I work at a small tech company in the US. My superior came in today sick as a dog. I could hear him sniffling and coughing all day. This wasn't a big deal until he came over to my desk to ask about something. During the discussion he used my keyboard and mouse.

I've got to use this keyboard all day and I really don't want to catch what he has. I don't know what to do at this point.

I've seen similar questions like this one: (Is it OK to ask colleagues to leave if they're sick?) and the most common answers were to deal with it or tell a boss, but in this situation it's my boss who's sick. I don't mind that he's sick and in the office, but I'd greatly prefer he not touch things on my desk while he's sick.

Do I keep quiet and hope I don't catch what he has or say something and risk offending him? Perhaps it's not worth bringing up since it's already happened, but I'd like to avoid it happening again today or in the future.

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    It is amazing how many people don't understand contamination or just don't care. – paparazzo Feb 6 '17 at 20:35
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    Upvoting mainly for the hilarious title. :) – Masked Man Feb 7 '17 at 7:29
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    Desinfect your keyboard and mouse, wash your hands and continue working. – Simon Feb 7 '17 at 8:45
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    Hand Sanitizer, two words to remember – Neo Aug 9 '17 at 18:05
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    I'm happy-ish to notice that this question predates the current pandemic by some years. – Flater Jan 4 at 14:25

Keep a can of disinfectant spray or anti-bacterial wipes at your desk. Anytime anyone you suspect of being sick or of questionable hygiene is at your desk, spray everything down. If anyone says anything: "Sorry it's my own hangup, I am a germaphobe." Also I keep a large hand sanitizer out on my desk for anytime someone with those same characteristics insists on touching me.

For me, I have witnessed a high level manager not washing his hands after urinating. Also I use the break room where people don't practice good hygiene and we are in very close working quarters. It has helped me avoid sickness.

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    They make these little 'computer wipes' they are in little sealed packages. Made for screens and such, but they are made with alcohol so they dry fast, which can also usually kill the germs and isn't as obvious or smelly as lysol. – Bill Leeper Feb 6 '17 at 19:40
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    Why not consider this is an opportunity for you immune system to be on its toes? It may do you some good – Ed Heal Feb 6 '17 at 19:51
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    When I started reading this, I thought for sure we were going down the "keep a can at your desk - when your boss comes to talk to you, spray him down!" road. – PoloHoleSet Aug 9 '17 at 20:08
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    I just want to point out that for some of us, spraying Lysol in air we breathe could be enough to put us in the hospital. Please never use such things in a public place. If you must do something use a wipe, it is less likely to harm other people who have severe lung problems. – HLGEM Aug 9 '17 at 20:34
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    @EdHeal, let me just have a little conference call with all of my autoimmune disorders and get back to you. But seriously - people have the right not to want to get sick for many reasons. – Catsunami Feb 19 '20 at 18:03

I don't mind that he's sick and in the office, but I'd greatly prefer he not touch things on my desk while he's sick.

It's not just your desk.

It's the table in the conference room, the door knobs, the whiteboard markers, the handle of the coffee maker, etc. Plus you may not catch it from him directly, but he could infect another coworker, who infects another coworker, who eventually infects you a couple of weeks later.

Tell him the truth. That he shouldn't be coming to work when he's super contagious and spraying fluids all over the place (unless he wants everyone else to get sick too). And that if he does come to work, he should at least try to keep the contamination to a bare minimum.

Are you afraid of offending him? I guarantee you. You won't be offending him.

Some people are proud when others notice that they came to work despite being sick. Those people have the hero complex. Other people are also waiting for someone to tell them to go home before they'll take the next day off because they want to make sure no one thinks that they're staying home slacking off. And others still are just oblivious. And even in that case, I really doubt that you would offend such an oblivious person by telling him the truth.

Get some disinfecting wipes and some spray for your desk. Get yourself a flu shot (like I said, you may not catch it directly from him, the entire office may catch it before you catch it yourself).

And get your boss some of those disinfecting products too (and some would say that he should be wearing a mask as well, but obviously you're having such a hard time confronting him already, I won't tell you to go that far). But ideally, he should be the one washing his hands with antibacterial soap everytime he touches his nose and he should be the one wiping down objects everytime he touches something. But in case he doesn't, at least you'll have your spray and your wipes.


Your boss has come in sick and could infect you? As Ed Heal's comment said, I would just let it be and give it chance for your immune system to work a little bit. Getting a cold from time to time is not a bad thing and if you do become ill, you can always reference that your boss was ill with the line:

Sorry Boss, I'm ill. I think I managed to catch your cold

This tends puts the issue in their court, as they've either caused you to lower your production or even take a sick day.

Then they may get the suggestion that passing their germs around the office isn't the best thing to do, since they are affecting their staff, and they should take their sick days.

This is of course assuming that you are on a regular pay rate (E.g. per annum ) rather than shift based, and that your don't have an issue where catching any disease could cause further complications (E.g. Suffering from multiple sclerosis). If any of those are in effect, then it would be best to have a quiet word with the boss whilst carrying some handy wet wipes afterwards.

  • Another option could be to become a bubble boy. – Snowlockk Feb 7 '17 at 9:39
  • This opens you to the risk of the response "I came into work with it, why can't you?" – Matt Hollands Jan 29 '20 at 14:51
  • @MattHollands The old saying helps, "If your friend jumped in front of a train, would you?" Just because someone else is doing something daft, doesn't mean you should repeat their mistake. People need to learn to take time off when they are ill and not spread it around the office – Draken Jan 29 '20 at 15:08
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    Then you're burning your own sick days / PTO just because your boss couldn't stay away from you. – Catsunami Feb 19 '20 at 18:04
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    Some of us don't have the same system as the US – Draken Feb 19 '20 at 18:13

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