Author Topic: Being startled at work.  (Read 11553 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

RingTailedLemur

  • Hero Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 2847
  • Rudeness is a small person's imitation of power.
Re: Being startled at work.
« Reply #75 on: March 05, 2013, 01:50:13 PM »
I am befuddled by some of the responses on this thread. I don't understand the hostility toward the OP for having a reflexive response to stimuli. People are different, we have quirks. If you don't startle easily, good for you! OP does. She's working on the best way to handle it.

As an aside, I don't understand how a reflex can be unprofessional. Is closing my eyes while sneezing unprofessional? Is blinking because I have something in my eye unprofessional? Personally, I find the supervisor's anger unprofessional. She knows this is an issue with the OP, yet she persists in aggravating the OP. Is it really a big imposition to give a little knock before entering someone's office (cube, work area, whatever)?

I completely agree.  I think the word "unprofessional" is thrown about too much here.  We are all human.

RebeccainGA

  • Hero Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 1207
  • formerly RebeccainAR
Re: Being startled at work.
« Reply #76 on: March 05, 2013, 01:55:22 PM »
I am befuddled by some of the responses on this thread. I don't understand the hostility toward the OP for having a reflexive response to stimuli. People are different, we have quirks. If you don't startle easily, good for you! OP does. She's working on the best way to handle it.

As an aside, I don't understand how a reflex can be unprofessional. Is closing my eyes while sneezing unprofessional? Is blinking because I have something in my eye unprofessional? Personally, I find the supervisor's anger unprofessional. She knows this is an issue with the OP, yet she persists in aggravating the OP. Is it really a big imposition to give a little knock before entering someone's office (cube, work area, whatever)?

Parking a big ol' POD here. I totally don't get the animosity that some folks are showing here - glass houses, anyone? We're here for civility.

And no, an unconscious reflex isn't rude. We don't think it's rude if someone passes gas unexpectedly (gross, maybe, embarrassing, yes, but not rude unless they're fanning and whooping) or coughs, are we? This is the same kind of thing. Most people would startle if someone came up behind them suddenly and started talking - a polite person realizes this and mitigates it by announcing their presence (saying something, a polite clearing of the throat, a knock) before they are right behind someone.

camlan

  • Super Hero!
  • ****
  • Posts: 8506
Re: Being startled at work.
« Reply #77 on: March 05, 2013, 02:04:53 PM »
I have struggled with how to respond to this post and don't know how well I can convey what I'm thinking.

Of course the OP's reaction is unexpected.  Especially in the work force.  Of course she also seems to realize that most of the onus is on her to solve the problem.  I don't startle easily and I still hate to sit with my back to the door.  Having a desk with facing away from a doorway is just not good design.  But assuming that there is no opportunity to move it, the mirror is an excellent idea.

Here's where I stand:  I don't necessarily think that coworkers should have to approach the OP in an 'other than normal' manner.  They shouldn't have to stomp, bang on walls, etc.   BUT, I also don't think it's polite (in any situation) to just walk up behind someone and start talking.  Knocking, clearing the throat, and trying to get their attention is some way is just good practice...and I think, even expected.  Whether someone startles easily or not, I think it's rude to start a conversation before you are even sure if you have thier attention.

As for the OP's reaction to being startled.  Yes, it's out there.  But, she obviously doesn't do it on purpose.  It's an involuntary reaction that is more extreme than how most of us react in the same situation.  It's not like she's using this as some sort of punishment against those that surprise her or "don't make accommodation for her".  She can't help it.  And I think yelling at her in response is rude.

Of all the suggestions on this thread, the mirror is the best.  OP, try that.  I think your former supervisor should at least knock when she enters your office, but it's unlikely you'll be successful in getting her to do that.  The mirror may be your best bet.

I've struggled with this question as well. I agree with everything bah has said.

A startle reflex can only be controlled so much. And anyone can be startled. If I'm really concentrating on something, people walking up to my desk can startle me.

I've always knocked on office doors, or the hard edge of a cube wall, or announced myself when I was still several feet away from the person I'm approaching--even if they are facing me as I approach, because they might not be looking at me. That has always just seemed like good manners to me. You are entering someone's space; you let them know you are coming.

Nothing is impossible, the word itself says, “I’m possible!” –Audrey Hepburn


Tabby Uprising

  • Member
  • **
  • Posts: 451
Re: Being startled at work.
« Reply #78 on: March 05, 2013, 02:25:31 PM »
Reflecting back on my own experiences, I can say that knocking hasn't been an absolute office norm for me.  By and large, if someone softly tapped on my open door to announce themselves, it was usually a co-worker or a subordinate.  Supervisors typically walked right in.  I don't startle anymore than the average person and never gave either approach much thought.  Every office has their own norms that evolve from the culture of the business. 

And more often than not, when a supervisor was coming into my office and immediately began to speak, it was due to the fact there was a pressing issue that needed to be addressed.  Tabby, can you pull up the notes for the Smith case for me?  I have a call with their attorney in 10 minutes.    Stuff like that.  The intention wasn't to be rude, they just needed something.  It's a business.  A lot of interactions are need based. It wasn't a norm that every dialogue we had needed to be prefaced by a quick social nicety. Again, that doesn't mean we can be deliberately rude to one another, but the emphasis is on getting something done so we can move on to the other 100 fires needing to be put out.

Essentially, work is going to be a place where people have a lot running through their minds.  I don't perceive the supervisor to be willfully unkind.  I just figure as she approaches Mom21Son, her inner dialogue may be along the lines of, "Got to grab the budget numbers for the conference call at noon.  Bob can't make the 3:30 meeting and I have to pick up the files from Jill.  If we don't get approval on this contract, Big Boss may have to let some people go..."

If people remember to knock or make a bit of noise, that's fine.  I'd do it if I knew I'd temporarily terrify someone otherwise.  And I have a soft step too!  Office ninja and all  ;)

Wordgeek

  • Global Moderator
  • *****
  • Posts: 2007
Re: Being startled at work.
« Reply #79 on: March 05, 2013, 04:14:05 PM »
Those of you who do not wish to be constructive may take yourselves elsewhere.

Everyone else, carry on.

Docslady21

  • Jr. Member
  • *
  • Posts: 86
Re: Being startled at work.
« Reply #80 on: March 05, 2013, 05:18:03 PM »
My suggestions are the following:

Mirror.

A request for visitors to knock. And I wouldn't say "knock or you'll scare me," I would say "please knock because I am deep in concentration, thank you."

Move your desk or chair.

I also think there is nothing wrong, in the future if you are scolded, with saying, "I know you're not a serial killer. (smile) I just get very focused in my work. If you don't want me to jump, please don't just walk in without knocking or saying hello from the doorway."


Tabby Uprising

  • Member
  • **
  • Posts: 451
Re: Being startled at work.
« Reply #81 on: March 05, 2013, 05:22:08 PM »
Thank you for the responses.  I do agree that it is my problem.  It is not possible to rearrange the room.  However I did hear today that "my area" would be moved at the end of the month due to corporate changes.  I will still have my area but in a unknown area of the building.  Do you think it is ok to suggest an area?

SamiHami, therapy has helped.  It really is much better than it used to be.  I know this stems from my past and I am really doing better.  Most of the time I can laugh about it when it happens.

I definitely think it's fine to suggest an area. Especially if your main request would be a set-up that allows you to face toward the door.  I would think that should be easy enough to accommodate. 

Cutenoob

  • Hero Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 1649
Re: Being startled at work.
« Reply #82 on: March 05, 2013, 07:54:27 PM »
OP: the problem I see here is that if you are startled you make more noise/reaction than average people. That behavior causes some rough spots with other people. You have done your best to modify this but are still easily startled. You are asking for ideas on how to help.

My thoughts: mirror; has been thought of. Cheap one? Back side of a CD. The kraft paper is a great idea. Others have worked with this issue of noise by making graduated noises to alert you. What about knocking; it's been said but, hang a slab of wood (4" x 4"), decorated, text "Please Knock". This might be a sound 'different' than office noise, so you would hear it and acknowledge it easier. I do suggest some more personal behavior modification, but that may not be possible at this time. These suggestions above might be more immediate, and work enough for you to learn them.

My experience: Something happened to me with my neck. After that, for about a year, if someone put their hands on my neck or shoulders (normally personal friends!) I would react by punching them, or whacking their face. Of course, after I whacked them, I explained, and they knew about my neck reflex. I STILL twitch a bit when someone puts their hands around my neck - playing around, wrestling, just having fun - but the reflex has died down so much that they don't get a black eye :).

Good luck, and I hope these ideas help.

ladyknight1

  • Super Hero!
  • ****
  • Posts: 6888
  • Operating the logic hammer since 1987.
Re: Being startled at work.
« Reply #83 on: March 05, 2013, 08:19:44 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?

To enter someone's space without knocking or speaking to them is a major issue at my office. The quickest way to make waves is to enter someone's office without being invited in.

Outdoor Girl

  • Super Hero!
  • ****
  • Posts: 13524
Re: Being startled at work.
« Reply #84 on: March 05, 2013, 08:27:39 PM »
I work in cubeville.  Most people knock on the wood part of the dividers when they come to the door opening, even though there is no door or walls.  I think it is impolite to walk into someone's workspace quietly and then start talking to them.

I've been startled a few times; I tend to jump in my seat.  Occasionally, I will squeak, too, but usually I just jump.  Every one of my coworkers has immediately apologized for startling me when it has happened.  (With one exception - they were trying to scare me out of the hiccups I couldn't get rid of.  It worked!)

OP, I think your x-supervisor is being rude.

If your next workspace is a full office, I have an out there suggestion, if it is allowed.  Hang a beaded curtain over your doorway.  You'll hear it when someone walks through.
I have CDO.  It is like OCD but with the letters in alphabetical order, as they should be.
Ontario

Gyburc

  • Hero Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 1666
Re: Being startled at work.
« Reply #85 on: March 06, 2013, 06:42:17 AM »
I think that some of the previous posts have been a bit too harsh. After all, Mom21son is not saying that she jumps out of her seat every time someone knocks on her office door or calls her name.

The specific situation is this: her former supervisor walks quietly into Mom's office, then right up behind her, and then just starts speaking from within arm's reach of her. I don't have an excessive startle reflex, but that would make me jump out of my chair! Not to mention the security problems that could arise if Mom were working on something sensitive, and ex-supervisor didn't give her the chance to log out/minimize the window. I say the former supervisor is behaving rudely.

I like the suggestion of the beaded curtain, by the way - or would it be possible to put something on the office door that would make a noise whenever the door moved?
When you look into the photocopier, the photocopier also looks into you

wyliefool

  • Hero Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 1855
Re: Being startled at work.
« Reply #86 on: March 07, 2013, 05:04:52 PM »
If you have an actual door (as opposed to just an empty doorway), could you close it partially? Not all the way closed to invite suspicion, but closed enough that people have to push on it to get in. Then you might hear the squeak of the door, or you could even put a jangly thing on the doorknob that would make noise when someone pushed the door open. Like those Christmas doorknob decorations with a jingle bell.

I do actually think it's more polite to get someone's attention before launching into what you want to say, especially in a work setting where people are, presumably, concentrating on their work. I think one should make sure one isn't interrupting a critical task, for example. This could be achieved through knocking; but it could also be achieved through clearing one's throat or saying something like, "Hi, got a minute?" Some of those things might unfortunately trigger startle reflexes, while others don't; but I think asking for the initial noise isn't rude. So, I don't think a "please knock" sign would be rude, for example.

This. There's one guy here who walks up behind me and just starts talking. By the time I've become aware he's there, taken out my headphones, and turned to face him he's halfway thru and I have to ask him to start over. If I'm really concentrating on something, I can get startled.

It's basic office etiquette, IME, to knock and get someone's attention before you start talking at them. Don't do so and you may not convey all the information you intend because it may take them a moment to focus on you.

If the mirror doesn't help, how about one of those thingies that makes a noise when it detects movement? They sell them at holiday times--Santa hohoho's, for example--and there's always the Billy Bass that used to be all over the junk stores--but less obnoxious ones probably exist.

DistantStar

  • Member
  • **
  • Posts: 569
Re: Being startled at work.
« Reply #87 on: March 08, 2013, 01:02:03 PM »
My coworkers learned how easily startled I can be when I was on the phone with a customer and a supervisor snuck up on me and I shrieked into the phone - apologies ensued on multiple fronts (mine to the customer, hers to me) and it's not happened again.  Ever since I have tried to pay more attention to what's behind me, so it's not happened again, but I don't consider it unprofessional of me as she really scared me (by accident!).

My back is to my cubicle door, unfortunately, but my peripheral vision isn't bad...if I'm paying attention.

mbbored

  • Super Hero!
  • ****
  • Posts: 5315
    • Budget Grad Student
Re: Being startled at work.
« Reply #88 on: March 09, 2013, 10:51:24 AM »
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.

I think this is a great idea in combination with the mirror. I understand that MOM21SOn has a large startle reflex but sometimes it's so hard to remember every single person's quirks. If I saw a coworker with a sign, I would make more of an effort to knock or clear my throat or something every time.

dharmaexpress

  • Jr. Member
  • *
  • Posts: 63
Re: Being startled at work.
« Reply #89 on: March 09, 2013, 10:58:20 AM »
This is an interesting thread, because it reminds me of something that happened last week.  I saw my coworker at the airport - it's loud, bustling, and he was sitting and reading, thoroughly absorbed and tuning out the noise around him (though he didn't have headphones on).  As I got closer, I realized he wasn't aware that I was approaching him, and then I felt like I was getting so close, I was going to startle him when he did realize, so I said his name kind of loudly, and his head jerked in my direction.  He was still mildly startled, but I knew I'd really scare him if I didn't warn him, and he was holding coffee.

It was no problem.  But it puts me in mind that I think it's kind of rude to not be aware that you are actually sneaking up on someone who is utterly unaware of your approach.  I would clear my throat, rustle papers, something...before I would just be less than a foot away from someone and start talking.

Not rude, that's not the right word, inconsiderate. Slightly oblivious - which is *going* to happen in an office where people are focused on tasks.

Anyway, the mirror.  I've always had one because my startle response makes me irate and no one needs that at work.   ;D