Friday Funny: "Sound" etiquette or rude reprimand?

A regular TFM reader sent along what she thought was a polite and reasonable request: employees should be considerate of their co-workers with regard to sound. While some applauded her tactful approach to the subject, others took offense.

Would you have handled it differently? Or would you consider sharing these words with your not-so-quiet associates? Here’s the request as it went out:

Now that open enrollment season is well upon us, we are all feeling the general encroachment, both figurative and literal, of extra bodies and extra work. While it’s wonderful thing to see a full building and hear the buzz of people and productivity, not all noise is joyful.

There are some among us who just cannot get anything done unless there is bustle and activity around them. To these folks, the tapping of keyboards, the ringing of phones, the sounds of human and technological interaction are necessary background music. But one man’s music is another’s fingernails-on-the-blackboard.

Whether you’re one or the other of these types, or perhaps even something completely different, I think it’s to everyone’s benefit that we all ponder a few tidbits of sound etiquette (pun intended).
• Where in the world would we be without cell phones? We do love the little buggers, don’t we? How many different ring tones do you have on yours? You know, I’ll bet your next-cube-neighbor can tell you EXACTLY how many you have….If you must have your cell phone, either business or personal, on and available for incoming calls all day, please lower the volume or set it to vibrate.
• Have you ever walked through the building and heard the same conversation bouncing off the walls in the farthest corners of the floor? Remember—use of speaker phones in cubes should be avoided. If it’s bouncing off the walls, it’s bouncing around your co-workers’ brains as well. If you must be hands-free, gang up with your fellow in-house teleconference attendees and get a conference room. Or better still, use the Huddle Rooms – they’re perfect for this use!
• When using a speaker phone in a conference or Huddle room, please shut the door. That’s why we have doors.
• Ding. Ding. DING! Do you REALLY want everybody around you to know that you’re carrying on an intricate and energetic AIM conversation? OK, so maybe it is work-related, I’ll grant you that. But really, can you turn off the sound, already? PLEASE??
• The same goes for games. Yes indeed, we all need a few minutes of downtime every now again. But, goodness gracious, don’t advertise!
• Hallway conversations. We love that folks are free and eager to talk to each other in the corridors and at the water coolers and heartily encourage friendly exchanges. But remember that there are other folks all around you who may not be interested in your children’s latest exploits, or your clients’ unreasonable demands, or who simply can’t take the time to join into the discussion. Please continue to talk to each other, but try to do so in a wide aisle, or in a Huddle Room, or even at a slow stroll.
• Kitchen conversations. Same as above. Keep it in the kitchen, or take a stroll.

(Personally, I think anyone who violates such a gently worded request should be soundly beaten with a wooden club, but I clearly don’t have the patience to be a facility manager.)


  1. yes, we ARE adults… but, the sad thing is that my facility sends out regular memos to the effect of ‘please avoid standing and chatting while blocking the hallways, and please don’t push in front of patients and visitors to get on the elevator’.
    Me? I still hear the voice of my Mother chiding me if I even think about doing something rude. lol. Her work her is done. ;)

  2. I totally agree with you, Melanie! You would think that grown professionals wouldn’t need to be told these things though, wouldn’t you? The fact that this facility manager had to send out a memo of this nature is unbelievable enough to me, but to get grief about it is…well…preposterous!

    Mind you, I do hear more than enough random cell phone ring tones, loud (non-work related) conversations, and other distractions. Fortunately, I have a door that closes.

  3. very nicely put, I think. tactful, humourous and engaging… I wouldn’t take offense. Of course, I am one of those who prefers a quiet office and a wide clear hallway to walk through.

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