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I work in a cubicle farm. Recently, someone who I believe may be a new employee moved into a cube a row away from mine. I've not been introduced to him and we are antisocial engineers so I really don't know who he is. All I know is that every day whenever he eats something he slurps and smacks and makes the loudest, most disgusting noises when he eats.

We don't have a lunch room, so everyone eats at their desks.

Most of the time, I've just been putting on headphones. But I personally do not like wearing my over the ear headphones while I myself am eating.

Is there anything I can do to get him to quit slurping? Since I don't know him, passive aggressive responses are acceptable. I don't have any friends in the immediate area, so saying something that the slurper can overhear is not really an option.

To me, it seems insincere to introduce myself only to ask him to stop not to mention I'm pretty awkward at new employee introductions anyway (again, antisocial engineer here). However, if this is the best solution, how would you go about it?

  • <comment removed> @Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 If you have an answer, please post it below. Thanks. – Robert Cartaino Nov 19 '17 at 14:31
  • Do you know where this guy comes from? To be more exact, do you know if he comes from some country where eating aloud is considered polite? – DarkPurpleShadow Nov 23 '17 at 7:42
  • @DarkPurpleShadow India I believe. Is eating aloud considered polite there? – superstar Nov 28 '17 at 23:01
  • @superstar I don't know for sure, but I will try to find out. If it's polite, you are lucky and can present it as something cultural. – DarkPurpleShadow Dec 4 '17 at 21:46
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I would avoid any kind of direct confrontation, because this is a sensitive topic. He is probably not aware of his problem, so addressing this issue openly can cause embarrassment.

Involving other people is also not the best route, as someone could give you away and then you will be known as the one who talks ill of other colleagues.

I would leave an anonymous and gentle note stating the problem on his desk. If your identity would become obvious by leaving this note, the next best solution would be an e-mail from a manager asking people to eat more quietly in their cubicles, avoid loud music and other common rules of etiquette.

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That is a very awkward situation to be in. I work in an office, with 4 walls and a door, with one other guy. He quit a few months ago and I was so happy the day he quit. He drank about 8 Diet Mountain Dew cans a day and ate about 5 bags of chips a day. Needless to say, all those things are EXTREMELY annoying!

We were friends and usually talk about all kinds of stuff like politics and sports. But I've NEVER brought this up with him.

I personally don't think anything you do or say to him will be received well. If you really see no choice but to voice your opinions, the best way to go about doing that would be what you suggested:

  1. Find a coworker and talk to the coworker about the "loud eater" in the office. Sentences like, "Do you hear that loud munching and slurping during lunch every day? It is super distracting". You had mentioned that there is no one in the immediate area that is close to you, but it doesn't really matter if they're in the same area as you. You are just talking to your friend about an annoying cubicle-mate.
  2. If there is no friend willing to come around this co-worker so you can do the passive-aggressive thing, then there is always the magical telephone. Call someone, or pretend to call someone. Talk about casual stuff like "Oh yeah, how was the party last night? I am sorry I couldn't make it.." and just chat for a minute. And then at the moment when you hear the slurping, just say "Oh god its that time of the day, someone around me eats so loudly, it is extremely disturbing".
  3. How tall are your cubicle walls? If you stood up, would the co-worker be able to see you? If yes, just stand up and look around to see who is being so loud. And then sit back down. Do that every time you hear loud slurping. Just see past the co-worker, but never directly at them.

I think the trick here is to address the distraction without mentioning the distractor. That way, no feelings are hurt. Since it is a cubicle situation, it shouldn't be hard to act like you don't know who it is.

Also, quoting Oleg's answer, there are the indirect ways of doing so: wear headphones when the co-worker is eating and eat at a different time.

Please remember, loud eating is a hard habit to break. Some times, it is something they cannot even help. I used to get ulcers in my mouth when I was a kid and I couldn't eat unless I eat opening my mouth open wide because the ulcers come in the inside of my lip. So my loud eating could not have been stopped for me. I'd feel so self-conscious about it, I usually ate when there was no one around me. Not everyone recognizes that as a problem. Not everyone do it as a choice. Not everyone can actually help it.

Take all that into consideration when you confront this issue.

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I would go up to him, and say:

Excuse me, sir. Can you please quite down a little bit with your eating?

If he gets offended, say:

I didn't mean to hurt your feelings. I just am trying to do some work, and it's too loud.

You can say that in any way you want.

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