Workplace Etiquette: How Are Your Personal Habits Affecting Others?

nails on a chalkboardSlurp








Click-Click-Click *PAUSE* Click-Click-Click

*PAUSE* What’s that SMELL?

*PAUSE* Why are you talking so loudly

It all has a nice rhythmic sound to it when you read it the right way, doesn’t it?

Does it seem like a taboo to ask a coworker not to slurp his tea, or the other coworker not to click her pen incessantly while sitting in the meeting? Maybe it only seems that way to me because I do not want to be seen as the overly-sensitive person in the office. Some habits have become so natural for some people, and they do not notice their actions or the sounds they make. How can they know that, as a result, I am uncomfortable?

The chip crunching…
The carrot chomping…
The tea slurping…
The pen clicking…
The tap-tap-tapping to your favorite jam…and then you start to hum, and maybe softly sing along.
The self-narrator sits across from me. He audibly states, to himself I presume, when he is thirsty or if he’s going to get a cup of coffee. It’s not bad or wrong. It’s just awkward…for me…and for no justifiable reason.

tea slurper
I briefly tried to explain to the tea-slurper just the other day that his sounds, at that moment, were like fingernails on a chalkboard to me. I approached him quietly, and I even began with an apology. But, sadly, I wasn’t exaggerating how it made me feel. I absolutely empathized with him, during my plea to make him stop, that I was sure his tea was hot, and I understood…but to please stop slurping his hot tea.

On certain days, some of these things make me feel anxious and uncomfortable…then, eventually, just exhausted. It’s strange, really…and it’s kind of ridiculous. It is as if these incidental sounds add unwarranted stress to my life. Oddly enough, though, I can sit in a coffee shop and study because there is kind of a low hum…a subdued white noise. But sometimes certain specific sounds, in their heightened concentration, really try my patience.

burrowWhat a rabbit hole I have led myself down, considering the idea of all the little, seemingly inconsequential, and unintentional sounds that surround me in the workplace each day and wear on my senses! The Google has me nearing a self-diagnosis somewhere between a neuropsychiatric disorder that falls in line with a series of “tic spectrum” disorders (like Tourette Syndrome or Misophonia – the latter of which is a “dislike of sound”), or maybe some trait referred to as being a “Highly Sensitive Person” or HSP. I really like the last option: HSP. It sounds like ESP and might well get you believing I have a sixth sense and super powers.

On the contrary, however, being “highly sensitive” isn’t a super power, but it is not uncommon. It can be stressful and exhausting. A few fruitful searches led me to see that I am not alone in my reactions.

As for my workplace, the irony is not lost on me that the majority of my department is participating regularly in some kind of “Mindfulness” session. I excused myself from the first gathering when I felt it was only geared toward meditation, but only after I was asked to tell the rest of the entire group how the experience, in that moment, made me feel.

A gap I see is that mindfulness is a bit more than simply being calm, cool, and collected in my own presence…in my own body and mind. If you’re in a cube farm environment like mine, being mindful could also mean trying to be conscious of those around you. Being mindful might mean not wearing those seven extra squirts of perfume; or choosing to clip your fingernails at home before work; or biting into foods and chewing with your mouth closed; or being aware that you are a loud talker in a typically quiet environment.

For the future, let’s make a deal. I’ll do my best to be more aware of my increased sensitivity (now that I know I am not unique), if you help by making conscientious choices on behalf of coworkers like me.

As an aside, I toyed with the idea of figuring out how to drop sound bites into this post. This first and only search was enough to put me on the edge…but I at least learned there are sites full of royalty free “sound bites” out there for us (like Getty images or the music we referenced in our videos this semester).


2 thoughts on “Workplace Etiquette: How Are Your Personal Habits Affecting Others?

  1. Oh yes, this is part of my everyday life living with my boyfriend. He dislikes soft sounds like crunching, slurping, teeth clicking together, forks hitting teeth, smacking, among other things. He has even self diagnosed himself with Misophonia, after that I adjusted my habits to calm his nerves. Yet the man loves heavy metal music and playing his drums without any ear plugs. You are not alone!

  2. Haha … yeah … this post was initially meant to be more of a drill in workplace awareness. Instead, I have new label. 😉

    I guess readers could be happy I didn’t trail down the path of writing about bathroom etiquette in the workplace, too…that is a whole ‘nother can of peeves.

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