Advice for a co-worker who does not enjoy breathing second-hand fumes.
Q: The woman who shares my office recently began using electronic cigarettes. Even though our company has banned all types of smoking, “Carla” completely ignores this policy. She says that vaping is not a problem because e-cigs are much safer than regular cigarettes.
While electronic smoking may be better for Carla, I do not enjoy breathing her second-hand fumes. I have tried not to express my irritation because Carla is old enough to be my mother, and I don’t want to be disrespectful. However, I know I have become increasingly grumpy with her. What should I do about this?
A. While confronting a much older colleague can be disconcerting, the strength of your position should boost your confidence. Being subjected to a vapor-filled office is not only a justifiable complaint, but also a clear violation of company policy. So even though Carla may seem parental, try to view her as just another co-worker.
In any job, the ability to calmly discuss differences is a very important skill. As you have discovered, unresolved frustrations have a way of showing up in your behavior, which only tends to worsen the relationship. So instead of continuing to convey irritation through grumpiness, you need to raise this issue in a pleasantly assertive manner.
For example: “Carla, I probably should have mentioned this sooner, but the fumes from your electronic cigarettes really bother me. Company policy states that no smoking of any type is allowed, and that includes vaping. Since we have to share this space, I need to ask you not to smoke in the office.”
Carla may resent this request, but as long as she complies, your problem is solved. However, if she continues to pollute your workspace, calmly advise her that you will need to discuss the issue with management. If she still persists in this offensive and prohibited behavior, then her maturity has clearly not caught up with her age.