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Lively co-worker

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Question: "Our inner-office setup consists of modular, portable walls that are 6 feet tall, which does little to deflect sound. A co-worker sitting behind me and two desks away is loud and talks constantly. To top that off, she laughs after making 95 percent of her statements.

"It's gratifying to know that she enjoys her co-workers and job, but everything isn't funny!

"I've overheard her refer to the fact that she talks a lot, so she knows it. My supervisor, who is an officer of the company, often must close his door to limit the disruption caused by this individual.

"I'm not the only one complaining about her boisterousness, yet it appears that no one wants to deal with addressing this issue with her. I have no authority over her, and her immediate supervisor is located in a private outer office with a door, so I doubt that he's aware of the disturbance she causes. When other issues have arisen in the past, he hasn't taken any action, so the pattern is set, and we doubt he would deal with this issue, either.

"It's difficult to concentrate and, although I try to tune her out, I'm hardly ever successful.  Some co-workers have taken to wearing a Walkman with ear pieces to drown her out.

"Someone suggested that she might have a hearing problem, which I strongly doubt since she never asks anyone to repeat themselves. The other suggestion was that she could have low self-esteem and she counteracts that by laughing.

"Whatever the cause, I could really use some ideas as to how to address this constant, nagging problem.  Thank you for your time and consideration."  -- Anonymous


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This woman probably does not realize how loud she is. I would pull her aside right at the next time it happens and tell her that you are sure she isn't aware, but her voice really carries throughout the office because of the cubicles. Don't tell her about everyone complaining or people wearing headphones - that would either make her feel bad or get defensive. Just mention it in a friendly, I'm-sure-you-don't-realize tone and then drop it.

Friendly reminders in the form of signs could be placed throughout the company reminding everyone to keep distractions to a minimum (such as a funny face with the reminder of using inside voices as we do with children in libraries). Her supervisor definitely should address the issue with her since it is an interruption. However, I once worked with a colleague that had irritating habits. I thought I would scream at times. When she did not return to work one Monday after being killed, I changed my thoughts on what is important in the workplace. After that quiet Monday and from then on, I yearned for her presence - a very big lesson for me.

I agree with Elba in the approach in a friendly manner, she probably really doesn't mean to be so loud. Although to keep yourself out of the issue I would suggest this to your supervisor as an approach, I would also include the situations that go along with it; such as gossip about this individual, headphones, unproductive working environment, etc. If you can point out the affects of the disruption and offer a simple solution maybe he will act this time. One can only hope. If all else fails I would attempt a friendly conversation, I call it the "insult" sandwhich; where you say something nice, something not so nice and then something nice again :)

You have 2 choices and you probably won't like either of them: Suck it up and put yourself on the line, risk offending her, and tell her to keep it down. You will probably have to do this many more times than once. Or you can ignore it.

Cute signs will not help this problem. Asking her nicely one time will not help this problem. If yours is like my company, HR won't get involved in something like this, they tell you to work it out on your own. Going to your supervisor or hers will likely be ignored because they don't have to deal with it directly every day.

In my case, I tried Elba's suggestion once and my co-worker quieted down for about 2 days, and it was still unpleasant for her to hear. I tried again many months later, but it is not worth the aggravation it caused me. And no one else was willing to mention it to her at all. So now I tune it out and am much less bothered than all my co-workers who complain about her behind her back but won't mention anything to her face.

The coworker in the cubicle directly over my wall has a loud voice that could peel paint off the walls, and sometimes it's headache inducing. She has perfectly good hearing and good self-esteem as well. Since there is nothing that we can do to alter our office structure, we just "grin and bear it" since she's an outstanding worker, and there's no way that she can permanently lower her voice. My suggestion would be similar to the first reply: in addition she could mention that because of this, the whole office is hearing personal info that she might not want to be known to the world at large. My coworker does make the attempt to lower her voice for personal/confidential stuff and sometimes she succeeds.

If the immediate Supervisor isn't aware of the problem, I would start there with a private conversation first, suggesting that he/she address the problem since it has become counterproductive for most other employees. If that doesn't work, follow-up with a written memo to that same supervisor and then continue to pursue the matter thru the chain of command. I know this sounds harsh but that's what Supervisors and Managers are paid for - to deal with personnel issues. I'm not sure going directly to the offender is the answer, as she has stated that she already knows that she talks too much. You may just cause her to resent you and the working relationship may suffer for it. Good luck.

I work in a large company with many layers of supervisors. I have similar problem with a coworker, which I have tried subtly addressing with her. When that did not work I approched her immediate supervisor, (mine also) whom did not seem to want to stir any problems with office personel and looked at me as if I was the one creating a problem. They close their doors and are not distrubed. I am doing my best to concentrate on my work, I will not approach my coworker as I believe that already has made unfit working conditions. The best answer is to focus on your job and work hard at drowning the coworkers conversations without confronting her/him.

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