This is the first time I manage a team. There is a new guy, coming directly from his master's and with no office experience. He is not lazy nor unproductive but he oftens yawns, sometimes noisily. We don't work in separate offices but the team shares a room and other teams work in nearby rooms.

I find this distracting to everyone and also I want us to mantain an image of focus and productiveness. You can be a top worker, but if people see you or hear you yawn, they will think you are lazy.

Also, I don't want to be rude, and yawning is a body function after all. How do I approach this issue?

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    What approaches have you taken so far? – DarkCygnus Jan 27 '20 at 19:49
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    Is the noise distracting people on the team? – thursdaysgeek Jan 27 '20 at 19:54
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    (To the close voters): I don't see how this can be off-topic or non-answerable. Currently it has already 3 answers, and is asking about managerial things of the workplace... – DarkCygnus Jan 27 '20 at 19:59

Also, I don't want to be rude, and yawning is a body function after all. How do I approach this issue?

I suggest you approach this person, in private, and politely ask them to cover their mouth when yawning.

Asking someone not to yawn is unrealistic. Covering your mouth when you do is ok to ask. Just, try not to break your head with details like this, and perhaps try to focus and enforce other details that may have a stronger impact on your team's productivity.

  • Simple and to the point, +1. – Tymoteusz Paul Jan 27 '20 at 20:15
  • you can definitely yawn quietly and without making loud noses though. – workaddict Feb 12 '20 at 6:44

What you do, is you mind your own business.

People are not robots. They're going to yawn, cough, sneeze, fart, drink liquids, et cetera at their desks. And that's fine. Say "gesundheit" as required or nod at an "excuse me!" and that's the extent of interaction with their bodily functions you need to ever consider having.

You admit yourself this isn't affecting anyone's work. Consider spending time on real problems not making up fake ones.


As a manager, part of your job is "enforcement" of important thing things that may not always be pleasant.

But, as a manager, perhaps a more important part of your job is deciding what's actually important enough to enforce.

Yawning is a great example of this:

  • If someone is occasionally yawning quietly, it might not really be a big deal.
  • If the yawns are really frequent and loud, and the team works in a close environment that is otherwise quiet and uninterrupted, it might warrant a quick side chat where you can suggest that the employee should try their best to yawn in a manner that's less distracting, or try other techniques - maybe they need to get up and go for a short walk once in a while to help keep their body moving and avoid the desire to yawn so much.

Of course, there's always gray area - but we can't give you a hard and fast rule for how to handle the gray area, that's your job. The important point, though, is this: before you discipline or correct an employee, do the following:

  • Make sure the issue is significant and meaningful. Is this behavior actually causing a disruption to the work environment? Is it actually causing tangible issues?
  • Make sure you're asking for something that's reasonable. "Stop yawning" is not reasonable!
  • Make sure you can follow up and adjust as needed after the fact. If the yawning is causing disruptions, and the yawner is able to get things under control, but people still complain about the occasional nearly-silent yawn, then maybe the follow up discussion needs to be with the other employees, about how they need to work on focusing on their own versus being a chronic complainer.

Yawning is normally an uncontrolled bodily function. What you are asking them to do is control something that can't be controlled.

There are plenty of noises (or lack of noises) in the workplace to get worked up over a single type.

  • you can control how loudly you yawn though. – workaddict Feb 12 '20 at 6:45

1) Provide employees with free coffee, soda and energy drinks. Caffeinated employees tend not to yawn.

2) Make work start time later, or better yet provide flexible start times, so employees are better rested.

3) Max work time per week should be 40 hours per week. Make sure they have enough breaks so they don't get tired.

4) More natural lighting in the office, move employees by windows for some sunshine. If employees are stuck in the basement with only the hum florescent lights they will want to fall asleep.

  • 2, 3, and 4 are good – workaddict Feb 12 '20 at 6:46

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