Humming Coworker

Question:

My office mate hums every so often. It’s really annoying and totally breaks my concentration. It’s not like she hums a tune, she just does a little hum when she stands up, sits down or hangs up the phone.

I’ve mentioned this to her several times and she always looks at me like I’m out of my mind and says, “I had no idea, are you sure?” Last week she told me to bring it to her attention when she started humming, and I’ve done it several dozen times, and now she’s annoyed with me.

Is her humming a sign of mental illness? Do I need to be worried?

Answer:

Although individuals with autism or schizophrenia hum as a way of coping with stress, others who hum do it as a coping mechanism. Like your office mate, they generally don’t realize it.

Humming creates sound waves that vibrate and stimulate the production of nitric oxide, which triggers an immune response, regulates blood pressure and creates positive mood changes. Those who share an office with hummers find it annoying or creepy.

Even though she asked you to bring it to her attention, she may now believe you’re being too sensitive. Your best defense may be to do what bed partners of snorers do and tape her humming. Once she realizes what she sounds like, and that she’s really humming, she may be able to break her unconscious habit.

Whatever you do, play nice and don’t start humming in retaliation.

© Dr. Lynne Curry is author of ”Beating the Workplace Bully” and ”Solutions” as well as owner of the management/HR consulting/training firm The Growth Company Inc. Follow her on Twitter @lynnecury10 or at www.bullywhisperer.com.

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