OFFICE POLITICS 101: Phone talk
Q: One of my co-workers spends just about the entire day either on his business phone or on his cell. His office is right beside mine and I’m pretty sure a lot of his conversations are personal. It’s driving me crazy. Should I mention my concerns to him or his boss?
He’s driving you crazy? Is it because you think he is not using his time productively or because you believe he is enjoying pleasant private phone conversations with friends or acquaintances?
My guess is that he is irritating you because you can hear his voice which is distracting you from your responsibilities. Remember, of course, that, regardless of content, a colleague’s tone may be annoying, especially if it is loud to enough to be heard in your office.
It is important to realize, though, that some jobs—such a sales and customer service—require a great deal of phone contact. In fact, certain sales positions are almost exclusively dedicated to selling by phone.
Perhaps he is required to speak with employees at other sites and has been asked to make frequent phone calls. If you work at the administrative office and there are branch locations, he could be confirming orders or following up on customer issues, for example.
You are assuming many of his conversations are personal but his cheerful disposition may be part of his sales-oriented persona; he may very well be brightening up his calls with some cheerful remarks.
Suppose, though, he is in fact spending an inordinate amount of time making and receiving personal calls. Is it any of your concern? He may have completed his assigned tasks and uses the phone as part of his lunch or coffee breaks.
If he’s too noisy and his conversations are disturbing you, then why not simply drop by his office and share your concerns. He may have been totally unaware of his discourtesy and would happily soften his tone.
Be sure to present your points graciously without pleading (which could diminish the impact of your appeal).
In addition, you might consider placing your desk in another location—away from his wall—and also find an Internet or FM station that plays a selection of favourite music that will obscure his voice.
Being distracted by a co-worker’s phone conversations can be frustrating and trying; however, while he may be required to spend much of his workday on the phone, a brief request will likely encourage him to soften his tone in order that you can focus on your duties.
n Simon Gibson is an experienced university professor, marketing executive and corporate writer. He has a PhD in education from Simon Fraser University and a degree in journalism from Carleton University. Submit your confidential questions relating to work and office life to firstname.lastname@example.org.