You now know everything about Joe's prostate and Mary's crazy sister. No, they're not your best friends who have confided in you. They're just co-workers who happen to talk so loudly that everybody else gets to share all their gory details, whether they want to or not. As satisfying as it might be to tell them to stuff a sock in it or use their "inside voices," you need to steer clear of those approaches. Instead, count to 10 often, try a friendly, direct approach, and enlist others in your "Operation Office Noise Reduction" campaign.
Start off by giving your loud co-worker the benefit of the doubt, as she might not realize how loud she is. Tell her you have trouble concentrating with so much conversation going on around you, so you're asking your co-workers to help lower the overall volume in the office. Thank her in advance for her cooperation. Return to your desk and hope you've planted a seed to get her thinking about her volume.
Wear earphones if necessary to block out the loud talker. If she happens to see you several times within a short span of time wearing them, she may realize she's the problem. If the subtle approach hasn't worked, she may pick up on this less-than-subtle visual clue and turn down the volume. Even better, ask a few co-workers who are also fed up with the noise to don headphones, too. Hopefully, this visual will give her a "loud and clear" message.
Talk to the loud co-worker directly if other approaches don't work. Be kind, but don't beat around the bush any more. Tell her that although she may not realize it, her voice carries quite a bit and ask her to please speak more quietly when in the office. Be her new best buddy if you have to: "I'm sure you didn't want all of us to hear about your last gynechologist appointment. Maybe you didn't realize that your voice carries all the way across the office."
Identify some like-minded co-workers and go as a group to talk to your supervisor about the problem. Ask him to please handle it on behalf of the group by talking directly to the office loudmouth. Only take this step after individual efforts by you and other co-workers have been unsuccessful, so the loud talker can no longer claim that she wasn't aware of the problem.
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