Too Tired: A yawning colleague distracting you from work

by epi on July 12, 2012

Q: I have a co-worker who yawns all day, quite loudly, as if his intent is to be heard over everything else.  I get infuriated by this and believe it to be very rude and unprofessional.  Why must we all have to check out his tonsils regularly?

A: Personal idiosyncrasies are the cause of some of the most frustrating office situations.  It’s all too easy for one person to do something bothersome like yawning loudly without being aware of how it’s affecting his colleagues.  I’m assuming in this case that the perpetrator doesn’t realize the impact of his actions.  First, ask yourself if you’re absolutely sure you want to address this issue.  Sometimes, especially at work, the best solution is to learn to live with other people’s idiosyncrasies, just as they’ve learned to live with yours.  If you decide to talk with the yawner, do it quietly — you’re not trying to embarrass him: “John, you may not realize it, but those yawns can be pretty distracting.  Could you do me a favor and try to be a little quieter?  Covering your mouth with your hand would help, I’m sure.  Thanks.”

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Daniel Post Senning July 12, 2012 at 1:12 pm

I personally find yawning to be one of the most offensive things that people do without knowing how rude it is. It sends a very clear message if you yawn while someone else is talking. If your attention is wandering, please figure out a way to excuse yourself from a conversation.


Ruth Peltier July 12, 2012 at 10:47 pm

Wait a minute. I have sleep apnea and do indeed yawn all day with no reference to the conversation going on around me. I agree he should cover his mouth and try to be quieter but to call it boredom is overreacting.


Ernie Morris July 12, 2012 at 7:09 pm

We are having a 15th Birthday party for our daughter and we are wondering weather 0r not to use Gold linen is it to old of a look? I just want to make sure it is age appropraite or not?


scdeb July 12, 2012 at 8:59 pm

You might be saving a life according to this quote taken from the NYTimes–maybe you should say something in a respectful way.
“Yawning is a normal response to fatigue and drowsiness, but excessive yawning can be caused by a vasovagal reaction. This reaction is caused by the action of a nerve, called the vagus nerve, on the blood vessels. It may indicate a heart problem.
Normal yawning may happen when someone else yawns.”


gruhur April 11, 2013 at 2:10 pm

It drives me up the wall to sit in a meeting with, or in the cubical next to, someone who yawns all day. Whether they mean to do it or not, they are being extremely annoying. It makes everyone else want to yawn, and it shows lack of consideration for everybody else. Someone truly engaged in the discussion won’t be yawning every 20 seconds, so it’s understandable that it seems rude, even if it isn’t intended that way. For heaven’s sakes, folks, take a cup of water with you to the meeting and take a drink when you feel one coming on! Some seem to take great pleasure in making an especially loud noise to accompany the action, and that is really the icing on the cake. Get some sleep, go to the doctor, do whatever it takes…!


plop August 21, 2013 at 2:41 pm

If I suppress the yawn, I yawn ten times. If I give one good yawn, I actually feel relieved.

Read the definition of idiosyncrasy and ask yourself which behavior is peculiar: Not suppressing a natural bodily function or being annoyed by two seconds of sound.


Alicia August 21, 2013 at 2:47 pm

Try several deep breaths. Yawns are actually caused by lack of oxygen so several deep breaths will prevent them and make you feel refreshed.


gruhur November 14, 2013 at 2:30 pm

Oh, if only it *were* just “two seconds of sound”! Rather, it’s two seconds of sound repeated again and again all day! Or it’s over and over, several times per minute, throughout the course of a business meeting. Big difference, and yes, very annoying.


B July 30, 2014 at 11:58 am

Repeatedly yawning loudly in an office setting IS an idiosyncrasy, Plop. And being annoyed by the sound, whether the yawning is unintentionally loud or not, is natural. Sounds like you’re trying to qualify your own loud yawning behavior?


Deb Esta November 25, 2013 at 1:11 pm

Yawners are rude and stupid looking!!!


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