I work in an open-plan office environment with approximately 100 other people. It's sort of an unspoken rule (and common courtesy), to wear headphones if you need to listen to anything on your PC, as to not disturb others around you. If you aren't listening to anything, PCs tend to get muted so that there aren't email and Skype notifications pinging every few minutes.

So a new graduate started working with us just over a week ago and they are completely oblivious to the noise that their PC makes. In addition to watching tutorial/training videos aloud, they have their Skype notifications turned on meaning every time somebody comes online/offline; there's a ping.

Another member of my team showed them how to turn Skype notifications off last week, specifically using the term "annoying" to describe it; however, nothing has changed. They seem to be quite a quiet person and I really don't want to come across as being aggressive or rude, but their PC is literally behind me and it is pretty irritating.

How can I ask them to mute their PC or wear headphones without coming across in this way?

edit: Rather than coming up with solutions e.g. wearing noise cancelling headphones - as suggested in similar questions. I'm looking for an appropriate way to approach this person without coming across too overpowering, but in a way that will get my point across.

  • 2
    @Draken doesn't look like a duplicate - that one is about the person being loud, not their workstation.
    – Erik
    Aug 17 '17 at 11:51
  • Answers still very much apply though, the noise source is slightly different, but both are being caused by a user of such noise producing things not limiting their usage.
    – Draken
    Aug 17 '17 at 12:38

The problem with unspoken rules is that nobody knows they exist unless told about them. The whole situation might clear up with a simple:

Hey, it's sort of an unspoken rule to have your machine on mute, or use a headset. The sound is distracting to your coworkers.

Works doubly well if you either give them a headset (I'm assuming the company supplies them?) or point them to the one that's already on their workstation.

Like you mentioned; the person is probably oblivious to the situation, having never worked in an office before. It's not rude to let them know about these things.


You have two options.

  1. You could either talk to the person yourself, and try to keep the conversation as lighthearted as possible, while explaining in a firm manner that the behavior is annoying, goes against office culture, whatever to get the point across.

  2. The other option would be to talk to your manager/floor manager and have them approach the person. These people are usually more experienced with dealing with problems like this, and since they likely won't point out specific people that are becoming annoyed, the person in question won't feel like only certain people are aggressive or rude.


If they are a quiet person, they are not pompous it should follow:

They seem to be quite a quiet person and I really don't want to come across as being aggressive or rude, but their PC is literally behind me and it is pretty irritating.

You can quietly go to them, sit next to them kindly and whisper this smiling and looking them in the eye (assisting face)

"Hi Charles, can I assist you to configure your laptop / PC's notifications to lower or play on the headphones?" (or whatever you plan to help them do)

If they are reasonable they will take this a helping hand. Also, other office staff will credit this to his/her discretion.

If possible, don't let the initial walk up to them be noticeable by everyone, otherwise the subject may think this is a planned thing.


I have the same problem in my open office (my company is approximately the same size as yours).. And the person which does a lot of noise (listening to trash metal music with stereo speakers) was here years before me and is the sysadmin, and is a good friend of the boss, and the boss doesn't care.. so I wear earplugs. PS: earplugs with good noise reduction like 40 snr (standard noise reduction in decibels).

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