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Ask Sue
A Weekly Q&A Column About Professionalism, Etiquette and Problems in the Workplace
by Sue Morem

Career Damaging Habits

Dear Sue: I am appalled by the number of well educated people in professional positions who chew gum. I would never hire anyone who chewed a piece of gum during an interview or buy from someone who chewed gum in my presence. Am I old fashioned?

- Not a gum chewer

Sue Says: You are not old fashioned. Chewing gum is unprofessional. I’ve heard from others who feel strongly about gum-chewers, especially when they snap, crack, or blow bubbles with their gum. Most people don’t realize how noisy and distracting their chewing is. Like smoking, finger tapping, and constant clearing of the throat, chewing gum is a bad habit that can drive other people mad.

Don’t be too hard on the gum chewers you meet; everyone has imperfections and idiosyncrasies. We all need should be more aware of our habits and our affect on others. A person may chew gum to calm his or her nerves, but many fidget instead. Some people play with and twirl their hair, others their rings or earrings. Some people repeatedly pick up and put down their glasses, others tap their fingers or pen.

Some people pick their teeth, others pick their ears, eyes, or nose. Picking should never be done in public—pay a visit to the restroom if you need to remove something. Blow your nose in public, but try telling that to someone who has allergies or a bad cold. If you must blow your nose, do it as quietly and discreetly as possible. Always handle your tissue with care; no one should have to see what you’ve blown into it.

Awareness is the key. Most people don’t offend others on purpose. You’d be doing people a favor if you’d tell them how you feel about their gum chewing. If you’d rather not, consider displaying a “No gum chewing” sign in your office and see where the conversation leads.

Sue Morem is a professional speaker, trainer and syndicated columnist. She is author of the newly released 101 Tips for Graduates and How to Gain the Professional Edge, Second Edition. You can contact her by email at or visit her web site at

Send Sue your questions by clicking here: Ask Sue
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