All the noise, noise, noise…

There comes a time in every cubicle-dwellers life when they encounter The Noise.  I am not referring to the Irish pagan deity; nor am I referring to the 2007 film.  No, my friends, I refer to those days when the amount of noise coming from the cubicle oh so nearby could be anything from a Cannibal Corpse concert, to a military weapons testing field, to a full-fledged riot.  It is difficult to work on one’s cell phones/direct democracy paper effectively when (and I quote myself from last Friday, to a coworker) it sounds like “the only possible way her keyboard could be that loud is if its method of interface is to put Captain Crunch cereal out in the desert sun for a day, and then onto the keyboard, and making her smash the cereal with a pair of mallets.  If I walk over there and it is anyone but Conan The Barbarian battle-crying and screaming, I will be genuinely surprised.”  I therefore have to pose a genuine question: how does one deal with the aforementioned level of noise, noise, noise from coworkers without becoming

Excepting for a moment those circumstances when you are genuinely afraid to go ask the offending Noise-Generator/person to potentially rein in their decibel output (for example, sometimes the International Team here has conference calls where the other party is on a cell phone in Afghanistan with a terrible connection), because the conference room’s phone volume is loud enough to potentially disintegrate your skin if you get any closer, what can a person do in professional situations like this?  I cannot offer you the guaranteed fix-all, but I can perhaps regale you with those practical strategies that have worked for me.

 

1) Bring in headphones or earbuds to work, and get to know some of the resources online (if you don’t have an MP3 player or a Walkman cassette player on hand).  We are all fully aware of the enormous resource pool that is YouTube, and with the capacity to build and save playlists, it is like a free online MP3 player (the potential drawback is when your office blocks YouTube, but that is not as common as one might think, so try it).  The other option I would immediately suggest is Grooveshark, which is a huge set of songs of all types, and is an in-browser MP3 playlist (and since no one knows about Grooveshark, it is entirely unlikely that it will be blocked by your office’s IT folks).  This music/headphones strategy is a good one for those who don’t mind music being really loud, but that is not me (I prefer soft background music to enhance my working mindset), so that leads me to…

 

2) Simply approaching the Unholy Sound directly, and humbly requesting mercy/a reduction in sound output.  Again referring to specifics in my experience, there is a woman who works in my office, except she actually works from home/abroad 97% of the time.  2 days per month she works in the office, and it is always a different office or cubicle (depending on which person in International is away on business at the time).  Now, I happen to know that she is VERY nice, capable, and professional, but she also has a tendency to raise her voice when excited, and she is (apparently) always excited about her job.  It was bad enough when the noise came from her cubicle, but since it was mostly phone calling, I just tried to let it go.  When she walked by my desk a few times and was nearly yelling while allegedly “talking” with a coworker, I finally asked politely “I was wondering if you could please be a little bit quieter, as I am finding it difficult to concentrate.”  Due to being polite, direct, and having not immediately made the request, I could tell from the look on her face that she truly didn’t realize that she was giving Godzilla a run for it’s money/being quite loud, and immediately apologized and was quieter for most of the day.  I do not claim this will work every time, but I have found during 22.5 years that the honest/polite/direct approach is the best one.  However, there are cases when one cannot do this, and as such, we arrive at…

 

3) Sarcastic/acerbic venting to coworkers/co-sufferers.  There are some instances, such as the aforementioned conference calls with bad reception where loud volume is the only way to hear all parties, where requesting a lower sound level simply isn’t going to be responded to positively.  Yes, you should grin and bear it, and the accompanying headache and/or loss of focus, as that is how life goes at times.  At the same time, however, you should also vent the annoyance, frustration, etc by making light of the situation with coworkers, if you can.  In some ways, this blog post is the follow-up venting for me, and even in a constructive way – maybe my experiences will be of use to someone else who encounters this type of thing for the first time!

 

And so, everything I know on the matter is officially posted.  Now, back to celebrating the renewed absence of Daemonic Audio-Engine that is my nice coworker who is (thankfully) working from home for another month!

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