Have a co-worker who makes annoying sounds? Here’s what to do

Before you get angry, try these tips on how to make the situation better, Monster Canada says. Getty Images

Singing, coughing, sniffling – you name it. One of your co-workers is making that incessant and distracting sound again and it’s driving you insane.

And while you’d just love to tell them to stop, office etiquette on this one can be a little fuzzy. Is it rude to point it out and ask them to keep it down? Is there a way to do it that won’t make you seem like the office ogre?

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“This scenario is actually quite common,” Arturo Gallo, content manager at Monster Canada, says. “We find that it’s even more common nowadays, especially with the existence of open concept offices and open workspaces. So you’re more exposed to other people’s habits but that’s where I think human resources departments really have to make sure that employees understand the company’s guidelines and policies on these matters in order to maintain a good ambiance of the workplace.”

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While some might believe it’s the complainer who’s exaggerating the situation, others believe that noise makers need to be more aware – it’s a debate that’s tough to settle, Gallo says.

“What came first, right – the chicken or the egg?” he says. “Sometimes the people that complain are regarded as rude but I think the good thing to do is to find common ground for both parties.”

So if you find yourself in this boat, Gallo has some tips that you can follow that will help you navigate this office etiquette blunder.

Be open minded

It’s important to understand that not everyone is the same, Gallo says, so be mindful of those differences.

“We’re all different and have different working habits,” Gallo explains. “Some need a quieter space while others don’t.”

For example, if talking is the issue for you, just know that friendly conversations between co-workers can actually contribute to a happy and healthy work environment, Gallo says.

“As long as it doesn’t impact your productivity it’s fine,” he says. “But if it jeopardizes your work, it’s OK to speak up.”


Should this noise be interfering with your work, then yes – it’s time to say something. However, make sure you do it nicely and in a professional manner, Gallo says.

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But sometimes the thought of saying something can be scary and hold people back from rectifying the issue, which ends up making the person who’s annoyed even more agitated.

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“Sometimes people are scared to say something because they don’t want to create friction and a conflict in the office and you might be looked at as the bad guy,” Gallo says. “Try not to think about that. Just be honest and try to offer a solution.”

Offer a solution

Don’t be defensive, Gallo says. Instead, try to come up with a solution where all parties can be as happy as possible.

For example, you may think about moving to another spot in the office. Or ask your boss if there is an empty office you can use.

Another solution, Gallo says, would be to work from home one or two days a week, or at the end of the month when your deadlines are approaching.

Be patient

“Figure out if this is a problem for you because you’re annoyed with loud people, or if it’s hindering your productivity,” Gallo says. “It’s important to realize that sometimes chemistry has a lot to do with it.”

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So if the chemistry isn’t working don’t get angry, Gallo says. Instead either try to compromise in your current situation or find that solution that will make everyone happier.

If it causes tension

If you’ve done all you can and the tension you were trying to avoid becomes apparent, then it’s time to go to your human resources department and seek their help, Gallo says.

“If nothing is working make sure you reach out to HR,” Gallo advises. “They’ll take matters in their hands or to your manager. They’ll help find a solution for everyone.”

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