Author Topic: Being startled at work.  (Read 10536 times)

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Ms_Cellany

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Re: Being startled at work.
« Reply #30 on: March 04, 2013, 04:59:23 PM »
Someone should not have to change the way they walk because a co-worker can't control their startle reflex. I'm sorry, but this is terribly unprofessional.

Like so much in life, a little courtesy goes a long way. I have a *very* strong startle reflex. I put a sign outside my cubicle that says "Warning: Easily startled inhabitant / Please make noise before entering."

My coworkers all oblige. Some knock, some say, "knock knock" or "hello," (my boss's tactic, saying "noise" as a word, is funniest).  Everyone is happy. It's not onerous for anyone.

ETA that actually, treating it as a shared joke makes it fun.
« Last Edit: March 04, 2013, 05:01:10 PM by Ms_Cellany »
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Re: Being startled at work.
« Reply #31 on: March 04, 2013, 05:16:48 PM »
I am often startled, sometimes on occasion it will cause my eyes to well up and my chin quiver.  Please don't laugh, I am serious.

I have worked with my coworkers for a long time, some for 10 plus years.  I have been startled many times over the years.  99% remember I startle easily because my outburst and jumping has startled them.

The one woman is a supervisor, she is no longer my direct supervisor but she was for 10 years.  She knows of this issue.

One day a week I am assigned to a special project.  To do this project I am in a small office with my back to the door.  When I am in this office, most of my coworkers announce that they are on their way.  Usually with stomping their feet and saying, "mom, here I come!"  All is well.

The supervisor walks very softly and just starts talking when she is behind me.  After the third time of her startling me today and me startling her, she yelled at me.  "STOP DOING THAT!  IT DRIVES ME NUTS! NOONE HERE IS A KILLER!"  Since my heart was racing so fast I was only able to mumble a "sorry."

When she was my supervisor we had several disagreements.  Now that she is no longer my direct sup, we get along very well.  I would like us to keep getting along very well.

Any advice on how I can address this with her without rocking the boat?

TIA!

First, her reaction, as someone in a supervisory position, is extremely unprofessional.

When I am concentrating extremely hard, I will not notice people in my space. Add to that, my area can be approached from 2 sides. I'm really not understanding how I could go to therapy to be trained not to jump when I am surprised as people have advised. Isn't that a natural reaction? Yes. Instinct, in fact. It doesn't matter that you are "safe" and that no one is a killer. It's an inborn response to the unexpected entering into your space while you are vulnerable--even in the office.

Also, don't most people lightly tap on the door and stand back a few feet and call out the other person's name? That's what I do when I approach another person in the office. I never wait until I am right behind them to start speaking because I don't want to startle them. It's just polite to do your best not to scare the crackers out of your coworkers while their back is turned or they are concentrating.

One shouldn't hope to be trained from jumping a bit when startled, it is a natural response, and for good reason.  But that's not what the OP does.  She has an "outburst and jumping" that is so extreme it in turn startles the approacher right back, and it "causes [her] eyes to well up and [her] chin quiver." Anyone can be startled occasionally, but if she's often near tears over it, it is unprofessional and its something she is solely responsible for and something she might consider getting medical help over, or something that might mean she is simply not suited for her job. At the very least the mirror and perhaps even a sign "please knock" are steps she can take to alleviate the issue.

MOM21SON

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Re: Being startled at work.
« Reply #32 on: March 04, 2013, 05:33:52 PM »
OP here.

I hope I can clarify things.  First, I did not ask anyone to stomp loud or yell out, they do it on their own after they were  startled when I reacted to being startled.  We actually have laughed about the overreacting that some do, they are laughing and it makes me laugh.

Sometimes I am startled at home by DH or DS.  DS apologizes for sneaking up on me and DH says, "well who did you think it was?"  I have a exfriend that used to do it to me at a activity and thought it was hysterical.  That is not a problem anymore because I don't do the activity anymore.

I have stated that I know this is my issue,  However, I don't really think it is polite to just quietly walk in and stand directly behind me and start talking. 

I am very focused at my job and often deep into reading something.

And today I was entering the rest room and sup was walking out and I startled her and we both laughed.


Judah

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Re: Being startled at work.
« Reply #33 on: March 04, 2013, 05:39:28 PM »

I have stated that I know this is my issue,  However, I don't really think it is polite to just quietly walk in and stand directly behind me and start talking. 

I am very focused at my job and often deep into reading something.

And today I was entering the rest room and sup was walking out and I startled her and we both laughed.

But it's not impolite to quietly walk in and stand behind someone and start talking. The bathroom situation was handled fine. We all get startled sometimes, but you just laugh it off and move on.
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oceanus

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Re: Being startled at work.
« Reply #34 on: March 04, 2013, 05:40:35 PM »
I think it is as much  the supervisors issue that she is apparently so irritated by this, but not prepared to make any accommodation, as it is OP's issue that she startles easily.

I don't think it is at all. I would be irritated by this too. Adults should be able to control their reactions in a professional setting and if they can't to the degree that they quiver at something as normal as someone walking near them, then they should be taking steps to solve the problem. It's so extreme that I can't see how it's on anyone else to make accommodations for something like this.

[snip]


Exactly.

And I fail to see how mirrors would solve the problem.  She can't look at mirrors all day; she's supposed to be doing a job.

If she is quivering, welling up in tears, and having outbursts there is something seriously wrong.  The only responsibility that the supervisor *might* have would be to refer her to the Employee Assistance Program or a medical professional.

I don't think co-workers have any responsibility to accommodate her, aside from normal courtesies they would extend to everyonbe else.

(Still curious if OP has those extreme reactions in other places – stores, parking lots, walking down the street, etc.  But even if she doesn’t, there is something seriously wrong and I hope OP gets help.)
« Last Edit: March 04, 2013, 05:43:34 PM by oceanus »

Moray

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Re: Being startled at work.
« Reply #35 on: March 04, 2013, 05:44:44 PM »
I'm curious what you'd like to see happen. Making undue noise seems rude to the other coworkers, and if just speaking normally, not jumping into your cube and going "BLAAAAH", causes that much of a fright, I don't know what the solution is. It would be reasonable to ask your coworkers to knock before entering your cube, but that seems likely to startle you, too, and they may or may not remember to do it.
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Docslady21

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Re: Being startled at work.
« Reply #36 on: March 04, 2013, 05:45:00 PM »
OP here.

I hope I can clarify things.  First, I did not ask anyone to stomp loud or yell out, they do it on their own after they were  startled when I reacted to being startled.  We actually have laughed about the overreacting that some do, they are laughing and it makes me laugh.

Sometimes I am startled at home by DH or DS.  DS apologizes for sneaking up on me and DH says, "well who did you think it was?"  I have a exfriend that used to do it to me at a activity and thought it was hysterical.  That is not a problem anymore because I don't do the activity anymore.

I have stated that I know this is my issue,  However, I don't really think it is polite to just quietly walk in and stand directly behind me and start talking. 

I am very focused at my job and often deep into reading something.

And today I was entering the rest room and sup was walking out and I startled her and we both laughed.

That's the part that makes me feel like it's not all your issue. It's common courtesy to announce yourself--especially when in a quiet environment where people are intensely focused. At my office, it's just not done. You don't go up to someone without announcing yourself. Most of us wear headphones, so we knock on the desk as we approach from the side. They feel it and don't jump out of their skin. Any time I am reading or writing intently and someone "sneaks" up to my desk, I'm going to jump. Maybe a huge jump, maybe a little flutter. But it's going to happen. Sometimes with an utterance of some sort. Maybe I scare them right back, but honestly, that's what you get for sneaking up like Rambo on someone whose job is reading for a living. I'm in Word Land. You've gotta call me back to earth, not just show up in my little word room unannounced. I can't remember which poster said it about the police officer, but that's an apt description of it feeling as if someone has apparated into your cubicle from another realm like Harry freakin' Potter. (In case no one can tell, I hate being stealth cubicled.)

Docslady21

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Re: Being startled at work.
« Reply #37 on: March 04, 2013, 05:49:32 PM »

I have stated that I know this is my issue,  However, I don't really think it is polite to just quietly walk in and stand directly behind me and start talking. 

I am very focused at my job and often deep into reading something.

And today I was entering the rest room and sup was walking out and I startled her and we both laughed.

But it's not impolite to quietly walk in and stand behind someone and start talking. The bathroom situation was handled fine. We all get startled sometimes, but you just laugh it off and move on.

I actually think it is impolite to walk into someone's space without announcing it first. You (general) are interrupting someone working. The polite thing would be to ensure you are even welcome to make such an interruption. A cubicle is an office, it just has open sides. You should really knock on the wall and announce yourself, not just go right up in someone's space and begin chatting like they are expecting you.

OP, do you startle if someone knocks first?

bansidhe

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Re: Being startled at work.
« Reply #38 on: March 04, 2013, 05:53:38 PM »
I actually think it is impolite to walk into someone's space without announcing it first. You (general) are interrupting someone working. The polite thing would be to ensure you are even welcome to make such an interruption. A cubicle is an office, it just has open sides. You should really knock on the wall and announce yourself, not just go right up in someone's space and begin chatting like they are expecting you.

This. Where I work, people usually knock on the metal edge of the cube divider. It's not cool to creep up on people.

I don't have that much of a startle reflex, but I apparently walk really quietly and have accidentally startled others in the past. I learned not to do that, as it's rude.
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Re: Being startled at work.
« Reply #39 on: March 04, 2013, 05:58:45 PM »
I actually think it is impolite to walk into someone's space without announcing it first. You (general) are interrupting someone working. The polite thing would be to ensure you are even welcome to make such an interruption. A cubicle is an office, it just has open sides. You should really knock on the wall and announce yourself, not just go right up in someone's space and begin chatting like they are expecting you.

This. Where I work, people usually knock on the metal edge of the cube divider. It's not cool to creep up on people.

I don't have that much of a startle reflex, but I apparently walk really quietly and have accidentally startled others in the past. I learned not to do that, as it's rude.

This hasn't been typical behavior anywhere I've worked. What is typical is to walk into the cubicle and say, "excuse me", "hi" or say their name. But that's still walking in and starting to talk and I don't see it as rude at all. And from the OP says, that would still startle her. 

We don't even knock on office doors unless they're closed.
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MOM21SON

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Re: Being startled at work.
« Reply #40 on: March 04, 2013, 06:00:57 PM »
A knock would not startle me.  And I said on occassion my eyes have welled up and my chin quivered.  I am not some mouse afraid of my own shadow.  Heck, there are even times I am not startled. 

I am not startled while out and about shopping, talking, laughing, eating.  I sure didn't mean to come across as a scared person that has some drastic overreaction every waking moment.

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Re: Being startled at work.
« Reply #41 on: March 04, 2013, 06:05:27 PM »
Sounds like the best thing is to ask your coworkers to knock. Nothing major, just "Hey, could you knock when you enter my cube? Thanks!"

Hmm, I wonder why it is that a knock in your immediate vicinity would be ok, but someone's voice would startle you. Something to think about, for sure!
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Ms_Cellany

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Re: Being startled at work.
« Reply #42 on: March 04, 2013, 06:07:46 PM »

Hmm, I wonder why it is that a knock in your immediate vicinity would be ok, but someone's voice would startle you.

I'm going to guess that a knock is a neutral, background-ish sort of sound. A voice is "CARP!  I've been snuck up on!"
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MOM21SON

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Re: Being startled at work.
« Reply #43 on: March 04, 2013, 06:08:00 PM »
Sounds like the best thing is to ask your coworkers to knock. Nothing major, just "Hey, could you knock when you enter my cube? Thanks!"

Hmm, I wonder why it is that a knock in your immediate vicinity would be ok, but someone's voice would startle you. Something to think about, for sure!

A knock before entering is very different that standing 2 inches behind me and starting to talk.

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Re: Being startled at work.
« Reply #44 on: March 04, 2013, 06:12:40 PM »
I actually think it is impolite to walk into someone's space without announcing it first. You (general) are interrupting someone working. The polite thing would be to ensure you are even welcome to make such an interruption. A cubicle is an office, it just has open sides. You should really knock on the wall and announce yourself, not just go right up in someone's space and begin chatting like they are expecting you.

This. Where I work, people usually knock on the metal edge of the cube divider. It's not cool to creep up on people.

I don't have that much of a startle reflex, but I apparently walk really quietly and have accidentally startled others in the past. I learned not to do that, as it's rude.

This hasn't been typical behavior anywhere I've worked. What is typical is to walk into the cubicle and say, "excuse me", "hi" or say their name. But that's still walking in and starting to talk and I don't see it as rude at all. And from the OP says, that would still startle her. 

We don't even knock on office doors unless they're closed.

This. I was also thinking that. Don't most people who come up to you (general you) in a place of work (bar knocking and bar being in an enclosed office) sort of walk up to you and start talking at the same time? I've never known any normal interaction where someone goes "hi I'm here!" in front of you before they start talking. Normally if someones needs to talk to someone who's back is turned, they'd either say their name to get them to turn around or walk around to their side so they're standing next to them, lean their head forward so the persons face is in their eyeline whilst they begin to start talking. Or gently tap them on the shoulder or arm to get them to turn around.

You say that you are startled when they are behind you and suddenly start talking but wouldn't you be just as startled by their announcement that they are about to come close to you as well? Wouldn't you be just as startled by them making their presence known to you before they started talking? Is it the case that you want people who are far away from you to announce to you that they are about to come near you to talk to you?
« Last Edit: March 04, 2013, 06:17:29 PM by Tilt Fairy »