I've been working at a private corporation (Fortune 500) for nearly six months now, and have noticed that 2-3 coworkers clip their fingernails while working in their cubicle.

Is this kind of personal grooming considered to be unprofessional when performed at work, in one's own cubicle? The reason why I ask is because nobody else in the office does this, which leads me to believe that maybe it shouldn't be done. The noise itself does not bother me though, and is not of concern.

Lastly, if this is unprofessional behavior, what would be the best way to address the issue?

closed as off-topic by IDrinkandIKnowThings, Rory Alsop, gnat, Masked Man, Ed Heal Aug 29 '17 at 15:38

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. As with all hygiene related topics this can quickly lead to heated discussions but I'll remind you that that is not what comments are for. If you just want to discuss the question please do so in this question's chatroom. Keep in mind that even in chat we expect you to be civil and remember our Be Nice policy. – Lilienthal Aug 29 '17 at 16:24
  • @Charles A primarily opinion based question is difficult to answer objectively. – sleddog Aug 31 '17 at 14:41
  • @sleddog The OP has been edited to not include my opinion, and is purely factual. At this point, I see no reason why this would still be considered as "opinion based", and would ask that the hold be removed. – Charles Aug 31 '17 at 14:49

I agree with you. This is a personal hygiene item and should be done at home. I don't want to hear the clipping noise anymore than I would want to see someone else floss their teeth or trimming their nose hair.

Having said that the only way I know to stop the behavior is some sort of confrontation ( via email or just a quick verbal "Hey stop that" ). The problem is the end result could be some hurt feelings, or worse.

Only you can decide if the juice is worth the squeeze in terms of how or if you react, but you're not crazy to be bugged by this IMHO.

In this scenario, I would suggest you should ask yourself "is the confrontation worth the few minutes of annoyance?"

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    DO NOT confront people about their hygiene. DO learn to be an adult and get over trivial frustrations. – sleddog Aug 29 '17 at 14:59
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    @sleddog yep, this could end UGLY. Not up to me to decide the tolerance level of the OP. Thus my last sentence. – Mister Positive Aug 29 '17 at 15:00
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    @Charles Part of my "job" when answering a question is to also propose possible solutions. Other wise I would have answered "no, your not crazy". – Mister Positive Aug 29 '17 at 15:32
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    @sleddog But why do you require convincing? At least two people have told you they consider it disgusting and would rather you not do it in a public shared space. Do we need to prove just how reviled we are? Or would you perhaps think "Well, they're a bunch of whiny babies and I don't get it but this is something so minor that I don't mind doing it at home to preserve the peace."? – Lilienthal Aug 29 '17 at 16:20
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    @bobo2000 its not being done in the bathroom.... – Mister Positive Aug 29 '17 at 18:11

Am I being overly sensitive about this, or is my disgust justified?

Well, the good news is that that doesn't really matter, because it certainly seems to be dividing the room here. I personally consider nail-clipping at work to be beyond the pale as I share your opinion that this is a personal grooming task that should simply not be performed in an office or cubicle and perhaps not even in a workplace bathroom. But plenty of other people think this is harmless and it's also true that opinions on personal care can vary by culture.

But like I said there's no need to "justify" your disgust. The fact of the matter is that it's weirding you out and that makes it reasonable to address it somehow. You say you don't want to confront anyone or raise it as an issue but you'd be doing yourself, a fair number of your coworkers and probably the nail-clippers themselves a favour if you're willing to tackle it. It's a fair bet that several of your coworkers are similarly annoyed and think less of these people for doing this. It's also something that very quickly labels someone as "the nail-clipper" rather than "the guy who came through last minute on those TPS reports" or "the one who's always willing to let you bounce some ideas off her if you're stuck".

If you do want to address it, you have two options: talk to the nail-clippers themselves or bring in someone higher up. The former is tricky as it's an inherently awkward and personal conversation, people are known to react defensively when this kind of feedback comes from colleagues, and you may ultimately not accomplish much.

Typically the safer approach is to contact either their manager, your manager or a floor manager / admin and ask them to speak to these people in private. Good managers will realise that it's behaviour that can cause both personal and professional issues in a work environment and that can easily be addressed, whether by putting a stop to the nail-clipping or at least moving it to a more suitable bathroom. Great managers will explain to the nail-clippers that this is one of those minor things that some people feel weird about, that it's a good idea to avoid annoying these people considering it's something that's easily changed, and that it's behaviour that would label someone out-of-touch with professional norms in a lot of workplaces.

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    @MisterPositive It's potentially excessive. A lot depends on the people involved but OP doesn't really know them. Ideally you'd talk to a building manager but not all offices have those. The main point of raising it with your own manager is to get some direct feedback on whether this is really inappropriate or not. A good manager will know how and whether to take it up with these people. – Lilienthal Aug 29 '17 at 15:44
  • @IDrinkandIKnowThings If they try to fix it themselves first then perhaps management is the next logical step. However, as my answer strongly implies, this may not be a fight worth having. – Mister Positive Aug 29 '17 at 16:17
  • @IDrinkandIKnowThings Some people do not realize that what they are doing is annoying ( or plain gross ) until someone points it out. I would rather that person be a peer then my manager. ( who is acting on information provided by a peer ) I see your perspective, I just don't agree. Chaos is a Ladder. – Mister Positive Aug 29 '17 at 16:25
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    @MisterPositive "I would rather that person be a peer then my manager" - I imagine, rather than them being receptive and changing their ways, that it's more likely that either they just won't care what you think or they'd try to justify it endlessly. If someone speaks to them from a position of authority, that's more likely to result in a good outcome. If you speak to them first (and then take it to management), they may resent you over taking it to management. – Dukeling Aug 29 '17 at 16:38
  • Yes good point because that is what people do, they change their behavior over time after realizing how morally superior the person that pointed out their behavior is. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Aug 29 '17 at 18:10

You are being overly sensitive about this. Your disgust is not justified. Here is my outside perspective (as an in-office nail clipper myself):

As with all office space sounds you may find irksome, invest in some decent noise cancelling headphones and install a mirror above your PC monitor so you can see people enter your cubicle.

It's not your place to tell people what they can and cannot do within the office. You're free to have whatever expectations you wish, but keep in mind that not everyone shares those expectations and that yours are not more valuable than theirs.

Given that the soles of most shoes have a high likelihood of having fecal matter on them, fingernail clippings (keratin) do not appreciably make the floor any less clean. The floors are likely vacuumed nightly anyway.

My advice: grit your teeth and deal with it. People who are fastidious about their hygiene and grooming habits are not likely to change them because someone asks them to.

The carpet is likely vacuumed nightly. What impact do fingernail clippings in the carpet have on you? Have you experienced problems with this already?

It may be your opinion that grooming should be done at home, but other people have differing opinions. It would be the height of unprofessionalism to engage in these behaviors while in conversation with a co-worker or client, but that doesn't seem to be your complaint. Also, your blanket statement of "every other hygiene behavior" being performed at home is preposterous. So people shouldn't wash their hands after using the bathroom or wipe after defecation? Ridiculous!

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