A Weekly Q&A Column About Professionalism, Etiquette and Problems in the Workplace
by Sue Morem
Dear Sue: I work in a nice office with some very pleasant
people. There is, however, one person I work with who talks so loudly that
it becomes hard for me to keep my focus. My job requires a keen sense of
concentration, but I am unable to concentrate when this loud talking is
going on. He has been asked time and time again to keep his voice down,
but he doesn’t seem to get the message. What can be done to stop him from
talking so loud?
Sue Says: If your coworker has been asked to keep his voice down
repeatedly, but does not comply, there must be a reason. He could just be
a rude, insensitive man, purposely ignoring your requests, or maybe he
believes he is honoring your request; he may think he keeping his voice
down, yet unaware of how loud he is talking. People don’t hear themselves
as others do. He may talk louder if he doesn’t hear well. Or, he may be
struggling to break a habit; he’s probably talked this way his entire
Are you the only one bothered by his loud talking or is it a problem
for others as well? If he is a nuisance to everyone, there is power in
numbers; collectively decide what action to take. You’ll have to do more
than nicely ask him to keep his voice down; you need to tell him how
disruptive he is. If management gets involved, perhaps moving him to a
room with a door to close or a further distance from others will help.
If you are the only person who is bothered by his talking, then the
problem may not be about him—the problem may lie within you.
Everyone is different; while some people can tune out distractions
easily, others cannot. Some people work better with background noise, and
others need complete silence to concentrate. Because you are having
trouble focusing on your work, and over focusing on your coworker's loud
conversations, look for ways to tune him out. Try playing soft music,
“white” noise, or running a fan in your office. These soothing noises will
help cover other noises, and hopefully drown out his loud voice. If
background noise doesn’t help, consider wearing earplugs.
Of course, you don’t have to shoulder all the responsibility or be the
only one who changes, but you do need to accept some of the
responsibility. Acknowledge your challenges as well; let him know you are
sensitive to outside distractions. You don’t want him to feel he is being
personally attacked or picked on. When you own the problem and ask for his
support in helping you, he is more likely to comply.
Sue Morem is a professional speaker, trainer and syndicated columnist. She
is author of the newly released
101 Tips for Graduates and
How to Gain the Professional Edge, Second Edition. You can contact her by email at
firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her web site at
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