ok, how about speaking to him directly, in a frank but kind manner. For instance, “Mr. Sniffleface, (I’m sure that’s his actual name), I realize you’re not doing this on purpose, but your sniffle sounds have started to move beyond Noticeable and have careened right past Annoying and are now into the I May Have to Kill You territory.” Or maybe, “I’m sorry you’re suffering, but that noise has really become an issue, and I’m having trouble concentrating at work. Is there anything at all you can take that will help you?”


  4. “Headphones are the new walls.” How true that is, at my job, too! Unfortunately, they don’t protect you from germs, though they do allow you to rock out to Hootie & The Blowfish while crunching numbers for the Drummond account.


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