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How to handle a nosy and loud office mate

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Question: I have an office mate who is very nosy. We have different positions. I have a lot of traffic flow with vendors and other employees who ask me for help or information. Invariably, she pokes her nose in and adds her own comments or suggestions.

How do I get her to stop interfering? We have shared this office for about a year. Before we moved in together, we both told our manager that we shouldn't share an office. She is a very loud person and if I am talking to someone, and she is talking to someone, I can't hear the person I am talking to. This is becoming intolerable.

We are going through some downsizing, so I don't want to mention it to my manager right now. We work 10-hour days, and they are pretty long when you have to continually bite your tongue. I'm afraid I will lash out at her soon. 
-- Anonymous


Boy do I hear you on this one. I am also the person that vendors and it seems everyone else comes to with questions. I like being in this position. what I don't like is someone piping up to address the question that someone asked me directly. Let me do my job already. Can you ask the other staff members (or the people who come to you with questions) to put them in an email and you can go to them instead of them coming to your office? Also, can you meet with vendors in a different part of the building, away from your office and the person who butts in?

Remember: you can't change someone else's behavior (unless you're her supervisor!); you can only change your own reactions to those behaviors so try not to let it get to you too much.

Ignore her nosiness and butting in as much as possible. If you are having a conversation with someone else and she jumps in, you don't always have to respond to her. Also, get away from your desk as much as possible, if just for a small atmosphere change. Also, when someone asks you a question, see if you can go to his/her desk to answer it sometimes.

I have found that a good response to someone who asks a nosy question is, "Why do you ask?" That puts them on the spot, and turns the tables on them a little. Who wants to admit they were just being snoopy? Not sure how to get her to stop offering comments and suggestions about your conversations, though. That's harder to stop.

It may be that you have to have a frank conversation with her at some point. I have a friend who manages someone with the same problem (being too loud). She finally had to tell her that it's disruptive to her co-workers and that she had to keep her voice down. Once the problem is brought into the open, you can remind her to be quiet on a case-by-case basis (she'll likely forget to keep her voice down).

I sit in the open and find that people often don't realize how loud they are being. When I'm on the phone (and can't hear what the caller is saying due to loud voices), I just ask the people to keep their voices down. They almost never realize they're being too loud, and apologize.

Dear Anonymous

In reference to your co-worker who likes to add her two cents, start referring/directing the vendors to her for help when they ask questions. Soon you'll find that she's too busy with something else or not at her desk.

I think if you politely ask her to keep her voice down while talking on the phone she will. Sometimes you really don't know how loud you are talking until someone brings it to your attention.

Keep your Joy.
Shirl, Wash, DC

Some people who are particularly loud have hearing problems. I was very distressed when a supervisor, who's office is close to my desk, would "shout" over the phone every time she had a phonecall. I would walk over and quietly close her door. She finally came to me and apologized, explaining that she was deaf in one ear and would try to remember to close her door while on the phone.

As mentioned above, I would definitely approach your coworker and let her know where you are coming from. The next time she adds her "two cents worth" just (mildly) let her know that you plan to do xyz to handle the task, and you appreciate her willingness to help, and will request hlep future if you need it, there is no need for her to offer help every time. I would handle her volume level in the same manner - the next time she is too loud, after she hangs up the phone just say you find it difficult to hear clients when she is talking on the phone and would she be able to speak more quietly. Hopefully she is unaware of the problems and willing to change. Best wishes!

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