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My office mate has intimate phone calls with his girlfriend on speakerphone

HI, I live in Anchorage and am a management consultant and writer. I'm founder of www.bullywhisperer.com™, www.workplacecoachblog.com and www.thegrowthcompany.com. I'm author of Solutions and Beating the Workplace Bully, AMACOM. I author...

I cannot listen to my co-worker have one more speakerphone conversation with his girlfriend

Today I'm addressing annoying and disruptive office behaviors.

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Question:

Three of us share a small office. One uses his speakerphone constantly, even when talking to his girlfriend. Since she has a loud voice, I know every detail of their lives. I think she'd be mortified to realize her voice blasts out to us even when she's sharing intimate details.

I've tried talking to my co-worker. He insists his neck would hurt if he had to use a handset. When I suggested he use a headset, he says he's never found a comfortable one. When I've told him what I'm overhearing, he chuckles and tells me not to eavesdrop.

I've been to my supervisor twice. The first time he told me to work it out with my co-worker. The second time he seemed irritated we weren't working things out and sent us all an email saying we all needed to be considerate of each other and to keep our voices low while on the phone.

My other co-worker doesn't like the speakerphone either but doesn't want to make waves, so she uses earphones and listens to music on her iPod when she's not on her phone. She tries to see when she has incoming calls by noticing her phone's blinking light. When she doesn't realize her phone's ringing, I have to deal with it ringing four times before her machine picks it up.

More: My husband thinks I'm enabling my boss' bad habits

How do I get my co-worker to stop having his personal conversations become my business? Do I call his girlfriend and tell her what I'm hearing? Tape the calls and play them back to her? I'm worried that if I bring up the situation a third time, my supervisor will see me as a problem.

Answer:

When a co-worker doesn't want to change annoying behavior, we're often tempted to escalate. This generally backfires. Imagine how your already-irritated supervisor might react to hearing you taped private calls — which might happen as soon as an angry girlfriend calls him to protest your behavior.

Instead, change how you present the situation to your supervisor so he sees the problem as your co-worker's problem rather than yours.

Instead of telling him how annoying you find the speakerphone, let him know how you and your other co-worker have tried to accommodate your speakerphone addict and tell him what it's costing in productivity. How many times a day does your other co-worker’s customers wind up getting voicemail because she misses their calls due to wearing earphones? How many times a day does your speakerphone-addicted co-worker interrupt your concentration with his conversations? How many personal calls does he apparently have on work time? Do any of those calls embarrass you with sexual details you don't want to hear during the work day?

Let him know you consider your co-worker wearing a headset to be an easy solution, but your co-worker hasn't agreed. My guess — your supervisor will squash the speakerphone.

© 2016, Lynne Curry. If you have a career questions you’d like Lynne to answer, write her @ lynne@thegrowthcompany.com. Lynne is an executive coach and author of Solutions and Beating the Workplace Bully, AMACOM. You can follow Lynne through her other posts on sheknows.com, via www.workplacecoachblog.com, www.bullywhisperer.com™ or @lynnecurry10 on Twitter.

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