Each week, Inc. staff writer Nadine Heintz will help you tackle office etiquette problems both big and small.
I work in a very professional environment in midtown Manhattan. Shockingly enough, my boss often clips his fingernails during meetings. I find this mortifying, but I'm not sure how to let him know without getting fired...or jeopardizing my raise. Any advice?
Mortified in Midtown
You're not the only one facing this problem. I've seen people clip their fingernails on the Staten Island Ferry and on the subway. And just today, a friend was complaining that the person in the cubicle next to him was clipping his nails. I must admit that if I have a jagged nail, I may discreetly remedy the situation with a pair of cuticle scissors at my desk. But never on the subway...or in a meeting! To perform a full-on snipping in public is just plain wrong. It's a private affair that should be attended to in the privacy of one's home, or, in emergency situations, in the nearest restroom. To make matters worse, most people who have the gall to pare in public also seem to think it's perfectly acceptable to let their snippings fly through the air with reckless abandon. Is this just a New York thing?
Sadly enough, most public clippers seem to get off scot-free. In the subway, I'm usually afraid to say anything lest I provoke a stabbing with the offending instrument. In the meeting room, it's even tougher. How can you tell your boss he's grossing you out? Unless he has a great sense of humor, that wouldn't go over too well. I don't think addressing the issue in front of others is a good idea, either. That would be embarrassing for both of you. In fact, it may be wise to handle the whole matter anonymously. Perhaps you could type up a polite note asking him to stop, and leave it on his desk chair while he's out of the office. Or, you could even print out this page and leave it in his mailbox. It's perfectly plausible that he may not even realize that other people have a problem with his clipping. When he finds out, he may be slightly embarrassed, but he'll probably leave his nail kit out of the meeting room. As far as I can see, the only other alternative is to keep your mouth shut and sit as far away from the flying fingernails as possible.
Have a dilemma for Nadine? Send her an e-mail and check back here Tuesdays for the answer.