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I work in a cubicle setting, like many. The noise from my co-workers is excessive. They yell across the room at each other, tap on cubicle glass to get someone's attention, are constantly at each other's desks, and take personal phone calls in their cubicle. My job requires a lot of concentration. On top of that, we have to make productivity each month and the noise is causing me to slow down.

My supervisor is also very noisy and loves to interrupt you while you're working to have personal conversations. Another coworker and I on separate occasions approached my supervisor about noise and was ignored and told to "get over it". She also threatened that they will crack down and have NO talking at all if we won't leave the subject alone. I then approached ANOTHER supervisor (not mine but we are under the same management) who brought it to the attention of my manager. She did not receive it well.

I'm considering going to HR. This affects my ability to perform and I'm very frustrated that something as simple as a mass email asking everyone to be aware of their volume will not be sent out. I'm very close to quitting.

Has anyone personally gone to HR about something like this? What is their typical way of handling it?

closed as off-topic by gnat, JasonJ, paparazzo, scaaahu, Mister Positive May 3 '17 at 11:04

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    HR is NOT your friend. – Richard U May 2 '17 at 20:07
  • Why did you approach the other supervisor? Does that supervisor have a different management style? Any possibility of moving to a position under that person? – PoloHoleSet May 2 '17 at 21:54
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    So you complained and it blew up in your face. You complained again and it blew up in your face. No prizes for guessing what happens the third time. Sounds like you're a bad culture fit, as well as probably creating a reputation for yourself as "that guy". Either demonstrate your ability to fit in and not cause friction, or start looking for new work. Either by your choice or theirs, you're likely on a shorter clock than you think. – sleddog May 3 '17 at 12:42
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You have brought the issue up to management and have been ignored. Afterwards you escalated it to higher management and the issue is still persisting. This tells you everything you need to know:

They don't care.

So you now have the choice to either do mediocre work, be frustrated and continue working there under poor (and by the sound of it, very immature) management, or look for another opportunity elsewhere.

Many companies encourage and are proud of the "open communication" environments they set up. This is especially obnoxious as a software developer, but developers in those situations have to decide where their priorities lie:

  1. Quality of work, professional experience and development
  2. Fun lively work environment with lots of water cooler conversations to break up the day.
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Unless it's noisy to the point of triggering a worker's compensation claim, an OSHA claim, OR anything that can end up in a lawsuit, HR doesn't care that much. Management dictates company culture, not HR, because HR can't be a "cop" over behavior in all the departments. If your boss is participating in the shenanigans, then someone above your boss apparently has no problem with it either.

Unfortunately, HR also can't correct the lousy annual review coming your way when your boss notes - on paper - that you're less than optimal in your productivity. Sucks, huh?

You might want to invest in some good earplugs, or start looking elsewhere. Take long, quiet walks on your break.

  • OSHA claim? can you clarify, please? – Mauricio Arias Olave May 2 '17 at 20:16
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    OSHA = Occupational Safety and Health Administration. A federal office that sometimes gets involved when people get injured on the job. In this case, it'd be something like hearing loss. – Xavier J May 2 '17 at 20:18
  • @codenoir - or maybe an impending brain aneurysm. – PoloHoleSet May 2 '17 at 21:52
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The answers here are worthwhile if you're not interested in keeping this particular job. If you're not married to the job, then start looking elsewhere. You're not going to be happy.

If you DO like the job, you're going to have to make some changes, I'm afraid. Personally, I have a condition that causes terrible problems with excessive noises of certain types. To fix this I use either headset with music (might not be allowed where you're at) or a set of acoustic earbuds. These act like earplugs but still allow for you to hear someone talking directly to you. They're similar to the ones that musicians use on-stage to filter certain sets of sounds. I can give a recommendation for the ones that I use through a private message, as I don't like giving an answer for a specific product.

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You've gone to your manager with a problem. You can make life much easier for them if you can go with a solution. Or even better, if you can implement that solution without needing active involvement from them. Sending an email round isn't likely to be effective and will probably annoy other people, so as a manager I wouldn't consider that a good solution.

The easiest two solutions I can see are:

  1. Investing in some noise cancelling head phones. Your manager may be willing to buy these for you, but if not then hopefully they will at least allow you to wear your own.
  2. Moving desks to a quieter part of the office. Consider the desks available and how moving will affect how easy it is for you to work with other people and for your manager to work with / supervise you. Try and avoid appearing as if you're trying to hide from your peers and/or supervisor. If your ideal desk is already occupied, have a casual chat with that employee to see if they would mind swapping. If you can go to your manager and say "I think I'd work better if I was able to sit where Sam is sitting, and that works for Sam too because {reason}." then you make it really easy for your manager to say yes.

But ultimately if that doesn't work and your manager wants you to work in a noisy environment and you don't want to work in a noisy environment then you need to find a new manager (i.e. a new job).

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