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Whispering


taxi4ballet
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Hi all, can I ask for your thoughts about how to handle this situation...

 

I work part-time for a business, and we recently had a re-organisation of offices and desks between various departments. Up until now I've had an office to myself. It is quite large, and big enough to fit four big desks and filing cabinets in comfortably. Across the corridor is the office of the director.

 

Two admin staff have now been moved into the office, and our desks are in 3 of the 4 corners. Since they've arrived they spend a lot of time whispering quietly to one another (they're in their early 20's) and don't seem to realise how disconcerting this is. I'm not being paranoid and thinking that they're discussing me, I am quite sure that it is because the boss has his open office door immediately opposite ours and he is known for being able to hear a pin drop at 100 paces. 

 

The thing is - what do I say to them about it? They are both nice and I don't want to offend them, but on the other hand their constant whispering is infuriating and driving me completely round the bend!

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That's a good idea Sarah, it is a bit tricky as I'm sure they just don't realise that it's bothering me. My job involves some fairly complicated financial reconciliations which need quite a bit of concentration, and although I'm quite good at filtering out general office noise, ringing phones and chat etc, for some reason this heads-together whispering is way more distracting than anything else!

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Well, for what it's worth this is my opinion. On the one hand, you have been used to having the space to yourself, so the intrusion into what was 'your' space, is probably unwelcome. You need relative quiet to concentrate and suddenly you are being to subjected to what must be one of the most irritating noises known to man - that of whispering. 

Whatever they are whispering about, it is very rude and intrusive on your space. I think of how annoying it is in the theatre. Sometimes you feel like asking the offenders to just speak at a normal pitch, say whatever they feel they need to say and then please be quiet.

I can see why proximity to the manager's office and his radar tabs might encourage the whispering but when there is a third person in the room i.e. you and you are being excluded albeit for no particular reason, but it is distracting you from your work, then you are entitled to say something. 

It needn't be confrontational, after all I am sure we have all worked with people who are hyper - sensitive to anything that could possibly be interpreted as a tiniest hint of merest criticism, even if it isn't meant that way. I used to work with a 'professional' cryer. 

As the office layout is fairly new, you could suggest something along the lines of it isn't really working for you - you could even do it David Brent style by musing about the work related arena - make a light remark about how they don't need to whisper if they are discussing relevant office business. The boss won't concern himself about that. But the whispering is hugely distracting to somebody trying to do a job that requires intense concentration and as you are sharing an office now, you would be most grateful if they could stop. If they are otherwise nice, they should respond positively. Perhaps they are concerned that they are disturbing you by talking, not realising how much more annoying whispering can be.

Failing that, come in to work with an enormous pair of bright yellow ear plugs. :)

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Well, for what it's worth this is my opinion. On the one hand, you have been used to having the space to yourself, so the intrusion into what was 'your' space, is probably unwelcome. You need relative quiet to concentrate and suddenly you are being to subjected to what must be one of the most irritating noises known to man - that of whispering. 

The funny thing is, I've only recently moved into that particular office myself, so it isn't really mine, so to speak. Before that I was sharing with the MD and the financial director. I'm well used to switching my brain onto 'selective deafness' mode, and filtering out all manner of chit-chat and general bustle, and quite often I'm concentrating so hard I don't actually realise when someone is actually talking to me!

 

Their immediate supervisor is in another building, so I can't really say anything to her about it so I think I'll have to bite the bullet and have a quiet word with them - maybe I will whisper!!

 

edited for spelling

Edited by taxi4ballet
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Since this is a new arrangement all round, and the boss is also sensitive to sounds, might they be interested in discussing devices and software/apps for masking different types of sound? These are now used in many open-plan offices and needn't be expensive.

 

In any event I definitely agree that its best to raise the topic in a non-confrontational way - the whisperers may well be struggling to adapt to the loss of their own joint-private space.

 

Wishing you all the best with this tricky situation...

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The whisperers have actually come from a much larger office shared with about 10 others, which is where their supervisor still is. I think the biggest problem might be that they are now working unsupervised, as (aside from the whispering) I've also noticed that there doesn't seem to be all that much in the way of actual work going on - although it is difficult to tell as much of what they do is marketing and online, responding to the company's live Facebook and Twitter feeds.

 

The boss isn't 'sensitive' to sounds as such, what I mean is that he is an eavesdropper and wants to know everything that's going on (in this particular line of business he needs to do that), so these girls are obviously whispering about things they'd rather he didn't know about!

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Does your office have a door? If it can be kept closed so the boss can't hear what goes on in your office, maybe that'd stop the necessity for whispering.

 

Of course, if they're friends from their previous office and they see you as an outsider, the whispering might well have nothing to do with the boss. Even so, it's really not professional.

 

I should think in some ways it's more irritating that you're sharing an office with two people who are spending more time socialising than actually working.

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Does your office have a door? If it can be kept closed so the boss can't hear what goes on in your office, maybe that'd stop the necessity for whispering.

 

Of course, if they're friends from their previous office and they see you as an outsider, the whispering might well have nothing to do with the boss. Even so, it's really not professional.

 

I should think in some ways it's more irritating that you're sharing an office with two people who are spending more time socialising than actually working.

Yes, there's a door, but the boss often talks to me and asks questions etc across the passageway!

 

You're right about them possibly spending more time socialising than working - and I'm in a bit of a quandary about this as I'm quite a bit more senior than they realise, but I don't want to get them into trouble or create an awkward atmosphere...

 

Oh well, I'll see what happens tomorrow!

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i think you should ask to move in to the directors office...

I've only just come out of there... 

 

The company has two buildings and there's been a lot of reshuffling which means that the two directors I was sharing with now have a slightly smaller office themselves with no room for me and my filing cabinets, hence my move to where I am now.

 

Will listen out for whispering in the morning and report back!

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Maybe their line manager will notice the reduced work rate and do something about it?

Funny you should say that - she turned up for an hour's 'training session' this morning...

 

The boss said to me today (after an unrelated issue cropped up) that it is my office and they are sharing with me, so it is a case of 'my office, my rules' and I have carte blanche :D

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Crikey, they didn't like it much when I asked them to stop, talk about stroppy adolescents!

So you were right to say something, having tried to give them the benefit of the doubt. If they want to whisper and generally express themselves in a playground stylee, that's what the lavs are for. Maybe they will ask for a transfer back to their little mates so they can all whisper together.

What did they actually do/say when you mentioned things? Was it a Vicky Pollard moment? 

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Does the director have room for you and your desk only in his office? You could pop across the corridor to your filing cabinets whistling loudly in very noisy heels! If not, get him to move his filing cabinets in to their office too to make room for you. If he has noisy shoes and a loud whistle too, all the better!

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Does the director have room for you and your desk only in his office? You could pop across the corridor to your filing cabinets whistling loudly in very noisy heels! If not, get him to move his filing cabinets in to their office too to make room for you. If he has noisy shoes and a loud whistle too, all the better!

This made me laugh, because this afternoon the boss told me that there is going to be yet another re-shuffle and I will be back with the directors again!

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So you were right to say something, having tried to give them the benefit of the doubt. If they want to whisper and generally express themselves in a playground stylee, that's what the lavs are for. 

 

No, no, the lavs are for making your personal phone calls on your mobile - or so one of my ex-colleagues thought.  It was amazing what she would discuss in there, regardless of who else was in there.  Not sure she ever did any work ...

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