Office etiquette: When to hit mute — Business Management Daily: Free Reports on Human Resources, Employment Law, Office Management, Office Communication, Office Technology and Small Business Tax Business Management Daily
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Your workplace may be relatively quiet—except for that nearby co-worker whose cellphone plays “La Cucaracha,” or the one who has every conversation via speakerphone.

Workplace noise is a pet peeve for one in five employees, and it can even damage productivity. But is it a peeve worth escalating to human resources?

Most HR workers would say that employees should resolve the noisy co-worker issue on their own.

“Whether it’s over noise or a myriad of other differences, conflicts are inevitable and will occur again and again,” says Craig Runde, director of the Center for Conflict Dynamics at Eckerd College.

“To the degree to which you can help people resolve conflicts early on, at the lowest possible level, that’s going to serve your organization well.”

If two workers require HR to resolve a noise dispute the first time, they’re likely to need HR again.

“You’re going to become the judge of every dispute ever after and it’s going to be a major time sink,” he says.

Better to have an open, honest conversation about noise levels. As one CEO put it, “I would love to see those workplaces have some open conversations. Say, ‘You’re being a little loud, can you take that conversation elsewhere?’”

— Adapted from “I Heard That,” Jared Shelly, Human Resource Executive Online.

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