Unfortunately our office is small and open-plan. We have around 20 employees squeezed in and for the most part everyone just gets on and does their job.

However, one department has a group who never shut up. Rarely is their talk work-related, generally it's just chitchat about nothing in particular. I get that socialising at work is a good thing, I talk to everyone about my weekend etc. but then I get on with my work.

Sometimes this group talks about work which makes sense, it's more efficient than talking via slack but it almost always descends in to banter. They seem unable to appreciate a comfortable silence. Yesterday we had silence for 30 minutes as two of the group were away and the third member got uncomfortable saying it felt like a library. They attempted to start random conversations with other team members.

I've raised this issue with my manager and he agrees that it's a problem and he'll raise with the CEO. I guess this is all I can do?

Is there anything else I can do? I'm tempted to message/chat to them one to one and ask them to keep it down but this will probably lead to an awkward relationship.

  • 4
    I wear headphones or work from home.
    – user16259
    Commented Apr 27, 2018 at 5:14
  • 1
    I wear headphones too but this group is really loud :( also sometimes I dont even want music distracting me when I'm working I just want silence. I may ask for remote working soon if it continues..
    – Pixelomo
    Commented Apr 27, 2018 at 5:16
  • 2
    ...think I need to buy some noise-cancelling headphones ;)
    – Pixelomo
    Commented Apr 27, 2018 at 5:22
  • There are a number of similar questions on here about colleagues and noise levels, have you looked at them for ideas?
    – user34587
    Commented Apr 27, 2018 at 7:57
  • 2
    workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/4206/… for starters. There are more but I can't list them all, the Search might help.
    – user34587
    Commented Apr 27, 2018 at 8:07

4 Answers 4


I've raised this issue with my manager and he agrees that it's a problem and he'll raise with the CEO.

This is the correct thing to do. There's an issue, you raise it with your manager. That's all you should do. There are now three possibilities:

  • There's a general agreement that this team is too loud. Words are had, things improve.
  • There's no agreement this team is too loud. Maybe you're being too sensitive here (quick reality check: are the other 16 members of the office as angry about this as you are?). In that case, you'll have to work out what you want to do.
  • Management is weak and ignore this issue. Unfortunate.

I'm tempted to message/chat to them one to one and ask them to keep it down but this will probably lead to an awkward relationship.

And probably an awkward conversation with your manager as well. You're not this team's manager, you don't get to tell them how to behave.

  • 2
    Minor point of clarification: you do get to ask people to change their behaviour if it's legitimately impacting you, but addressing this with each person individually is still not a good idea and unlikely to be successful.
    – Lilienthal
    Commented Apr 27, 2018 at 6:56
  • 2
    @Lilienthal True. But given the wording of the question, I suspect the "ask[ing] them to keep it down" wouldn't be in an appropriate tone. Commented Apr 27, 2018 at 7:38

I'm in the exact same situation. Here's how I mitigate it:

  1. earbuds. I listen to music, but you could play rainfall or white noise to switch off the menagerie.
  2. Coming in/leaving early. I work 8-4. I know this isn't an option for a lot of people, but it gives me some private time to get shit done (I totally don't spend it bullshitting on stackexchange). This works especially well, since the loudest of the bunch didn't show up until 10:45 yesterday.

Here's how I brought it up with the menagerie:

  1. if I'm on a conference call, and I can't get them to shut the f*ck up, i'll give them a short "Ladies, please". It normally does the trick without generating animosity, since I've got a valid reason for asking for silence. Or maybe it does generate animosity anyways, but they can suck it, I've got work to do.
  2. We once had some people have a loud personal conversation outside the door. We heard it all, and the menagerie started up right away with the comments about how it was innapropes. I snorted and asked them if they saw the irony.

They know they are loud, and they all occasionally run into the same problem with noise that you are. Its inherent to an open work space.

  • 1
    followed your advice and started coming at 8 instead of 10 when the menagerie arrive. it makes a huge difference having 2 hours of silence each morning
    – Pixelomo
    Commented May 8, 2018 at 7:27

This issue is about you needing silence to work, not about others needing to talk. If that's the case, then what you need to do is ask for support in getting that silence rather than taking action against anyone making a noise.

The simple solution here would be for you to work from a more isolated environment rather than an open plan office. If this isn't possible in the office itself, try to get an arrangement to work from home.

One thing that I used to find quite effective was to put on music at very low volume. The fact that there was always low background noise distracts from the effect of something breaking the silence.


+1 both of the above. Raising the issue with management and directly with individuals is always the right call.

Another right call is to get a pair of Bose (Beats, whatever) Noise Cancelling Acoustic Headphones, a subscription to Spotify (Pandora, buy lots of iTunes songs, whatever), and get your work done while jammimg to music. If anyone notices or complains there are lots of witty comebacks such as 'I don't get paid to talk about my Fantasy Football team for two hours.'

If you think you can get away with it you can relocate yourself to someplace quieter, maybe even home or some extended work hours at the closest Starbucks, and if anyone complains just tell them you can't get work done with all the noise in the office.

Another factor that might be in play is that they might have a talking-type job such as Marketing or Vendor Management, whereas you (and I) have more of a heads-down coding job such as most of IT, and the two by design will conflict with each other.

Good luck.

  • yeah getting decent noise-cancellers soon...
    – Pixelomo
    Commented May 8, 2018 at 7:27

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