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Side Note: I'm in the US, and I chose to ask this on IPS as I'm viewing it as a coworker interaction rather than enforcing company policy

I'm a summer intern at a tech company, and my office space is usually fairly noisy. This is just due to the nature of our desk layout, and the fact I'm seated next to a couple clusters of teams. I don't mind the noise necessarily, but there is a coworker near me whose smartphone and computer notification sounds are incredibly loud and distracting.

The pings are rather frequent, leading me to believe they're either fairly busy or chatting with people during work. However, I don't want to make any assumptions about their workload/work habits when I approach this interaction.

How do I politely ask a nearby coworker to turn down the volume on their computer/phone notifications?

  • How well do you know the co-worker next to you? do you interact during work, other than necessary meetings (e.g. lunchtimes, chat in the morning or evening, etc?) – ElizB Jul 25 '18 at 18:33
  • @ElizB Not very well, there's minor chit-chat but not much besides that. Plus, I'm only an intern and I don't want to "ruffle any feathers", so to speak. – BFG95 Jul 25 '18 at 18:45
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    What's wrong with just asking them this? – sphennings Jul 25 '18 at 18:45
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because we don't know why you can't just "ask him" which mean we can't answer your question properly – Ælis Dec 17 '18 at 7:16
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I prefer the direct approach - "Hey, man. Would you mind dialing the sound on your phone back a bit? When it dings for notifications, it's really distracting."

Avoid saying "you" or "your", as that's going to tend to make it more personal, and it could feel like you're attacking the person, instead of addressing the issue, which is the volume of the notification.

Then smile a lot and be very appreciative if they do it. If not, you haven't lost anything, and it's unlikely they can make it worse. Moreover, it's very likely other people find it distracting/annoying, too.

  • I'd avoid saying "you or your" by changing the last sentence to "I'm pretty sensitive to noise". So it's not about the guy's phone being too loud, it's about the OP being bothered by noise. – DaveG Jul 25 '18 at 20:03
  • @DaveG the OP literally says "I don't mind the noise necessarily, but there is a coworker near me whose smartphone and computer notification sounds are incredibly loud..." How you can read his question and then post this comment is a mystery to me. – user9570789 Aug 2 '18 at 19:23
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    Comments will be deleted once they are no longer needed or relevant, and if they don't add to the answer's quality and such. I wouldn't call the mods "unscrupulous" unless you wanted to get in more trouble. You've been warned. I believe DaveG made a good point, and I don't want to discuss further. – ElizB Aug 2 '18 at 19:29
  • @DaveG The OP specifically states he works in a noisy environment and that the noise doesn't bother him. He then specifically states he has a problem with the volume of the phone. If some of his post was up for interpretation, I guess I could agree with you. Since he was so very clear and specific, I still find it quite mysterious. – user9570789 Aug 2 '18 at 19:38
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    @user9570789 Telling someone "I'm sensitive to noise, could you please turn your phone down" is more likely to get positive results than "you make a lot of noise, tone it down". – DaveG Aug 2 '18 at 19:40
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I used to work at a very large, very well-known tech company, the cool kind with the coffee bar downstairs, and the pool tables, and whatnot. The company had an open office plan, which meant no high cubicle walls, and very few places to get away from the constant background noise of hundreds of people talking and typing.

The solution? Wear headphones. Everyone did, especially the developers who were trying to focus and get work done. There was no other option.

But let's say your coworker's notifications are so loud that you can hear them even through whatever background noise you've got going through your headphones. In that case, you're probably not the only one who is annoyed.

Yes, you can confront your coworker directly. However, it's not unreasonable to go to your manager, and explain the problem:

Hey Lisa, I need to ask your advice. I'm trying to do my work, but it's just so loud I can't concentrate. Is this normal? I'm wearing headphones with the music turned up, but I can still hear most of the racket in the office. There's people talking and phones going off really loud every few minutes and all kinds of distraction. I just don't know how I'm supposed to be effective in this environment. What can I do?

In an ideal world, your manager will send out an email asking people to keep the noise level down, and you'll get voluntary compliance from everyone, including your offending coworker.

Also, after you get some support from your manager, it should be easier to go to your coworker and remind them of the policy:

Hey Frank, man, could you turn down the volume on your devices? I can hear them even through my headphones. Thanks!

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