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Staring, Singing, and Exercise Balls in the Office - How To Deal!?

by Mary Isner / February 6, 2020

Why do some people find it so hard to be polite in the workplace? Is it because you are around your coworkers so much that you start feeling comfortable? And in some people’s cases, a little too comfortable? Just a thought…anyway, it’s time for some more friendly reminders from Miss Open Office Manners. In this installment, I discuss coworkers who stare, ones who think they are the next American Idol, and ones who strengthen their core at their desk. Read on!

Stop Looking at Me!

Dear Miss Open Office Manners: I am a woman who works in an open office with a man who is always staring at me. Not only does he do it while I am at a workstation, he also stares at me during meetings. I don’t want to go to my boss about this as I feel like a child telling the teacher, “He’s looking at me!” What can I do to make him stop?

-- I Know I’m Good Looking, But Come On!

Dear I Know I’m Good Looking: I have a solution for you that has worked for me in the past. The next time he stares at you during a meeting, go right up to him afterwards, look him in the eye, and say, “I couldn’t help but notice you were staring at me during the meeting. What’s up?” He might admit it or he might not, but either way, you put him on notice that you are going to call him out on his behavior, which should stop him right there. If it doesn’t, I’m afraid to say, you will need to go to your boss because it is an HR issue at that point. Best of luck to you!

We Are Not on The Voice

Dear Miss Open Office Manners: I have a coworker who bursts into song loudly throughout the day. She really belts it out like she is a contestant on a television singing competition or something. I think she goes through life like this but it sure is distracting when she does it at work. The other day, she startled me and I nearly fell out of my chair. I am not sure if it is my place to ask her to stop. What to do?

-- Do I Look Like Gwen Stefani To You?

Dear Gwen: You know, it’s funny. I had a job years ago where I worked with a woman who would do the same thing. I am pretty sure she thought she was Barbara Streisand. It really was something. I honestly had a hard time not laughing; it was so over the top! My advice to you is simple. Ask her to stop. You are well within your rights to just ask her to refrain from the loud singing. You can be nice and say something like, “I am sure you don’t realize this but your singing distracts me while I am trying to concentrate. Would you mind stopping?” It’s not like you’re giving her voice the thumbs down, no matter what you may really think of it. I hope that helps and I hope that your workplace becomes less jarring.

When Your Coworker Uses an Exercise Ball As a Chair

Dear Miss Open Office Manners: I just started a new job and I have the most distracting coworker. She uses an exercise ball instead of a desk chair to help her back. I can’t help but look, and sometimes it squeaks and kind of sounds like a balloon, which makes it even more distracting. How can I get her to just use a normal chair?

-- Office Seating Should Not Bounce

Dear Office Seating Should Not Bounce: You know how I told the writer of the previous letter that she was within her rights to ask her coworker to stop singing? I am sorry to say you are not within your rights to try to convince your coworker to stop using the exercise ball. It might be strange to you but using an exercise ball in lieu of a desk chair is within the realms of normal office behavior. Your coworker is not the first person to do this. Plus it is really good for your core! Also, you said you are new. I would hate to see you rock the boat by bringing it up, assuming your superiors are fine with it. Hopefully, over time, you will get more used to seeing your chair-less coworker and you won’t even give it another thought!

I hope you have found this week’s tips both helpful and enjoyable. Here’s wishing everyone a productive and polite open office work environment! Never forget to mind your manners, and remember - not everyone wants to hear you singing to get them through the work day!

Tags: Open Office Design

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Mary Isner

Mary Isner

Mary has a master’s degree in public administration and has worked as a facility planning analyst for Fentress since 2003. In her free time, she enjoys baking, decorating, and spending time with her family.