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How do you end a constant distraction without alienating your co-workers?

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Question: "Two of my co-workers frequently have personal conversations about five feet away from my desk area. The sound is very annoying and distracting to me. How should I approach this concern with them?" - Pat, Accounts Receivable

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

EVA June 12, 2014 at 4:41 pm



Pam June 6, 2014 at 7:52 am

My desk used to be in an open area and constant noise from conversations around me would interrupt my thought process and make it difficult to speak with someone on the phone. After putting up with the noise for months, I approached some of the biggest offenders and enlisted their assistance in brainstorming an solution to excessive noise levels in the area. Without actually saying anything to these people about how much of a disruptive force they were, I got them to stop and realize just how many conversations were taking place outside of offices and cubicles. We all agreed that conversations were to be kept out of hallways so as not to bother others in the area. Signs were posted asking others to be considerate of workers in the area. It worked!


Theresa Kasel June 5, 2014 at 5:09 pm

I think your best option is to go with putting in ear buds or buy some of the ear plugs. I had a co-worker who used the wax ear plugs (I believe they are intended for swimmers) all the time.

If that isn’t enough to block out the conversations so you can concentrate, it’s perfectly acceptable to approach them and say that you can hear their conversation and that you’d appreciate if they could go to a break area for the conversation or talk in softer voices.

Remember, every conversation about something that bothers you doesn’t need to be a “confrontation” — I think we use that word far too much when dealing with things that bother us. It’s quite possible they don’t even realize that their conversations are bothering anyone in the office. And, it’s possible, you aren’t the only one who wishes they would hold these conversations somewhere else.

If ear plugs/buds, sound machines, etc. and asking them don’t work, then a conversation with your manager about how to resolve this issue would be the next step. You could ask if you could be moved to a desk further from them or a quieter area on the floor. Make sure that when you bring this up with your manager you bring it up as an issue of you wanting to increase your productivity level — not that they need to stop having personal conversations in the aisles. (Even though, I think you and I agree that they should.)


Denise June 5, 2014 at 4:37 pm

How many of us endure the same situation, and sadly have no one to turn to that’s willing to do something to prevent this type of disruption in the offiice. It appears no one will address it, not even the supervisor who is quite aware of the situation. Instead of addressing the annoyance of the daily multiple 30-45 minute conversations, the supervisor will also join in which makes it difficult to comment if the supvr. is also involved. I am so fed-up, and really doing my very best to keep a good attitude, but it’s extremely hard. Praying that a breakthrough will happen soon, a new job opportunity or something where I’m exposed to fewer people. I’m tired of having to put plugs in my ears to tune them out. Hoping for a change!!


L June 5, 2014 at 4:37 pm

I agree with the earbuds method. Bringing it up would cause tension and even more so if the boss thinks that the two chatters walk on water.


Michelle June 5, 2014 at 4:08 pm

I agree with Karen and Kathy regarding the ear buds. If you can’t focus with songs with words play some classical or movie score soundtracks. I never bring this type of thing up with either my boss or theirs as that is the quickest way to be alienated. I’ve found it creates a more positive atmosphere when I edit my own practices instead of complaining about theirs. If the bosses are good at what they do they may notice and directly ask you why you’ve changed your ways at which time you can honestly say it helps you concentrate with the others so near by.


Kathy June 5, 2014 at 3:25 pm

I have the same problem but there are three of them. I chimed in one day and heard later that I was eaves dropping and being nosey. SO I have gone to the white noise method and ear phones. As well as discussing the issue with my supervisor. (We do not all report to the same supervisor.)


Karen June 5, 2014 at 1:42 pm

You could join in their conversations. This will subtly let them know you can hear them.
You could also use a desk fan, white noise machine, or ipod/mp3 player with ear buds to drown out the noise.


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