Thursday, March 26, 2009

Cacophony in the next cubicle

I’ve have been asked a query by a reader: “How do I get a motor-mouth of a colleague in the next cubicle to stop talking 24/7 on the phone? Can I get help from HR?”

Really, I do understand your situation. But I have a couple of questions to ask before answering your query? “Is your next cubicle colleague (lets call him Joe) part of the company’s sales team?”, “Does Joe’s job require him to talk on the phone for long hours with clients, customers, other colleagues, etc.?” If yes, then I suggest you get yourself allotted to another cubicle really far from your colleague. Since you need complete ‘silence’ while working and asking Joe to stop talking is like asking him to not work! That could back-fire. If this is the situation, I’m not sure how your admin team allotted your cubicle there in the first place?

I’ll answer your query assuming your current situation doesn’t fall under the above category. Can you get help from HR? Off course you can. First, have you tried telling Joe about the discomfort you face while working, due to the excessive talking in his cubicle? If you haven’t, then it’s a first step to take. Go ahead & tell him. Sometimes, people need to be reminded of manners at a workplace. Talking loudly on the phone is one of them. Maybe burping is another one that comes to mind! Now, if the person doesn’t heed your request and continues to ramble on - you need help from either your manager or HR. Your work is getting affected and eventually will lower your productivity levels.

Honestly, it’s not like HR can frame an ‘Employee Noise Decibel Level Policy’. One that will tell you that an employee can’t produce noise above 30dB while sneezing or that talking on the phone should not produce noise above 50dB. Sounds ridiculous, right? Some people take more time than normal, to learn basic mannerisms. It never hurt to tell them when you get the chance.

If the next door talk-show continues, pack your bags and head to another cubicle. Else, get yourself a pair of ear plugs.