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New co-worker has annoying habits

By Annie Lane Creators Syndicate

Dear Annie: I graduated college earlier this year, and after six months on the job hunt, I am finally employed full time at a large nonprofit as one of the receptionists.

The problem is that I share the front desk with another woman and she is getting on my nerves. She’s been working at this job for almost three years, and I don’t see her going anywhere any time soon. Sharing a desk with her is becoming unbearable, and it’s only been a few months. She will hum throughout the day, tap her pen loudly on the desk while on the phone and chew obnoxiously while snacking. She doesn’t seem to notice her habits. When I’ve brought up the humming, she says she’ll try to stop, but nothing happens.

Annie, this woman is very sensitive, and I’d hate to be on bad terms with her, especially as I’m just starting out in this position. We get along just fine otherwise. I have tried wearing headphones for short periods of time, but as a receptionist, I need to be alert to the phones and people walking into the building. How can I continue to work here without going insane? I don’t want to go through the process of finding a new job. Though the pay is not great for a college graduate, I can see a future within the company and love the work that we do. – Banging My Head Against the Wall

Dear Headbanger: Before you punch a hole in your desk, try talking with this woman again. She doesn’t seem to notice the humming, which could be a way for her to deal with tinnitus. A gentle reminder won’t make her hate you. And a frank discussion about habits could bring up some of your own of which you’re unaware.

As you’re just starting out, keep things in perspective. You’re lucky to be in a position you enjoy for a good company. Sure, incessant humming and desktop drumming can be unpleasant. But annoying co-worker habits come standard in every workplace. Learning to tolerate them is just part of the job.

Dear Annie: I moved in with my brother and sister-in-law because it was a win-win situation – quality time with family and free rent. They also have a cat, dog and 1-year-old daughter. I am very grateful for their generosity, and I try to keep my things tidy and help around the (small) apartment as much as I can. I know my sister-in-law is busy with the baby and my brother works, but I also work a full-time job and am in graduate school. I am home at weird times and often gone for most of the day and into the night. When I come home, I find any belongings of mine that I may have left around the apartment by my bedroom door with a note saying I left these out. My sister-in-law seems to keep tabs on what I leave out in the common areas. It’s usually not a lot, but it bothers me because it’s passive and the kitchen is always a mess because of them and they don’t clean it often, making it hard for me to plan and prep for my meals. I can understand her wanting to keep the place tidy, but now I feel awkward bringing it up because it is their place.

How do I confront this issue? – Awkward Roomie

Dear Awkward: As parents across the world are fond of saying: their roof, their rules. Don’t try to fire back at your brother and sister-in-law about the kitchen’s being messy. It’s their kitchen! If you were paying rent, you’d have a leg to stand on here. Because you’re not, you just have to suck it up – and pick up your stuff.

Send your questions for Annie Lane to To find out more about Annie Lane and read features by other Creators Syndicate columnists and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

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