Tina Lewis Rowe

Insights, Information & Inspiration

Eating and Drinking At Your Desk? Keep The Noise Down!

Pay Attention To The Noise You Make While Eating and Drinking.
No, That’s Not Being Picky.

On the Ask the Workplace Doctors site, a frequent complaint involves coworkers who eat and drink noisily–especially those who do it almost constantly during the workday or shift. We hear about food odors as well as noise.  This summer I’ve heard complaints about the noise of thermal sipper cups. (First is the slurping-sipping sound, then the “ka-thunk” as the ice falls back into the cup.) It sounds picky, until you have to listen to it all day, every day. It’s distracting and irritating–and it is unncessary.

One employee said, “I’m surrounded by people crunching carrots, rustling food bags, guzzling drinks, chewing ice, slurping hot chocolate, blowing on soup then sipping it repeatedly from a spoon, munching on celery sticks, glugging from a bottle, and at least three or four people who politely but obviously, burp.  Right at this moment I can smell said chocolate as well pizza, egg rolls, burritos, leftovers of something and a hot dog–and it is not lunch time. With some of them, the eating never stops. One coworker consumes a bag of carrots a day, so the chomp, chomp sound is almost continuous. I want to scream!”

A reality of worklife is that working in close quarters requires some adjustments. Every employee has to have the courtesy and good sense to realize that to the person who isn’t eating, the sounds of eating can be very noisy and very irritating. The solution is easy:

1.) Use the break room as the eating area, not your desk or work station. 

2.) Pour your beverage into a glass or cup, if using your thermal container makes noise.

3.) Stop grazing all day–or leave the desk to do it.

4.) Be courteous and mannerly about the impact you have on those around you when you eat and drink.

I don’t think that’s too much to ask! But, an employee told me when he asked a coworker to please stop chomping ice all day, the coworker gave him a pair of earplugs and brought in an even bigger cup of ice. That is when it becomes obvious that peers are not always able to get cooperation. The supervisor is responsible for the workplace environment and supervisory intervention may be necessary.

If you are a supervisor or manager, consider talking to employees individually (not in a blast email) about the noises and smells caused by eating at desks or work stations. Then, informally monitor it when you are walking around the area. You don’t have to create a tough rule and enforce it, simply remind people of the potential for bothering others and ask for courtesy. Let employees know they can talk to you if there is a distracting or irritating situation developing.  That means you may need to do something about it–the tough part for many supervisors.

If the situation is more than minor (chewing carrots all day, chomping on ice or making other eating or drinking noises), and requests for courtesy aren’t helping, you will have to tell the bothersome employee to stop. Don’t worry, the employee won’t starve or die of thirst. But a bunch of other employees will probably silently thank you!

 

June 25th, 2013 Posted by | Challenging and Problematic People, Food, Fitness, Fun, Supervision and Management | 42 comments