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Cut Noise Pollution at Work

How to manage a quiet office

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in Leaders & Managers,Office Management

Sit back in your chair and listen. What do you hear?

If employees are yelling across the room or laughing up a storm, you’ve probably got a productivity problem on your hands. In fact, recent studies indicate that noise is the No. 1 negative drain on productivity.

But establishing peace and quiet takes some delicacy. You’ve got to cut the noise level without making staffers feel like you’re micromanaging their behavior. Here’s how:

Alert them to visitors’ impressions. After you invite visitors to the office, let the staff know what others thought about the noise. One vice president got his team to settle down by saying, “Last week, when our auditors were here, they told me that it was really hard to concentrate with all the noise. I was embarrassed, and I figured you should know how we come across to others.”

Ask for “situational silence.” When you’re about to make a call or hold a meeting, ask your staff to keep quiet. Tell them that you’re about to tackle something important, and a background din may disrupt your work. By tying your request to a specific situation, they may realize how often they get too loud.

Assign more work. Approach a loudmouth and say, “It appears you’ve got some time on your hands. Can you tackle this project for me?”

Pay more attention to your “silent clams.” Some noisy people want to shine the spotlight on themselves. They may crave your attention, and they figure that their high-decibel antics will be hard to ignore. But you should go out of your way to initiate contact with the quietest members of your unit. Seek them out and spend time with them. This sends a message that you prefer to be in the company of those who keep their voices down.

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