My colleagues and I work in an environment where we use laptops but when in the office, we usually have additional monitors, USB keyboard and mouse etc. I'm a senior software developer with one lead developer above me in the hierarchy, and a few junior developers below. We all work at desks next to each other and so far as I know, none of us on the team are messy or unhygienic. I also have no reason to suspect my other team members are failing to perform their tasks.
I have always noticed that if our lead is demonstrating something or needed to enter an admin password on my computer (prior to my promotion), she would deliberately drag my laptop closer to her to use its keyboard, rather than the much easier to reach USB keyboard in front of her. I never gave this much thought at the time.
The junior developers often ask me for advice, which does not usually interfere with my own work. I once suggested that they can ask our lead developer (let's call her Jane) for help as well. They said they were hesitant to do this as Jane seemed 'disgusted' by them. Sure enough, I have seen her wearing expressions of disgust when being offered a colleague's mouse or typing on a laptop's keyboard, refuse to use their stationary if offered, nor will she even sit on someone else's chair. These offers are usually rejected with a firm 'No' or something similar, but no explanations are given. She does not refuse to help, but is always looks visibly disturbed while doing it.
I suspect Jane is either germophobic, or it could be something else. The other developers have only been with us for a short time. I have assured them that Jane's actions are nothing personal, but it continues to be mentioned in passing as an area of concern. My questions are:
- Should I explain to my (and Jane's) manager that Jane's actions, unintentionally I'm sure, are causing a rift in the team? My concern is our manager may already know of it, and flagging it up may cause her and the team further distress.
- In a UK workplace (or anywhere for that matter) would using the word 'germophobe' or similar be considered offensive? I am aware there could be other psychological conditions that would cause someone to behave like I have described.
How can I effectively reduce the conflict this issue is causing?