Social Etiquette and Good Manners/Co-Worker Chews Gum with Mouth Open


Hello Cynthia,

My supervisor at work chews gum with his mouth open, for most of the day almost everyday, and it's causing me a lot of stress. Our offices are right next to each other, and I can avoid the noise if I close the door to my office, but this prevents me from being able to hear if someone's talking about a project I'm working on in the main area of the office or if someone's trying to call my name. I also work better if I can hear some of the ambient noise going on in the rest of the office - but that open-mouthed chewing from his office next door is so irritating it makes my neck tense, and it's causing me to feel secretly resentful toward him. Otherwise we're on friendly terms and I think he's a very sweet person. I've always been more noise-sensitive than other people, so I feel guilty for having such a big problem with it, but I can't help it.

I've worked at this job for 9 months, and the annoyance is building up. I have to say something, but I have no idea how I should say it.

Thank you in advance!

Dear Lisa:

Thank you for your question.  I suggest you meet with your supervisor behind closed doors.  You might say something like, "I appreciate working with you and have been learning  a lot from you.  I have a problem that I am hoping you can help me with.  I am particularly sensitive to distracting sounds when I am trying to concentrate on my work and I can hear you chewing gum from my office.  You may not be aware how loud the sound is and how it travels.  I think it would be less distracting if when you chew gum you try to do it more quietly.  I have noticed that it is particularly loud if someone's mouth is open when chewing.  It is really uncomfortable for me to make an observation like this but it may be distracting to others as well.
I know if I was making you uncomfortable by something I was doing, I would want you to share it with me. It would help me improve my professionalism.  I really appreciate your listening.

The most important thing is that he doesn't feel you are attacking him. You need to emphasize that you appreciate him and his contribution to your professional growth - there is just this one issue that is bothering you and making it difficult for you to do your best.

Social Etiquette and Good Manners

All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


Cynthia W. Lett


Proper manners with friends,family,colleagues,neighbors and everyone else you know.


I have been an etiquette expert teaching and consulting on the subject worldwide since 1983. I started and serve as the Executive Director of the International Society of Protocol & Etiquette Professionals and am considered a leader in the field of etiquette and protocol training and execution. I edited "Etiquette for Dummies" and have recently written "Lett's Talk - Everyday Etiquette Dilemmas and What to Do about Them". My book, "That's So Annoying:An Etiquette Expert on the World's Most Irritating Habits And What To Do About Them" was published in 2009 and is available wherever books are sold. I taught the Business Protocol class to Master's level students at the George Washington University, Washington, DC for seven years I served as Chief of Protocol for MCI Telecommunications for three years.

International Society of Protocol & Etiquette Professionals, ASTD, PCMA, National Speakers Association

I have been quoted over 700 times in the past 5 years worldwide. Publications include Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Washington Times, NY Times, Washington Business Journal, USA Today, Associated Press, London Times, Newsweek Japan edition, Newsweek US edition and many many more.

I am a Certified Etiquette Professional (CEP) and Certified Protocol Professional (CPP) earned by examination through ISPEP. I have a Master's degree in hospitality law and undergrad degrees in Restaurant & Hotel Management and Public Relations/Interpersonal Communications from Purdue University.

Awards and Honors
Who's Who Worldwide,Who's Who of American Women, Distinguished Darden Professor (Purdue University).

Past/Present Clients
World Bank, United Nations,US Dept. of State, US. Dept. of the Army, Pentagon, Barclays Global Investors,Accenture,Fox News, MSNBC, CNN, The White House, Dept. of State, AT&T,Bank of America,American Association of Clinical Pharmacies,Ritz Carlton Hotels, Hilton Hotels, Marriott Hotels,Starwood Hotels,and many more.

©2016 All rights reserved.