We are a team of 4 people sitting in a shared room. I joined the team seven months ago and worked the first four as an intern. Everybody's phone remains silent but one person, my senior, never turns his phone on silent. It keeps ringing all day as he has to deal with a number of people.

I have tried giving uncomfortable expressions when his phone rings, but I think he does not get it.

How can I ask him to turn his phone silent ?

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    I guess you can try asking him but this is something you're really going to need to get used to in an office setting. And if you're that bothered by the ringtone, surely you'd get similarly worked up by the fact that he has to actually answer his phone? Is it a matter of volume or ringtone choice? And have you considered asking your colleagues if there's a reason he's not on silent? – Lilienthal Aug 24 '17 at 11:15
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    "I have tried giving uncomfortable expressions when his phone rings, but I think he does not get it. Stop doing that immediately. You're at work, not on public transport or in a library. Passive aggressive nonsense like this or sending eye signals is not appropriate in a workplace. – Lilienthal Aug 24 '17 at 11:18
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    @MaskedMan I don't think this is an exact duplicate because this phone could be part of the seniors job function – SaggingRufus Aug 24 '17 at 11:40
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    @SaggingRufus Yes indeed, the question is not an exact duplicate but many of the answers to that question as well as the 2 questions linked as duplicate of that question are also relevant here, and hence the duplicate vote. – Masked Man Aug 24 '17 at 12:03
  • Are those calls related to work? Because in that case, I would count this like a desk/office phone and there is no way that is going to be silenced. If it is private that could be a problem. But still, my private phone is silenced only with exceptions for the people important to me. They know my work schedule and thus only call if it is important. I will not risk to not know in time about an emergency related to someone I love just because I am working. – skymningen Aug 24 '17 at 12:03

How can I ask him to turn his phone silent ?

You can either politely ask him "Would you mind putting your phone on vibrate? Every time it rings I jump out of my skin." ( something along these lines ) OR you can get headphones and ignore him.

Depending on his personality he may or may not respond well to the request. It may be best to avoid this possible unpleasant situation by using headphones.

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    "Hey, would you mind" Sounds much less passive-aggressive and is more likely to get the effect that you want. – Finn O'leary Aug 24 '17 at 13:00
  • @FinnO'leary Agreed, answer updated. – Neo Aug 24 '17 at 13:02

It really depends.

I have to keep my phone on me at all times and it is expected I will answer all notifications in a timely manner. Because of that, I do not put my phone on silent or vibrate. I do have it on the lowest volume setting (and also vibrate). That being said, if someone were to ask me to turn my ringer off, I would politely explain that to them.

You can ask him to turn it down/off but my guess it is probably work related. Just be polite, worst case is he tells he cannot and you get headphones.

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  • have you tried leaving it on vibrate to see if you miss any calls? my phone is either next to me on my desk, or in my pocket, so the Vibration is totally enough – RealCheeseLord Aug 24 '17 at 12:36
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    @RealCheeseLord I guess it depends on your environment. I am the prime contact for several critical applications. If I miss a call, it could be a big deal. I don't see this any different than having a landline phone ring in an office situation. Just don't pick and obnoxious ringtone and don't let it ring more than once if you can help it. It sounds like OP is just new to working in an office environment. There are distractions that you just have to work through. Phones ringing is one of them. – SaggingRufus Aug 24 '17 at 12:49

If he's in a senior role and his job entails responding to work-related calls (which is what it sounds like in your OP) then you probably can't. Headphones if possible would be best course of action.

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    Don't understand this answer. Vibrate mode works just fine for noticing calls. There really isn't much point to a audible ringer, unless you want everyone else to know you got a call too. – T.E.D. Aug 24 '17 at 13:18
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    @T.E.D. I have missed calls with my phone on vibrate in my pocket, so if I expected critical calls, I would not leave it on vibrate. – cdkMoose Aug 24 '17 at 13:21
  • @cdkMoose - Never happened to me. I'm generally even worried that the vibration noise will disturb others, But then again, I don't get that many phone calls, so perhaps its just really rare. – T.E.D. Aug 24 '17 at 13:24
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    @cdkMoose I thought that was just me. Happens regularly. I can hear a phone vibrate in the next cube over, but can't hear or feel it in my own pocket. – Mr.Mindor Aug 24 '17 at 14:58
  • Especially when moving around, there's a high chance not to feel the phone vibrating in the pocket., since the movement itself masks it. – Juha Untinen Aug 25 '17 at 6:45

Ask other colleagues from your office how they view this. Maybe you would find that the ringing phone is a nuisance to everybody what then can give you all different position in bringing it forward.

Also, politely explain your problem to senior, ask him to turn the phone on silent because of frequently distracting ringtone. If your senior says the main reason of keeping the phone on sound alert is that he cannot hear vibrating well under some conditions and there is a risk that a call will be missed, there is a solution: bluetooth hands-free earpiece paired with that mobile phone. This way he will hear the phone on larger distance (typically up to 2 rooms away) without distracting everyone else. This can also accelerate productivity of the senior, because how can he/she currently work effectively with keyboard and mouse while on the phone without a handsfree (or does he/she currently use headphones for calls)?

Or this can be solved using a smart watch which indicate the phone ringing. It does not need to be the latest model, model like A1S sold for about $18 does the job perfectly. Your company should be able to afford that.

It is not the case that the senior has the right to set up everything based on their needs. Part of seniority is supporting the team in productivity, so true senior should address this concern and seek solution acceptable for everyone.

Also, if the ringtone should be a necessity, but it is too fancy (for example, a catchy melody), perhaps senior could at least change it to typical phone sound, which is less obtrusive. Hearing "We are the champions" 20 times a day (while always interrupted in different time of play) would not let me stay cool.

Also, if you have some official corporate values like teamwork or innovation, they can become your arguments should the senior resist the change. But it needs to be done wisely.


Even if the ringing is work-related, in today's era it is easy and cheap to overcome this problem and simple 'no' from senior is not a solution, seniority puts expectations on finding a solution for team. Consider going to your boss if there will be simple 'no' without any further effort shown.

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  • I'm not sure if I agree with this. The senior is allowed to say no. If their flow involves having a regular phone with the ringer on, they may not want to add more gadgets into it and screw up the system they are used to. Offices regularly have phones of some sort; quite frankly I've never seen someone say "the phones need to be silent". Especially when you consider that even a phone on vibrate has a conversation involved, which can't be conducted on vibrate. The boss should be allowed to refuse the request. – JMac Aug 24 '17 at 13:59
  • @JMac – I agree that in some types of business you are right. Especially if the business is low innovative routine work where hierarchy is strictly guarded by seniors. On the other hand, in innovative or technological company, such acting senior would be considered as obstacle of overall progress of the company, not living according to corporate values. – miroxlav Aug 24 '17 at 15:40
  • Or the William Tell overture constantly on a phone that sits on an empty desk while the owner is meeting people elsewhere in the building! (BTDT) – WGroleau Aug 24 '17 at 16:15
  • On Android (and probably on the iPhone as well), there are also several free apps that will also forward your SMS messages, call notifications, and low battery notifications to your computer. It's actually a great way to make sure you don't miss messages or phone calls. MightyText, PushBullet, etc. Also, there is Google Voice (in the US only I believe) which transcribes your voice mails and sends them to you as SMS or email messages, which makes them easier to prioritize and manage. You could even hook up his notifications or his voice mails to a lava lamp, to make sure he never misses any. – Stephan Branczyk Aug 26 '17 at 9:40
  • For phone calls that arrive when he's not there, ask him to set the silencer on motion of the phone, and ask him for permission to move the phone (in other word silence the phone ring) if he's not there when a call comes in. – Stephan Branczyk Aug 26 '17 at 9:44

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