Author Topic: Is asking for quiet asking too much? (long description) Update post 19  (Read 6280 times)

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Veronika Fate

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Hello everyone!  I've been lurking and reading a long time, and I want to join the community now!

This might be a long description, but the question at the end is the same as the title, and I'm not being sarcastic, just wondering if I'm being an SS.

I have a coworker (Tina) who is just so noisy.  She sits across from me in a short cubicle, we're two out of six in a group on an open floor (meaning none of us are in offices with doors, except the two most senior managers).  Tina is always making some kind of sound.  Her worst and most common are being on the phone (personal calls on the company phone) I would guess at least forty minutes out of every hour, singing and humming along to her music- which is so loud it leaks through her headphones that I can usually hear the lyrics.  When it isn't either of those, she's talking to herself, tapping her pen, stomping her feet against our shared cube wall, having conversations with her friends inside her cube or yelling over everyone else, smacking gum, sighing and moaning- most of these things are small habits I wouldn't usually mention, but I am now to illustrate the point that she is constantly doing something audible.  She even chews with her mouth open and loudly, but that's it's own blunder, I think.

To expand on the phone calls, they're not urgent and sometimes not even appropriate.  Her tone and conversations can range anywhere from a sugary-sweet baby talk voice, to calling whoever-it-is crazy and stupid repeatedly, yelling at her kids, paying her bills, planning a party, making hair appointments, and basic chatting.  She snacks frequently, so she is also usually chewing during the call as well.  I won't expand too much on the not appropriate ones, but they are of the more intimate nature. 

I'm not a total grouch, I just work best when I can hear myself think.  I understand that maybe she can work best when her mind and hands are distracted with fidgeting and talking.   I was going to post here before asking what you all would do, but I thought I knew the answer already so I tried a few things  ;D

I tried walking away when she got too distracting or her conversations got inappropriate...and spent a lot of time in the cafeteria.  When I can hear the lyrics through her headphones I ask her to turn it lower, and she does, but it doesn't take too long for it go back up.  I've asked for a new seat and why, but my boss said that first she would have a meeting with all the groups.  She did, and made a vague comment that went like this: "I'm just saying this to all the groups, to mind your noise level and everything, you know, when you have "visitors" at your desk or, even when your headphones are on just be mindful with the volume and that you're not singing along..."  Tina wasn't very happy about that, she immediately took it personally and ranted to her current "visitor" how someone was complaining, and didn't change any habits.  As for the phone calls, our senior manager has even said he doesn't mind if people need to make personal calls, he just wants us to not do it on the floor, and even mentioned a few places to go to take them.  Tina was there for that meeting but I'm guessing she doesn't like that option- as she would have to use her own cell minutes rather than the company line (a common call during bill time).  The final and most obvious option is for me to put on my own music, which I do, and I'll put it up as loud as I can before it's uncomfortable to me or leaking out (huge pet peeve)- which is pretty loud- but not only can I still hear her, then my head starts to ache from having music pumped in constantly.  (side note: I love music, I really do, and I even have a night job at a bar with live bands so I like to rest my ear drums when I can ;) )

Anyway, let me get to the point!  Based on all this, I've come to accept that she's just a talker/fidget-er/general noise maker, and I am just not.  It's a little easier when I remember she isn't singing (or whatever it is) to annoy me, and to just put on my own singers and not let it affect my productivity and put me in a bad mood- though to be honest, I still sometimes feel like reminding her that she isn't at home, where no one can stop her calls or singing.  I don't, promise!  My etiquette concern in all this, was I the one who was wrong in all this?  Was I being rude in asking to be moved away from Tina (while complaining about her), and feeling entitled to quiet when I shouldn't be?   


FWIW, I definitely would not mind occasional phone calls, visitors, singing, etc., it's the fact that there isn't a quiet moment in nine and a half hours.  And I mentioned that there are six of us in the cubicle grouping- the other four, well, if I couldn't see them, I'd never know they're there.
« Last Edit: December 28, 2012, 11:00:04 PM by Veronika Fate »

Onyx_TKD

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Re: Is asking for quiet asking too much? (long description)
« Reply #1 on: December 03, 2012, 12:15:26 AM »
You're not unreasonable to not want constant noise, and you have already tried reasonable solutions: asking her to turn her music down, masking her noise with your own music, and approaching the people in charge. Her noise-making habits are obviously not considered normal, acceptable behavior by the boss or the boss wouldn't have made public announcements about avoiding this behavior. However, your coworker obviously recognizes that she's doing being disruptive and doesn't care. I hope the boss follows through and moves you soon.

I will offer a few suggestions from my own experience with noise during work (my officemates aren't nearly as bad as your coworker, but there are quite a few of us in the same room, and most of them are much chattier than I am, so there's often noise from one person or another).

1. Try white noise instead of music. I used this website, which streams "white," "pink," or "brown" noise (the colors refer to different sound frequency ranges) for free or offers downloads of 1 hour of noise on a "pay what you want" basis. I like the brown noise, which is the lowest frequency range (I find it less hissy than the white noise). I find that it masks ambient noise well at much lower volume than music, and it isn't as distracting as music can be. Occasionally I'll even open two music players on my computer so I can play the brown noise at low volume under my music, because the low-volume brown noise will help mask the talking and let me just hear my music.

2. Find some headphones/earbuds that block outside sound well. I've never tried actual noise-cancelling headphones, but there's a world of difference between different sets of earbuds that I have. The earbuds I keep at work have thin rubber earpieces that look a lot like these:

For me, they're like earplugs with optional music. They block the sound quite effectively even without anything playing through them. When I used earbuds more like these
,
I had to turn the sound up too much in order to block out the persistent talkers.



SamiHami

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Re: Is asking for quiet asking too much? (long description)
« Reply #2 on: December 03, 2012, 12:24:01 AM »
I agree with the above suggestions, but I also think you should go back to the boss and again request that you be moved. And if that doesn't work, ask again. And so on. There is a lot of truth to the saying "the squeaky wheel gets the grease."

Quite simply your boss is not doing anything because it is not his/her problem. it's your problem. Time to make it the bosses' problem by continuing to make your very reasonable request until it is resolved.

What have you got? Is it food? Is it for me? I want it whatever it is!

camlan

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Re: Is asking for quiet asking too much? (long description)
« Reply #3 on: December 03, 2012, 06:15:11 AM »
So Tina realized that the vaguely worded message from the boss about noise applied to her and did nothing?

Yep, go back to your boss and tell her that. That's your first step.

Then, when nothing happens because Tina doesn't seem willing to change and your boss doesn't seem willing to address the issue head-on, go back to your boss again and tell her that your productivity is suffering from the constant noise and visitors and phone calls and stomping. Please could you be moved, so that you can concentrate on your work?

Focus on how the constant noise affects your work--you get distracted and have to re-do things, you can't concentrate because of the laughing and yelling, etc.

You shouldn't have to listen to loud music just to drown her out. Tina is breaking several rules. Someone should deal with her.
Nothing is impossible, the word itself says, “I’m possible!” –Audrey Hepburn

BarensMom

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Re: Is asking for quiet asking too much? (long description)
« Reply #4 on: December 03, 2012, 09:33:32 AM »
I would also go back to your boss.  This time, ask him/her to come quietly to your cubicle while Tina is at her most noisy.  Let your boss hear her carryings-on, the too-personal phone calls, the stomping on your cube wall, etc.  Another option is to have one of Tina's other neighbors weigh in to your boss.

I've had to deal with these sorts numerous times in cube farms.  One time, It took the boss having her office reno'd and hearing firsthand the noise.  Another time, it took a prairie dog uprising.  Sometimes, all I had to do was ask.  You have to be politely persistent and eventually either you or Tina will be moved.

Hmmmmm

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Re: Is asking for quiet asking too much? (long description)
« Reply #5 on: December 03, 2012, 10:03:54 AM »
I agree about being the squeeky wheel and be it with Tina and your boss.

Everytime you hear her music or singing or pencil tapping, you have the right to say "Tina, would you hold it down?  The sound is distracting."  Even if it is 3 times an hour. If she pouts, she pouts.  And she can grump to her current visitor, but believe me they are walking away gratefull they are not sitting next to her.

And go to your boss and tell him you want to move and do it frequently.

Marbles

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Re: Is asking for quiet asking too much? (long description)
« Reply #6 on: December 03, 2012, 06:09:47 PM »
Wanting a quieter work environment is totally reasonable. You're not a SS. :)

I would have another talk with your boss, but I think you will have more traction with your complaint if you emphasize the intimate conversations and how uncomfortable they make you. (Who wouldn't be uncomfortable hearing that? Especially at work! So inappropriate.) That's a different kind of HR issue and is much more likely to be taken seriously than a simple noise complaint.

BarensMom's idea of bringing you boss over quietly can be successful, too.

Veronika Fate

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Re: Is asking for quiet asking too much? (long description)
« Reply #7 on: December 03, 2012, 07:01:46 PM »
Thanks for the replies, everyone!  I was starting to wonder, based on the nonchalant responses from the managers ("Just turn your music up"), that maybe I was trying to get the world to conform to me-  I know you'd let me have it if that was the case!  She was actually pretty quiet today!  There were a few personal calls, but nothing I couldn't ignore since it was infrequent.

Onyx_TKD-  I never thought of using white noise, that's a great idea, thanks!  I'll keep an eye out for a good price on headphones like that too.

In regards having our boss come over when Tina is getting hyper, I'm not sure it would work that well.  As soon as she sees the boss coming (very open floor) she puts her calls on hold, stops singing for a moment, whatever it is, the same way people switch windows off the Internet.  It doesn't help that they're kind of buddies.

You're all right though, if I want something done I'll have to keep speaking up.  TBH I was a little hesitant to become That Person Who Complains About Everything, but if becoming that person means I have some peace to get some work done then it's not a terrible consolation prize  ;D

Since she was pleasant today, I won't say anything.  For all I know, she got talked to after I left.  The week just started though so I'll be keeping these suggestions in mind! 

nuit93

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Re: Is asking for quiet asking too much? (long description)
« Reply #8 on: December 03, 2012, 07:08:42 PM »
How in the world is she getting any work done if she's spending all day on personal calls?

Calypso

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Re: Is asking for quiet asking too much? (long description)
« Reply #9 on: December 03, 2012, 08:24:08 PM »
Welcome, Verononica Fate!

I hope you don't mind if I piggyback a couple of questions onto your thread; they're kind of relevant.

1) My coworker isn't nearly as annoying as Veronica's, but my ability to concentrate seems to waver from day to day---some days I have no problem at all, some days every word out of her mouth makes me want to scream, as it completely derails my train of thought and it takes forever to get back on it.
Today was an OK day for me, but Boss gave me something to review that required me to really concentrate, so, since coworker was (I thought) not talking to me directly, but really to herself, I plugged my ears for the length of time it took to read it. (Our desks aren't in sight of one another).

Well, she walked through my area to get something and, after I was done (and unplugged) said "I'm sorry for going on and on when you were trying to work." I couldn't tell, but maybe I hurt her feelings? Was it PA to plug my ears instead of telling her I needed to focus for a few minutes?


2) I LOVE the whitenoise idea---but how well does it block out sound? Can I hear the intercom if someone buzzes me? Can I hear the boss if he calls me from the next room (about 10 feet away)?

White Lotus

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Re: Is asking for quiet asking too much? (long description)
« Reply #10 on: December 03, 2012, 09:01:07 PM »
Top of the line brand name noise cancelling headphones are worth every penny.  But PPs ideas about how to get a more cooperative and efficient work environment are excellent and actually better ideas than circumventing the underlying problem.  Get the headphones anyway.  You will love them.

Veronika Fate

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Re: Is asking for quiet asking too much? (long description)
« Reply #11 on: December 03, 2012, 09:28:21 PM »
How in the world is she getting any work done if she's spending all day on personal calls?

I ask myself that all the time!  To make it even more impressive, she uses two phones at once a lot too. 

All I can think is that she works better with a mental distraction, maybe the same way I work better when I'm in a cone of silence, not sure.  Some of our work requires a lot of concentration (what I've been doing lately) but we also have tasks that can get done zoned out.  I'd be worried about typing what I'm saying, but that's just me. 


Marbles

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Re: Is asking for quiet asking too much? (long description)
« Reply #12 on: December 05, 2012, 02:43:53 AM »
Today was an OK day for me, but Boss gave me something to review that required me to really concentrate, so, since coworker was (I thought) not talking to me directly, but really to herself, I plugged my ears for the length of time it took to read it. (Our desks aren't in sight of one another).

Well, she walked through my area to get something and, after I was done (and unplugged) said "I'm sorry for going on and on when you were trying to work." I couldn't tell, but maybe I hurt her feelings? Was it PA to plug my ears instead of telling her I needed to focus for a few minutes?

I would just take her apology at face value and accept it. Hopefully that will drive home the point that she shouldn't be jabbering on at work.

Even if her feelings were hurt and she was making a PA jab, tough cookies. She shouldn't be making constant noise anyway.

If plugging your ears lets you concentrate, then do that. She doesn't get a vote.

cubemissy

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Re: Is asking for quiet asking too much? (long description)
« Reply #13 on: December 05, 2012, 09:32:14 AM »
If you still need to have your boss overhear, can you call your boss at the noisiest point, and just put him on speakerphone? Is the noise level enough that he'd be able to judge it over the phone? At least that way, she wouldnt get a visual warning and be ready to silence herself.

bopper

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Re: Is asking for quiet asking too much? (long description)
« Reply #14 on: December 05, 2012, 11:33:15 AM »
You have asked her to be quieter.
The boss has indirectly asked her to be quieter.

You could try EVERYTIME she gets on a call "Tina, could you take that call in the hallway?"
or "Tina, can you turn your music down? Even with the headphones I can hear it over here."
or "Tina, could you stop singing? I have a call I need to make to a client."

You could also go to the boss and say that since the meeting, Tina was quieter for about a day and then has resumed her usual noise levels. She is still taking up 5 personal calls a day at her desk and continues with the singing/humming/gum chewing etc. It is continueing to interfere with you getting your work done so is is possible that you and Tina not sit near each other?