Nerf Blaster Shooting in Office

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about coworkers games playing:

This has been very disturbing for long time. Two employees love to play Nerf blaster and yesterday one coworker was holding the Blaster and shooting. I was next to him but he ignored me and did not put the Blaster down, I waited for 15 seconds after he stopped before I could go to my desk and I was furious. This morning, I reported it to Human Resources. She said she is going to handle the situation.

This afternoon I was ready to leave the office and this guy played Blaster again. One bullet hit the my top of hair. It almost hit my head. I did not fight with him. I am too quiet and not a verbally strong person, but I feel terrible. Should I report to HR again? What is your suggestion? Should I talk to my boss directly?

I hope the complaint will not jeopardize my career.

Unwanted Target

Dear Unwanted Target:

Your annoyance is understandable and you have taken the first steps to correct the situation by speaking to HR. Should you report it again after only a few hours? Probably you should not expect immediate correction but you don’t have to bite your tongue. You have a voice. It’s purpose is to communicate what you feel and think. You feel vulnerable and you don’t want to be hit by the play of your coworkers. You don’t say if you have told your coworkers their play disturbs your work and you as a person. Yet you say you are furious, enough so to by pass them.

Generally it is polite to voice your concern to an individual before reporting him or her. Isn’t that what you would want a coworker to do before reporting you for something? But now you can speak you mind, such as “Sam, (or whatever is your coworker’s name) I’m sure you don’t mean to hit me while playing Blaster, but one of your bullets hit my hair and could have hit my eyes and face. Also the other day, you might not have realized that your playing prevented me from getting to my desk. Please don’t allow your play to interfere with my work. Do you understand?”

And you might add, “I know work can be boring and sometimes a little play might seem like a fun thing to do, but I’m paid to work and I hope you will not play as if I don’t exist.” Here is where you might insert, “Perhaps I should have spoken to you directly about this, but I was so upset that I went to HR. I apologize for not coming to you first. Now I hope you will not see me as interfering with your play and will help me do what I’m hired to do. Does this seem to you like a reasonable request?” Of course, you need to use your own words rather than to repeat what I’m suggesting. Whatever you decide to do you don’ have to be shy about it nor do you don’t have to speak loudly, but it is most effective if you speak firmly. STOP is a word that you might have ready should Sam or Joe start playing Blaster again where you might be hit or it interrupts your work.

Should you talk to your boss? If it continues, yes. If not, just attend to your work. Working effective entails both a cheerful attitude and a collaborative process. You are in the same office with your Blaster coworkers for a purpose–that purpose is to do more than any of you can do working solo. So think team. Think together. Working together with hands, head and heart takes and makes big WEGOS. Do these suggestions make sense?

William Gorden

Comment by Tina Rowe:

You could certainly use Dr. Gorden’s suggestion successfully–and let me add a thought as well. The correct person to deal with this is your direct supervisor. It is his or her responsibility to ensure that work is done well—which usually means without distractions. He will probably say you should have said something to him rather than going to HR, but at least you will have given him a bit of a warning.

Knowing your work culture is important for knowing what complaints will be taken seriously. I don’t like playing around in a workplace, but many workplaces consider it to be a fun way to lighten the stress of work.  Your boss could tell you if he thinks it’s OK or if he doesn’t like it. That will also let you know if there is any point in complaining about it in the future.

Put your emphasis on how it distracts you from work.  For example, it makes you dread getting up to do your work around the office; rather than being able to think about work, you’re worrying about getting hit by a projectile; the noise and commotion surrounding people shooting the Nerf Blaster and people avoiding being hit, is distracting and disruptive, etc. If others seem to be unhappy about it too, based on their comments and actions, mention their names to the manager and ask him to contact them.

Dr. Gorden suggest some phrases to use. You could also keep it very simple: “Please don’t do that.” “I don’t like being hit like that, would you please stop.” “Would you please stop it and don’t do it again?” “Karen doesn’t mind but I do, so would you please stop?”

Sadly, I would imagine the offenders know your views already, but don’t care.  If they are made to stop, be prepared for them to be unfriendly toward you for a while. It doesn’t sound like you’ll be losing close friends! Just stay focused on your work and be as courteous as always to everyone. At some point you may have to decide if the situation is so bad you can’t work there. However,  maybe letting your boss know how upset you are will get his attention enough that he will do something to stop it.

Tina Rowe