Ask Amy

Tech co-workers wage Nerf wars in the office

Chicago Tribune

Dear Amy: I’m a woman working for a software startup. We are all millennials. I really enjoy my job, except for this: Picture a group of (mostly male) software developers shooting Nerf guns at each other, with Nerf darts whistling past you, hitting windows, office equipment and other employees.

There is nowhere to physically “hide” from these battles. Only a few higher-ups have offices.

I’m caught in the crossfire on a daily (sometimes hourly) basis and have gotten hit by darts multiple times. If it’s somewhere below my neck, it doesn’t bother me as much. But recently I was hit in the back of the head. I just think this goes beyond normal workplace fun, and is a huge distraction.

A few months back another employee got hit in the eye and had to seek medical attention for a scratched cornea.

Am I overreacting here, or do I have valid concerns? Is this an HR issue, or should I accept this as a normal office activity that management knows about?

I don’t want to voice my concerns for fear of being labeled difficult to work with. But at the same time, I don’t think it’s too much to ask not to have to worry about getting injured at work in an office.

I’m pretty sure there are quite a few other co-workers who quietly feel the same way but I suspect they are also afraid of voicing a concern and being labeled as a bad apple.

Battle Scarred

Dear Battle Scarred: I don’t have much personal insight into the crazy world of Silicon Valley, so I asked my friend, Axios tech journalist Ina Fried, for some advice. Here’s her response:

“While it’s great that your colleagues have so much, um, enthusiasm, you certainly have the right to do your work without having to constantly worry about friendly fire. That said, no one wants to be known as the office killjoy, so some diplomacy makes sense, too.

“I recommend talking to HR privately. Say that while you want your co-workers to have fun, it’s starting to get out of hand and you are concerned for your own safety and productivity – as well as for the company. (Really, if someone already has a scratched cornea they should understand they have a problem.) You can also mention that you value having fun at work and have tried to think of some alternatives.

“Maybe the company can designate a ‘game time’ – that way everyone that likes turning the office into a Nerf firing range can do so. Or perhaps there is one part of the office (away from the desks) that could be used for such activities.

And, if they aren’t open to that, you might want to consider a strategic retreat.”

I would add that this is yet another way that tech companies are earning their reputation as hostile work environments to women and other people who don’t like to behave like they’re at a frat house. Please, stand up for your own rights.

Dear Amy: I have a childhood friend I have reconnected with.

Her house is filthy. She has birds whose cages she never cleans. I got so sick the last time I was there, I cannot ever go back. I’m talking a bacterial infection, and vomiting.

How can she stand it?

Her birds need to be removed from the house so that they can be properly cared for. In the meantime, I am running out of excuses to not go to her house.

Should I just tell her I am allergic to her birds and avoid her? I really enjoy her company, but cannot stand the filth!

Recovered

Dear Recovered: Your friend might have slowly acclimated to the filth from her bird cages. I can only imagine the impact on the birds. Bird droppings can carry may different diseases; at this point the environment might actually be safer because the droppings are undisturbed.

You should tell your friend a version of the truth: “I love seeing you, but I can’t go into your house because of the birds. I worry about them – and you. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you before, but I feel like you need to know.”

Dear Amy: “Grieving Friend” was upset about a photo posted on Facebook of a friend in his casket. In some cultures people routinely take pictures of people after they have passed.

Informed

Dear Informed: This photo was posted by a distant cousin of the deceased. This is a violation, unless directed to do so by next of kin.

Email Amy at askamy@amydickinson.com.

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