Crunchy Foods Drive Me Nuts

Question:

She’s 70+ years old and the nicest lady in the world. She works very hard and is very knowledgeable. She’s the office manager. She only eats stuff that will crunch (pretzels, baby carrots, nuts, celery). She eats at least one of the previously mentioned foods EVERY DAY. Not 4 out of 5 business days, no, EVERY DAY for the last year and a half I’ve been here. It is really affecting my work to the point where I just want to pay off some debt, finish college, and quit this job. It is a very well paid job, I have a very good position, and everything other than the gossip and this crunch addiction is perfect. Should I hold on to this awesome job and wait until she gets a stroke and leaves or should I find another job (not many in this small town)? P.S. She also slurps the bottom of aluminum cans with a straw, several times, she makes sure she gets the last drop out.

Signed,

Every Day!


Answer:

Dear Every Day!:

I predict you won’t find my advice empathetic. Why? We receive thousands of questions (just scan our archives of over 6,000 Q&As) and few of them have so fortunate a job situation as is yours. Many have bosses, coworkers and/or subordinates who are verbally abusive; some have been written up because of false complaints; a few have to put up with music they don’t like or are not allowed to listen to anything, even with earbuds; no small number have coworkers with body odor; some work in crowded open offices with coworkers who are loud and/or nosy; some are worried that rats have nests in the walls of their buildings; yet others work for bosses and/or individuals who don’t like them; etc. And there are worse problems: backbiting, discrimination, sexual harassment, stealing, bullying, violence and loss of a job.

Rarely do we hear from those in “awesome” jobs who work with a nice and smart office manager. So you are annoyed with your office manager who crunches food every day and slurps to get every drop from the bottom of aluminum cans. You say, “It is really affecting my work” so much so that you want to pay off your college debt and find work elsewhere. And you ask, “Should I hold on to this awesome job and wait until she gets a stroke and leaves or should I find another job (not many in this small town)?’ Hopefully you will learn to know the difference between real workplace issues and annoyances. Hopefully you will know that you can work in spite of annoying distractions. Hopefully you will find creative ways to circumvent annoyances or to steel your self against them. Hopefully you will be gracious and appreciative of your office manager rather than grudgingly stay on listening to her crunch and slurp. Hopefully you will always be able to work along side nice people and have a job that pays well. Hopefully you will get your debts paid off, finish your college, and use this awesome job you now have as a stepping stone to a career in which you can make a real contribution in a job you will love. Hopefully you will focus on the big picture; finding ways to cut wasted supplies, wasted time, and wasted money; of making your office efficient and effective. Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS, and that means doing what you reasonably can to make your workplace worker friendly and thriving.

FOLLOW UP I cannot thank you enough for your reply. It’s been that little extra I needed to accept the fact that I’m “stuck” here for a while and to really appreciate the fact that there are bigger problems out there. I believe I described my workplace and the office manager in a “too nice” way. I omitted the gossip she generates along with 2 other workers, a male and a female, and how they collude against other people (including me) and entire departments. Needless to say, by working in the office instead of the production floor, they have the most direct contact with the president, and that is a big, unfair leverage against people they don’t like. The male used to be the IT guy, by doing small stuff like installing printers and other tasks easily accomplished by any average mom without IT training. When I was hired, well, I pretty much took over those things and beyond (much more complex stuff like databases, website, brochures, graphics, etc) and he went back to his original stock room duties. I must say he is pretty mad at me since then, he’s about 35 years old with kids and a family to support (I’m 28, no kids, married). The other is a 28-ish big lady. Why do I have to mention her weight? Because she is constantly frustrated with everyone, and being single and with no dates, she really gets mad at everyone and gossips about pretty much everyone, even the boss. She really vents her frustration in the office. You might ask yourself, how do I know about her personal life? That’s when the sweet office manager kicks in. I know every aspect of that big lady thanks to her. Did I ask? No, the manager just spit it out. She is not a professional office manager, she used to be a sales person at a department store, whatever she knows, she has learned on the fly and from insurance and government brochures. She is more concerned about putting the exact amount of stamps to the very cent, than properly shredding confidential records and important business documents, as well as identifying streams of waste or non value added activities, you know, REAL office manager duties. I can continue for hours, but I know your time is valuable. She has absolutely no knowledge about HR, personnel appraisal, interviews, exit interviews, office discipline, opportunity cost, economics, ergonomics, etiquette (she talks to customers on the phone with food in her mouth) or even tolerance to other people. For example, she asks one of the ladies to turn down her radio (I can’t hear it). Later on, the office manager will be watching the news on her computer with speakers on, out loud. Did I mention we sit 2-4 ft apart? Did I mention I offered myself to re-organize her desk because she had such a horrible mess? (Did 5S on her desk). There were mice in one of the drawers. I introduced the entire personnel to the already outdated six-sigma and its basic techniques (I’m a yellow belt). Needless to say, she got very upset that I was now inspecting other department’s manufacturing and shipping work in such a small time with the company. Her, the ex-IT guy, and the big lady were more than upset with me. They’ve been there for more than 5 years, I barely got 1 there. I spent a week researching processes throughout the plant, did my DMAIC report and how to improve some processes to the president and continued doing my normal IT duties. And as a little extra, the old ladies here do harass me. I.E. I was checking some connections and I told one. Nah, I like them tight” and she replied, “I bet you do”. I told my wife and we laugh about it. It doesn’t bother me, but yes, I’ve been harassed. Violence? Well, during that week I was researching processes to do my DMAIC for the president, I was in the ex-IT guy’s department. Now I ask you, what would you think if a guy you know that hates you, gets about 1 foot away from you on your back and whispers “Paw! to the kisser.” Prior to this job, I was in the Marine Corps, and this gave me a really bad attitude and short temper to any threat or disrespect to me (by the way, college is paid for by my GI bill, the loans are for a truck and a house). I don’t know how you would respond to that, but I interpreted that as a desire to hit me. I could literally kill him before anyone in the plant had a chance to stop me, but I just sucked that anger up and made a casual conversation with him, I asked him “What?” He replied “Nothing.” I just continued a casual chat. During that chat, he criticized and made fun of my charts I had posted in the department to map the processes. I hope this brief, but more in-depth explanation of my situation at the factory, helps you understand more about the environment I work in, and why I complain about her pica to crunchy foods. I invite you to leave a faucet leaking a drop at night for a year, let me know how you feel after a year of that. I used to be a ground support equipment technician in the Corps, and that means working around diesel engines and turbines with more than 120dB in an open area, so noise is not the root issue. Just like you, after telling you all these problems and past experience as a maintenance guy, I also can’t believe that an old lady’s eating noises are driving me mad. And you know what? I have figured out that it is not the noise that bothers me, the root cause is the fact that I hate people without basic eating manners and cubicle etiquette. Hell, phone etiquette (recall that she talks on the phone with food in her mouth)! It’s not the noises; it’s the fact of having horrible eating manners. My platoon had better eating manners sitting in the sand than this lady. You might also ask yourself, why am I complaining about something as small as the crunching noises, and not about the gossip, the backstabbing coworkers, sexual harassment, or the attempted aggression towards me. That is because I am a prepared individual, and I expect these sorts of things to happen, especially when you come to a place and get everyone out of their comfort zone. As a future manager, I expect that. I expect hate, gossip, envy, unfair competition, lies, backstabbing, and all that good office stuff! But eating habits? Really? Am I asking too much for her to eat properly and silently? Especially if she’s the office manager! And even worse, when she is a senior citizen and she is supposed to be correcting others’ etiquette? And no, she is not missing teeth or has any physical problem that would prevent her from eating soft foods. I don’t want to write any more because I know your time is valuable, I cannot emphasize how much you have helped me by replying. Thank you for all your work and that wonderful website you have. It is a very valuable repository of knowledge and dedication to the world of HR and the work environment.

I will make the best out of the current situation and use this as another thing in my “toolbox” during my career. Again, thank you. Sincerely, FOLLOW UP RESPONSE Thank you for adding the additional information to what struck me as trivial in comparison to the troubles many of the bossed encounter day after day. The many details tell me that much more has been and is going on than being annoyed over ill eating manners. For the time being, your concluding sentence expresses the wisest option available to you, “I will make the best out of the current situation and use this as another thing in my ‘toolbox’ during my career.”

Let me add that by reading your saga of working life, I can see you obviously are a sharp guy with varied experience and one who knows himself well enough to manage most irritations that come with working in close quarters with coworkers with their quirks and inappropriate behavior. I predict that you will parley your know-how of lean management and on-the job experience plus military to be invited to manage in your current or another workplace. Since you are soaking up and processing all that is about you, perhaps you will find some of our recent Q&As of interest, such as one I answered this morning: Boss Freelances http://workplacedoctors.com/wpdocs/qdetail.asp?id=3909 or some by my co-workplace doctor, the most savvy woman I know, Tina Lewis Rowe, a former US Marshal and officer in Denver’s police department, such as: Ethics About Leaving My Jobhttp://workplacedoctors.com/wpdocs/qdetail.asp?id=3899 Former Coworker Is Now My Manager http://workplacedoctors.com/wpdocs/qdetail.asp?id=3905 If you like as time goes by, feel free to update us on your career moves.

William Gorden