I'm a junior programmer from Germany with 2 years of work experience in a German company. We have an open office with multiple meeting rooms and one room which we call the "silent room". It has just 6 desks and should be used by people who want complete silence. I used it quite often and it is indeed very silent there.

Since yesterday there is this employee (from another department and whos name I don't even know) that seems to have caught a cold. This makes his sneeze quite often and blow his nose. I know it sounds ridiculous to complain about this, but this guy is really loud. He blows his nose is such a way that it scares me sometimes. I can see other people in that room are also getting annoyed. It's the silent room after all and we would have wanted complete silence to be able to work. Even headphones don't work (not that I can work with music on).

Some of my colleagues even cracked jokes if I was able to concentrate with an "air horn" in that room. Apparently even they get annoyed by it (the fact that they can hear it that well 50 meters away and from another room is also amazing).

I know the person in question can't help it much, but I want the silence in our silent room back. Can I report this to a manger without putting myself in a bad light (he's sick after all) or just ask the guy to leave (that sounds very rude and as a much younger girl, it might not work well)?


If it is truly a silent room,

then of course, absolutely, a person with a bad sneeze should not be in there.

You should simply immediately, firmly and politely say to the person,

"Say Steve, I really really need to concentrate. With that cold you are much too loud for the quiet room. Is there somewhere else you could work while you have that bad cough? I am really really up against a deadline."

Say exactly that. (Err, well in german I guess!)

If that person is much more senior than you, you're fucked and really can say nothing.

Should you talk to management?

Simply, unfortunately no. If you must talk to management, you have to be passive-aggressive:

"Say boss, Steve has that bad cough ... Can you suggest another place I can work that's really quiet - I'm really worried about deadline X. Where should I work? I really have to concentrate."

Good luck!

  • 4
    If you go to your boss, you should inform your boss this individual has a cold and should be sent home, to avoid getting everyone else sick. – Donald Jan 14 at 20:29

First off, if it's a cold, that implies that it's likely to be a short-term issue. If the problem is going to resolve itself after a couple days, I'd suggest just living with it for a couple days.

If you want to take action, I'd strongly suggest speaking to the individual directly before going to a manager. If no one has told the guy that there is a problem and given him a chance to resolve it, escalating to management is going to look to him like you're blowing things way out of proportion. Your manager is also likely to be a bit frustrated if you've done nothing to try to resolve the problem yourself. While there are certainly times that you need to escalate issues so that managers can manage them, that shouldn't generally be your first step. Managers have tons of things to deal with, they really don't want to be involved in every minor interpersonal issue anyone has.

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