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Snorting employee

We have an employee at the practice where I work who constantly makes a pretty horrible snorting sound with the back of her throat. It happens all year but is worse when she has a cold, which she does at the moment.

Several colleagues have asked me to have a word with the partners to ask them to say something to her about it because they find it so distracting and even nauseating. Incidentally it's an open plan office so it's not like people can avoid hearing it.

So my question is, if I did have a word with the partners, is there anything they could actually do about it? And if not, should I tell them anyway just to get it recorded and so that I can tell my colleagues that I have had a word? Nobody feels close enough to her to talk to her quietly themselves, which would have been my instinctive first suggestion.

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By Monsoon
03rd Feb 2011 11:50

Snorting

Is it deliberate? Or involuntary?

If it's the latter, then it may be tricky to approach with her because it's a bit like asking someone with Tourette's not to swear/tic/etc. Employer might have to be aware of disability discrimination!

Why have they asked you to deal with it, why can't the colleagues deal with it themselves (are you their supervisor/manager)?

If I was in your shoes I'd be thankful I was an employee, mention it to the partners and thus, the buck is passed. Your colleagues know you've done what you can. Not ideal but I don't know what else to suggest.

I don't think there is much you can do about it...

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By mwngiol
03rd Feb 2011 12:03

Much the same as I thought

Thanks for the reply, you've pretty much summed up my feelings. I think it's an involuntary thing but not sure.

My colleagues asked me to approach the partners because they think I get taken more seriously than they do(!) which is pretty strange considering the office environment isn't my natural habitat! The look of shock on the faces people I knew at school or college when I tell them what I do is similar to how shocked I imagine I would look if I found out that my father was in fact my mother.

I think I'll have a word with the partners, tell my colleagues that I've done so, and sit back and expect nothing to happen.

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03rd Feb 2011 12:04

Tricky...

Buy her a nasal/throat spray and as delicately as possible suggest she tries to curb the 'funny noises'.

Could be a worse kind of 'snorting' going on i suppose!!

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03rd Feb 2011 12:24

Involuntary

If it's involuntary, you could try electric shock therapy until she stops doing it.  It works with dogs apparently.  Perhaps you could use a taser, or pull the mains cable out of her computer.

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03rd Feb 2011 12:35

...

The employee may feel alienated when she learns that her co-workers don't feel comfortable enough to approach her directly. I would only ask the partner after a polite informal/indirect approach. 

Why not approach the ISSUE (not a problem) in terms of asking whether she had taken anything for the cold or even has any problems with the office environment; if she did then say WE can report it because you don't want her suffering.  

It may be that she has a reaction to someone's perfume, such did cause me to have sneezing fits, another instance I knew was one where the fumes from cleaning liquid persisted through till mid-morning and caused people to scratch.

After she has commented, or during, there will be the opportunity and reason to politely comment on the sound as "sinus trouble" that is interupting your concentration.

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03rd Feb 2011 12:41

Sounds like post-nasal drip

See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Post-nasal_drip

I think you'll find that if you hange her upside down, the effects will go away.  Only a short-term cure though.  Arsenic will do away with the symptons in the longer term.

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By mwngiol
03rd Feb 2011 12:42

Ideas

Thanks again for the ideas. Not sure about the shock therapy route though!

I'm not sure how involuntary it is really, because sometimes she can be heard blowing her nose and this is followed by a good half hour of snortlessness. So it is something that she can address if brought to her attention. The problem is that nobody is close enough to her to feel comfortable bringing the subject up, so if anyone was going to it would have to be a partner. It's hard to get the balance right though between not upsetting her and the fact that so many (seven out of twelve in the room to be exact) are getting increasingly annoyed by it.

It doesn't bother me much except when it's especially loud and frequent, but it really is a horrible sound!

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By blok
03rd Feb 2011 12:51

.

that would drive me crazy, I would have to move desk / room / office / town, whatever.

good luck.

 

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03rd Feb 2011 13:18

Do you happen to know...

... whether she reads AWeb? :)

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By mwngiol
03rd Feb 2011 13:22

I doubt it

That would require her to have some kind of interest in her work!

Although having said that she does use many of the same turns of phrase as C_D...could it be that he is she??!

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03rd Feb 2011 14:03

Snorting

It sounds to me like a deep routed sinus affliction.The natural way of curing it would be for her to take an odourless garlic capsule daily, which do work. Yes they are odourless so you're not swapping one problem for another. If she is into natural or healthy remedies it should be quite easy to bring about a conversation on the subject.

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By mwngiol
03rd Feb 2011 14:14

Bernard

That sounds like a pretty good idea. The trouble is that one thing I've found out from all this is that pretty much nobody seems to like her, she doesn't seem to like anybody else, and thus getting anyone to try to bring up a conversation about the thing is difficult. To be honest I'm surprised that none of her family or friends have said anything to her. Or maybe they have but she just didn't take notice.

I'm inclined to do as Monsoon suggested originally and just pass the buck to the partners and take it out of my hands, after all it's no more my responsibility than any of my colleagues and it bothers them more than me. Since they brought it up though I've started to notice it more myself!

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03rd Feb 2011 14:41

Snorting

Beware

If she leaves or becomes disenchanted with her colleagues attitude she can present a case to an industrial tribunal for damages. It isn't you that pays but the partners.Therefore you have no alternativer other than to tell them (or put up with it). Either way be very careful you don't give her the chance to damage the firm even more than she currently is.

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By pembo
03rd Feb 2011 15:07

one mans snort...

We used to have a guy who after eating his lunch used to belch very audibly for a period...personally as a geezer I found it quite endearing but several of the ladies were a bit taken aback...

Sometimes its best to tackle these things head on...when one summer one of the guys was humming somewhat on a regular basis we left a bar of soap and a deodorant on his desk one evening....had the desired effect notwithstanding a rather uncomfortable stand off first thing the next day...

I would advise secretly recording it on a dictaphone and then ask eveything to be quiet for a mo to listen to it on the pretext that you have detected a strange and unexplained noise like a stuck pig and was wondering if anyone else has noticed it or were you going mad......might do the trick. 

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03rd Feb 2011 15:34

Not the worst

At least its better than f...ting.

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03rd Feb 2011 15:34

Not the worst

At least its better than f...ting.

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03rd Feb 2011 15:34

Not the worst

At least its better than f...ting.

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03rd Feb 2011 15:36

mwngiol

Although having said that she does use many of the same turns of phrase as C_D...could it be that he is she??!

 

Posted by mwngiol on Thu, 03/02/2011 - 13:22

 

Which would indicate that she is extremely intelligent :)

And no I'm not a she, although I did once "high side" my bike and landed back astride the petrol tank from a fair hight so it was a close call. I must admit that was an eye watering moment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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By mwngiol
03rd Feb 2011 16:03

Depends

"At least its better than f...ting."

Depends whether you mean fainting, fighting, farting or fisting!

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By mwngiol
03rd Feb 2011 16:08

Bike

Considering how painful even a glancing blow to the family assets can be, I'm surprised you kept control of the bike long enough to bring it to a stop!

I remember seeing a tv show once (I think called something like 1000 ways to die) which featured a woman who would become aroused when riding pillion (if thats the correct word) on a motorbike. Then one day, just at the height of her climax, she lost her grip on the bike, fell off and died.

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04th Feb 2011 11:41

Worse than breaking wind?

No it snot.

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04th Feb 2011 11:51

.

I remember seeing a tv show once (I think called something like 1000 ways to die) which featured a woman who would become aroused when riding pillion (if thats the correct word) on a motorbike.  Posted by mwngiol on Thu, 03/02/2011 - 16:08

 

Dam - where can I find a woman like that :)

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04th Feb 2011 12:01

Is this all there is to it?

I have to say that some of the background information you have provided to this makes me wonder if this is a serious problem at all or just results from the fact that the lady is clearly not in with the in crowd.

To go telling tales to partners over such a thing would certainly not endear you in my eyes. I would expect that this could well turn out to be a medical condition (or at least is plausible enough to be written off as one) in which case the partners won't want to touch it with a stick anyway (although it seems they are in a no win situation with it because if they bring it up with her she will likely sue and if they ignore it and her collegues do, she will still sue, the Great British legal system at it's finest).

 

 

 

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04th Feb 2011 12:18

@Roland

I take it from your post that you're a bit of an office snorter yourself?

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After 10 years working by myself ...

I struggle to remind myself what is and what isn't normal office behaviour when I got to clients. A few times I have blown my nose and people have dived for cover under their desks!!

 

Re your snorter ... I get a similar irritation when I have a cold ... its a feeling at the back of your sinuses that you try and clear through ... well snorting really. I would guess your lady started with something like that and it has become an involuntary habit. I am summising a bit from your description of her but perhaps she does not live with anyone or have close freinds who have pointed it out. This is where the much maligned (another thread!) HR dept. would just sit down and talk it through with her. Sure it takes a bit of sensitivity but I have had to sit down with secret drug abusers, alcoholics, BO sufferers, bad breath purveyors, flaking skin and someone who was not very adept at using the loo shall we say.  You may find that she really is not aware of the problem and will be mortified and that will be enough to cure the habit. She may bring up a medical condition that she can be supported with. At least you will get some response ... just don't point out that everyone is grossed out by it or talking behind her back ... that's just nasty. It just needs to be raised by a partner who has some tact skills!

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By mwngiol
04th Feb 2011 13:05

Replies

I honestly don't think that it's a case of picking on someone who isn't 'in with the crowd', but I have told the people who complained to make sure that if they do insist on talking about it that they make sure she doesn't hear them or pick up on any negativity towards her. We do have a female colleague in her 50's who also isn't really part of any crowd and she was one of the first to bring it up with me, saying "it would be vulgar enough for a man to be doing it but for a young lady I find it especially foul". I refrained from telling her not to be sexist!

I had a word with one of the partners this morning, and he gave me 'why are you telling me/what am i supposed to do' look then said he'd discuss it with the other partners. As far as I'm concerned my part in this is now finished, it's not part of my job to do things like this at the end of the day. I've also made it clear that to my colleagues that my job description is no different from theirs, so if they want to do anything else like this in the future they can count me out!

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04th Feb 2011 14:03

Snorting

Well done!! Have no qualms, what you have done is totally correct. As I said earlier this isn't your problem to resolve it is the partners. If they choose not to do so they risk having an environment which the other employees could object to and under today's legal system SUE them

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09th Feb 2011 11:18

This is brilliant!

I have to say this brightened up a dull wet day in the office

:)

I assume that you have checked that she is in fact awake and it isnt snoring that is the problem?

You could always club together and pay for a somnoplasty (lasering the tissue at the back of the throat) you could maybe make it a fun and profitable thing by having a raffle to see who gets to do it...

Too many similar stories come to mind and as someone who years ago had to do staff appraisals for the (almost) big four firm and scored dress sense as "OK" for everyone (playing safe) only to alienate the whole of the female workforce, i can emapthise entirely with the partners problem.

 

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By cfield
09th Feb 2011 12:28

A little bit of humour

Given her relationship problems with the rest of the office, perhaps a humourous approach might help to solve not just this issue but ease the underlying tensions too. Perhaps if other people make a similar noise immediately after she does it, the subtle hint would make her aware that it was noticed by other people and at the same time they could all have a laugh together about it, which would make her part of the crowd more, assuming she has a sense of humour and doesn't take offence.

We had a guy in the office once who wouldn't stop whistling, so we left a packet of Trill on his desk. He didn't stop whistling but at least it was a good laugh watching him try to figure out who left it.

Are these things allowed now under the new rules or could you end up in front of a tribunal over it?

Chris

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09th Feb 2011 12:34

I have few

Peppa Pig dvds that are left over from management training that you could play in the background, or leave on the desk as a hint...

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09th Feb 2011 13:15

Not Good

 I am sorry but I think most of the replies to this thread are pretty horrible and extremely unfeeling. Most of you should be thoroughly ashamed of yourselves. I was apalled when I read some of the replies.

The poor girl probably has got a medical problem, that is problably why she is such a loner in the first instance. What she needs is someone to sit down with her in a private situation, tell her that they feel really awkward about bringing the matter up, explain that the reason that you are broaching the subject is out of concern for her long term wellbeing, not because you are being nasty and say that you would like to help if you can or maybe even go with her to see someone about it. In general terms ask the poor girl is there is anything you can do to help not condemn her for something she probably isn't even aware of!

When I was training on audit out at one particular job the guys used to cough and spit the other side of a thin partition during their break and it made be feel physically sick. I didn't feel it was my place to approach them at the time as they were not even work colleagues but I would have never complained about them for it without talking to them first myself.

I have also been in a similar situations a few times with employees/work colleagues in the past, and it was really difficult to approach the subject, but if you do it in a gentle manner rather than a threatening/taunting manner and genuinely do want to help her, as well as your colleagues, it should be possible to deal with the situation. It will probably cause additional strain in the short term, as she will feel very conscious of what it has taken for you to broach the subject, but if you make the effort to carry on being pleasant to her afterwards you will either discover she has a medical problem that nothing can be done about, which you will all have to learn to live with, hopefully with a bit of sympathy, or you will be able to help her to deal with the situation by making constructive suggestions e,g, ask your doctor for an appointment with an ear nose and throat specialist and offer to go with her. 

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09th Feb 2011 13:48

but

if she "probably isnt aware of it", should you even raise it?

Isnt that going to make it worse?

Shouldnt everyone else just put up with it?

No one has suggested that she may have a sadistic streak and be doing it deliberately to wind everyone else up and is giggling quietly inside - a long shot i know, but a posssibility.....

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09th Feb 2011 15:42

David

 You do raise a valid point but I don't think everyone else should have to put up with something they clearly find offensive. Short of leaving themselves they clearly cannot avoid the situation. I agree it could make the situtaion worse in the short term but that is where the kindness and willingness to try to help her comes in - even if rebuffed at first. The sad thing is that she will probably be the one to leave but if she is made aware there is a problem that others find difficult to cope with she can deal with it and in the long tem she will be the winner as she could start a new and most probably more fulfilled life with new friends. I am sure most of us can look back on jobs we have had where there have been emabarassing situations we would prefer not to have been involved with.

At one place I worked shortly after I qualified we had a situation where someone suffered very badly from BO. I was the assistant accountant and the token female in any supervisory position so it was deemed that I should be the one that had to tell her. She immediately offered her resignation which I refused to accept. I offered her time off to go to counselling/come to terms, whatever and said that if she felt the same at the end of three months I would allow her to leave but really did not want her to. She was a damn good worker and the firm would have felt the loss greatly.

We then organised various social activities that we could do as an office or just in ones and twos and invited her to each one. On each occasion a different member of the office went to call on her to ask her to join us, giving her the option of meeting up in ones and twos or as a group. After a couple of weeks, when she could see that people were being genuine and still wanted to see her, she eventually accepted an invitation. Within the month she started back to work. Within twelve months she had made a number of friends and I eventually got an invite to her wedding. She was in her 40's and had lived a very lonely, depressing life in a one bed flat up to that time because she felt nobody liked her. Later she said she had often considered suicide but did not have the courage. She had felt that she was the laughing stock of the office but did not understand why. She did not realise she had a problem, one which did turn out to be medical and needed surgery to correct it, nor did she realise that was why she had not been able to make friends. She had become quite bitter and cynical, always having a very sharp response to anything that was said to her.

Luckily we did have a really well balanced group of girls in the office who genuinely wanted to help make her more "part of the group" and a few of the guys were human enough to make the effort too.  That is what made the difference. I am still in touch with her today, just birthday/xmas cards etc but enough to show that it was the right thing to do despite the fact I was terrified about doing it at the time. If I had been able to opt out I probably would. I think that would have been rather sad for all concerned.

 

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By pembo
09th Feb 2011 15:53

disgusted of Tunbridge Wells

Beverleys post made me realise that some of us me included were being frightfully beastly to this poor girl and not reflecting the new age spirit of tolerance and fairness to all...the poor girl needs help not ridicule... even if she does sound like a pig ...nothing wrong with that and personally nothing delights more than a bacon butty first thing in the morning...

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09th Feb 2011 16:53

Have a word

I don't see what the problem is with having a word. Tell her you're concerned about the state of her health and suggest that she go to her GP to get a referral to an ENT specialist. The poor girl shouldn't be putting up with this problem - it could lead to all sorts of problems in the future if her immune system is getting compromised. And tell the other staff to stop being so personal and to get on with their work. If you had a client who slurred his words would they accuse him of being drunk? I remember the look of a check-out girl at my brother-in-law on our way back from his radiotherapy on his throat just because his speech wasn't good. Accountants are supposed to be a little more educated and mature.

And for anyone else that has a member of staff with BO I hope partners do not propose putting a can of deodorant on the offending person's desk. Poor lad didn't know who'd done it and got quite a complex.

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By petero
09th Feb 2011 19:51

Is employee from Caribbean by chance?

Have seen such snorting culturally acceptable in some countries there.  Could be cultural difference - needs highlighting. 

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09th Feb 2011 20:59

Beverley

You had a lucky escape and it worked out for you in the right way.

I have always tried to be supportive as far as i can, sometimes it works sometimes it is taken advantage of, i never do it for a return or warm feeling i do it because it feels right.

I have only once been unable to help someone who obviously needed help. He had been made redundant by his family had been out of work for months and was offering his services for free just to get back in. We had absolutely nothing at the time but i did a letter back saying i would keep a lookout for anything and as soon as we had anything i would be in touch.

I didnt manage to find anything in time because a few weeks later he was in the paper as having killed himself.

At the end of the day life is what it is you take on what you can and do what you can.

The original poster will i am sure be able to filter the good from the off the wall and figure out what should or should not be done.

As far as the carribean comment is concerned:

1. we can t point out cultural differences any more, we are all one in the eyes of the Equal Ops world (not as much fun as black ops)

 

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09th Feb 2011 22:59

Lucky Escape?

 David I am really not sure what you mean by a lucky escape but if you are suggesting I did what I did for personal reward you could not be further from the truth. I hope I am misreading your comments? Many situations like that can be handled effectively if the offer of help is genuine and made sympathetically. I suspect the original poster does not really want to get involved and if that is the case she is not the right person to do it. I have had to deal with many similar situations and it doesn't always have a positive result but at least it was done with the best of intentions.  

If you have managed to get through life with only letting one person down you are the one that is very lucky. We all do it all of the time be it intentionally or unitentionally. I started working with people "in need" whilst still at school, initially working at a soup kitchen and then moving on to other areas. I had proper training as a counsellor through contact with our church as I got older and later I joined the Samaritans but I could tell you of several experiences where people have still gone ahead and committed suicide regardless of any help that has been offered. One of my clients did just that last August and I felt very sad that I had not realised he was in such a bad state. He was a depressive by nature and I doubt if anyone could have stopped him. Sadly it was all over an incorrect demand from HRMC which he did not owe and could not pay. The effect it has had on his wife and young children have been terrible as the way he did it has prevented the family from carrying on any normal pattern of life without him, as apparently was his intention (according to the letter he left). I just thanked God he did not take the children with him. They are the people I really feel for.

I have known many more cases where the person has committed suicide because they could not see a way out, even if others could see a way forward and yes, I have had plenty of people take advantage. You have to learn to recognise that and understand that some people do actually feel better when they have a problem and really do not want to be helped at all.

Yes, I agree that the original poster should be able to filter the good from the off the wall, as you call it, but I responded to the post in the manner I did because I thought there were some pretty cruel and ultimately unhelpful comments on the site, not because I needed to feel good. If the posters of these comments had come face to face with the young lady in question I wonder how many of them would have had the guts to say what they said to her face? It is a very sad reflection on the profession if we see people like this as the butt of a joke. 

If you really think I put the initial post on with a view to getting any glory out of it I am shocked. We have a very profoundly disabled daughter, she loves life and we take her everywhere. People are her favourite toys and she reaches out to everyone. Most just fall into her arms for a cuddle. We have rarely had any of the negative comments a lot of disabled people get - maybe two or three times in 24 years but we did take her to a theatre in London recently and a so called professional gentleman was sitting in front of us. She put her arm round his neck and he became quite unpleasant, telling us that if we had to bring her to theatres we should keep her under control. We didn't respond to his agression but my husband did ask him to think about whether he would expect to have any quality of life if he (or any member of his family) had a car accident and became injured enough to need a wheelchair. He did stress that he hoped that would never happen. The man walked out, but when we left after the perfomance he was waiting for us. He was extremely embarrased at his outburst and apologised profusely. Turns out he was a doctor! He later asked he theatre to pass a letter on to us in which he apologised again but the most important bit of it referred to the fact that my husband's way of dealing with the situation had made him rethink the whole of his attitude to patients. I hope so. It does prove that a calm, considered approach can have a positive effect on people.  

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09th Feb 2011 23:24

i simply meant

that in this kind of situation you were very lucky that it turned out to be a positive outcome by addressing the situation and the person was brought into the fold.

I dont need a lecture about the goods and bads of this world. I understand exactly how you feel about your family issues. You are very lucky to have the daughter with you and to appreciate the time with her. I have no intention of getting in to a competition of life being better or worse because everyones life is different and some are "luckier" than others.

What started, in my eyes at least, as a light hearted way of addressing a problem has turned in to something completely different. I have no intention of letting it drift any further from the subject and must reluctantly click out of this.

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09th Feb 2011 23:49

David

As far as the carribean comment is concerned:

1. we can t point out cultural differences any more, we are all one in the eyes of the Equal Ops world (not as much fun as black ops)

 

Posted by David Melia on Wed, 09/02/2011 - 20:59

 

 

Are "black ops" allowed anymore?  Shoulding it be "multi cultural rainbow coloured non gender specific subversive but definitely not prejudicial operations" now ?

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10th Feb 2011 08:23

@C_D

You can't say rainbow coloured anymore.  It's homophobic.

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10th Feb 2011 09:13

Snorting

I still cannot see why as per my earlier post you cannot give the problem to the partners and get on with your work.If they don't sort it that may produce a different requirement. It is the partners problem not yours. Having run departments in industry with up to 60 staff I would rather know what is going on or causing a work hazard than be left in the dark until the "bomb" explodes and chaos reigns.

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11th Feb 2011 09:40

Bomb explodes

Wow! That woulkd really give the accounts office staff something to talk about - full details to AW please - any chance of pictures?

Talking of pictures - how about one of the woman getting aroused when riding pillion?

With the large number of replies to this it seems that AW's true purpose does not lie in anything to do with accountancy.

P.S. I do not understand why the partners are not already aware of this - don't they ever enter the accounts office? Just like a Dickensian office, are they on the floor above too? Perhaps that's why they are partners and not directors or members.

 

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By mwngiol
11th Feb 2011 09:53

Bernard

As I said in an earlier post, I have told the partners that people have been complaining to me and as far as I'm concerned the matter is now in their hands to deal with or ignore as they see fit.

There was a bit of awkwardness with some people for the rest of the day when I told them that I'd told the partners but that I didn't appreciate being put in that position, which I suppose goes to show how awkward it could be to raise the matter with her personally. I was just annoyed that they were expecting me to talk to the partners when it was them that had a problem with it. Fair enough if I was some kind of 'employee spokesperson/representative' or supervisor/manager but I'm not.

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11th Feb 2011 10:36

Snorting

Well done for doing the right thing.

 Sorry I missed that whilst viewing all the sharing/caring politically correct advice offered by other postings.

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14th Feb 2011 16:41

Trill example ?

a mystery packet of Lockets on the desk, until they get the message !

"Why am I the only person getting these Lockets ?" - "Why, because you are the only one who needs them !"

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By pembo
14th Feb 2011 17:34

The Snorters Speech

....and in the reflected last night glory of King Colin how immensely gratifying to see that your post is currently topping the read stats by a mile far exceeding CDs employee/slaves post (even through admittedly he has more comments)....you are therefore an early contender for the AWEB annual "most read post not really connected to accountancy" award that I suppose is a bit of a reflection on something...

Perhaps the powers that be ought to consider an UITF abstract "accounting for snorters" particularly in the context of the clarified ISAs and risk assessment......but then again you'd only get about 5 reads and no comments....

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15th Feb 2011 09:47

Real reason

Yes, but only because the readers thought some other substance was being 'snorted' ...

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18th Feb 2011 12:23

Am I wrong for laughing?

Just wanted to say that although i totally agree with the answers that call for tolerance and kindness towards this employee - I also haven't laughed so hard in ages!!!

Thanks for brightening up my Friday.

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