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A recently hired co-worker has the habit of almost constantly shaking their legs. My desk is located rather close to said co-worker, and the almost constant vibration is wearing on me. I have tried to separate my desk to minimize the effect, but to no avail.

I am considering politely pointing out that the leg shaking is annoying to me (and I suspect others).

Suggestions?

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Is the vibration coming to you via the floor or shared cubicle wall, or via your desk? (I'm wondering what mitigation is possible.) –  Monica Cellio Jul 18 at 20:49
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You could try using it to your tactical advantage. Jokes aside, politely pointing it out should be totally acceptable. I tend to shake my leg, and while I try to be alert to whether or not it's disturbing others, I'm not 100% perfect and do appreciate being informed when the case is otherwise. –  Cornstalks Jul 19 at 1:08
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You just made me realize I'm shaking my leg right now at home. =\ –  Izkata Jul 19 at 4:59
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Seriously, how can politely asking him not to do it not be the right answer? –  David Richerby Jul 19 at 9:50
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@CGCampbell Sure. Ask the guy to stop and if he's unwilling or unable to stop, then there's a question to be asked here about what to do next. –  David Richerby Jul 19 at 18:16

4 Answers 4

I recently moved my seat to an area of raised flooring and experienced similar problems. I politely informed my co-worker of the leg bouncing and he tries to keep it under control. That's definitely the first step to take. However, the bouncing is likely somewhat habitual/involuntary.

What I ended up doing is buying a Mario-themed bobble-head doll and putting it up between our desks. I explained to him that "I have a tendency to tap my foot to music I listen to, and this will hopefully help me notice and keep from bothering you." That way I was calling attention to it while putting the onus on me rather than him. Now we both use it to inform us when the bouncing is out of control, and it is a bit of an inside joke:)

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Clever to using a physical/material solution to a social problem. This is the extention of the principle that says: "Why make a rule telling people not to put there hands near the fan blades, when I can put a grill over it." –  Oxinabox Jul 19 at 2:28

I am a fellow leg-shaker and I understand your colleague's predicament, so perhaps I'll be able to give some insight. I haven't had any problems with it at the office due to layout, but it's brought up rather often in other settings, especially when I meet someone new and happen to sit next to them.

The movement is involuntary but will temporarily stop when you point it out, because the shaker becomes aware of it. However it's difficult to maintain stillness and it will probably start again in a few minutes, even if someone keeps asking me to stop. That's because there's energy that simply has to be spent, and if someone expresses irritation more than once I usually ignore them and say "you'll get used to it" (trust me, they do). That's probably not something I'd do at the office though. If it's practical I try to change my position or figure out a way that the shaking can't be seen, heard or felt.

In my prepubescent years I was diagnosed with ADHD and my parents were told that the shaking is related. It's not a serious medical condition by any means (not even a condition in my eyes), yet keeping still is just as annoying for me as it is for someone else when I shake. If I can't shake my legs I'll start playing with my slinky or a pen, and when I'm working I do both in excess.

Having said that, phoebu's answer is very clever indeed because the shaker can be made aware of the shaking, without having anyone to get annoyed at.

Other less practical options include a mat to dampen the sound, or sturdier / taller desks that don't get affected by the offending leg.

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+1 I'm in the same position (ADHD and constant need to be doing something with my hands or legs), and this answer couldn't ring any truer. –  Thebluefish Jul 21 at 22:14

I used to share a small room with two other coworkers, one of which had this annoying habit of repeatedly shaking his leg up and down (even while not listening to music), to the point where the noise was really irritating and distracting.

My solution was to simply politely ask my coworker to refrain from doing this. After I informed him of this, he would stop shaking his leg so much, but still occasionally did it anyways (it must have been habitual, after all). So when it continued, I simply tried to do my best to ignore it (sometimes my work was so interesting and engrossing that this was easy). Other times, when I simply couldn't focus, I would politely point out to my coworker that he was shaking his leg again, at which point he would stop again (at least for a few hours, or the day).

If you work in a larger office, or otherwise have the option of moving to another location that's far enough away that you won't be distracted by your coworker, I would consider that an option.

I could see that some people might suggest escalating the issue to a supervisor if your coworker won't listen when you inform him that the leg shaking is distracting. It's definitely an option, but it's only one that I would take as a last resort. I would much prefer to just find another location in the office to work, personally.

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Your coworker might have restless legs syndrome. Although for many people the leg-shaking is simply an annoying habit or a treatable condition (such as ADHD), for others it may make as much sense to ask them to stop as it does to ask a snorer to stop snoring.

If simply asking him to stop doesn't work, or only works temporarily, or he says he actually has a medical condition, then I would inquire about putting up some ornament or piece of furniture so the sight of it doesn't distract you, and dealing with the noise as you'd deal with any other noise issue in the office (usually headphones, but maybe you can get yourself moved).

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