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5/6/11

Don't burst my bubble

I'd like to start this post by saying I like my job, so don't consider this a job-bashing post.

But some days, I want to strangle one of my coworkers...


Most people understand the concept of personal space.  They talk to you from a comfortable distance; you don't have to shout, people are in a relaxed posture, and the conversation flows.

Not this lady.

She's a little older, and EVERY MORNING she has to start the day by talking to me for 5-10 minutes about random crap.
  • The food she ate last night
  • A cool cooking magazine she bought, and all the fabulous recipes she's going to copy for me
  • Woes about her sister, her sons, her family, her bunions, etc.
  • "When I was younger" stories (there are PLENTY of these...)
  • etc.
Now, I don't mind small talk.  It loosens people up, builds a rapport, shows trust, all those good things.

There's only one small problem.

She does it about 2 feet away from my face.

ok, now carry the 2... change the font to arial...
I'm usually sitting at my desk, as I typically get to work on time.  She strolls in 15-20 minutes late.  She immediately comes up, presses against my desk so she's as close as possible, and starts telling me about A, B, or whatever comes to mind.

I'm sitting, she's standing.  There's not a worse feeling than someone looming over you, talking and talking.

Except, sometimes, it gets worse.  She, on occasion... spits when she talks...

Ththththufferin ththththuccotash...
I have tried to politely tell her things before.  Recently at a leadership meeting, we were divided into 'personality types' and it SHOULD HAVE become obvious that my type didn't appreciate violations of personal space, or endless chatter.  Did she get the clue?  Yeah, for like 3 days.  She regresses fast.  Short of shouting "KNOCK IT OFF!" to her, I'm not sure that to do.

Folks, do you do this?  Do you follow the rules of allowing people their personal space?  Here is a useful chart:


Coworkers should stay within the 'social zone' where the closest you are is 1.2 meters, or almost 4 feet.  This allows breathing room, and makes it so I don't need to smell your "I didn't brush my teeth this morning" breath.  There are exceptions to the rule, of course, but I think I really really like the general rule.

Does anyone else have this problem?  Did you solve it?  And how?  I share a working space with her 40ish hours a week, so I'm trying not to mess up the relationship.  However, she needs to back. The. Fuck. Up.
Please Share it! :)

41 witty retorts:

The Angry Lurker said...

As a security supervisor we use that personal space chart but we ask people to move away and out of our personal zones or we move away to a better distance, you may have to ask this lady to back off by talking to her or putting obstacles in her way or just lie and say you have a hearing problem and she is causing problems with your hearing by being so close.

Dwija {House Unseen} said...

Have you tried a hacking cough every time she starts a sentence.

"Anyway so..."

COUGHCOUGHCOUGHCOUGH

"Um, so as I was saying..."

COUGHCOUGHCOUGHCOUGH

"Well..."

COUGHCOUGHCOUGHCOUGH

Maybe get some phlegm in there too.

squatlo said...

For thirty five long years I worked in a factory where the noise of the tire building machines was so loud we had to shout at one another to be heard. My work ethic had me on time and in motion from the minute my shift started, hustling. Some of my co-workers didn't share my enthusiasm for getting production, especially at 6AM when our shift started, and so they'd wander over to my workspace with coffee in hand to converse about whatever trivial bullshit was on their minds at that given moment. I found over the years that some people are oblivious to subtle signals, and those people often heard me say not so subtle things such as "I'm trying to work here, numbnuts! Find someone else to fuck with!" over the drone of the machines.
Try that the next time she invades your space with a spitty story, only change the "numbnuts" to something more appropriate, gender wise.
No need to thank me, I offer these helpful suggestions free of charge.

sp3nny said...

great post, thanks

Zombie said...

I dont blame ya, sometimes I want to strangle my co workers. lol.

Lost.in.Idaho said...

@Squatlo: numbtits?

Oivvad said...

I expect the best way to deal with it is to just be honest, say that she's a bit close for comfort and ask that she gives you more space. If you're lucky she'll take it the wrong way and never talk to you again!

ScottD said...

Yeah I went to a doctor appointment with my whole family. My wife goes back with my son and I am sitting in waiting room with my daughter. We are the only 2 people in the waiting room with about 50 chairs and 2 people walk in and sit right down next to us smelling like curry, b.o and polo. I was like WTF! I feel you!

Xenototh + Lizzie said...

I want to take that picture and turn it into a shirt. Lol. It's funny you post this because I am doing some social psych experiment, and I chose this norm to violate to see how people react. All I have to say about that is uncomfortable.

Jackie meant it when she said...

I;m not laughing at you, I'm laughing with you. I had one of those. But in the nursing field we were always walking about. I would try to walk away politely, and to my demise...she would follow. She had all the answers, too! Oh, my.
For me, one of the ironic parts was that her name was "Linda" the same name that my best friend wears. It was as if she were the polar opposite in my personal sitcom, called life.

Kicking Rocks said...

that chart is very reasonable...lol

Nuker Zero said...

This format shall be included in all work memos next week.

Bart said...

heh yeah nucks arent even my team. my team didnt make it. but because im a hockey fan, some would even say enthusiast i still watch every single game. its a canadian thing. and as for work. i dislike work but i love money so what can ya do.

Lady Estrogen said...

It usually doesn't bother me too much - except if they are overly obnoxious about it... or if they're spitters.

Autumnforest said...

Well, breath is the first thing that comes to mind. I did that with a coworker in close quarters who liked to eat hummus all day. I'd offer her mints and say "whoa! You might want to pop one of these" and then moved my chair back a bit. Perhaps you could eat raw onions so you're not so fun to stand close to. Women are vain enough at any age that if she sees you staring at her belly instead of her face, she'll become self conscious or if you tend to look at her forehead instead of her eyes or her chin. That unsettling thing works well. I heard an author once say, "you want no one to sit next to you on a plane? Simply hang a string from your mouth." It freaking works. I did it in the movie theater one time. People wonder what the fuck is wrong with you.

Adsila said...

Years ago when you were able to smoke in the office and slowly kills us non-smokers with second-hand smoke, I had a boss that would talk to you right up in your face with his cigar nub hanging out his mouth. I finally had to tell him the smoke was making me sick. He didn't smoke around me anymore but still invaded my personal space. He finally retired!

Lemons Don't Make Lemonade said...

Just get one of those little umbrella decorations you see in glasses of fruit juice or sundaes and pretend to duck under them when your coworker approaches.

She should get the idea. ;)

Shutterbug said...

I would just be blunt and tell her how you really feel. There's no other way around it.

Mike said...

This happens to me whenever i'm at a bus stop. Some person trying to tell me their life story.

becca said...

i need to have that chart printed on a t-shirt so i could wear it.

ropcorn said...

Yeah, I value my personal space. And others. You have a tricky situation on your hands there. Not sure how I'd handle it actually. But I hope everything works out for you.

zepdragon said...

Best thing is to confront in a friendly manner.

Alice X said...

Love the spacial diagram! I know exactly how you feel, i can't stand it when people get too close for comfort, unless you share my bloodline or are my boyfriend please stay at least 50cm away at all times.

Jewels said...

The diagram cracks me up! I don't have severe issues with personal space as long as I know the person, but if you are a stranger you will get punched if you get too close. I also HATE people looking over my shoulder and breathing on my neck. Okay in the bedroom...not in social situations!

Astronomy Pirate said...

Ugh, I used to have a co-worker who had terrible breath and thought he was my friend and would always bother me when I was trying to get work done. For the most part, everyone in our small office of 8-9 people got along and a couple of us were even in the friend zone (much to my dismay with this one cute girl I worked with, but that's another story) but this guy wasn't there. He smelled terrible and read WOW strategy guides all day. I eventually had to go to our boss to get him off of me because he was interfering with my work and would try to help and mess things up.

Alida said...

I have to remember the personal space rules each time we come back to the states for a visit. I find myself standing way to close and have to back up or readjust. ooopsie!

Lendo Khar said...

If you have enough space, you can make her sit in a chair at a reasonable distance. Somehow, I didn't have that kind of problems when I was working, there was so much stuff to do. Maybe you can ask her if you can listen that at lunch because you are in a hurry.

Pickleope said...

I'm with Autumnforest. Train yourself to mouth-breathe and have a hearty breakfast of Funyuns, coffee, and bean dip. When she talks to you, listen intently while making creepy eye-contact and heaving your breath in her face. Make it as comfortable for her as it is for you.
I start masturbating like a chimpanzee but that's probably not a viable solution everyone can adapt.

The Reckmonster said...

OMG! A close talker!! I can feel my skin crawling right now!!! I have SEVERE boundary issues and guard my personal space like the Hope Diamond. I have just outright said to people (coworkers, friends that aren't really "invited" to be that close, random strangers in line at the grocery story - ANYONE!), "I'm sorry - I've got this thing...you're in my bubble." And then I motion with my hands the arms-length area around my whole body to "define" what my bubble is and where they need to fucking remove themselves from. I'm even so weird about it that I will sometimes even tell my son when he's in my bubble and it's really annoying me (he's a serial boundary violator - so I don't want him doing this with everyone else in the world!!). I think you just have to be straight up with people - let them know when they're in your bubble, and take responsibility for enforcing your personal space (even if it IS the other person who is the freakish close talker with no regard for boundaries!).

Colin Biano said...

She wants you. bad.
DON'T DO IT, MAN

Greg said...

I think she wants to share a little more than personal space with you...The spit is actually an aphrodisiac.

Annabelle said...

eggs. broccoli. strong morning cofee.

gas. air polluting, gag inducing, nose hair burning gas.

a couple of mornings of that in her face and she'll skip you on her howdy rounds.

or just say,
"you know, fuckstick, i dont mean any offense, but i have a thing about personal space. would you mind giving me just a bit of room? thanks."

Chunky Mama said...

Is it possible to make a chart like that one and change "social" to "coworkers" so she doesn't incorrectly put herself in the friends category and print it (as large as possible) and hang it where she can't miss it?

Sandra said...

haha! Am loving your very last sentence: back the fuck up! Music to my ears. Sadly though, I have no other advice than to suggest you simply ask her to "please could you back up a little. I didn't bring my umbrella today."...see if that work, k?

polishwarrior said...

Just take a step back, or tell her its annoying.

Mynx said...

Everyday I would like to strangle one of my coworkers..or slap him..or both but not because of personal space issues, little twirp is smart enough to not get to close to me. No his crime is he is a useless pretenious prat. Trade ya?

LilPixi said...

At first I was all "Aww, that's mean." Until I saw she does it two feet from your face & spits. I would go ballistic. Kudos to your for keeping your cool thus far. lol

How to do something about it without being mean is the tricky part. I would say lean back a bit & make a weird face like she's hitting you with the death breath or something, but that's not too polite either. lol

LilPixi said...

Ooh, just saw Dwija's comment. GOOD idea!! Funny as post. But not to you, I know.

On My Soapbox said...

I, too, seem to attract the "talkers" who don't seem to understand that they are not interesting and that I really don't give a crap about what their kid did last night. When these types of boring people drone on at my desk, I usually interrupt them and say, "You know, maybe we could catch up some other time. I have a lot of work I need to get done." Then, I look at my computer and get to work (ignoring them). Not having eye contact with them seems to do the trick.

Thank, Q said...

Nice! I know the feeling! I've had people get "all up in my area" before to the point I could recognize the brand of toothpaste they used (or that they didn't use at all). I need to post that chart that indicates the proper spacing. I'm loving that! The only thing I hate more than people who stand too close to you are people who have to stand in front of you. I know people who have to be in your line of sight when they talk. If you turn just slightly away, they'll either redirect you by placing their hand on your shoulder or they're reposition in front of you. It burns me up! Like the Reckmonster, I'm frothing thinking about it!

Lady Estrogen said...

Hahaha - I agree with ChunkyMama as well - the 'social' to 'co'worker' need to change - can't mistake it for friendship.

And, I knew a guy that didn't actually spit, but the corners of his mouth would collect saliva when he spoke and then every now and then, he'd suck it all in: heeeiiissssshhh!
So fucking gross.

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