A co-worker has allergies and constantly blows their nose loudly, coughs without covering their mouth and frequently borrows thing from your desk without asking. It’s becoming so irritating you don’t want to be around them – and you resent them just taking things off your desk. They seem totally unaware of how their bad manners are affecting you and others.

Should you:

a) Continue to seethe and say nothing?
b) Have a private serious conversation explaining how you and others feel?
c) Say something casually in the moment?

What to do

Your first step is ( c ) above. You don’t want to make this bigger than it is but you need to give your co-worker feedback so each time a situation occurs address it in a pleasant way. You’ll need to plan ahead what you want to say. Be sure to use a light tone. Some examples:

(Blowing nose) “Wow, you really blow your nose loudly.”
(Not covering mouth when coughing) “Hey ‘Joe” I felt that all the way over here.”
(Taking stuff from your desk) “Every time I look for my stapler it’s gone. Want me to give you the number for Supplies so you can order your own?”

If they don’t get your message you’ll need to move to (b) above and have a one on one convo with them. Again in a light tone you might say:

“You probably don’t realize it but when you keep blowing your nose loudly and coughing without covering our mouth people get kind of distracted and a bit put off. Thought you’d want to know.”
“You probably don’t realize how often you take supplies off my desk. I know you don’t mean anything by it and I’m glad you feel comfortable borrowing from me, but it’s happening so often I can’t find what I need to do my job. Do you mind calling Supplies today and getting these items? I’d really appreciate it.” (If they don’t then keep the items off your desk and they will soon get the picture.)

Key Thought

When things are bugging you about someone they’re likely bothering others too. You do your coworkers a big favour to help them learn basic etiquette at work.

“Make your life extraordinary!”

All situations and dynamics referenced in this blog are fictitious. Any resemblance to real situations or persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

For more tips on Workplace Etiquette, stay tuned to view our series on Personal Image at Work.