How do I adress public hygeine issues?
December 28, 2004 3:39 PM   Subscribe

What is the best way to tell a potentially over sensitive co-worker that clipping her fingernails is not an appropriate thing to do in the office?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (40 answers total)
I think the phrase 'over-sensitive' is being applied to the wrong person here.
posted by bingo at 3:43 PM on December 28, 2004

It's okay. I generally bite mine and spit them on the floor. Then again, I have my own office.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 3:43 PM on December 28, 2004

If it bothers you, tell her, directly, succinctly. If she is bothered by this you'll reach conflict. If you're capable of communication beyond stimulus and response you will resolve this fairly quickly.
posted by sled at 3:54 PM on December 28, 2004

Clipping your nails in public is gross. My coworker does it in the office next door nearly every day but I've never figured out how to tell him what his mother clearly failed to communicate.
posted by CunningLinguist at 3:57 PM on December 28, 2004

I have dealt with this repeatedly - I'm a programmer, and I'll tolerate just about any noise except for nail clipping.

The last time it happened, I hunted the person down and said "Please stop. Please. I can't work with the noise" then felt like a shit all morning and emailed her to apologize. I wouldn't have felt bad about it if I had gotten up twenty minutes earlier and asked her politely.

So, face to face, just say "Please don't do that, it's distracting."
posted by annathea at 3:59 PM on December 28, 2004

How long do they spend clipping their nails?

This sounds like something that couldn't possibly bother you for more than 10 minutes per week! I get my _toenails_ done in under 5 minutes myself.

Maybe this is one of those things you might want to consider "sucking up". I'm certain there's a habit of yours they will have no problem asking you to quit as recompense.
posted by shepd at 4:08 PM on December 28, 2004

Clipping your nails in public is gross.

what is it that bothers you about it? Are emory boards okay?

While I personally wouldn't floss, use q-tips, or pick my nose with a tissue in public [ie, in front of company, in a communal space of some kind, etc], I have seen people do those things and not been squicked out. Fingernail clipping wouldn't even really occur to me as a possible squick-factor though, and it's entirely possible I've done it in public (though I'd have to be carrying nail clippers).

Anyway, which is to say, you just have to let her know politely that you'd rather she didn't do it. If you say something along the lines of what annathea said (that it's "the noise" that's distracting), it will come across as less personal than if you're more straight with her about finding it yucky. Different people have different thresholds of privacy and you simply have to communicate your comfort level to those you share space with. Few hundred years ago, people would shit in public, so it's probably got more to do with cultural norms than anything...
posted by mdn at 4:15 PM on December 28, 2004

I've never understood the nail-clipping repugnance. Although it's a very common dislike, I've never understood just what about nail clipping and nail clippings so freaks people out. Is it like poo poo disgusting? Or like hair on my food disgusting? Or is it more of a fingernail dragging along chalkboard type reaction?
posted by sic at 4:35 PM on December 28, 2004

It's not attractive because you are sending large organic bits of yourself zinging across the office. (As opposed to the millions of near-invisible bits that you shed all the time- out of sight, out of mind.)

I say pull your shoes and socks off and bite your toenails.

That'll learn 'em.
posted by exlotuseater at 4:48 PM on December 28, 2004

Totally unacceptable. I'd put up a sign in some common area (water cooler like) listing all the unsociable behaviour discouraged. You know: making potty on the carpet, greeting telephone callers with loud belching sounds, popping blackheads into the microwave, etc. Include public grooming no less than three times.

People should groom at home.
posted by dismitree at 4:59 PM on December 28, 2004 [1 favorite]

Stop that infernal CLICKING!
posted by ackptui at 5:08 PM on December 28, 2004

Fingernail clipping? Come to my office, where on any given day you can hear two different conference calls being conducted over speaker phones in cubicles. The dissonance is nice. Conference space is scarce, so just pull up a bunch of chairs and crank up the volume. Or if you are not feeling social, you could just get on the same conference call as your co-worker two desks away, creating that really great slight delay effect. "Let's do a roll callllllllllllll"
posted by fixedgear at 6:21 PM on December 28, 2004

what is it that bothers you about it?

It's the noise - horrible - but also the aspect that this is personal grooming that should be taken care of in private. Would you root around in your ears with a q-tip at the office?
posted by CunningLinguist at 6:23 PM on December 28, 2004

no, I already stated above that there are more 'intimate' personal grooming things I wouldn't do, that involve sticky fluidy bits of the body, but which I also admitted not finding really 'gross', just kind of weird or extra personal. Fingernail clipping just seems like an especially unobtrusive one to me. Is filing nails ok? what about using moisturizer?
posted by mdn at 6:38 PM on December 28, 2004

Please. It's all of ten fingers worth of very light clicking. Provided they're responsible enough to make sure there aren't clippings all over the floor. But then the annoyance wouldn't be with the trimming, but with the refuse, which is a whole 'nother issue.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:00 PM on December 28, 2004

Would you root around in your ears with a q-tip at the office?

Yes, actually, and I have. Nothing beats the good long wooden ones I use for cleaning printers, etc. :-)

The isopropyl alcohol makes a good hand sanitizer, too.

I think it all depends on the job type and the personalities of the people that work in it. For me, I'm a technician. "Rude" things to do on the job tend to be things like borrowing tools (for any reason, especially repeatedly), leaving things broken so someone else gets to fix it, etc. "Sanitary" just really doesn't enter into the equation. To be blunt: If you think eating a sandwich while soldering things is a bad idea, you aren't cut out to be a technician.

Then again, this is my keyboard.
posted by shepd at 7:06 PM on December 28, 2004

That high pitched clicking resounds in my ears, it plagues my feverish dreams. Like Water Torture, *click* *click*

*click* *click*, it gives me intestinal cramps and produces a nervous condition. It imbalances my humours. I wake screaming, dry-mouthed and soaking wet, twisted up in cold, damp sheets. Like Roderick Usher, I hear it from across the estate, clicking. clicking. clicking.

Do you hear it?
posted by exlotuseater at 7:08 PM on December 28, 2004

Obviously, it doesn't bother everyone - myself included. Hell, I'll clip your fingernails for you if you want. Just tell her that you think it's gross and not to do it around you. How is this not common sense?
posted by puke & cry at 7:41 PM on December 28, 2004

I can relate. My boss does this during our 1-1s and also staff meetings. I find it disconcerting, although why exactly, I cannot say. I always assumed it was some deficiency on my part.
posted by cairnish at 8:20 PM on December 28, 2004

Just tell them.

As an aside, I have a co-worker with an immense bo problem. One day, I couldn't handle it. I looked at him and said, ", I apologize for bringing this up, but you need to bathe."

I explained why it bugged me, what they could do to fix it, and that had been an ongoing problem.

A week later, he thanked me for bringing it to his attention.

posted by id at 8:25 PM on December 28, 2004

Please. It's all of ten fingers worth of very light clicking.

Dunno if this is true in anon's case, but I've known public clippers (one of whom was admittedly OCD) who are constantly trimming and reshaping and clicking clicking clicking. Very annoying.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 8:38 PM on December 28, 2004

Very simple. Steal her fingernail clippers. ALL of them.

Problem solved.

Barring that, if she's a superstitious person, express your newly found intrest in voodo to her. Especially the part about usings someone's fingernails as a fetish in order to influence their fate.

Or you could do one of the two things that everyone else is suggesting, either tell her directly and to the point that it is annoying you or get over it.

Where's the fun in that, though?
posted by pemdasi at 11:34 PM on December 28, 2004

Another vote for the awfulness of that clicking noise.
posted by pieoverdone at 3:44 AM on December 29, 2004

A week later, he thanked me for bringing it to his attention.

He didn't know he needed to bathe?


I understand that you all don't like the sound, but I can't put my finger on WHY you don't like the sound. Childhood trauma? For instance, I expect people (including myself) are horrified by loose hairs, because most of us have had the awful experience of swallowing a hair. The only awful fingernail experience that I can think of is cutting the nail too short, giving you days of exquisite pain. So perhaps as children some of you experienced this, when your paren't cut your fingernails (too short)? Creating what is an otherwise irrational hatred of the clip clip sound?

Or maybe yr just freaks.
posted by sic at 5:04 AM on December 29, 2004

I have an irrational hatred of many sounds so I'm no one to go by. In fact, I'm thrilled I'm not the only one who hates the damn clickety clicking.

Okay, this is a tangential question, but we're far enough down in the thread.....what's the deal with BO anyway? It seems to be more than just needing to bathe. Are some people just chemically screwed? Because there are people who smell so bad they foul an elevator for hours after riding it, and that can't be just that they missed a shower, can it?
posted by CunningLinguist at 5:30 AM on December 29, 2004

who are constantly trimming and reshaping and clicking clicking clicking. Very annoying.

Yes, that's annoying, but no more annoying than some keyboards. The way people type these days (do they not teach the home keys any more?) the click... CLICKclick... click... (then they see an error) CLICKCLICKCLICKCLICK...

I swear to you, bad typists on loud keyboards are worse than fingernail clippers any time of day, any week of year.

And emory board users can all go to hell. Swooshswooshswoosh... all day long. At least fingernail cutters have a pretty quick physical limit to how much they can trim before blood starts pouring out of their fingers. Nail filers can go on for days on end. Murder them, I say.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:41 AM on December 29, 2004

sic, what's the big deal about eating hair? It's just dead protein, after all. Nothing better or worse than any other meal you are ever going to have. (unless you are in the habit of eating live animals.)

Anyway, I don't think the point here is that it grosses people it, it's that grooming should be done at home or in a restroom, where all other personal rituals should be conducted.
posted by pemdasi at 6:32 AM on December 29, 2004

Eating hair is not the problem. Getting a hair stuck in your throat, now that sucks. Has this never happened to you? Lucky bastard.
posted by sic at 7:43 AM on December 29, 2004

He didn't know he needed to bathe?

Some people either have really poor olfactory senses, or are autistic in some fashion. The latter people just sorta "zone out" the problem and seriously won't notice it until they're told. Although that type of person probably has other unexpected habits that you would be kind to let him know about, gently.
posted by shepd at 9:47 AM on December 29, 2004

The guy in the cube next to me clips his nails constantly - I think it's a psychological thing. He has no nails to clip at this point, but he keeps at it every ten minutes or so. Clippers are right by his keyboard.

For a while I kept a log of how often he'd clip and at what time - 18, 20 times a day (and he wasn't at his desk all that often). After about a week I got that out of my system and found myself ignoring the sound - it really is sharp and distracting - and now it only bothers me when I'm eating lunch at my desk. *shudder*
posted by ChuqD at 9:50 AM on December 29, 2004

Buy a scratching post and leave it on her desk.
posted by Caviar at 10:08 AM on December 29, 2004

Sic: Come to think of it, I have never had a hair stuck in my throat. Will count myself lucky as per your advice!
posted by pemdasi at 11:12 AM on December 29, 2004

I expect people (including myself) are horrified by loose hairs, because most of us have had the awful experience of swallowing a hair.

You may be an army of one on this one, sic. Although I have swallowed a hair or two in my life, I'm not "horrified by loose hairs" at all.

And, to answer the original question: You leave an anonymous note on her desk saying, "Dear Co-Worker, I know you don't mean to be rude or inappropriate, but it freaks me out when you clip your nails in the office. I have been trying to figure out the best way to let you know of my concern, and I decided this would save us both embarrassment. Yours, an anonymous co-worker."
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:18 AM on December 29, 2004

I am also in the detest-nail-clipping camp. It's not the personal grooming in public that bothers me, it's the sound. That sound actually makes my teeth hurt. I can't explain it. It does to me what nails on a chalkboard does to other people. I used to work with a guy that would clip his nails during meetings. I was not in a position to talk to him about it, so every week I'd try to sit as far away from him as possible. I would even fantasize about him being called out of the meeting to handle some emergency. It was horrible. My sympathies are with you anon.

I'm hoping that the reason that this is anon is because both the asker and the clipper read askme. Hopefully, the clipper will now refrain from this rude behavior. If not, try the note suggestion above.
posted by Juicylicious at 11:29 AM on December 29, 2004

I have many phobias but loose hairs ain't one.

And I think the civil but anonymous note idea is BRILLIANT and I plan to use it myself.
posted by CunningLinguist at 12:48 PM on December 29, 2004

I think anonymous notes, however civil, are not a good choice unless they're actually necessary, either becaus you don't actually know who you're addressing -- "To the person who left a dog turd on my desk..." -- or you have some very good reason to fear retaliation. Otherwise it will just make the recepient feel weird and paranoid. It makes the subject feel like a big deal and is kind of creepy.

Why not just say, "I'm sorry, but I would love it if you could clip your nails somewhere else, because the sound just drives me nuts." If you treat it like it's no big deal, there's no shame involved, and there's no reason to sneak around about it. If you want to be really careful about the possibility of setting off the coworker's over sensitivity, make it something like, "I have a weird thing about the sound, and it just sends shivers down my spine for some reason."
posted by redfoxtail at 1:36 PM on December 29, 2004

Yeah, but see, I have a thing about people popping gum around me. It drives me completely batshit. When I've asked people at work as nicely as I can to please stop, they often get huffy with me. I apologize profusely and explain it's this weird phobia I have and often they continue to be huffy.
And when they continue to do it - or start up again the following day - I literally become borderline homicidal. Plus, I get to be the weird girl who doesn't like gum popping.
An anonymous note gets the info across without the interpersonal hideousness that direct confrontation could engender.
posted by CunningLinguist at 3:28 PM on December 29, 2004

I myself would just politely ask the person to stop. But that is obviously not an option for the person who posted the question.

Since the person who posted the question wants to let the nail-clipper know that she is being offensive without saying it directly, a very polite anonymous note seems like the best strategy.

Not as good as a polite conversation, I agree, but perhaps the next best thing.
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:50 PM on December 29, 2004

I think that the advice mdm gave about focusing on the noise could easily be the thing the anonymous poster was looking for but not finding. The fact that he or she is looking for a non-direct way to do it doesn't necessarily mean that conversation is "not an option" -- just that he or she is wary that it will come off badly.

CL, I'm sorry, but if you think there's no interpersonal hideousness engendered by anonymous note-leaving, you're wrong. If you get the tone even slightly off, there's no way to amend it, and the recipient is left feeling weird and cranky. Even if you do it just right, there are a lot of people who think of anonymous letters as cowardly or underhanded, which is probably not the effect you're going for. Plus, anyone who won't stop with the gum or nail-clipping when you ask them directly is unlikely to stop when you leave the note -- odds are good that they'll feel much more hostile about it and probably even less likely to stop. They'll also quite possibly feel that you (whoever you might be) are a passive-agressive weirdo.
posted by redfoxtail at 4:31 PM on December 29, 2004

Now that you've given more info, I would like to alter my response.

Perhaps you've heard other coworkers comment on the clipping and want to help your friend avoid a potentially embarrassing situation? Since the coworker is someone that you consider a friend, it may work to simply mention it in a casual conversation. It would help if you had the conversation in a non-work environment and when you bring it up, don't make an issue of it. You could go to lunch with her and say something like "You probably don't realize this, but when you clip your nails, the sound carries throughout the office. I just thought that I'd let you know." If she gets defensive, just shrug and say "people can be weird about these things." As long as you don't make it seem like a big deal, she'll probably not take it as criticism and hopefully take your feedback in the positive spirit that it was given.
posted by Juicylicious at 7:07 PM on December 29, 2004

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