Annoying Coworkers
June 30, 2004 9:05 AM   Subscribe

I've recently moved into a new cubicle with new neighbours. The problem is, there are now 2 women in a very close vicinity to me who are constantly laughing all day long and it grates on my nerves. [mi]

These two women do not work in the same department as me (we share the office space with other unrelated business units) and I rarely have any interaction with them except an occasional "hi" and "bye" at the door. I've spoken with other people around me, and they feel much the same way as me but perhaps not as strongly.

I've taken the liberty of buying a set of headphones and listening to music while I work to try and drown them out. But their laughing is extremely high-pitched and even when I crank up the music, I can STILL hear them! It also makes me out to look like a slacker and I can't hear when people come up from behind me to ask me stuff.

Their laughing breaks my concentration and I can hear the other woman taking personal calls all day long and she speaks loud enough that I can hear her whole conversation.

That being said, how can I improve my office situation without coming off looking whiny or creating any enemies around me?

Great.. I posted my "more inside" text as the main post. That's what I get for posting before my morning coffee.. sigh
posted by PWA_BadBoy to Work & Money (23 answers total)

Talk to your immediate manager, ask if you can be moved somewhere else. Just say something along the lines of 'productivity issues', 'in the interests of office harmony', 'i'm a team player', etc. Managers lap that BS up.

Alternatively, ignore my cynical advice and suck it up, bunky. ;)

Nah, seriously... just talk to your boss, voice your concerns, make sure to mention that it's not a personal issue, just a productivity one.
posted by cheaily at 9:10 AM on June 30, 2004

I personally wouldn't say anything, but develop my own annoying habits. Are you able to fart or belch loudly?
posted by derbs at 9:11 AM on June 30, 2004

Try noise canceling headphones. They work fantastically well, and you can run most in pure noise-canceling mode as well as use them for music.
posted by luriete at 9:12 AM on June 30, 2004

I second cheaily's advice. I spent a lot of time in close quarters with our sales manager and the office loudmouth, and it really cut into my recreational web surfing work. So I got them to move me into the way, way, way back of the office and things are definitely a lot better.
posted by alphanerd at 9:21 AM on June 30, 2004

Just stand up for yourself.
posted by the fire you left me at 9:26 AM on June 30, 2004

Response by poster: The headphones, which I thought would help are not the solution I'm looking for. I can't hear relevant noise (ppl coming up from behind me, phones ringing, ppl calling my name etc.)...

I guess I will bring it to my boss. Thanks guys.
posted by PWA_BadBoy at 9:35 AM on June 30, 2004

I had this very same issue at my office. I sat in a cubicle beside an assistant who sat outside their manager's office. They would talk to each other while sitting at their respective desks, talking loudly around the corner of the manager's door. Many people (who weren't sitting in the immediate noise pollution area) noticed and complained about it with me but didn't say anything directly. It was very frustrating. Head phones didn't work and talking loudly as a passive-agressive measure wasn't an option, being of a soft-spoken nature. I ended up approaching the assistant and explaining that it was distracting for me in my work and she kind of got huffy, saying "I'm not a loud person!" loudly. I think she tried but she failed many times on improving. She also became a bit snotty towards me becauase of it. So I talked to her boss, who was more diplomatic about it and made more of an effort. Habits are hard to break - when it kept on being noisy, I talked to my boss and the Human Resource person. The loud mouths were moved to a different area and caused grumblings amongst their new neighbours. They were eventually moved closer to the Executive office and I now am told that they've quieted down, apparently under threat of our E.D.

If you can, either request to move yourself or get them moved. I don't suggest talking to them directly as you may be perceived (as I was) as being "sensitive". I think the problem in my case was they they didn't believe that they were being loud at all and were annoyed at me for insisting that they were. If they are interrupting your work flow then your boss should know about it and, hopefully, do something to change the situation.
posted by KathyK at 9:41 AM on June 30, 2004

I recently had the same problem at my job--on one side of my cubicle was a foot-traffic intersection, complete with a table where employees would leave cakes and donuts, guaranteeing that people would gather there; on the other side was a secretary who was constantly on the telephone, discussing some emotional problem or other. Speaking to my manager and requesting a move solved everything (once I'd been at the job long enough to be able to do such a thing without sounding like a whiner). Plus I got a larger cube out of the deal, with a window--hurrah.

I would not recommend accosting the offending employees directly--the reason managers are paid more is because they're supposed to deal with things like that, not you.
posted by Prospero at 9:51 AM on June 30, 2004

In my experience - you are screwed.

I have a similar situation currently, except the loud individuals near me are discussing work-related topics, which makes it even harder to tell then to put a sock in it. I have raised the noise issue numerous times, and have basicly been told "tough luck" or some variation of: "Oh really? That must be annoying." But that says more about my managers than anything else.
posted by falconred at 10:12 AM on June 30, 2004

How about this? That is, if your manager won't do anything.
posted by whatnot at 10:58 AM on June 30, 2004

I would think your manager wouldn't have a problem with it, I mean if these are people in another area which your manager isn't even a part of... I'm sure he/she won't be too happy with them eating into one of their employees productivity, and would be more than happy to help the situation. Since these people aren't under your managers supervision it shouldn't even cause a social problem for your manager.

Of course people aren't always reasonable.
posted by rhyax at 11:16 AM on June 30, 2004

Like others I'd say talk to your line manager (if you have one) and get either yourself or the "culprits" moved. I had a similar problem with a colleague who sat at the opposite side of a desk to me and talked to himself incessantly. I stuck it for 18 months but eventually talked to my line manager in a "support and supervision" session. I think I couched it in terms of it not being his fault but that it was distracting me and interfering with my concentration. Next week he was moved to the other end of the office.
posted by squealy at 11:25 AM on June 30, 2004

Every time they get to cackling, just dial one of their extensions, then hang up onec they answer. If they don't figure that out, just ask, nicely, over that phone "can you two keep it down over there?" If you do it right, and maybe wink at them over the cubicle wall or something, they might take it in good humor and not think you're a prick. Then again, they might think you're a prick, but as they're extra-departmental idiots who are impeding your work, who gives a shit?
posted by scarabic at 11:48 AM on June 30, 2004

Ask her/them, LOUDLY, about the personal stuff she/they talk about on the phone.

Oh, you said without making enemies. What they ^^^ said; talk to management.
posted by deborah at 11:56 AM on June 30, 2004

I recommend looking into in-ear headphones, not the kind perched on your head. I am easily irritated by unnecessary noise,* so I've been looking towards a solution for a long time. The Sony noise-cancelling headphones I used weren't quite good enough: they bled noise to the other desks around me, they didn't work as well on the subway, they looked stoopid on my head, and they made me compensate too much for extraneous noise which did pass through by turning the volume up too high.

So I bought some Shure earphones which work great. I am on my second $99 pair, because, while they are expensive, they block out subway noise, rude coworkers, honking horns, the sounds of collisions in my wake, etc., which to me makes them worth the cost. (The first pair died because I caught the cord on someone's bag on the subway and they got yanked and became intermittent where the cord meats the ear plug. Frown. Not Shure's fault, though.) So I can not only block out noise, I can get into a zone where all other people kind of fade out of my attention. Great for working, though I have to face the door to my cube so that people can't sneak up on my anymore. No more coworkers who don't know how to talk at a conversational level, no more voicemail on speakerphone, no more aimless whistling.

*(Just today I asked the office manager to find me a chair that didn't squeak. And I dodged a bullet a few weeks ago when they moved me to another floor: they wanted to put me by the doors to the elevator lobby. These doors have loud magnetic locks that don't "snick" but "chunk" loudly, about four times a minute, all day long, as people go in and out. Two doors. So I got a double cubicle farther away instead, the only one on the floor. Now I have to walk and work with my back to the wall to avoid being stabbed from behind.)
posted by Mo Nickels at 12:16 PM on June 30, 2004

I have to be on the phone most of the day (not quite call center level, but close) and took to having music playing in my non-headset ear to drown out a neighbor who whistled and drummed.

I now spend a lot of time reassuring people that, it's ok, I jump like that all the time. Good for the heart, you know.
posted by Karmakaze at 12:48 PM on June 30, 2004

Have you considered, perhaps, just asking them to keep it down? I don't know these people, but there exists a slight possibility that they have no idea they're disturbing you.

Where I used to work, my department was the noisy one -- we'd be cackling and throwing stuff and generally pretty audible -- and occasionally someone would ask us to pipe down. We never held it against them, they were just trying to get their work done in an environment that suited them, same as us. When asked, we tried to be as accomodating as possible.
posted by majick at 2:06 PM on June 30, 2004

Are they fat women who own cats?
posted by pieoverdone at 2:50 PM on June 30, 2004

Response by poster: They're tiny women with very high pitched voices.
posted by PWA_BadBoy at 3:36 PM on June 30, 2004

Response by poster: And I know better than to mess with the ones with cats... :)
posted by PWA_BadBoy at 3:36 PM on June 30, 2004

In my experience - you are screwed.
PWA_BadBoy, the previous person in your pod, why did they move - may ask them for advice here on handling the two. Hope the solution is "the why" you're now where you are at, switching pods in a farther location.
posted by thomcatspike at 3:51 PM on June 30, 2004

further location
posted by thomcatspike at 3:54 PM on June 30, 2004

Talk to your manager, just say you can't get your work done. No need to be disparaging - maybe others don't feel it is too loud, that doesn't mean it's not too loud for you.
posted by xammerboy at 7:51 AM on July 1, 2004

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