A reader writes:
This is a relatively minor thing, but it has been bugging me lately and has gotten to the point where I can’t ignore it anymore.
I work remotely and dial in to a lot of meetings in our main office. I use headphones when dialing in so as not to disturb the people working around me. The problem is that in one weekly meeting (one of many), there is someone there who likes to sit near the conference call mic and graze on snack food, often from crinkly cellophane bags.
On my end, the crinkling and crunching is louder than anything else and interferes with my ability to follow what’s going on. If I turn up the volume to better hear the voices in the room, the crinkling becomes deafening. I’m generally the only one dialing in to this call, so it’s probable that the people on the other end are completely unaware of this.
It’s a tricky thing to raise because I don’t want to come off as difficult, or have people thinking that I’m judging someone for snacking in a meeting. I really don’t care about that, I’ve snacked on calls with a muted mic myself. I just wish whoever it is would sit further away from the mic since they always seem to be right on top of it.
I was thinking of raising it as a general thing: “You may not be aware, but that mic is hypersensitive to peripheral noise, especially coming from anything near it on the table, and that can make it hard for me to hear what’s going on sometimes. Would it be okay if I flagged when this happens in our chat so we can try to limit it?”
Do you think that would work, or is there a better way for me to address it?
You’re over-thinking it.
It’s totally fine to just say, “Hey, it sounds like like someone is eating something from a crinkly bag, and it’s magnified on the mic and making it hard to hear.”
Seriously, you don’t need to dance around this. This kind of thing gets said on conference calls all the time, and it’s fine to just throw it out there without a lot of diplomacy around it.
And in fact, I would not dance around it because you risk the message being lost altogether. Your proposed wording about peripheral noise and asking if it would be okay if you flagged it is making too big a deal out of it, and the person responsible may not even realize you’re talking about them.
“I’m having trouble hearing because it sounds like a food bag is being crinkled right by the mic.” That’s it, really.
You’re not going to seem difficult or judgy. It’s a conference call, you can’t hear, you’re alerting people, done.