Dear Uncommon Courtesy,
I have an impossible coworker! That is the best description. We sit in a big open office, and he is right across (a very short) partition from me and he’s driving me absolutely nutso. He’s extraordinarily loud and likes to yell all the time, either at the people around here, imaginary people, or will literally just yell out movie quotes or lyrics at nobody for no reason. When he’s not yelling, he’s got headphones in that don’t work very well as headphones. I’ve got a pretty stressful job, and I can’t hear myself think anymore.
I know that I should just TALK TO HIM, but there are a few obstacles:
1) I need him to do work for me, often, and he takes ANY criticism as a huge slight and will not talk to the person that “disrespects him” for WEEKS.
2) There is no HR department at my very small company.
3) The powers that be seem to be straight-up terrified of him, and won’t fire him or even reprimand him for anything, despite the fact that he actually recently stole a bunch of stuff from the office and now almost everything is under lock and key AS WELL AS previous incidents he’s been responsible for that I know the company lawyer is constantly being called in to deal with his shenanigans. I think they don’t want to pay him unemployment.
Anyways, essentially the guy is a huge pain in the ass and I don’t have ANY IDEA what to do here. I’ve narrowed it down to “quit my job” or “stew forever.” Help!
DRIVEN TO ACTUAL MADNESS IN MIDTOWN
This is somewhat outside the scope of etiquette, but most etiquette experts would probably say to be polite and direct and go to your superiors about the problem and if all fails, then to grin and bear it. You might also check askamanager.com, a really great resource for questions about office politics and legal issues.
Jaya: Well, I do still think that talking to a superior is a good idea. And mention that the yelling makes it very hard for him to do his job. It seems like the letter writer has a higher up job, so that could help.
Victoria: And if they do fire him, they won’t have to pay unemployment.
Jaya: And if the letter writer wants to talk to the guy himself, and if he decides not to talk to him for weeks, that’s also something the letter writer can bring to higher ups if he doesn’t get work done. Just say “well coworker for some reason is not responding to my many requests.”
Victoria: That’s true, and maybe even keep a log of incidents, which can be helpful when approaching management.
Jaya: If anything, perhaps he can request to move desks? I think in a lot of situations, the best advice is always to find what you can do for yourself, if there’s no way to change the other person. Which in this case, there probably isn’t. Move desks, get headphones yourself, something. Also, this coworker sounds like such a baby.