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I am a manager from a European company and recently was promoted to an American branch. I am not sure if this is cultural (geographical I mean), but it really appears that most employees here are used to speaking out loud for the whole room to hear their voice, even if the matter is solely related to their own team or department.

I feel like this disturbs the focus, mine for sure - how can I address this issue tactfully, without offending anyone in my team?

My aim is to keep the environment more calm and where people can focus on their work rather than hear other people's conversations.

Also any insights as to why some company cultures seem to have grown this way (where people show off and talk loud) would be appreciated!

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    How is the office layout? I am asking because in Europe many companies prefer walled-off offices with 1-4 employees while open floor plans are more popular at US companies. The latter are known for being a lot more noisy. More environmental noise -> people need to speak louder -> even more environmental noise -> people need to speak even more loud. A bad feedback loop. – Philipp May 9 '14 at 8:28
  • Are there more people who moved from your European company too the American branch? If so, ask them how they've experienced it and on top of that ask one of the more experienced native co-workers what the work culture is like. – Kevin May 9 '14 at 9:48
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    @Philipp I have only worked in open floor offices all my life :) – Euranus85 May 9 '14 at 18:16
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    @Euranus85 What are they, salespeople, stock traders? The stock traders on Wall Street are probably the worst - loudmouths, obscene, prone to temper tantrums at the slightest prvocation. Will throw their phones across the room. Salespeople are gregarious and they are loud - that's their nature. It looks like your people talk over each other's heads and somehow, everybody somehow manages to hear their conversation partner. It's that's what happening, it's an acquired skill - they acquired it, you have yet to do that :) – Vietnhi Phuvan May 9 '14 at 18:35
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    @JoeStrazzere This question is from 2014, like the answer said, it's cultural to americans, guess it's better that the OP adapt to this (use headphones ?) rather than ask to most of his coworker to adapt to him. – Walfrat Nov 21 '16 at 12:01
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Americans, in general, are louder than Northern Europeans. We (yes, I'm an American) just talk louder. I've personally seen it when visiting or having meetings with colleagues who are based in Europe. I have to consciously think about lowering my volume to match theirs.

Not a published research paper, but a reference from the Divsersity Council:

Baseline speaking volume is generally lower among Asians and Western Europeans. American tourists in these parts of the world are often seen as rude and thoughtless.

Americans also have greater personal distance. Two American colleagues will stand farther apart than two European colleagues. That will also tend to raise the volume.

I don't know if this is the case in your workplace, but I could see Americans more likely to talk across a cubicle wall (or two) or "shout" across the hallway.

Edited to add a reference and to limit comparison to Northern Europeans.

  • I observe this as well. The Americans don't walk to someone to talk to them, they actually shout across the room and everyone hears :) – Euranus85 May 9 '14 at 18:13
  • I think plenty of people observe this. Here is an example: huffingtonpost.co.uk/laura-bui/… – DJClayworth May 9 '14 at 18:20
  • Also keep in mind that we Americans have a reputation for liking guns, fireworks and loud music so a lot of us have hearing problems. – DanK Nov 21 '16 at 17:42
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Everything explained above carries its all meaning and clarification of Americans of being loud but still your problem will not solve as its not just your personnel will you want to make the environment to change altogether right!!

You can try few of these methods to actually do it,

  1. Posters saying good office ethics have a large impact without even uttering and harming anyone's feeling again this trick should be done in a proper style.
  2. Tough not very practical but you can your team can start up office a bit early and can wrap up typical things of daily work in first silent span as,major calls and meetings that are the actual noise starts in second time span of office time.
  3. Personalisation of you and your team work space in between the company work space,which will make others not to ponder in your area and only your team will have a altogether different aroma inside the big floor.

If possible try above ones and please let us know how it worked. I have actually tried the third one in my office worked well for us.

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I would suggest that as a manager, the best thing you can do in this circumstance is get rid of the open space offices. Once you have your team in a more enclosed space, you can ask that they lower their volume. You could set up some silent hours where conversation of any type is discouraged for productivity reasons. You coudl set a good example of speaking lower and moving any long conversation to a conference room. You can ask people to move to a conference room if they are having a long conversation.

You cannot do anything about the people in any other team.

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