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For the last few weeks I've been sharing an office with new colleagues who think aloud all the time. I've asked them to break this habit and though they promise they'll try it starts up again after an hour or so. I remind them of it occasionally but the silence doesn't last very long.

What else can I do? Should I think aloud too to show them how disturbing this is, or or should I print some posters and hang them on each wall so that they are constantly reminded about it?

Those colleagues are from a different department and we just share the office due to the lack of other space so I don't care about good relations. I just want them to be silent... is there a way to silence them?

They're already looking for another room for two other colleagues who complained about the thinking-aloud and myself, but I don't see any improvement soon so I need to deal with them.

How can I get these colleagues to commit to stopping this behaviour? Can I discuss it with them and, if so, how can I make it clear that it's becoming a real problem for us? Or should I go straight to my manager with this?

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I am totally amazed at how others seem to think what is going on is OK. It's not. Naturally people need to talk to each other sometimes in the office. That can be distracting sometimes too, but it's necessary for the company to function.

However, there is no excuse for someone causing gratuitous noise pollution in a place where others have to think and concentrate. It can be fine on a production line where several people are inserting tab A into slot B all day long, but not where thinking and concentration are part of the job. "It's just the way they work" isn't good enough. They are the ones causing the pollution, and frankly being rather rude.

The first step is to ask them to please be quiet, since you're trying to think and concentrate across the room. You've done that, and it didn't work.

One time I had to deal with this I stopped and engaged them every time they spoke out loud to themselves as if they had spoken to me (since they actually had). They had to keep saying, "Sorry, I was just talking to myself" enough so that they got trained not to do that.

Another time it was in my office. I used the above tactic a few times, but then told them flat out to stop talking to themselves if they want to stay here. It took way too many times, but eventually that worked.

Putting up posters is just being obnoxious with the presumed attempt to start a fight. Don't do that. That makes you as bad as them, and starts a war rather than increasing the chance of solving the problem.

You need to go to your boss and tell them that you can't concentrate since these people are talking out loud to themselves all the time, and that it's hurting your productivity and possibly the quality of the work you do get done. If it gets fixed, great. If not, there is little more you can do other than decide whether you'd rather have this job under these conditions, or find a different job under better conditions. Don't threaten the manager with this, but ultimately that's your choice if the company refuses to fix the problem.

11

Since this is temporary, you should just put up with it on a temporary basis. Printing out posters or competing won't really solve anything.

Do the same as anyone else in a noisy office environment - either ignore/block it out or use headphones (if employee policy permits).

As you said, the situation won't last forever. Creating confrontation won't win any friends.

  • That's why I'm going to try the diplomatic way first and not the warpath. I don't see any reason why any of us should put up with this. We aren't the ones who interfere with the workflow of other people. Thinking out loud is not normal and it needs to be dealt with. – red-shield Dec 5 '16 at 13:24
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    @JoeStrazzere That a habit has impact on others doesn't necessarily mean it should be stopped. Different but similar example: some people fidget. They might twirl a pencil constantly, or fiddle with some knick-knack on their desk, or play with a headphone cable. That behaviour might be equally annoying to someone sat next to them. The trick, I think, is not to try to curtail people's natural behaviours, but to find a way to accommodate them. I'm not saying there's no issue here, but that responding by mandating specific behaviour isn't constructive. – Dan Puzey Dec 6 '16 at 9:45
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Rather than silencing them, why not make it more difficult to hear them? Use headphones at work, listen to music while you work.

This will not be allowed in every environment (Works best in office based environments that don't require you to be on the phone a lot), however if you can speak to your boss and explain your current predicament, you could negotiate during this time you could use headphones (If you are not normally allowed).

Trying to get people to stop a habit is difficult work and you will be causing more tension than it's worth (Especially since this is a temp situation), instead try to find other ways to remove the problem.

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I've always discussed such distractions with my manager.

Sometimes my manager was able to get the office to be less distracting. Other times I've had to resort to listening to my iPod when things got noisy.

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    I got the impression that you're the first person that actually seem to understand how difficult it is to work in a noisy environment and also did something more about it then just give up without even trying out of fear of losing friends. – red-shield Dec 5 '16 at 19:54
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    @t3chj0b It's not about losing friends, it's about damaging professional relationships. Putting up posters and mimicing your colleague is only going to anger them and make it difficult to ever work with them in the future. Going to your manager is a good option, assuming you approach it constructively and professionally without trying to demonize your coworker. Keep in mind that if your manager says there's nothing to be done, then the decision has been made and you need to suck it up and live with it. – David K Dec 5 '16 at 20:12
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    @t3chj0b - in these days of "open offices" constant noise seems to be the norm. I think it's ridiculous to have to put up with it, but most companies don't seem to care much. – WorkerDrone Dec 5 '16 at 20:13
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    @HLG: No, talking is the hardest noise to not be distracted by. It engages something in your brain that interprets and tries to parse and react to the speech. Planes taking off, cars going by, fans kicking in are all much easier to ignore. Thinking out loud is fine when there aren't others around. When they are, it's just plain inconsiderate and rude. Don't try to blame the victim. What if I had a clock in a shared off that loudly said "The time is ..." every 5 minutes. I doubt you'd think that was OK. Or if I often left smelly cheese on my desk, etc. – Olin Lathrop Dec 5 '16 at 22:10
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Extroverts often use a discussion with others to elicit and articulate their thoughts. Introverts seldom have discussions because of their internal dialogues raging their heads to work out the LOGICAL issues...sometimes at the expense of emotional and social issues attached to the problem at hand.

You are missing a golden opportunity to think outside the box of your own skull when you use your chatty colleagues as sounding boards, and as a method to expand your ability to problem-solve with feedback. Tune them into your station by changing the song of small talk into news you can use.

  • Sounds like an environment with a lot of talk. I wouldn't like that. – WorkerDrone Dec 5 '16 at 19:49
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    This answer could be improved by linking and quoting some supporting information. – user30031 Dec 6 '16 at 3:20

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