How do we tell a snoopy co-worker not to comment on the phone conversations of others? — 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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How do we tell a snoopy co-worker not to comment on the phone conversations of others?

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Question: “I work in an office with two other women.  One woman makes comments about what’s being said while the other person is on a telephone conversation. I realize that it's hard working in close proximity and we hear each other’s phone conversations. How can we politely tell this woman not to add her comments while one of us is on the phone?” — Margie Jimenez


I think this is something you and your other co-worker should take up with the offending party. I believe in first taking a problem to the person causing the problem and trying to resolve it on that level. Often this is the best method and it doesn't take it to a supervisory level where feelings could be hurt or worse yet, there could be outright animosity between workers. No one wants to work in an office where there is a feeling of animosity. If this method doesn't work, then I think you have to take it to the supervisory level. A small office generates many problems with privacy, but if you approach that problem with friendliness and concern, I think you can resolve it.

I usually think the direct route is the best route. For your specific situation, I would say something like, "I know in an office this small, there is no such thing as privacy when it comes to overhearing other people's conversations. However, I make a point to try and tune out your conversations with people. I would appreciate it if you would offer me the same respect and privacy by not commenting on my phone calls."

If it is you on the telephone while she is making the comments, address it after your done with your conversation. Tell her that you think it's rude and you don't appreciate the commentary/editorial. If she continues, let her know that you plan on talking to your boss and/or HR department. Be sure to document the times that she does this so you have some sort of record. Good luck.

While I'm own the phone, I'd motion to the woman to be quiet in sign language of sorts. After I get off the phone, I'd remind her of modern technical advances which may mean the person on the other end can hear her comments even though she is not speaking directly into the phone. AND, also that her side comments while you are on the phone is very distracting and does not allow you to give the caller the attention they deserve. Every call thereafter, I'd use the sign language if she forgets, until she gets it.

Immediately after it happens, you say, "Excuse me, Jane? Could you please not talk about my call while I'm on the phone? Thanks."

They should confront the co-worker who is telling everyone's business and ask her it was her conversation would she want everyone else to know her business? Ask her to please give respect to the others privacy.

I think you have two choices. You can pull her aside and talk to her or be direct as in Joyce's advice. If she's visible, use sign language of sorts or put the caller on hold and let your co-worker know that you're having difficulty understanding the caller with her comments and that the caller is distracted as well because she/he can hear everything being said.

Well, I had this happen with a MALE coworker (no less). Fortunately, we had lots of empty cubicles and I was able to get my cubicle moved away from "Mr. Busy Body."

If the woman is commenting about business calls, you need to tell her that comments might be overheard by the person on the phone and it would make the company look bad. Then, ask her to stop. If she doesn't, take it to HR to handle.

If the woman is commenting about personal calls, first slap her (kidding!)... find a way to take your personal calls away from your work area. Be 90% of our staff is men, I can usually just take my cell into the woman's restroom. Or, I use a conference room or go outside.

Thank you for your help and support. Very much appreciated. Margie

If it is a business call - point out to the woman your customers/vendors would appreciate not being talked about while conducting their bustiness. If it is a personal call point out to her that your company allows you to spend your time making personal phone calls and it is none of her business. If your company does not allow personal calls then the problem is yours - get off the phone and get to work.

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