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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?

  • 6
    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 '14 at 20:49
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    Note that this may be something not completely controllable, due to a neurological condition. The place to start is certainly to politely ask, as suggested below... but a real answer may wind up having to involve things like padded footrests, and a complete solution may not be possible short of mechanically isolating the workstations. – keshlam Jul 18 '14 at 21:35
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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 '14 at 1:08
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    You just made me realize I'm shaking my leg right now at home. =\ – Izkata Jul 19 '14 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 '14 at 9:50
73

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." – Lyndon White Jul 19 '14 at 2:28
  • This is a realy clever and fun solution , here comes my upvote – Rolexel May 24 '17 at 14:44
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    This is a great idea. I'm currently suffering from a neighboring co-worker doing this to me (and he's a bigger guy, so it's literally like I'm driving around at a construction site, bouncing up and down, both of my monitors shaking, me watching the coffee in my cup tremble, as if a T-rex was approaching). Today was payday, so I wonder what kind of bobble head I'll get!! +1 for sure! Thanks. – user75749 Aug 18 '17 at 15:47
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    What a great idea. It addresses the issue in a pro-social, pro-bonding way, establishing your needs while respecting the other person's needs and autonomy. I don't just like this, I :heart: this. – kmc Feb 16 '18 at 16:21
24

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. – user17163 Jul 21 '14 at 22:14
  • Well I dont have ADHD and I still have the habit of shaking my leg. Simply because it stimulates the blood flow and makes me more alert, so it feels good and I become more concentrated at whatever task I am focusing my thoughts on. – ColacX Jul 17 '15 at 9:49
  • wait... you actively irritate people and then are casual enough to say "oh well, it won't keep bothering you"? That is very rude. Hand waving it away with the oft-diagnosed ADHD is hardly fair either. I'm not sure if you're aware that you are probably extremely discomforting for your co-workers. – bharal May 25 '17 at 0:48
  • @bharal It's involuntary movement. It's not going to go away simply because people are annoyed by it. I'm a legshaker too and at most I'll apologize once and then move all complaints to /dev/null as well, because when I actively need to stop it, I cannot focus on anything else. Plus, there are like a thousand other little things that are socially acceptable and 'regular' people would never even think to apologize for them, so why should I for some movement of my leg? – FRob May 25 '17 at 2:03
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    @bharal Well, annoying as it might be, I don't think it's something that can be stopped as easily. This was a constant negative point during childhood and school and if I could, I would stop. Usually I'm not even aware it happens much less consciously start it. So good on you that you think it's on the same level as smiling. I guarantee you, for many other people it's simply not. – FRob May 25 '17 at 2:14
10

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).

  • I bounce my legs. It’s not a habit. I have mild RLS. Even when I'm aware of it, I can't always help it. – Pytry May 5 '15 at 20:19
  • I have this habit too due to restless leg. Not so much a habit per se, as it is a means to an end for ending actual pain. My legs actually start aching sitting still and bouncing them immediately stops the pain. I get this same pain when lying on my back in bed, and quickly switching to my side relieves it. Also get it if I am forced to walk too slowly, due to someone in front of me walking a lot slower than my natural pace. I'm not being impatient, my legs actually start hurting if I start taking short strides vs. larger comfortable ones (I'm 6'1"). – DiggyJohn May 18 '15 at 14:56
  • To add to the above, I am certainly aware of it, and stop immediately when I notice I'm shaking the table, or something. My wife is the only person who has ever spoke up and told me to stop. I pretty much have to fold my legs up into the chair with me, stretching the muscles, to relieve the pain, or simply get up and walk around. Now if only she'd stop chewing chips with her mouth as wide open as one could (yeah, bit one sided on that, I have to stop, but am met with "too bad", "deal with it" from her side under the same conditions). – DiggyJohn May 18 '15 at 14:59
6

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.

4

I have pinched nerves and other damage to my lower back. I generally use a wheelchair. My leg shacking is a result of these injuries. I wish I could control it. I can hold my legs in place with a LOT of effort, but it is VERY painful. In fact, I get charlie horse from the effort and will break out into sweat. People often ask me to stop and even get mad at me when I do not. I have had bobble heads put on my desk, and complaints to HR.

Please understand for some people there is a medical condition that causes it. Trust me the majority of us do not want to be a bother to the rest of you that do not have such issues.

1

I have restless leg syndrome and I am a habitual leg shaker, although I don't absolutely know the two are connected. I think of RLS more in terms of how I find it hard to sit still in confined paces, or when I'm tired, and it's hard to control. What I do at a desk is in my control, but often starts subconsciously.

Some offices make this effect more obvious than others:

  • wooden floors carry it better than concrete
  • if we use desks with monitor arms, the monitors are supported less stably and are more likely to amplify vibrations

Some co-workers are more sensitive to it than others. I will always stop at least temporarily when asked, but it's certainly not uncommon for a sensitive co-worker to have to ask a few times over the course of a day. I don't ever do it deliberately around a sensitive co-worker, but ... it's rarely something I consciously start anyway.

Not putting my desk near a sensitive co-worker is probably a good start, if that's possible. Finding ways to have very stable desks with shock absorption would be great, although I haven't seen products that do this well that I'd recommend. I'd be curious to try vibration damping pads under the desk legs. Under my legs too, if they'd work under a task chair.

In essence -- in my experience there hasn't been a great solution. I'd love it if someone were to find one. Asking is certain a totally reasonable and sensible approach, but whether you will be able to get relief on this path without feeling like you have to ask constantly is a question that only you will be able to answer.

0

I was shaking my leg like i do on occasion at work and was shaking the table and didnt realise. A co-worker said hey mate could u stop shaking and i did, no offence taken at all on several different occasions. So moral is just ask, even have a laugh about it, dosnt have to be a serious thing.

  • 3
    This does not add anything to the answers already given. – user8036 Dec 8 '15 at 10:19
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    This merely repeats points made over a year ago. Please see Back It Up and Don't Repeat Others – David K Dec 8 '15 at 13:31
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As other commenters have suggested, one option is to simply make them aware of it and ask that they stop. That doesn’t always work though… depending on your relationship it may be complicated to bring it up, or they may be the kind of person who wouldn’t cease shaking out of respect for others alone.

There is another way to make the leg-shaker aware without any sort of confrontation required: subtly make a noise of your own that matches the frequency of their shaking. Tapping your finger, a pen, etc against the underside of your desk, for example. Start quietly and increase the intensity until they become aware/annoyed by the noise and stop shaking, at which point you stop the noise. They will assume they are the cause of the noise, which usually is enough to put a pause to the behavior for a while.

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