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Working Conditions Noise

I work in a professional office where the work groups are separated by five-foot high partitions. Recently a co-worker was transferred to the group next to mine, and she is extremely loud and boisterous, to the point of disrupting the work of everyone around her. I asked my supervisor, who is also her supervisor, to speak to her, but he said I should do it myself. I think this is his responsibility, and I am afraid of causing tension if I talk to her. What should I do?

Problems on the job can come just as easily from the volume of one's co-workers as from the volume of one's work. When a loud-speaker takes up residence next to you, there are a few steps that can help move the noise from the foreground to the background.

It is apparent that your supervisor does not want to hear about this matter, at least not at this point. While you can debate the appropriateness of his response, many supervisors want their employees to try to solve problems themselves. In addition, your outspoken co-worker may become even more upset if you approach your supervisor rather than approaching her first.

The best step is to meet with this co-worker. Although you indicated that you are afraid of causing tension by doing so, that will only happen if you take a heavy-handed or judgmental approach.

A better approach is to tell her that you need her help. Indicate that although you understand how important it is for her to actively communicate with others, the configuration of the office makes it difficult for you to communicate and complete your work, particularly when everything she says is as loud in your area as hers. In this way, you are putting the blame on the partitions and not on her, and you are subtly indicating that her conversations are not private. Conclude by telling her that you would appreciate any action she could take to help solve this matter. If her words continue to bounce off your walls, then it is time for you and your co-workers to meet with your supervisor. Give him the facts of the problem as well as some possible solutions. If he still declines to get involved, you may need to take a step up the corporate ladder to get a real hearing.

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