Coworker Complaints and Employees' Rights
A Reader Asks a Question
What do you do if an employee complains about her work being disrupted by another employee's loud voice? Asked by hlinane.
This is a very interesting question, because during my first full-time job in a major downtown company, employees were not ALLOWED to speak at all during working hours - only on breaks, in the restrooms, and at lunch; and of course, before and after work.
It seems that in 2010, complaints of Individual Rights abuse are lodged every time that a person In the workplace is asked to cease unacceptable behavior. There are so many INDIVIDUAL rights these days, cancelling one other out, that perhaps there are simply no rights left at all - for employers OR workers.
How does any work get done in this country? - One might ask this question.
Speaking in the workplace is mandatory in a number of work sites, in numerous jobs, and among myriad industries. You can't get any work done without verbal communications in these settings. However, some type.style/magnitude/timing of speech is still inapprorpiate to each individual setting. Workers must police themselves and supervisors must stay aware of these problems. Failing this, Human Reosurces (HR), State EEO regulations, and legal actions can become involved.
Does your Coworker Break the Sound Barrier?
Extremely Annoyed Response
Noisemakers and Mental Health Issues
Some people make noise in order to assert their "power." Usually the Power to Annoy.
Certain individuals engage in constant throat clearing or stomping as they walk, in order to assert themselves as powerful or important and/or to intimidate others. These perpetrators are not those persons that suffer from Tourette's Syndrome, smoker's cough, cancer, an infection - or down below, physical gait problems. They are not those who are unaware of their behaviors. They do it purposely, their feet sometimes encased in high heels on hard floors, sometimes coughing and stomping at once. In the past, I have ignored these people with the result that their behaviors escalated to a point at which they embarrassed themselves and stopped. One, in fact, was fired for this and other such behaviors during work hours. It seems she spent all her time coughing and stomping and missed all her deadlines.
What are the solutions? Ignore these people if you have that type of skill. Wear earplugs if you can. Wear iPod earbuds and listen to something else, if permitted. In the extreme, file a complaint with your supervisor - if it IS the supervisor, file a complaint with HR and cite a hostile work environment.
In the case of a coworker with Tourette's, you may need to quit and go work someplace else.
In the case of a tremendously loud smoker's cough, the person can be advised to seek medical help. You can approach this person politely at first and if no cooperation is obtained, then go to your supervisor for help. Then go up the chain to HR, if needed. You would need to file a statement or complaint that you cannot complete your work because of the inappropriately high levels of noise. This would be a method to use for instances of excessive noise(s), bad body odors, and related matters.
In one local case here, an employee removed one shoe and pounded it on his desktop ala Cold War Nikita Kruschev every time the stomping began from a supervisor in high heels on a linoleum floor. He stopped when she did. Enraged, one day after this drama, she verbally accosted him. He rang out, "If you are allowed to make unnecessary noise, then so I am I!" Happily, the stomping ended. I thought that to be pretty good self defense, without throwing a punch.
EXTREMES: If an employee urinates into the trash can beside his desk, then this is a mental health problem for which you need to go to your supervisor immediately. If the supervisor is not in the work area, leave the floor and notify someone in authority. That party may have Security forces in the building help the person to the company clinic or call the EMTs. Don't try to handle the person alone.
If you have nothing to say, say it loud!
Someone once said that; I do not know who. Facts are that you must determine if a Loud Talker in the workplace is
- Unaware that he is using an outdoor voice;
- Hard of hearing, partially deaf;
- Asserting authority; or
- Being annoying on purpose, because he is a) abusive and dares you to do something about it or b) thinks it's funny - also abusive.
If the coworker is unaware or going deaf, first approach the person in private and discuss the matter. If this does not work or the person is being pompous, intimidating (abusive), or purposefully annoying, then follow the procedures listed in the paragraphs above for noise and other problems.
IF a person who is bothered by the Loud Talker complains to YOU instead of following a procedure that actually works, then tell the person to follow the steps above. If the person will not do it, then tell the person that you do not want to hear any more about it and stay firm in that decision. If all three of you work together, you may have to follow the steps yourself - against the person that is interrupting your work by complaining.
Talkin' Loud and Sayin' Nothing
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