Marie's Answer: Talking is a common cause of co-worker conflict. Quieter people often are annoyed by chatterboxes, while sociable folks may find silence absolutely maddening. Differences in hearing can also play a role. Some people automatically screen out background noise, while others hear every sound in the room.
To manage this issue in your group, consider the following suggestions:
• Expecting complete silence is probably unrealistic, because conversation makes boring and repetitive work more bearable. If you kill the chatter completely, some people may leave.
• If possible, allow employees to wear headphones and listen to music. This will not only help to mask the noise for quiet folks, but may also provide a substitute source of sound for the chatterers.
• To reduce conflict, engage everyone in a discussion about how to accommodate these differences. Help each group understand the other point of view, and then establish some clear conversational guidelines.
• In the future, let the talkers know immediately when they become too loud. Ongoing feedback will help them learn to adjust their volume.
With a little guidance and supervision, these two groups should be able to coexist peacefully. For an assessment of your own talkative tendencies, check out our Office Coach Quick Quiz: Are You More Extroverted or Introverted?
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