Six Ways You're Grossing-Out Your Co-Workers

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If you spend at least eight hours on the job, the workplace can begin to feel more like home than home.  Home is where you can relax, let go and just be yourself.  It’s where you take care of personal maintenance, eat, sleep, and do things you wouldn’t normally do in polite company.  The trouble is, some people blur the lines and think they can do things at work that belong behind closed doors or out of sight.  Let’s face it, some people just don’t have good manners or the sense that goes with them and they may be sitting at the next work station, standing next to you on the production line or on your work team.


It doesn’t matter what the age, position or salary level, some people are just gross and impose their dark magic on the rest of us at work. 


1.      Cleaning fingernails.    Whether this is a nervous habit or just misplaced hygiene, these people think that a lull in the conversation or a boring PowerPoint presentation is the perfect time for a self manicure.  They use a pencil, pen, piece of cardboard or just whip out an emery board and got to work cleaning under their nails or filing away.  I’ve even seen one person take the residue, roll it between thumb and finger and fling it into the air.  People on the other side of the table were ducking in horror!   That’s what manicurists are for!   Tell them to spend the $15 for a professional manicure or take all pointed implements away from them before the meeting.

2.      Eating at their desk.  A lot of people eat at their desks, but some people still think they’re at the dorm or frat house, stacking food plates, bags or just balancing donuts on the edge of the desk, on stacks of papers, or anywhere.  Their mom’s must have cleaned up after them because remnants of past lunches or snacks are still visible, shuffled between reports and stacks of papers.  Jelly donut residue is smeared on their keyboard and phone.  Yuck!  You can smell old pepperoni and stale coffee as you approach their work area. 

3.      Burping.  Some people think that burping is an art form and absolutely hilarious.  It might be at a party or in the privacy of your home with friends, but it’s not a form of entertainment at work.  A burp here or there after a meal is understandable, but the long, loud, resonant burps some people conjure up, followed with a smile and glance around the room border on abuse.  There you are trapped; sitting next to the offender at a staff meeting you know will go on for another hour.  It’s worse after a lunch of salami sandwiches. 

4.      Other bodily expressions.   You know what I’m talking about.  If you have a condition or are allergic to dairy or meat or wheat and you KNOW what is going to happen after you eat the offending food, please take a Beano, leave the room or just abstain for the sake of your co-workers. 

5.      Combing or rearranging your hair.   I sat behind a woman in a meeting one day who constantly finger-combed her long hair, pulled it into a pony tail, secured it with a rubber band and then took out the rubber band, shook out her hair and repeated the process throughout the entire hour-long meeting.  She didn’t realize that she was showering me and everyone else behind her with flying hairs and dandruff.  Other offenders like to twirl their hair constantly, which is distracting and annoying.  If you’re going to massage your scalp or finger-comb your hair loaded with hair spray and styling gel, don’t be offended if I don’t want to shake hands after the meeting is over.

6.      Cleaning teeth.   Good dental hygiene is admirable, but watching someone dislodge a poppy seed or piece of meat from between their teeth at the table is beyond gross.  I’ve seen people take a coffee stirrer, piece of paper, fork or just go at it with their fingernail, digging and picking in plain view.  Some accomplished pickers never miss a word and can carry on a conversation with a couple of fingers in their mouth. 


You may say I’m squeamish, or overly critical, but come on!   If you have to do those things, excuse yourself and find a private spot to get yourself straightened out.  Your co-workers, who are too grossed out, won’t tell you about it.  And they are probably thanking me right now for bringing this up. 




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  • Betty Hinton
    Betty Hinton
    I enjoy your articles. They have very useful and informative information. I must say though, this particular article was exactly the medicine I needed. It was hilarious! I think back to the meetings I attended and I know for a fact that some people are oblivious to the fact that they are being "gross" or inappropriate at all. I laughed out loud! It was the first time in a long time, that I saw the humor, despite the message. Thanks so much!

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