This happened to a friend of mine but he doesn't want to ask it himself for the reasons of anonymity.

He works in a company with open workplace. So when people have to make calls, they should go to the kitchen/lunch room or the patio outside. His supervisor told him that someone complained that he was on the phone for two hours and this person could not do what he/she was trying to do.

When my friend's supervisor asked him about this, he told that supervisor that he was never on the phone for more than 10-15 minutes during that time period of the complain. His supervisor understood and told him that he will try to remove this misconceptions. His supervisor is happy with my friend's work though.

This company is big on harassment/discrimination issues. Clearly, someone made a complain which is not true at all and tried to show that he/she can put someone else's reputation at risk.

So the question is that is this something to be getting concerned about or to take some action?



Thanks for the answers. I think I should clarify that this kitchen/patio is not a place where other people are working or are in hearing range of any conversation. What my friend told me that the complaining person said that because of this "two-hour" phone call, he/she could not do what he/she was trying to do.

  • 2
    How often has this happened? – Oded Sep 30 '13 at 14:32
  • @Oded only once. – Farhan Oct 1 '13 at 14:19
  • 2
    One time is hardly harassment. If this were to happen a few times (baseless accusations that is), then perhaps there would be grounds to call it harassment. – Oded Oct 1 '13 at 14:21

It appears that the complaint wasn't so much that the person was on the phone, but that being on the phone in an open area was interfering with someone else's ability to get his or her work done. Having worked with someone who was frequently on personal calls that were so loud that I could not hear business calls that were critical, I can tell you how annoying this can be. It is not discrimination or harrassment to complain that others are interfering with your work. If it is not true, then it still may be a perceptual problem. If the calls were short but there were several of them over a two hour period, from the perspective of the person trying to work, it is essentially a two hour call.

Clearly, there is a problem here. Even if the orginal accusation is not true, someone is annoyed enough with your friend to offically complain and his actions will be more closely monitored. Your friend needs to stop making personal calls at work entirely unless away from the work space. And even there, he should probably try not to make more than one or two personal calls a day. Since there was a complaint, his time on the phone will likely be monitored (even though the boss said that he felt the complaint was in error, most bosses will not want a repeat of the complaint and so will be watching to see if there is a problem.) and he will need to make sure that people see that he is not slacking off by spending too much time on personal business. Frankly, unless there is an emergency, it is generally a bad idea to spend any more than 10 minutes per day on personal calls. And most days you should not need to make any personal calls at all.

Once you have been accused of something (even unfairly), it is up to you to correct the misperception through your actions. Maybe your friend doesn't think he makes more or longer calls than other people. That is irrelevant however; he needs to be aware that people will from now on always be paying attention to his calls and to make them short and sweet and not in the open space. He may also need to be aware that the volume of the call may be the real problem. Many people talk louder than they think they do.

Addtionally open spece is a horrible environment for people who need to do concentrated work, so he needs to be aware that his actions really can be disturbing to other people and he needs to keep things relatively quiet while in the open space. If he has had one accusation, the possibility exists that there will be more if the perceived behavior doesn't change. If someone other than the orginal complainer also has a complaint, then your friend's explanation will be less likely to be believed.

Another issue is that accuser didn't feel he could come directly to the person making the phone calls. Generally most people will ask you to go somewhere else if the call is interfering with their work and only go to a manager if the person does not get off the phone. That the person didn't come directly to him can indicate that your friend already have a poor working relationship with at least one of his colleagues. Your friends needs to see about building better relationships with the people he shares space with. At the very least he needs the good will of the others in case this person has decided he doesn't like your friend and is trying to make life miserable for him with offical complaints. He will want people to stick up for him and say that what is being complained about isn't true or management will get the feeling of where there is smoke there must be fire after several complaints.

It is always critical to build good working relationships with those you work with and those people you sit near. Someone who is getting workplace complaints can't afford to be unfriendly to co-workers or unhelpful to them or try to pretend they don't exist. I know some people would prefer not to interact with their collaegues but this is a mistake of massive proportions in the workplace and all to often results in people who dislike you taking steps to make sure you are gotten rid of. It is never enough to do your job well, you have to manage the perceptions of your bosses and co-workers as well.

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In any company, "politics is perception". It doesn't really matter how long this person was on the phone if this person was on the phone at the wrong times. There are plenty of people who show up early, do nothing, leave late and get praised for being really hard workers while at the same time some may show up late on occasion yet work extremely hard to get the job done and still get labeled as "slackers".

If your friends was on the phone for 10 minutes, away from it for 45 and on it for 10 again later, etc, and someone just happened to be walking by at each of those times, then this would look very much like he was on the phone the entire time. At the very least it would look like he was on his phone excessively.

Your friend needs to remove the perception by removing what people see as being wrong behavior. If he only needs a few minutes on the phone, then he should adjourn to his car or at the very least further from the company spaces (outside, around the corner). Someone complaining might be harassment, but given the behavior you describe and how you even call it "misconceptions" I'd say it's more likely someone who feels put out by witnessing this behavior.

In my experience, "where there's smoke there's fire". If someone has reported that your friend is on the phone too much, then it's probably not far from the truth. It may not be as bad as the complaint suggests, but I'll bet an honest examination finds that it's still excessive.

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