What To Do About Loud Nose Blowing?

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about loud nose blowing:

I work with an employee who blows her nose several times a day. She has her own office, but won’t close the door. It sounds like the warning blow of a stampeding herd of elephants. So o o embarrassing when we have visitors!! We are a quiet publishing company – otherwise.

Signed, Tired Of The Trumpeting

Dear Tired Of The Trumpeting:

I gather that the coworker has been blowing her nose in the same noisy way for a considerable length of time—maybe months or even years. It will be difficult to deal with it after that amount of time, which highlights how important it is to say something about such problems, early on.You don’t indicate that you have talked to her already. If you have talked to her nicely and in a clear way, asking that she help you by closing the door so the sounds don’t distract clients and coworkers, but she continues to do it, it’s time to talk to a manager or supervisor.

Unfortunately, many supervisors avoid dealing with situations like this, so it could be that you and others will have to do something more constructive. Before you do that, tell your manager or supervisor your intentions and give him or her the option of handling it. That will also give you implied permission to say something, so that later the manager can’t say you usurped his or her role.Let the manager know what you have already tried to do and what you will do this time. Be prepared to be told you should just ignore it. Counter that reminding your manager that one time could be ignored; or one time every few weeks. But this behavior is inconsiderate and is happening more often and is distracting to the work and embarrassing to clients.

After all, the whole idea of nose blowing is clearing mucous from the nose. Belching or hacking up phlegm loudly wouldn’t be considered appropriate and neither is blowing mucous out of the nose when it’s done so loudly others can hear it. Resolve to say something and say it immediately. If you say the first few words you’ve made a commitment and you’ll keep going. Just jump up and say the words and get this frustration out in the open and over with. Make the next time the first time in your mind, rather than trying to take on a long-standing problem. For example, you hear the coworker blow her nose loudly. Immediately get up, go to her office, start to close the door and say, in a friendly tone, as if you are sure she will agree, “Oops, Lisa, the sound carries. I’ll close your door for a bit if you need time for that, so it’s not distracting out here.”If she says she didn’t realize it was so noisy, don’t back down or minimize it. “Oh yeah, it was really loud. So, should I close the door or leave it open now?”

If she says it wasn’t that noisy and you’re over-reacting, you may need to be a bit more serious and direct: “Yes, Lisa, it IS that noisy and it’s very distracting for clients and the rest of us.”The less you say, the easier it will be. Don’t worry about memorizing a speech, just say a few words to let her know it was loud and distracting when she blew her nose, then stick with that thought. You can be friendly and courteous, even understanding of her allergies or whatever, but be adamant that hearing her blow her nose is distracting.

The reason that is so important is that the most acceptable reason for complaining about anything is that it has an effect on your ability to work well, or that it has an effect on the attitude or reactions of clients. Hopefully your coworker will be very aware of the potential for being heard and will close the door herself or wait to blow her nose until she is in the ladies room or outside at lunch. If not, you’ll need to talk to the manager again.What you’re asking is reasonable and appropriate, so you don’t need to feel embarrassed to say something. Probably everyone else wishes they had your courage. The important thing is to keep a tone and demeanor that implies friendliness and concern, not anger or reprimanding. Just be sure there isn’t something else going on and that she can justifiably say creates much more distraction than her nose-blowing.Best wishes to you with this. It’s an unusual situation, so if you have the time and wish to do so, let us know what happens.

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.