For exhibit and event professionals  

Your Dilemma Answers: How do I handle my co-worker’s ‘off-the-hook’ behavior?

September 30, 2010 By Editor

At my company, we have cubicle configurations. When I’m on my phone, I hold the receiver to my ear and speak quietly. But the guy behind me insists on using the speaker phone option. I hear all his conversations — and I get both sides of every story. Conference calls are even worse — when I have to hear three, four or five participants. His inconsiderate behavior’s affecting my job performance. Should I ask him to pick up his phone, talk to my boss about it or just strangle this jerk with his own phone cord (kidding)?

— Frieda, Event Coordinator

Cut the cord on loud phone calls

Frieda, many people lack phone manners. In restaurants, they talk way louder than necessary on their cell phones. They don’t turn off the ring tone on their phones in a theater and carry on conversations with no regard for others who plunked down 10 bucks to see the movie. Unfortunately, you can’t do much about these boors.

But your co-worker is another matter. He owes everyone in your office some common courtesy. Consequently, you owe it to yourself — and your other co-workers — to do something about this situation.

Our readers suggest you:

  • Talk to your co-worker.
  • Go to your boss.
  • Give the loud talker an instant replay.

Talk to your co-worker 

Since this situation is between the two of you, a one-on-one conversation with your co-worker seems like a logical solution.

A trade relations marketing manager offers advice for how to broach the matter.

“Is this person your peer? If he isn’t at a ‘higher level’ than you, ask him to pick up his phone. Kindly explain it’s very hard to concentrate when you hear these conversations throughout the day, and ask him to please limit his speaker phone use while you’re in the office. You might also want to find out if he has the option of using a conference room for these calls. If so, suggest he use it. As long as you’re pleasant, he shouldn’t mind your request, especially once he becomes aware the calls are disruptive to your work. Good luck!”

Go to your boss

On the other hand, if this person’s phone calls bother you that much, he’s probably irritating a lot of other cubicle-dwellers. That makes this an “office issue,” so it may be time to get the boss involved.

Terri Prince, senior exhibits planner at KCI, believes this is the way to go.

“If you think his behavior is affecting your job performance, absolutely share it with your boss. However, you might want to have some suggestions for solving the dilemma when you do. One idea would be to provide your co-worker with a headset so he can have his conversations without disrupting the entire office. I’m sure others are also bothered.”

Give the loud talker an instant replay

Your co-worker may be totally unaware his conference calls are a problem. Or perhaps he doesn’t care. Either way, it may be time to give him a “front-row seat” to what’s going on.

An anonymous reader tells you how to proceed.

“I had this problem years ago in a very high-end design firm in D.C. This is what you do: The next time loudmouth gets on a conference call, record his conversation from your vantage point and then, without too much fanfare, play it back for him. Let him HEAR what you HEARD. When, or if, that doesn’t drive home the issue, install a microphone and loudspeaker and let everyone else suffer as you have — broadcast it live! Trust me, he’ll learn to be quieter on the phone.”

Frieda, cubicle life provides little privacy and requires extra effort to make it as tolerable as possible for everyone in the office. Speak to your co-worker or boss about the problem conference calls — or let your co-worker listen to what you hear. It is to be hoped that he’ll turn down the volume so you can get your work done.


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