Trimming nails at work?

This isn’t strong enough to be in the Pit. Besides, I’d like to get people’s opinions.

When did trimming nails at work become acceptable? Currently my boss and coworker in the cube next to me (great guys both) have a habit of clipping their fingernails, in their offices, in plain sight. I find this practice both weird and kind of disgusting. They do it weekly; is it something that can’t wait until they get home?

Do you or any or your coworkers do this? Is it now acceptable office behavior? (I’m not asking rhetorically.)

Our receptionist at my previous job did this and it creeped me out. I think it’s only OK if you’re about to hurt yourself if you leave a hangnail in place. Grooming like that should take place outside of work or at least behind a closed office door.

Many of my co-workers do this and I find it completely mystifying. I can understand having a nail file or a set of clippers on hand to take care of a stray snagged nail - those can annoy you all day - but I’m a strong believer that most personal hygiene (including nail clipping) should occur at home or in the bathroom, not at your desk.

Just trimmed mine in my cube, never thought about it creeping people out. I’ll go around and ask, and if it does, I’ll stop.

What about it is bad? Chewing nails, during a meeting seems much worse but I have seen people do that.

I cut mine at work too. Usually it’s a minor repair, but once in a while I realize that they’ve gotten so long I can’t type worth a damn and they’ve all got to go, right away!
However, I’m not all that close to my nearest neighbors, and one of them gives me a pain in the ass so I wouldn’t care if it disturbed her.

My assistant has just moved into the space adjacent to me, which was until very recently used as a lunch room. I guess some people have had a little difficulty comprehending that this is now someone else’s office, and not a common space, because I am told that there is one woman who has made a habit of periodically ducking in there to cut her fingernails.

You know, just waltz right in the door, sit right down beside her, who is working away, and cut her fingernails into the trash. The offender, she says, explains that she feels too “self conscious” to cut her nails at her desk. (Offender is in the cubicle farm, which must not offer an appropriate level of privacy.)

Said assistant says that she doesn’t know what to say in this situation. (It has evidently happened three times now, most recently this morning.

Personally, if it were my office, I’d just bluntly ask the person what the fuck they thought they were thinking. I had the impression, though, that my assistant thought it would be proper for me to approach the offender and remind her that it’s not appropriate to use someone else’s office as a place to do your personal grooming.

My more passive aggressive approach has been to relate the story to a couple of my favourite admin assistants: “Did you hear what Susan’s been doing? WTF? Ha!” I’m sure it will get back to her quick enough; this is a small office.

Seriously, you have to wonder what the hell goes through people’s heads.

ETA: Most people I have spoken to about this agree that nail paring is best done at home. Maybe in the bathroom, if it’s unavoidable.

I can see the following problems with cutting your nails in public (other than my prudish Emily Post-esque sensibilities):

  1. It’s distracting. Most of the employees around here are call center and need a fairly quiet environment to do their work; having intermittent, irregular, loud clip noises is annoying. I imagine it’d be hard for others in a cube farm, even if there were other environmental noise - the sound of a nail clipper is hard to miss.

  2. It’s hard to catch all the clippings unless you have your hands very close to if not an inch or so in the trashcan. Having your hands in the trashcan is a little weird looking and others might be hesitant to shake your hand (if they have occasion to) if they’ve seen you with your hands in your wastebasket.

  3. If you don’t catch all the clippings, there will be random fingernail cuttings on your desk or the floor. If you have meetings at your desk, your co-workers will have to look at them; even if you don’t, the cleaners will have to deal with them. I imagine they expect to see a certain amount of nasty in the bathroom, but probably don’t expect to have to deal with such leftovers at someone’s desk.

  4. Many people eat at their desks. The thought of eating somewhere there have been fingernail clippings laying about (assuming you didn’t do the deed with your hands in the trash) is kind of gross.

Trim the nails at home. If it’s an emergency or something, do it in the bathroom.

It’s disgusting, and it’s also evidence that you’re clearly not working.

Why don’t you whip out your feet while you’re at it and trim those fangly toenails while you’re at it? Make sure your coworkers actually puke instead of just feel nauseous. How about stand around with your finger rooting up a nostril while you’re at it?

(Rhetorical you, BTW. Not directed at anyone in particular. This is the rant in my head when someone does do this near me. On the bus.)

Pretty much my feelings exactly.

It didn’t. It won’t. It is NOT OKAY.

Increasingly common incidents of personal grooming in public, especially nail clipping on city buses, is regularly cited as evidence that the world must be coming to an end soon in this column.

That’s kind of an either/or. You need a certain amount of nail to really catch hold of a booger.

Considering the thoughtless behavior that goes on in my particular cubicle farm, a little discreet nail clipping is the least of anyone’s worries. YMMV

I don’t understand all the gross-out over fingernails. Why is it so gross? I’m not saying I regularly trim all my nails at work, but I’ll fix a hangnail, or file my nails if need be.

I just never considered nail clipping gross!

Seriously. It’s not like they keep growing like Buffy’s demon roommate’s fingernail clippings. They aren’t sticky like boogers. It’s not hair that might have cooties.

I do it, but I’m conscious of the fact that others may not appreciate it. I have my own office where I can close my door. I try not to share that joy with others.

And it isn’t that I have some desire to kill time by trimming my nails at work, either. It generally just happens that I’m in the middle of something at work when I notice a nail that seems too long. And then it won’t stop bugging me. So I grab the clippers and get rid of it and move on with my life.

But again, I know that’s not everyone’s cup of tea, so I try to keep it out of the public eye as much as possible.

One of my superiors recently told me a story about having to stop some lady on the bus from doing this. She’d been sitting in the back clipping her nails for the better part of half an hour, if I recall correctly. I do not think that’s acceptable, for the record.

Quite a few people, myself not included, seem to have an almost visceral disgust-response to anything that’s been detached from a human body, including shed hairs and cut nails and so on – just as they do to bodily fluids, which more of us think are gross. I don’t really understand it, but I respect it.

It has happened. The woman who had the previous shift left her toenails strewn around the workspace. Didn’t even have the manners to clean them up. I collected them, put them in a small container, with a note: “I almost threw these away, but then I thought maybe you wanted to keep them.”

She never did it again.


If it’s a full-on clipping session, I’ll close my door. If it’s just one hangnail that needs it, I kind of hold the clippers below the desk and try to mute their sound.

If I get grossed out listening to the lady outside my door smacking her gum, then I figure nobody wants to hear my clipping noises either.

Oh, and don’t look too closely at my keyboard. You really don’t want to.