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When someone won’t mask


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I’m working mostly from home, but I do have to go in the office weekly, and all next week. It’s all cubicles, which is normally OK. The policy in my area, and for my building, is masks required. But the guy in the cube across from mine unmasks in his cube. He remasks if he goes out of his cube to the restroom or something. I’ve asked him to please wear a mask and he said he’s in a 6 foot bubble in his cube and doesn’t need to.  He wore it for a bit but then took it off and never put it back on. I’m high risk but need to work, although I avoid going elsewhere. I’m pretty annoyed by this. 
 

So, what do I do?  Keep talking to a hostile work-neighbor?  Ask building management to clarify cubicle mask policy?  Be a snitch and talk to whoever his boss is—which is an option I reject already, for many reasons, on principle. What do you do in an office setting?  And my other cube neighbor wears a mask unless he’s in a video meeting, which he frequently is. Then he removes it. How does that help me?  True, these guys are over 6 feet from me if we’re all sitting down, but we all get up and walk the aisle to go here and there, which means I go maybe 6 feet, by someone talking without a mask. Am I being overly cautious?  This is new territory as to how to handle things and still coexist peacefully with a cube neighbor. Any thoughts or similar experiences?  

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You’re not being over cautious, and you’re certainly not in the wrong. If it’s an option you’re comfortable with, I would definitely contact build in management, and if not their boss, then yours, and let them give the employees a talking to. You don’t have to specify who you’re talking about. But it’s management’s job to enforce these policies, not your burden. 

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I assume these are open-top cubicles in a single large open office space. The reality is that masks and social distancing are not going to ensure your safety in such an environment. The mask is intended to keep you from breathing the contagion in, not so much to keep others from expelling it. No mask provides 100% containment of output from nose and mouth; they only reduce the immediate speed of spread, and the time it takes for droplets to travel a given distance in the air. The cubicles, likewise, may contain a certain amount of immediate lateral exposure, but they are an indoor environment and exhaled droplets will ultimately find their way up and over the tops of cubicles just as they would find their way through air ducts in a more enclosed space.

If you have already spoken to your colleague about his lack of mask-wearing, it is more likely that if his supervisor or some other authority cracks down on him for not wearing it, he will wonder who it was who complained, remember your conversation, and assume it was you. That is not necessarily a reason no to address the matter at a higher level, but it you may wish to consider the possibility as you decide what to do. Another option might be to approach your supervisor and explain that you are in a high-risk category and believe that the work environment is putting you at increased risk, and explore the possibility of modifying the workflow that brings you into the office such that you could work from home full-time for the duration of the emergency.

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I went ahead and sent an email request for policy clarification to the building manager but kept it very neutral. Good thing, because he immediately forwarded it to someone else who I specifically hadn’t wanted to get involved, but that’s why I worded the email as I did. Now I need to wait for an answer and go from there. I’ll plan my next move then. Do you think a fan in my cube facing outward would help?  Or is that totally ridiculous?  I need to get along with this guy and I need to go into work at times, but I don’t want to take extra risk. I’m hoping there’s an official policy but if not, I have to think more. 

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Well that didn’t help. The official policy is no mask required while in your cube, only as you come out of it. So I can’t fall back on policy, which I think sucks. I may try to bring in a fan and aim it outward to improve air flow but not sure that would actually help. Also considering wearing two layers of masks for extra filtration but still air comes in the sides. For some things I can move into a conference room to avoid him and I probably will trial that for this week, when I need to be there daily. After that, I can minimize my days. 

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I think the empty conference room is a good idea. If people aren't in the office all the time, is there a an empty private office (belonging to someone else) that you could use? Would your boss or HR go to bat for you and ask a private office occupant if you could work there for the few days you have to be there? Some private offices at my work location are big enough that they have both a desk and a small table. Maybe someone would be okay with you using their office if you sat at the table and not at their desk?  

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  • 2 months later...

I see this thread is now old. Finally one cube neighbor is out sick from chronic health issues pus working remotely and the other has agreed to mask if I’m around. This took months to get to. Apparently the rules are that if you sit in your cube masks aren’t required but many use standing desks and are heads above the walls which seems worse. I can’t believe I’m even still having this discussion. I mask, use s conference room, and stay home when allowed. And I’ve been told to “have a conversation about my feelings “ about masks. Really?  

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On 10/11/2020 at 6:49 PM, sugarsugar said:

My manager wants me to talk to the mask refusers about “tell them how that makes you feel “. Seriously?  I don’t think it’s about my feelings, it’s about my safety. 

Your manager wants you to tell those stupid, selfish fuckwits how they make you feel? Could be problematic but you'll just be following your manager's instructions. "Hi! I feel like you didn't pay enough attention in school and you're endangering people because you're too stupid to understand. I feel like impaling you up the arse with a two metre stick so that you'll at least maintain social distance. I feel that your father should've pulled out instead of inflicting such a fucktard as yourself onto the world. My manager told me to say how it makes me feel so if you have a problem you should take it up with them."

Edited by Fluent In Silence
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3 hours ago, Fluent In Silence said:

Your manager wants you to tell those stupid, selfish fuckwits how they make you feel? Could be problematic but you'll just be following your manager's instructions. "Hi! I feel like you didn't pay enough attention in school and you're endangering people because you're too stupid to understand. I feel like impaling you up the arse with a two metre stick so that you'll at least maintain social distance. I feel that your father should've pulled out instead of inflicting such a fucktard as yourself onto the world. My manager told me to say how it makes me feel so if you have a problem you should take it up with them."

I’d really like to offer you a job, but I’m not totally sure doing what. What’s the job title for “Verbalizing What I’m Thinking So I Don’t Have To?” Will you send me your salary requirements and dietary restrictions?

Sugar, managing conflicts between employees is what managers are for. It’s inappropriate for your boss to expect you to confront your colleagues. 

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I have the same problem, one of my bosses won't wear a mask and i have to go into the room that they occupy to do things like photocopy or print things. I have asked all my coworkers to wear masks and called them out on it repeatedly when they dont, but what the hell do i do when it's my boss!?

I think the fan idea was good. you are right it is not about your feelings it is not a subjective risk it's objective. they are hotboxing the room with their breath

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  • 1 month later...

Honestly, people who refuse to wear a mask seriously piss me off, and I know someone who did not take precautions and died from the virus. The anti-maskers always talk about "my freedom" and all that, but getting it and becoming seriously ill would restrict your freedom far more than wearing a mask. I honestly cannot comprehend why some people have the idiotic attitude that the whole thing is a hoax, not that serious, etc. But the unfortunate reality is that it's often impossible to get through to these people. And telling them how you feel, as the manager said, would likely be of little effect if you've already told them that you're high risk.

Personally, what I'd do is get an N95 or KN95 mask and perhaps even a face shield as well for when you're within six feet of them, just in case one of the anti-maskers gets it (which they very well could at some point). If you are able to keep a significant distance between you and them, take other precautions, and wear this type of PPE, you could greatly reduce your risk even though they are not wearing masks. Having an office fan that is directed to blow the air away from the anti-maskers could blow any droplets away from you. The fact that you're not working within 6 feet of them throughout the day is a good thing, and it makes it easier to take precautions IMO. 

Though, unfortunately, it doesn't sound like your employer takes it that seriously. Otherwise, they wouldn't have talked about this in terms of your "feelings". You could consider going to HR, but I don't know your work situation. Not every employer even has an HR department. And even if they do, the attitude that they have varies greatly from one employer to another. So, you would know much better than me whether this is a good strategy for dealing with this in your work environment or not. Depending on the circumstances, it could be a good idea to document your employer's reluctance to enforce a mask requirement, in case you got it and were in a position where you could take legal action (depends on your circumstances). 

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