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What is the etiquette on dealing with a boardroom meeting that is exceptionally loud?

I work in a building that has several meeting rooms, each can hold up to 10-15 people and are all configured for voice and video conferencing. Unfortunately, one is located within 15 feet of my desk. There are meetings being held in the rooms every day, most of them are reasonable in terms of noise levels.

Every once in a while though, there will be a meeting where the participants are almost yelling into the conference phone or speaking quite loud in general. To the point where it interrupts my work flow.

My question here is asking what is the correct way to deal with this? The meeting rooms all have doors, which are never closed.

Can I simply get up and close the door?

To note, I am an intern and am located at the very bottom of the totem pole (if I'm even considered to be on the pole). I would not want someone to take my actions the wrong way, as quite often the people involved in these meetings are management personnel. Putting on headphones or using ear plugs is not an option.

I have not witnessed another person taking action on this, but many fellow employees have mentioned how loud they can get.

  • 2
    I wouldn't get up and close the door. It'll bee seen as a very aggressive move. Have you tried talking to one of your bosses who is part of those meetings? – Boumbles May 14 '14 at 18:13
  • Does anyone else sit in your area and get annoyed by the noise? – user8365 May 14 '14 at 18:29
  • @JoeStrazzere - I don't think this is executive level things just confrence rooms with white"boards". – IDrinkandIKnowThings May 14 '14 at 19:35
  • Could you accidently disconnect the speakerphones – Pepone May 14 '14 at 22:08
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    Joe, for once I have to disagree with you. Reasonable people would have no issues with someone (regardless of status in the company) politely, and quietly, closing a door to a conference room. Now, slamming it in a passive aggressive way would likely get you fired. – NotMe May 15 '14 at 23:36
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While not an intern, I've been in the "way lower in the pecking order" position to nearby noisy meetings. I've found that closing the door can be just fine, so long as you're not showing any aggression. There's a big difference between slamming a door and gently closing it. When I do this, if I'm at all uncertain about how it's been received, I seek out the meeting organizer later to say one or both of: (a) I'm sure you didn't realize how far your voices carried; hope you didn't mind, or (b) I know you guys discuss sensitive things in these meetings and I was trying to help. Even if people are oblivious to bothering others, they sometimes care about broadcasting, say, that discussion of an upcoming staff change.

Unfortunately this doesn't always work; some people have good intentions but are loud, and others don't care. I've never heard of anybody objecting to closing a door, but closing the door doesn't always fix it. In that case, your next step should be a discussion with your manager about how you can mitigate against the problem. Maybe you can move desks, or at least go work elsewhere during noisy meetings (if your work is portable). Ask your manager for advice.

  • 1
    I absolutely agree that the best way to handle is to just quietly close the door. – NotMe May 15 '14 at 23:33
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Since you specifically mention you can't use headphones or earplugs, I would mention it to your direct supervisor that sometimes the meetings in that room get loud and make it difficult for you to concentrate on your tasks.

At that point, it's up to the supervisor to find a workable solution for you. Perhaps you'll be allowed to use headphones, or maybe you'll be moved. Or perhaps they'll make a rule that the door needs to be closed whenever there's a meeting in the room.

  • Also, if there is another possible place for you to work while the noise is going on, you might suggest it: "Is it all right if I work at the empty desk over there when meetings are going on? It gets kind of loud sometimes, and I concentrate better when it's quieter." – MJ6 May 14 '14 at 19:09
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Having loud meetings with the door open is rude and inconsiderate.

There's two ways to handle this. One is to overthink it, ask permission, and use up your boss's time asking about it.

The other is to recognise that the people are so involved in the meeting that they don't realise what a noise they are making, or even that the door is open. Note that it's even possible they are discussing things that you're not really supposed to know about.

Just get up, close the door, gently, quietly and non-aggressively, and see what happens. I wouldn't even bother to ask, because you will interrupt their flow. If you want to say something, a simple "excuse me" with a smile as you slowly begin to close the door is the briefest way to show your intention.

I once got a round of applause for doing this to a man who was shouting at a supplier on the phone (I was new in the building and didn't realise it was my new boss's boss's door I was closing.) Nothing was ever said about it. I even went on a business trip with him a few months later (where he shouted at the supplier while I took minutes.)

If someone tells you off, simply say "oh sorry it was disturbing me and I was trying not to listen to your private conversation." Then don't do it again. (Of course, if you get a round of applause as I did, you might want to mention that ;-) )

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It is entirely likely that closing the door, maybe with a "hey, mind if I close the door, it's mighty loud in here?" is an acceptable response to the noise. Asking your supervisor or the other employees around what they'd do/if that's OK would take 60 seconds and perhaps make this real simple. If not, come back for the complicated laundry lists of options. But in most places I've worked, that wouldn't be remarked on in the least.

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You'll have to meet with your supervisor and the two of you will have to brainstorm something. Alternatives that come off the top of my head:

  1. You move to another part of the building that's more congenial to you
  2. You do some other task or go out to lunch while this particular loud meeeting takes place
  3. You move yourself temporaerily in one of the empty meeting rooms and close the door while this particular loud meeting takes place
  4. Your supervisor request to management that management mandate that doors be closed during meetings
  5. You suck it up and learn to get work done no matter how loud it gets.

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