Busy Season Problem of the Day: Approaching a Co-worker About Their Disgusting Bodily Functions

Over at our British sister site, AccountingWEB UK, the following problem was put to the group:

We have an employee at the practice where I work who constantly makes a pretty horrible snorting sound with the back of her throat. It happens all year but is worse when she has a cold, which she does at the moment.

Several colleagues have asked me to have a word with the partners to ask them to say something to her about it because they find it so distracting and even nauseating. Incidentally it's an open plan office so it's not like people can avoid hearing it.

So my question is, if I did have a word with the partners, is there anything they could actually do about it? And if not, should I tell them anyway just to get it recorded and so that I can tell my colleagues that I have had a word? Nobody feels close enough to her to talk to her quietly themselves, which would have been my instinctive first suggestion.

Okay, so after getting over the weirdness of idea of "recording" of this conversation just to prove it to your co-workers, we admit that this is serious work environment issue. We've all been there. That certain someone who, for whatever reason, feels necessary to dig deep in the far ranges of their physiology to get some phlegm out but just can't seem to EXCUSE THEMSELVES to do so. Or see a doctor, because you know, there might be something seriously wrong that COULD KILL YOU.

And it doesn't stop with the throat clearing. What about the the co-worker that sounds like Tony Soprano when they eat?

What about the dude that's obviously enjoying those four to six sodas a day because you can hear him slurping from three cubicles away? And then there's the subsequent burping. And not like frat boy burping; we're talking about the gas that he tries to internalize quietly but it's actually more annoying and disgusting than if he belched the entire alphabet. YOU FEEL ME?

So what to do? Well, first off, despite your desire to FLIP OUT and scream at the offender(s) in question, they probably aren't even aware that they are causing you to throw up in your mouth a little bit every day. But you certainly don't want to embarrass the person (maybe some of you do) and buying noise-canceling headphones for the entire office isn't really economically feasible, so what's the solution? Here are some initial thoughts:

1. Slipping he or she some Emily Post.

2. Quit your job.

3. Humming at audible levels. (We realize the risks associated with this approach but desperate times, amiright?)

4. Hiring a "personnel monitor" whose sole task is to quietly address these issues with the offender and to issue written warnings, fines and punishments depending on the repulsion level, number of individual co-worker complaints and simultaneous offenses (e.g. slurping and burping).

Seems like a good start. Now it's your turn.

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