Wedding Woes

Ask for full time WFH?

Dear Prudence,

I’ve had misophonia my whole life. As a child, I felt like I was a horrible person for the feelings certain sounds evoked in me— my mother chewing, my sister coughing. When I learned that it was a real condition several years ago, I felt such relief! I wasn’t terrible or crazy, and other people had this issue too. It still causes me issues in my life, but I’ve mostly learned to work around it. I have a loving and considerate partner who works with me and understands that it is not something I control.

My problem is my boss. I work in a nonprofit with a small administrative office. I share a space with my director, a middle-aged woman who eats at her desk, chews with her mouth open, makes random smacking sounds, and hums and talks to herself. I’ve done almost everything I can to mask the sounds. I listen to white or brown noise on my earbuds on top of my podcasts and music, I’ve purchased noise canceling earplugs, I leave the office for a few minutes at a time when I can. I’ve also spoken to our HR director and our CFO, who have said they will try to accommodate me by putting cubes into our office. However, it’s been a couple of months with no movement in this area. I’ve even moved to working from home one day a week that doesn’t overlap with her work from home day. But there are still three days a week when I’m crawling out of my skin.

I don’t know what else to do. I don’t feel like I can talk to her about it, given her reactions to other types of criticism. But it’s getting to the point where I feel like I might have to quit my job. How can someone be so oblivious to the sounds she is making? Please, help me!

— At the End of My Rope

Re: Ask for full time WFH?

  • Yeh wfh might be best option for LW
  • Can you move offices? Follow up with HR about the accommodations. They shouldn’t delay but it happens. Follow up and ask for a timeline for when accommodations will happen. 

    But yah ask to WFH permanently too. 
  • Ask to WFH.  If this is heard over the noise canceling headphones I'm not sure what to do.
  • as long as LW can get this as a diagnosed condition (not just I learned about it and i know I have it), should be able to get reasonable accommodations which could include WFH or if other office spaces are available then that could be an option too

    I also wonder if this is LW's first job or something that has always been an issue at work but is more apparent now either in tight quarters or a loud chewer

  • I have this with scraping sounds.  DH was cleaning out ash from the fireplace the other day and the shovel made a high pitched scraaapppeeeee sound on the stone.  I had to plug my ears.  It makes my teeth hurt. 

    I agree that LW should try and get this diagnosed as a condition to get accommodations.  But also, they really can't deal with it via noise-canceling ear buds?  I wonder if it's because they're seeing this person and if they see them eating, then that sets off the response even if they can't hear it over their headphones? 
  • As someone who suffers from a similar condition, noise cancelling headphones are complete crap for cancelling noise.  I've never understand why they have that description because they don't cancel noise at all.  And I've tried out the top notch ones at Best Buy, ie Bose.

    What the LW really needs to try are noise blocking headphones.  Like the kind of thing you see on a construction site or airport runways.  I have a pair at work and a pair at home.  I love them so, so much.  They are life savers.

    You can faintly hear a phone ring or a person trying to get your attention, as long as the phone/person aren't more than a few feet away.  But I don't think the LW would be able to hear someone chewing, even if they were in the same room.  For example, if I'm wearing my headphones and the person in the cube next to me is talking, I either can't hear her at all or can only hear a slight noise of her talking but not what she is saying.
    Wedding Countdown Ticker
  • If it's a diagnosed medical condition, HR needs to work with you to make reasonable accommodations. WFH or switching offices sounds pretty reasonable. 

    But also, I know no one wants to have to tell their boss to chew with their mouth closed, but maybe think about why you're working for someone who you don't think you can go to with issues. Maybe it's time to look for a new boss. 
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