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Coworker Complaints and Employees' Rights

Updated on December 22, 2017

A Reader Asks a Question: What do you do if an employee complains about her work being disrupted by another employee's loud voice?

A Conumdrum in Workplace Behaviors

This is a very interesting question, because during my first full-time job in a major company, employees were not permitted to speak at all during working hours - only on breaks, in the restrooms, and at lunch; and before and after work.

In the 2010s, complaints of infringement on Individual Rights are lodged every time that a person In the workplace is asked to cease unacceptable behavior. How does any work get done in this country?

Speaking in the workplace is mandatory in a number of workplaces, in numerous jobs, and among myriad industries. One cannot get any work done without verbal communications in these settings.

However, some speech is still inappropriate. Workers must filter themselves and supervisors must stay aware of inappropriate speech. Failing this, Human Resources (HR), State EEO regulations, and legal action can become involved. This is largely connected to discrimination, bullying, harassment and sexual misconduct.

Does your coworker break the sound barrier? -- An F/A-18 Hornet assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron One Five One (VFA-151) breaks the sound barrier in the skies over the Pacific Ocean.
Does your coworker break the sound barrier? -- An F/A-18 Hornet assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron One Five One (VFA-151) breaks the sound barrier in the skies over the Pacific Ocean. | Source

Loud Talkers

Loud Talkers

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 then, 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 in the same space, you may have to follow the steps yourself - against the person that is interrupting your work by complaining.

If you have nothing to say, say it loud!

— Anonymous

Noisemakers and Mental Health Issues

Some people make noise in order to assert their "power." Usually the Power to Annoy.

Examples of Irritations

Certain individuals engage in constant throat clearing or stomping as they walk, in high heels or heavy shoes. in order to assert themselves as powerful or important and/or to intimidate others.

Some of these perpetrators are not those who suffer from Tourette's Syndrome, smoker's cough, cancer, an infection; or problems walking. Some of these people purposely make unnecessary noise.


What are the solutions? Ignore these people if you have that type of skill. Wear earplugs if you can.

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 by a supervisor to seek medical help. If the supervisor takes no action, you may need to approach Human Resources about the problem.

Extreme Example

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 authority may have security forces help the person to the company clinic or out of the building.

© 2010 Patty Inglish MS


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