Does This Gross You Out?

Posted on November 7, 2011


Personalities at Work: Part 2

These guys make you wince and wonder how their mother brought them up to be so.  They’re the people, that amongst work mates, you’ll have a laugh and joke about. However as you’re having a laugh about them, you’ll also be crying inside at how you’re going to have to endure that for the rest of your work days.  Their bad habits offend you, occur frequently and what’s worse, you’ll need to work with it on a daily basis.  The Fiddlers I’ve come across pick their nose right in front of you as if they’ve got some loose change up there, play snake tamer with their trouser reptile, cough and splutter at you like some sort of spit sprinkler and flatulate without fear and apology.  Fear not!  There is a way to stop this without a photocopy room fight and you’ll come away feeling empowered and effective.

The solution may be difficult to attack but it can get you what you want.  It’s simply being direct and talking to them about it.  A no brainer huh?  It is, but the challenge is more about giving them the message without them thinking ‘geez what a little b!?ch.’  The important thing to stress here, is the technique of delivery.  For some perpetrators, they’re not even aware of their bad habits so its possible that they’ll end up being quite embarrassed;  it’d be nice to minimise that.  First, it needs to be brought up in a relatively casual way without an audience.  No one likes having their bad habits pointed out in public and there’s no need to stage the feedback like Google’s annual general meeting.  The goal here is to

1. State factually what happens

2. How you react to it and why its not good for you

3. How you would like it to change

4. Why the change is good

Ok, this seems like a sizeable list and I know that it doesn’t seem particularly easy to follow.  However, I’ve got an example which, if you break it down, you’ll see that I’ve covered those points.  So there’s Fred I know, who likes to cough with his mouth uncovered and frequently, whilst we’re chin-wagging away on techy stuff.  When he does cough, he’ll no doubt land a few balls of saliva on my face.  I don’t like that not surprisingly.

Mike: Hi Fred, how ya going?

Fred: I’m good thanks Mike

Mike: You got a couple seconds? (Keep it casual. We didn’t go to a meeting room but I got him early in the morning when there’s few people about)

Fred: Sure.

Mike: I just wanted to have a quick chat to you about something.  When we have one-on-one discussions, you have a habit of coughing at me with an open mouth. Its happened the last few times when we chatted about <insert subject here.>  It prevents me from focusing on your what you’re saying and its not very pleasant when it happens.  (I’ve been explicit here and stated occasions when it happened.  Makes it appear less general and not just a gripe.  I also added why its not good.)

Fred: Oh geez, sorry. That’s really bad.

Mike: No, don’t be sorry.  Its not a massive problem but it is distracting and I reckon I’d be able to answer your questions better if it didn’t happen.  (The way its to be changed is obvious but I’ve also tried to ‘sell’ the change by saying the benefit to Fred if he ‘gave me the news and not the weather’).

There will be occasions when you’ll have a less favourable response.  In these cases, without writing a whole new post, don’t react negatively, stick to your guns by affirming how it affects you and why its not good (if they can be business related reasons then all the better) and stay away from emotional words or provocative statements.

There’s plenty of other ways to address this but this is the most effective and the least relationship damaging method.  Hopefully addressing your Fiddler colleague the way I have, you won’t end up feeling sick at work again.