June 19, 2018

work environments

PwC Provides Background, Q&A in Response to Reports on Shanghai Associate’s Death

It’s been just over two weeks since the death of Angela Pan, an audit associate in PwC’s Shanghai office. One report of her death have quoted doctors stating that “Based on her symptoms and her low white blood cell count, it’s reasonable to conclude that overwork led to a weakened immune system, which makes her more vulnerable to infections.” It was also reported she told a friend she was working 18-hour days and about 120 hours a week prior to her sickness and death. However, Shanghaiist (yes, that’s the Gothamist for Shanghai) published a portion of a statement from PwC that stated that Angela died from viral encephalitis not acute cerebral meningitis as had been reported. An internal email from PwC in China found its way into our inbox late last week and it seems to echo the press release and provides other details.

[Ed. note: the second paragraph included HR and press contacts for those needing them so I’ve omitted those here. It did state that the information should only “be communicated verbally.”]

The date on the email was April 20th and the Shanghaiist article is dated April 15th, so whether this communiqué provides additional details, it isn’t entirely clear. The most confusing statement for me in this email is “as a sign of respect to Angela and her family, we have made a decision not to clarify the misreporting in the media at this time.” Seems to me that the respectful thing would be to correct the “misrepresented” facts if they are in fact correct. Of course this is happening in China where we can only assume what qualifies as a “respectful” action might differ from what is respectful in the U.S. Regardless, it’s terribly unfortunate that a young woman’s death had to serve as a reminder for everyone to take a closer look at their own health and behavior, as well as how culture and working environment may cause some to feel pressure to be at work when they shouldn’t.

Busy Season Problem Du Jour: The Kleptomaniac Co-worker

Today’s round of minor irritations from our British sister from another mister:

Further to the “snorting employee” post, any ideas on how to deal with a colleague who goes into my desk drawers to get labels and paper clips and the like, when I am actually sitting at my desk?

They are a relatively new employee and I have been showing them some aspects of how to do their job. It is really my own fault for not stopping them when they started doing it, but now it really irritates me and I’m not sure of the most painless way to deal with it other than to just tell them to stop and use their own drawers! I hate any kind of confrontation, especially since we have to sit next to each other.

Any diplomatic ideas?

I don’t know about you all but diplomacy just doesn’t fly over here in States, so an accounting firm version of the Bush Doctrine seems to be the way to go. Let’s kick a few ideas around shall we?

When your fellow cube farmer comes digging around your drawer do you:

A) Allow them to find the item they need and walk back to their desk, wait five minutes, then proceed to their workspace and violently snatch said item off their desk/out of their hand?

B) Calmly get up with your beverage of choice in hand, walk over to the offender’s cube and pour the contents of your drinking receptacle on their computer?

C) Belch in their face?

D) Do a full spin in your aeron chair and crush their hand/wrist/lower arm in the drawer?

E) Your ideas

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.