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I have this little annoying problem at my workplace. I work as web developer, mostly with a system backend. Most of my work revolves around thinking about security issues and validations, and data processing logic, which is quite hard.

I have a colleague who can't contain his emotions when something goes wrong or he gets unexpected results while working.

Sometimes this person makes strange sounds, sometimes even curses when he gets mad 'at' his workstation. This is really bothering me.

No one else seems to have a problem with this.
The colleague mostly listens to music while working, quite loud actually. I once told him to hold his emotions, because he can't hear himself.

Lately this is happening more often than usual.

I am not sure what to do here. Should I talk about to my manager, or the colleague himself? I don't want to ruin work relationships and hurt somebody's feelings. But I want this to stop, what would be the best approach to this annoying problem?

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marked as duplicate by gnat, Garrison Neely, Jan Doggen, jcmeloni, ReallyTiredOfThisGame Aug 1 at 18:09

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

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I had a colleague who hummed and whilstled all day, despite the manager mentioning it to him. It used to drive me mad. My answer....HEADPHONES!!!!!! Plus he soon got annoyed about having to always walk round to tap me on the shoulder rather than shout across. I coudl then say "well, if you stopped humming and whistling, I wouldn't have to wear these!" –  Mike Jul 29 at 10:59
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Headphones and earplugs. I swear a lot when I work on something that should work, must work and is not working. Tough luck to you. –  Vietnhi Phuvan Jul 29 at 12:24
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I wonder if you can find some white noise to listen to in the headphones instead of music... :) –  bdimag Jul 29 at 15:07
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@bdimag - www.simplynoise.com –  JeffO Jul 29 at 17:01

4 Answers 4

up vote 15 down vote accepted

Implicitly throughout your question and explicitly in your comments you've called this particular programmer childish. Is the problem that he is doing this near you? Or is the problem that he is doing this at all? Overtly you've said the first but throughout your comments it seems like it is the second. This is particularly noticeable when you say things like: "Programmer should not behave like that."[sic]

This is a problem because until you verbalize, to yourself, what the issue is then you won't be able to find a solution. If you or the other programmer were moved so that you couldn't hear / see the other programmer but, on getting a cup of coffee say, you saw him gesticulating all over the place... that would still bother you wouldn't it? I say this because even if you cannot hear the coworker their actions still bother you.

I'm a grumbly coder. When I get an error that I swear I already fixed but because of multi-cross-backwards inheritance something else comes up and bjorks it... I flip off my monitor. I tend to talk to myself, occasionally aggressively, while coding as well. When something works? I TOTALLY do a victory pose. No shame. I know others who do the same. Coding, to me, is visceral and, when I'm in the flow, adrenaline pumping. To me coding, when I'm in that moment, is like a video game and just like how people lean when steering a fake car in a video game, I physically get into my coding. Not everyone is like this. I can see from my colleagues that some folks can code like they're writing a grocery list. They can be sedate and relaxed while wrestling with challenging problems and, to me, that is so foreign, so alien that I can't understand it. In much the same way that a wildly gesticulating, physically into it grumbly coder is to you.

It would be a funny world if we were all the same wouldn't it?

At the end of the day you can only change the things you can control. Life, and perhaps especially life in the workplace, is a series of compromises. If you end goal is to have this person code like you... that's not a compromise. Of course ignoring something that bothers you and letting a grumbly coder run amok, because we will, is also not appropriate.

You need to take some time on your own and figure out what your ideal end goal would be and then what an acceptable end goal would be. I would hate to think that my gestures and self-talk bothered my coworkers. I would be embarrassed but, ultimately, appreciative if one of them came to me with this as a challenge and an appropriate, livable compromise. Maybe your compromise is you wear headphones and this programmer calms down their gestures. Maybe the programmer turns down the volume(a lot) and you ignore the gestures. Maybe that compromise is one or both of you move around in the office a little bit to have more space between you.

I think you would benefit from taking a moment to consider that your method of coding is as alien to this coworker and his is to you. Telling someone to "hold their emotions" is fairly hostile and inappropriate. Imagine the opposite, if I were to say "quit coding like a dead fish, show some EMOTION!" that would be hurtful and rude to you. This is because neither of these show compromise. I would recommend looking at some of the other excellent, similar questions on The Workplace about working in noisy/distracting environments and suggestions for mitigating or compromising on those issues.

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i loved the "quit coding like a dead fish, show some EMOTION!" :) i guess you are rigth –  Cardiner Jul 29 at 13:27
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I am absolutely guilty, as are most people, of being fixated on an irritation because it's different than how I would do things/act. In a previous lab a 'quiet' coder near me used to chew his fingernails and it drove me bananas. I finally realized that it wasn't really the fingernail chewing(which is gross, ew shared keyboards and other officer surfaces!) that bothered me but that that was a obvious thing to fixate on. –  Nahkki Jul 29 at 13:35
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+1 I've been known to cackle like a madman when my code gets up on its hind legs and runs –  Dave Swersky Jul 29 at 19:18

Should I talk about to my manager? or the person himself. I don't want to ruin work relationships and heart somebodies feelings. But I want this to stop, what would be the best approach to this annoying problem?

First, get clear in your own mind why this is such a problem for you. Something is happening that seems to bother you, but not others. Think about it and learn for yourself why. If you don't really know why it annoys you, you'll never be able to explain it cogently to someone else and ask that it stop.

Then, find a quiet time and ask your colleague if you can talk privately for a minute.

Explain the specifics of your colleague's behavior that bother you, and explain how it makes you feel. Ask that the behavior stop. Say it with a smile. Perhaps indicate that you like working with him (if you do) except for this particular behavior.

After this, if you still aren't getting the behavior changes you feel you need, then it's time to talk to your manager. At that point, it's a problem with you, not with your colleague. Explain to your manager how this is bothering you and affecting your productivity. Discuss ways that you can deal with it.

Perhaps moving your desk/cube is a good solution. That way, you might not need to see the behavior that bothers you.

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His lack of ability to control himself annoys me. Programmer should not behave like that. He is behaving like 13 year teenager not 25 year old professional. I actually could try that, but he arrives at work late and goes home earlier than me, and in lunch we all go together. We dont have friendly relationships so it would be weird if i try to pull him away. Is there another way to accomplish this without raising questions in other colleagues? –  Cardiner Jul 29 at 11:14
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@user2945241 , with respect there's nothing good to come from you wishing this guy's personality were different. All you can do is ask him to moderate his behavior to be less distracting. –  user987654 Jul 29 at 11:39
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@user2945241 I can understand to an extent that you're frustrated, but I disagree with the assertion that he's immature. I work in a group of 30 somethings and we all vent off at our computers with colorful language. People handle stress in different ways. Sometimes I just let it fly on accident, if someone asked me to stop I don't know if I would be able to all that well. Maybe you can request a cube change? –  Bmo Jul 29 at 11:48
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How would it be weird if you tried to have a word with him? You're colleagues, you might have various work-related subjects to discuss. I can't imagine anyone would be astonished to see you come to him and say "hey, could I have a word?" –  ero Jul 29 at 13:20
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People are wired differently. Some have more impulse control than others. Some are more easily frustrated than others. Impulse control and frustration tolerance can improve with time and effort, but this is honestly much more difficult for some people. Maybe instead of thinking of him as immature, it would help to think of him as someone who is just wired differently than you, and has different challenges than you. Differences in inherent wiring are also at least partially responsible for the differences between your and your coworkers' reactions to this behavior. It just bothers you more. –  PurpleVermont Jul 29 at 18:15

How's about:

"Excuse me. I noticed that you code with your headphones on, and sometimes you get a little upset and starting swearing out loud. It's becoming disruptive for me. Could you try and keep it down?"

This makes him person aware of both his behavior and the impact. There's no need to involve a manager unless it continues.

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This may not be a very helpful suggestion to you but:

I, as one of the active programmers for lack of a better phrase, do mumble to myself, get angry at my computer under my breath, and give a victory pump when deserved. I don't believe my actions are as verbose as your persons but still, i could see how it would be annoying to someone who likes to work quielty.

In any case, something that your coworker might benefit from is thinking putty (or a stress ball, something like that) that can get their hands engaged when thinking.

This type of thing really helps not only to control my gestures (like not hitting the screen/ table/ really whatever's near by) but also helps me to think (there have been studies done about this, if you are interested you can find them with a quick google search :) ).

From what it sounds like you aren't that close with this employee to offer them such a thing or advice, but for other programmers who think they might be that other emplyee, this might help (plus, it's so much better to think while actievly doing something else.)

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