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Working in a small co-work space, the current office manager constantly and repeatedly (every 10 seconds approximately) produces loud noises (mostly tics) when not engaging in a conversation. A few examples:

  • clearing his throat;
  • knocking on the table with his knuckles;
  • teeth whistling (to mimic the sound of birds);
  • horse hoof sounds mimicking (with his tongue)...

These grew in their frequency and intensity since I started working in this place and I am sure I am not the only person being disturbed by these (there is a person sitting right on the same table working on a computer most of the day).

I rarely talk to this manager (a few greetings and very few office related topics, that's all) and I am working on a nearby room, but the sound propagates so well in this office that it is as if I am listening to these sounds right in the same room. Moving to another place is currently not an option.

I always used headphones and recently I started placing head muffs (proper hearing protection) over them, but still some of these sounds are clearly audible. These have been literally ticking me off more often than I'd be glad to admit to, but I never approached this person about this issue (no other person from this co-work space did, I believe).

Only one colleague and friend of this person tried using a shushing sound one day they were together, but still there were no audible results.

I do not want to upset this person, since this manager is the main responsible for the space I am working in, but if I were to approach this subject, how should I do it?

Edit

This question:

What can I do about a very loud coworker?

Is similar but (from my comment):

this manager does not belong to my company and he manages the space I am working in... I have read the answers there but they are targeted to 1) a co-worker's case and 2) using something I am already doing (noise-cancellation/protection muffs).

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    Possible duplicate of What can I do about a very loud coworker? – David K Oct 2 '18 at 12:22
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    Thanks for the link @DavidK but this person does not belong to my company and he manages the space I am working in... I have seen the answers but they are targeted to 1) a co-worker's case and 2) using something I am already doing (noise-cancellation/protection muffs). – CPHPython Oct 2 '18 at 14:38
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    Fair point, and I've retracted my close vote. Here's another question you might find useful, though it's definitely not a duplicate: Dealing with noisy neighbors (who don't work for our company)? – David K Oct 2 '18 at 15:51
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If your office manager has a condition that causes him to constantly produce noise, I don't see how bringing it up to him or anyone else will solve that problem.

Noise cancelling headphones should do the trick here. A good pair will eliminate any outside noise. They are definitely worth having the ability to concentrate on your work without being driven mad.

  • Yeah most people who make these sorts of sounds have no clue so it’s best to get the noise cancelling headphones – Matthew E Cornish Oct 2 '18 at 12:59
  • Actually a lot of them do know and can't help it. there are conditions like Tourette's, some people can master it but it takes a heroic level of focus and discipline. Definitely get the headphones. – Nathan Hughes Oct 2 '18 at 13:27
  • Thanks, but as I wrote, I am using head muffs over headphones playing music. They don't quite cancel those high-pitched sounds and they get quite uncomfortable after wearing them for a few hours. – CPHPython Oct 2 '18 at 13:28
  • A good pair of noise cancelling headphones will eliminate the noises that are disturbing you and can be comfortably worn all day long. My personal recommendation would be the Bose QuietComfort series headphones. They are pricier than other options but you get what you pay for. I have no doubt this will solve your problem. – SoraPro Oct 2 '18 at 13:36
  • @NathanHughes That's me. I found out I could "move" my tics by simply forcing myself to get another while trying to stop doing the ones that make sound. This way I do keep the same amount of tics but they are not nearly as bothersome to others. – Parrotmaster Oct 2 '18 at 14:02
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If it is loud and repetitive as you say it is, it is probably due to some cognitive deficiency. He almost certainly knows about it and cant control it. "Confronting" him in the wrong way might frustrate and the problem will just get worse. Its not unreasonable for you to ask for different behaviour but i think you will have better luck with better headphones.

You might also ask yourself if there are other sounds in your work environment that are equally loud. Ive found that people accept some sounds that are socially acceptable but get angry at other sounds that arent even though both sounds are of equal volume and or duration.

  • Thanks, I am using good quality head muffs to block external sounds, but some high-pitched noises still go through. – CPHPython Oct 2 '18 at 13:34
  • high pitch noise would be the first ones to be blocked, it's bass that travels through obstacles... – dandavis Oct 2 '18 at 18:30
  • @dandavis well, I change that to strong-pitched noises (unfortunately I do not remember my sound waves classes back in school, if I had any)... It's mostly the throat clearing sounds that go through the head muffs like a breeze. – CPHPython Oct 3 '18 at 10:29
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If it is that bad, honestly I think you need to just talk to him about it. It may be some kind of Tic he can't help, but it may also be just something he does out of habit due to being restless etc. I used to do a similar thing, I would constantly be tapping on my desk (I used to play the drums and due to that developed the habit of drumming along to whatever song was stuck in my head that day on the desk). I tend to get a bit restless when just sitting at a desk, so it was just the natural thing I started doing to keep my hands occupied when not writing/typing/whatever.

Someone eventually called me out on it by just saying "Can you give the tapping a rest? It's pretty distracting". Up until this point I hadn't even realised how loud it was/how often I was doing it, it was just a natural habit that I'd kind of tuned out so wasn't fully aware of it myself.

Eventually I managed to find quieter ways to keep my hands busy when they started to get a bit restless (Spinning a pen around in my hands, and as hated as they seemed to have become even a fidget spinner, as the name suggests it's the intended purpose).

Bottom line, just talk to him 1 on 1, away from anyone else so if it is some kind of tourettes/cognitive disorder he doesn't have to discuss it in front of the whole office. If it isn't and like me it's just habits he's picked up like mine was, it might make him more aware of them so he can try control them a bit better/find alternatives. If you're not comfortable in talking to him about it yourself, maybe discuss it with his manager if you know who they are, they may already be aware if it is some disorder, and if not they will know them better than yourself so may be able to approach them in a way he will be more receptive to, rather than someone they don't really know too well speaking to them about it.

  • Thanks, I believe there is only one manager for this office space, but if someone is indeed above, I will look for it and it might be a better solution (I'm 90% sure the manager is aware of the disturbance the tics cause to us, especially due to the friend's reaction). – CPHPython Oct 4 '18 at 8:47
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Have you tried talking to him? He might not even be aware he is making noise.

Depending on your work culture this might need a varying need for tact, at my place I could go "het Alan, could you knock off the noise, its annoying" but you might have to asks something along the lines of "hey Bob, the sounds you are making are distracting me a bit, do you have a particular reason for making them?" or something even more deferential.

  • Thanks, I know the manager is aware of producing these sounds. The friend I mentioned in the question made that clear. He is not related to the company I work for and any direct discussion about it may have repercussions to us... – CPHPython Oct 2 '18 at 13:32
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    The question made it quite clear that this is not the typical whistling or humming your favorite song to kill the time. Expressing a tick every 10 seconds is quite severe. Talking to the person the way you proposed will most likely make them feel guilty, which puts them under more pressure, which makes them tick even more often. – Elmy Oct 2 '18 at 14:00
  • The question left open the possibility of it being a voluntary action though. It might just be a bad habit. – Borgh Oct 2 '18 at 14:37

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