Business Etiquette & Workplace Manners on Burping and Sniffing

A rude colleague who loudly burps and sniffs can incite a confrontation.
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You've just arrived back at the office from a heavy lunch with your colleague, and from the other side of the cubicle, you hear him let out a loud, obnoxious burp. Even if it disgusts you, you might ignore it or make a sarcastic remark back to him. Virtually all businesses frown upon annoyances as burping and excessive sniffing, as they're breaches of basic workplace etiquette.

Workplace Policies

    Many workplaces provide handbooks to their employees that outline policies and rules. Although such handbooks often outline appropriate and inappropriate behavior, it's common knowledge that a bodily function such as loud burping is inappropriate. Sniffing is a little less offensive, as people with colds or allergies frequently sniff throughout the day but do not do so to be rude. As such, burping and sniffing are not likely listed in your handbook.


    If you have a colleague who burps or sniffs excessively, the easiest approach is to tell her you find it offensive or unsanitary and, in the case of loud burping, do not consider it humorous. If the colleague continues, especially in a loud, unrestrained manner, consider making a complaint to your manager or human resources department. Because burping and sniffing are minor offenses, the employee will likely receive a minor form of discipline, such as verbal warning.


    Unless a colleague is burping or sniffing specifically to annoy you, you might not want to elevate the situation by lodging a complaint about her. Instead, offer practical solutions that can fix the solution for everyone. In the case of sniffing, offer your colleague a box of tissues or suggest that she should stay home until she feels better. If a colleague burps frequently after drinking soda, suggest that she consume a non-carbonated beverage.


    Even the most proper person has burped and sniffed on occasion; because these are common bodily functions, it's impossible to completely avoid doing them. If you feel as though you're about to burp, get up from your desk and walk to the washroom or even an empty part of the office. If you happen to burp unexpectedly, excuse yourself quickly and avoid making a big deal about it. If you're fighting a cold and are forced to sniffle repeatedly, consider stopping at the drug store for something that will relieve your symptoms. Or, stay home until you feel better.

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