How do I deal with noisy colleagues? 

– DistractedDear Distracted,

In today’s work environment, many businesses adopt an open office floor plan with cubicles. Not everyone has the luxury of their own room, and may have to put up with noisy colleagues who can sometimes be loud and/or annoying.

Examples of these can be: someone who speaks very loudly (especially when on the phone), colleagues talking or joking with each other (often loudly), or even making a lot of noise when snacking.

These are things that occur in almost every organisation. If these conversations among your colleagues are distracting you, it is okay to be forthright and let your co-workers know, so long as you do it politely.

The manner in which we deal with these situations (acting vs reacting) is often times the difference between solving the problem amicably versus worsening the situation. The latter can lead to conflicts and disharmony in the workplace and it decreases productivity.However, here are some things you can do to make to improve this situation:

1. Communicate

Ask your colleagues if they would mind taking their conversation elsewhere as (state your reasons). Explain to them that you have an important call to a client or a deadline to meet that requires your full concentration.

Proactively and assertively explain to them that they are noisy and that you need to concentrate. This might help them understand better. 

As hard as it can be for some individuals to confront others, talking to your noisy colleagues might be the easiest and quickest way to diffuse the problem. Showing anger, gossiping and complaining is only going to make the matter worse.

Approach them in a calm, straightforward manner. Ask if they could take their snacks into the pantry or if they would mind using the conference room for their calls. Most colleagues will respond positively to gentle feedback. 

2. Headphones

Sometimes just ignoring the situation by wearing headphones can keep your sanity and drown out their noise at the same time. Since music also relaxes you, this will give you a quick fix and help you get back to work.

3. Talk to HR

If the situation persists, then speaking to your HR department to see if they can move your desk or introduce new policies for eating or chatting with colleagues. Explore your options with HR who, hopefully, will understand your concerns. 

4. Circle of Tolerance

This is perhaps the hardest response to have especially when you are really annoyed. The less you ‘react’ to these situations, the bigger your circle of tolerance gets. When your circle of tolerance gets bigger, you will act “more intelligently”. And acting more intelligently means you will make better decisions, which leads to: 

  • More effectiveness
  • Better relationships with others
  • Less blaming / more achievements 
  • More personal / professional success
  • Less stress

– Your friend, Davidson

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