my coworker told me I’m too loud, salary and demotions, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. My coworker told me I’m too loud

I work in a cubicle farm in sales. Today as I was on the phone with a client and closing a sale, a coworker comes up to me, waits for me to finish on the phone, and then in a rather back handed fashion says, “You are very good but you are also very loud. I’ll appreciate it if you would quiet down.”

I was incensed. I make my bread through closing deals and am a gregarious, enthusiastic person. This is a large part of what makes me successful. I’m not quiet as a mouse, but I am not brutishallly loud.

I only started at this new company 6 workdays ago and have had two interactions with this woman, who I think works in HR. Is what she did okay? Should I take her comment as a put-down? It sure felt that way in the moment. The icing on the cake is that I have received nothing but friendly and positive feedback from my boss and co-salesmen.

Without knowing exactly how loud you are or how much your voice might carry, it’s hard to say. But asking a coworker to try to keep their volume down isn’t an inherently rude request; in fact, I often advise people here to be direct with coworkers when they’re particularly loud and making it hard for others to focus. That said, I can see why her wording rubbed you the wrong way; I suspect you would have taken if differently if she’d said, “I’m so sorry about this, but I wonder if you could lower your voice just a little on the phone? I can hear how gregarious you are with clients and I bet it makes you great at your job — but unfortunately sound really carries in this office, and the volume is making it tough for me to focus.”

In any case, I wouldn’t take it as a put-down. I’d take it at face value — as a direct request for you to lower your volume if you can. If you can’t feasibly do that, you can tell her nicely that you’re sorry but you don’t have a way to do your job any more quietly than what you’re already doing.

2. Can my company require me to share what I’ve heard about them from others?

I am a manager in a very small company, with less than 10 employees. Can my employer require me to divulge information I have heard said about our company from other companies in the same industry, vendors in the industry, or acquaintances in the industry?

Sure, they can make that a requirement of your job — although I’m not sure how they’d know if you’re filling them in fully or not.

3. Why did this interviewer ask why I’m leaving my current job?

I had a surprise phone screen today (my first ever, actually) and am really shaken. I’m wondering if it was reasonable. To give some context, I’m a pharmacist. This phone screen was for a job in a pharmaceutical manufacturing sort of company. I’m not familiar with the hiring processes of corporations like this–I’ve only ever worked (and applied for) jobs in local chemist shops and hospitals, and neither have ever had any phone screens. I maybe should have suspected it when the caller identity showed up in a different state to the job I’m applying for, but I thought it was simply HR calling to offer an interview rather than a phone screen as such! They asked the following questions:
– Why are you applying for this job when you’re from another state?
– What do you do at your current job?
– Why are you leaving your current job?
– What’s your expected salary?
– When would you be available to start?

The “why are you leaving your current job?” really threw me for a loop, as I’ve never been asked this question before by anyone. Yes I’ve only been in the workforce for 3 years but have held 7 contract positions plus this current perm fulltime job and never been asked that. Plus I would’ve interviewed for a few more, so I’d say maybe about 15 interviews at least.

I did seem to pass it however, as they asked me when I was free to do an actual interview with the site managers, but yeah I’m really shaken and wondering if this is a typical phone screen?

I ask “why are you thinking about leaving your job?” or (if the person isn’t currently employed) “why did you leave your last job” on every phone interview I conduct. It’s a very normal question and not one you should be rattled by. Interviewers ask it not in a judgy way (like “what’s wrong with you that you’re thinking about changing jobs?”) but rather because sometimes it produces really interesting answers. Sometimes it produces really mundane answers too, and that’s fine. But it’s a reasonable and normal question to ask.

4. Do I have a right to keep my salary in a demotion?

Do I have a legal right to keep my salary if I get demoted to a less responsible position? I work in California.

Nope. Your employer can change your salary any time (as long as it’s not retroactive and as long as you don’t have a contract that says otherwise, which most people don’t). If you were demoted to a less responsible position, it makes sense that your salary would change as well.

5. Update from the reader thinking about writing a grant to fund the job she wanted

Here’s an update from a letter-writer in December who proposed to a nonprofit that she’d help the write grant applications, on the condition that they hire her if the grant came through. She was wondering if she should ask for a signed guarantee that they’d hire her for the grant was approved, which I advised her against for the reasons you can see here (#3 at the link). Here’s the update:

It turned out to be better for me that we didn’t make any future employment commitments. As a couple of commenters deduced, the organization was, in fact, young, disorganized, and helmed by a woefully inexperienced director. And that manifested in unclear vision, unrealistic goals, frequent staff turnover, and leadership too out-of-touch to properly serve the “community leadership” aspect of its mission statement. (“Honest, we tried to recruit [members of the minority group we primarily serve] to the board, but they are way too busy scraping by to contribute in any useful way!”)

I did get some valuable experience helping my organization and a partner org negotiate and outline a project agreement for a collaborative program they were proposing. The collaboration fell through due to – drumroll, please – lack of funding. However, the partner org recently told me that a month or two after I left, my home org finally wound up hiring a program manager to do pretty much what I had been doing – and is paying her with actual money! It’s best I got to walk away from this mess unscathed not long after my original letter. Since then, I’ve been contracted to work on some curriculum development projects, and I have an interview for a new educational outreach position soon – a paid position.

{ 188 comments… read them below }

  1. Alter_ego*

    The coworker the next cube over from mine is LOUD. In fact, the reason his cubical is where it is is because the bosses moved him as far away from the rest of the office, so that only the people closest to him will suffer. He has been spoken too, it’s apparently unchangeable (he was already working here when I was hired)

    And when he’s on calls, I can. Not. Focus. His voice cuts through headphones, even when the music is as loud as it can go. And I find myself sitting there, grinding my teeth, and gripping my pen so hard I haven’t snapped one yet. The only reason I haven’t said anything to him is that luckily, it isn’t a phone-based job, so it’s not like the phone calls go on all day. If they did, I would absolutely have said something similar to what #1’s new coworker said to them.

    This is, of course, assuming they really are loud.

    1. Call Me*

      I posted last week about my co-worker with a very loud and often inappropriate laugh. We work in an open plan office and our work is phone based. Her laughter really gets on my nerves and I think it sounds unprofessional in the background of my calls. I think I will use Alison’s phrasing to speak to her about it, although “I’m terribly sorry about this” seems unnecessarily grovelling to me.

      1. Mephyle*

        Actually I think it is often a good approach to grovel ‘unnecessarily’ in cases like these. The OP’s feelings about this incident show how a statement of fact with a direct request can be taken as meanness and aggressiveness.

        If you soften the message (as in passive aggressiveness), you risk being misunderstood, or the message discounted. So instead, it’s good to keep the message direct and clear but soften the delivery – a bit of grovelling goes a long way with this.

          1. Jazzy Red*

            Well, the first part of Alison’s suggested message is good, but the second part is terrible. It sounds so darn phony (“I can hear how gregarious you are…”). Don’t say that part. The end is good, though.

            If the coworker is from HR, I’ll bet at least one person in the office complained about the OP’s volume. I think the OP needs to realize that there are other people in the office, and his/her loud obnoxious phone calls are disruptive to everyone else in the area. Maybe the OP can use the phone in a conference room – one with a door that can be closed.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I love that distinction — you don’t want to soften the message itself, but it can help to soften the delivery. I think that’s exactly right. “I’m terribly sorry” means “I feel bad about asking you to alter something that is clearly a natural and comfortable part of your style, but I need to ask it anyway because it’s interfering with my ability to work.”

    2. Nicolette*

      I work in a pretty open-concept kind of office as well and when some of my colleagues talk a tad too loudly, especially those 1 or 2 cubicles away from me, it’s really hard for me to focus. It’s also especially hard for me to hear the other party on the phone. On the other hand, I tend not to talk too loud on the phone asbim afraid of disturbing others. But that said, to #1, if the office is meant to be this way, adapt to the culture. Ask for advice from your coworkers on whether if you’re too loud. And since you mentioned you are in sales, I believe you’re not the only sales around. Observe how they generally behave and if they are loud enough to be heard by you. You can also ask if you’re too loud.

      One thing that the sales at my office do is to talk on mobile. Transfer all calls to mobile. That way, if they need some queiter space to talk or need to be loud, they just go somewhere quiet.

      And, perhaps you might like to check out who’s the lady who feedbacked to you. ;)

      1. Vicki*

        I would ask OP #1 – do you by chance stand up when you’re on the phone? I once had a co-=worker who did this Every Time. He’s stand and pace his cubicle. That put his head (and mouth) at the top of the cubicle instead of behind a wall.

        Also, you may not realize just how Loud you may be when you’re on the phone. Enthusiasm may make you louder(it does that to me). I know this because people have told me. Invest in a sound level meter or a sound level meter app and check how it reads when you’re on the phone. You may be surprised.

        1. Sadsack*

          Agreed – I tend to talk loudly when I am on the phone. I don’t know why. I have noticed many others do the same thing. I think I get involved in my conversation and just talk as if I am the only one in the room. my manager has remarked to me that I should try to keep my voice down. He is also a loud talker at times and since we both sit very near the head of our department, who is also an officer of the company, he suggested that we don’t want the wrong kind of attention. I agree, and I don’t take it personally. I also very much agree with Nicolette above about observing coworkers for office norm cues, and don’t be afraid to ask in a friendly way if coworkers have noticed that you talk too loudly.

    3. Bea W*

      We can sit your co-worker and my co-worker in a shared office.

      I sit next to a guy like this who is on calls most of the day. Our workplace provides individual focus booths for this, so there is no reason my co-worker needs to disturb the entire area while on a call when he can use a room specifically equipped for this. He’s been spoken to and moved multiple times for this and other reasons that are too gross to mention. When I’m on a call (if I take a conference call at my desk, it’s mostly that I am listening and not talking) and he’s on a call sometimes I can’t hear what’s being said on my own call because he’s so loud. It’s even worse if something gets his knickers in a twist, because then there is cussing, yelling, and slamming his fist on the desk. If he happens to start a call around lunch time, that’s when I pick up my things and decide to go on break. He won’t be done by the time I get back, but at least I will have missed 30-45 minutes of it. My ear buds and music will cut him out, but I can’t always focus on work with music in my ears either.

      When he’s not on a call, he’s talking to himself – loudly, not an occasional muttering under his breath. At first I assumed he was on the phone, but it turns out he’s talking to himself. It isn’t call-based work, and there are days he isn’t scheduled for many meetings, but then he’s on the phone with co-workers on tangent conversations or he’s picking up calls from telemarketers and telling them how much they suck and demanding he be removed from their list or he’s on a personal call discussing condo board issues (I am so glad I do not live with this guy is a member of my condo board!) or doctor’s appointments. It is non-stop.

      1. Purr purr purr*

        Wow, it sounds like we work with the same guy! The guy who sits next to me is really loud on the phone to the point where I can barely concentrate. I feel sorry for the people at the other end who must be nursing ringing ears afterwards. The guy next to me also talks to himself very loudly too! It’s so distracting because I always wonder if he’s talking to me instead.

        1. Carrington Barr*

          Ugh, also had one of these. I have listened to him rant and rave and curse and swear to and about the following: his wife, his kid, his hot tub, his brother, his house, his “flip” house, his manager, his hockey team, his real estate agent, etc., etc.

          I just wanted to tell him to STFU.

    4. Artemesia*

      This. To excuse one’s disruptiveness because you are ‘gregarious’ and to be offended is really dysfunctional in an open plan office. Everyone needs to learn to use ‘inside voices’ when they are sharing space with other people who also have to get work done. You don’t have to shout and bray to show enthusiasm to a client and learning to be considerate in tight work space is the decent thing to do. If one’s first reaction to getting feedback that they are disturbing the work of others is to argue that it is not a problem because it is just their personality, I would predict a lot of misery ahead.

      I am sure the person who invented the open plan office (and worse yet, the single desk office) was a cheapskate who didn’t themselves have to work in one. One person with a loud laugh and a grating voice can damage the productivity of a dozen people or more.

    5. M-C*

      #1 one thing that seems off to me is this: in every workplace I’ve ever been at, people whose job it is to talk incessantly on the phone are segregated in a different office. Especially if there’s an open sort of plan, with or without cubicles. You do not want techies for instance to have their thoughts constantly interrupted by the friendly banter that is every sales person’s livelihood. Without any judgement, it works better for all parties if space is strictly separated by phone time. And if your company is not doing that yet, it’s an idea worth introducing :-). If there’s only one office, it should go to sales/management, and it’s worth converting a conference room to that purpose if there isn’t even one office.

      That said, every person I’ve ever met who talked chronically “too loud” did so because they had a hearing problem. Have you had yours checked lately? It’s normal for us to up the volume when we don’t get what other people are saying comfortably enough. Also, many people talk too loud specifically on the phone because of inadequacies in the phone system. Can you adjust the volume on your phone so it’s as loud as possible, as an incentive for you to lower your voice? Can you get a pair of excellent headphones so that you get crisper, clearer sound from the same phone? If you do have a physical problem, these tech tweaks would both lower your stress level and make it easier for you to communicate with your clients. But beware that if your hearing’s been declining for a while without you being conscious of it, you’ll still need to monitor yourself for a bit in order to squash the bad speaking habits acquired during that time.

      1. danr*

        And, it may be something as simple as wax buildup in the ears. I had that problem and it was amazing how noisy the world had become after the doctor cleaned them out. I could also talk quieter because I could hear myself.

    6. Weasel007*

      This happened to me years ago. I have a hearing problem and when I’m not wearing my aids I am louder than I thought. But only one person has ever said anything like this, and was just an ass to everyone (he couldn’t stand anything that is normal). I’ve learned to lower my voice and work from home now (the animals don’t care how loud I talk).

    7. Elizabeth West*

      I have this exact problem–but coworker’s job IS phone-based. She’s not talking extraordinarily loudly, but her voice is low-pitched and hard and it carries. I call it “lady cop voice.” I have to use noise-reduction headphones when people are talking (with music playing), but they don’t drown out voices. The music helps. There really isn’t anything else I can do about it.

    8. Purple Dragon*

      OP # 1 – I’m wondering if the person was from HR and if her comments are for her personally or if others have complained and she’s trying to get the end result (quieter you) without telling you that 6 days in there’s already been complaint(s). Just something that occurred to me – I may be way off base.

      Being “incensed” about something like this seems quite over the top – it doesn’t sound like she was obnoxious about it but I understand that sometimes the words can be ok but the tone can change everything.

  2. Ben*

    Regarding the “why are you leaving your last job?” question, I think this is a great question for them to ask. One reason for this is to try to assess your fit for the job. If you left your last job because of a situation or workplace environment factor that is going to be similar in the job they are offering, then they might use your response as an indicator for future satisfaction with the job.

    Example – “I wanted more variety in my work because I didn’t find it stimulating”. If the new employer is not offering much variety either, it might be safer for both you and your prospective employer to look for a better fit.

    1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

      I had this thought as well. It could go both ways, too. If you say you’re looking for something with more X, it might get the interviewer excited if X actually is a big part of the job.

      When a candidate has a track record of multiple short stints at jobs, it’s also a way to make a prediction about whether they’d stick around at the new job. If the candidate’s leaving a job after less than a year and says “I’m leaving because it was a temporary role and about to end,” then that’s more comforting than “I’m leaving because I’m not interested in the work anymore.” In the latter case, I’d be more concerned that the candidate might be kind of flighty and likely to move on from this job prematurely too.

      1. AnonyMouse*

        Agreed. Because this question (or some variation on it) is so common, I usually work out an honest answer ahead of time that allows me to highlight why I’d be a fit for the new role, like “I’m really looking for a position with more focus on teapot handle design responsibilities and less lid work” when the new job is head handle designer, or “I prefer to work in a small, collaborative team environment,” if your current job is a big and independent group and the new position is in a group of four that really emphasises teamwork. Depending on the answer, this could also help reassure the employer that you’re ready to commit to them – presumably if you’re leaving your old job because you want an environment that’s exactly like what they’re offering, you may have more incentive to stick around at the new job.

    2. BRR*

      The only problem with the question is you might not get an honest answer. Nobody is going to say their manager is a jerk. Although I was interviewing people this week and it almost sounded like someone said they were too busy at their current job. So it can be telling. But so many people won’t reveal the true reason and just say they’re looking for a job that better fits their skills.

      1. Ted*

        Why not leave a job that requires you do too much? Workplaces can demand too much and that’s a reason to leave.

        1. Ruffingit*

          Agreed. I’m in this situation right now. I’ve been given so much to do that none of it can be done well. And that is tough because clients are getting shortchanged and I don’t like that. I would love to work somewhere where I just do the job I was hired for rather than pieces of three different jobs.

        2. BRR*

          Oh it’s totally a good reason to leave. But I’m not familiar with the candidate’s workload so is having a lot to do staying until 10 every night or staying until 5:30 every once in a while or just a lot of work but still manageable to get everything done without staying late. As the interviewer I should have followed up but they listed other reasons why they were thinking of leaving that made a lot of sense so it wasn’t a red flag.

      2. some1*

        True, but that can go both ways in job searching. You might tell a rejected candidate that “we found someone who most closely matches the skills and experience blah blah” when the actual answer might be that they creeped out the receptionist, they had B.O., or you talked to someone they used to work with who said they were a nightmare.

        1. BRR*

          I think in general there’s fair amount of lying, truth stretching, and carefully portrayed facts. But certain questions are less likely to elicit a truthful response from both the candidate and the company.

      3. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yeah, I think every interviewer who asks this knows that they might not get the real answer, but it’s still worth asking because sometimes you do get very useful, valuable information (both good and bad). Also, sometimes you can tell when the person is BSing you, and that’s useful data too — not because BS’ing that question is inherently bad (with some answers, it can be the more professional choice to shade or avoid the truth), but because it’s one data point of many that can sometimes (not always) point to something you need to probe into more, or whatever.

        1. Jennifer*

          I’ve always figured that a lot of the question was to figure out if you are smart enough to be politically correct/lie when giving that answer.

  3. Amber*

    #1 Being only 6 days on the job, my guess is that the company (particularly the people around you) have a culture and a way of doing things that they are used to, which includes noise level. Being new, it is their job to train you and fitting into their culture is included in that. What your co-worker said “You are very good but you are also very loud. I’ll appreciate it if you would quiet down.” doesn’t sound backhanded. She’s not asking you to be quiet as a mouse, it looks like she’s just asking you to not be so loud. I wouldn’t see her comment as a put down at all, take it as honest feedback and work to improve it.

    1. Colette*

      I don’t like that wording, specifically because it has nothing to do with work. I.e. “I realize you need to make calls, but can you try to be a but quieter? I’m finding it hard to concentrate” is about the impact to the business, not a personal judgement.

      1. fposte*

        Agreed. But this is one of those “If it were the other person writing in, we’d say B, not A.” For the OP, I think it makes sense to say “It wasn’t the greatest phrasing, but let it go and think about the message.”

        1. sunny-dee*

          Yes! (Although, I am probably one of the few people that doesn’t have a problem with the phrasing.) But it’s way more about hearing the message than the delivery.

          Different context, but I had a bug from someone in support once to edit a section. The title was “Section 1.2.3 is 100% wrong.” The actual problem? The title for one of the figures was wrong within the chapter was wrong. {eyeroll} Some people have absolutely no sense of scope, and it’s easy to lose their valid points in their messed-up delivery.

          If you truly cannot lower your volume, then maybe you can find some place in private to make your calls or change your earpiece or work out some other solution. You don’t want to alienate your new office less than two weeks in!

      2. Vicki*

        Keep in mind that, in the moment, when what you really want to say is “I have read the same paragraph 4 times now and have no idea what it said because I cannot concentrate so please just STFYU!!!”, saying what the OP claims was said isn;t so bad.

        And is that an actual verbatim You-took-notes quote anyway?

        Also, from some points of view, the alleged wording is actually pretty polite.

  4. PizzaSquared*

    I personally don’t think it’s fair to anyone to make people who have to talk on the phone a lot as part of their job sit in a cube farm or open floor plan, especially if they’re surrounded by people who don’t have to talk on the phone. Sales people shouldn’t have to feel like they’re whispering all the time, and others shouldn’t have to try to work with so much background noise.

    1. Call Me*

      It’s very distracting when everyone is on the phone a lot and trying to focus on the calls. The noise levels can be astronomical.

      1. Poe*

        And it sucks for clients on the other end! I deal with a lot of sales people and customer service, and it is often really hard to hear them when they are in an open plan office with everyone around them on the phone as well. And then when they follow-up via email to confirm our conversation, there are often little errors that I wonder if they might be due to the noise level, because the mistakes are things they asked me to repeat several times.

    2. Windchime*

      People who are on the phone certainly shouldn’t have to whisper, but they also don’t need to project as if they are performing live theater. I used to work in a room with a person who would automatically raise her voice to nearly shouting levels while on the phone, punctuated with long, hearty peals of laughter that could be heard throughout our huge room.

      A previous poster mentioned that anyplace they had ever worked had the phone people separated from the people who were trying to quietly think, like programmers. I’ve only worked in one such place; anywhere else, they’ve got us all crammed into the same room in cubicles and there’s nothing to be done about it except try to drown out the shouters with noise-cancelling headphones and a white-noise app.

  5. seesawyer*

    #3 All of those questions sound really typical to me. I’ve done a few phone screens with big chemical companies, although not pharma, for context. I’m wondering if maybe the interviewer’s tone or something like that may have thrown you more than the questions themselves? Because like AAM says, they are not generally meant in a hostile or gotcha sort of way. For whatever it’s worth I’ve also seen all of those, except the “why do you want to work here” one, on initial web applications before I even got to the phone screen stage.

    1. PEBCAK*

      I’ve even gotten it in interviews when they’d headhunted me, i.e. I wasn’t actively looking to leave my current job.

      1. Laufey*

        How did you respond to it in that case? “I’m leaving my job because you’re offering me more money?”

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          A good response then is to just be candid: “I’m not actively looking to leave. I’m happy here. But when you approached me about this role, it sounded intriguing enough that I thought it worth talking.”

    2. Adam*

      Yes, I’d expect it too. I haven’t gotten that question much because most times when I was interviewing I didn’t have a current job that I was leaving. The one time I did sort of get the question I just clarified that my current job was part-time retail. No further explanation was required.

  6. Lucia*

    I’ve been at my job for 10 years since I was 18 and haven’t interviewed since then, but due to recent manager changes, I want to start looking for a new job. What’s the best way to say ‘I’m leaving because my new boss is a horrible, reprehensible human being’?

    1. Sourire*

      You don’t. Cite other reasons. Since you’ve been there for so long it would be easy to say something like you’re looking for a change/further development in the industry, etc. You don’t want to badmouth your currency job or boss in an interview no matter how true it may be.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        “I’ve been here 10 years and am ready to take on something new” is going to resonate with pretty much everyone. 10 years is a long time and it’s understandable that that alone would have you thinking about moving on.

    2. Elizabeth the Ginger*

      I agree with Sourire; you say something else. However, if the manager change has caused other changes in your job that you dislike, you could potentially talk about them. For example, if your new boss only assigns you work that you find boring: “Due to reorganization, my position has recently shifted to primarily teapot lid testing. I’m more passionate about teapot spout design and I’m looking for a job where I can take on more responsibility for that.”

      1. AnonyMouse*

        I agree with Elizabeth the Ginger. You obviously know you can’t badmouth your manager, but usually horrible people cause some changes in the work environment that can be fine to mention (while still being careful not to come across as too negative, of course). The example of shifting responsibilities is a particularly good one, because it also gives you a chance to frame your answer in a way that highlights positives about the new role (more spout design responsibility).

    3. Zsazsa*

      “Opportunities for growth” is always good. You can leave out the part that your difficulties with growth are that your boss makes you want to scream and shout.

      This is also a great time to highlight something that the interviewing company does/offers, e.g. “Our company is focused solely on French presses and I’d really like the chance add teapots to my skill set.” Do not underestimate the number of people who apply for jobs at companies but have no idea what the company does. But you won’t have that problem because you’ll have done your research, right?

      1. some1*

        Yup. I have used the “opportunities for growth” line. It was true, but I wasn’t particularly interested in getting promoted anyway. I was leaving because I didn’t like my boss.

        1. Jam Wheel*

          A bad boss can limit current and future opportunities for growth by limiting growth assignments or flat out badmouthing you to higher ups or put the kibosh on any internal moves. So its still a true statement to say you are looking for new opportunities, you just don’t need to include the driving force.

  7. Stephanie*

    #1 – Hasn’t happened at work, but I have a louder voice that carries. Sometimes, it’s not always obvious when my voice is loud. =/ People don’t mean anything mean by telling you to quiet down, usually.

    On a related note, I had a coworker complain that my typing was too loud (maybe from too many years of playing cello). That I had no clue what to do with.

    #5 – Cringing at the leadership’s comment about recruiting minorities for the board.

    1. louise*

      Your typing is too loud? Oh my!

      I now have a mental image of you typing like a concert pianist: leaning and leaning back, ending your sentences with a big flourish where you bring your hand down from above head level, and so on.

      Please say that’s how you type. Otherwise it makes no sense!

      1. Kelly L.*

        I am guilty of typing too loud. It goes back to the days when I had a cranky old computer (it ran Windows ’93, ha!) with a bunch of keys that stuck. I only deal with much more responsive keyboards now, but my muscle memory still sometimes thinks I need to pull out a sledgehammer like a Looney Tunes character just to hit the space bar.

        1. KimmieSue*

          I’m the loud typist and the loud talker. I also mumble too myself when really focused. I’m likely the worst cubicle neighbor in history. I’ve been asked to tone it down. Which, of course, I try and do. I’ve never taken offense to it.

          1. SuzyQ*

            Are you my office mate? She is the loudest talker and typer ever. She also hums, clicks her tongue, and taps on her desk all damn day. She has never taken offense to me telling her to tone it down, but her volume is usually back to 11 within the hour. I don’t think she can help it, but it is making me slowly insane. She’s part time, and I pretty much piddle around and do what I can until she leaves for the day. That’s when I can get real work done.

      2. Chuchundra*

        Some people are very loud typists.

        One of the sysadmins here types like he’s angry at the keyboard. I’m always expecting keys to come flying up at any minute.

      3. Laura*

        My typing was too loud until I switched to using a different keyboard. Now it’s really loud for that (soft) keyboard, but not too loud for people around me.

        I learned to type a couple decades ago, and had a couple keyboards that required a firm strike to actually detect the key press. I also type really fast (110-120 wpm, usually).

        Not only is that loud, but on an older laptop I had that was both personal/work (which is no longer permitted, so if Jamie is reading this, no need to cringe! But it was then–) and therefore I used a lot, I actually typed finger-nail shaped dents into many keys, and clear through (yes, holes!) four. D, S…I forget what the other two were that I, pardon the pun, nailed. I sealed them over with black electrical tape periodically until I retired that laptop. Heh.

        The newer keyboards must be more robust, or I’ve mellowed a little – I don’t even have dents in my long-term personal laptop’s keyboard.

        1. Layla*

          Omg this is the only other time I’ve heard of finger nail shaped dents !
          I have those. But no holes through , yet !
          ( yes most of the letters are no longer visible )

      4. Artemesia*

        I type too loud — I manage to type off the letter signs on my mac within a few months of getting each new one. I learned to type on a manual typewriter at the dawn of time and so my fast touch typing still involves the kind of heavy pressure and strike necessary for a totally manual machine. I am the finally joke when I am keyboarding.

        1. Mister Pickle*

          This happens to me, too! (the letters on top of my key caps fade away). My friends and I have always attributed it to my diet: I eat a lot of spicy food. But I, too, learned on a manual typewriter back in high school. I never considered that maybe I was typing too hard.

      5. M-C*

        Loud typists – I too learned on a manual typewriter where much more force was needed. But that was decades ago :-). Are you aware that too much force is detrimental to the long-term health of your hands? So you might want to practice typing like little cat’s feet for your own sake more than your coworkers’.. It might help to switch to a more ergonomic keyboard, so that you have to watch how you use your hands for a bit anyway?

      6. Stephanie*

        I now have a mental image of you typing like a concert pianist: leaning and leaning back, ending your sentences with a big flourish where you bring your hand down from above head level, and so on.

        HAHA. The accompanying music in my head to that was like a Rachmaninoff concerto.

        That job required a lot of scrolling and using keyboard shortcuts, so I got the most complaints when I was using the keyboard shortcuts. I, too, type quickly, so I think the hard typing comes along with the speed.

    2. Career Counselorette*

      In my past life I actually had a media job that involved typing live transcripts while unscripted content was being filmed, and the sound guys used to get on my case all the time about how loud I was typing. I tried to use a lighter touch, but when you’re typing 100 words a minute trying to get as accurate a transcript as possible, it’s hard not to speed up and bear down. On one shoot during downtime the sound guy was making everyone accessories out of gaffer’s tape, and he made me a giant gaff tape pencil because he said it’d be quieter than my typing.

    3. Vicki*

      If your typing is too loud, try a different keyboard. I type very fast and very loudly. I’ve learned that my typing is much quieter on the very flat keyboards with the least key pressure needed (e.g. Apple flat aluminum keyboard).

      Keyboards really do vary a lot.

    4. #5*

      …ohhhh, yes. That was the beginning of my decision to leave. We were applying for a grant to orgs w/a minimum qualification of racially diverse leadership, which the director somehow missed even after I briefed her on it – twice. It wasn’t until about a week to the deadline that she finally got it and explained that our only minority leader was a community parent on a “non-voting advisory board, so that’s kind of a board member, right?” Nope.

      PS – I’m a loud typer too! My husband says it jumps to deafening levels if I’m typing while wearing headphones – I guess I have to hear the keys to feel like I’m actually typing.

  8. NW Cat Lady*

    #3 – even if “why are you leaving your current job” wasn’t a normal interview question, the fact is that you’ve only been in the workforce for 3 years and have held 8 different jobs. Even if 7 of them were contract jobs for short periods, that’s a lot of jobs in a short period of time.

    1. GrumpyBoss*

      I was coming here to point this out. Maybe for a pharmacist, this is common, but in a lot of industries, this number of positions in a short time is going to be damning. I would balk at someone who has had 7 positions in 10 years. 3 is pretty shocking.

      I really hope you can find something stable.

    2. Kate*

      I was in this position too because I was doing a lot of temp work, so I try and write on my resume that it was temp work and that I’m looking at breaking out of being a temp and getting a long term job. Thankfully with the economy being so bad, people have been understanding that temping was something a lot of people did.

    3. Koko*

      I also suspect the reason he hadn’t heard “Why are you leaving your current job?” before might have to do with his previous resumes clearly telegraphing that he was on short-term contract (like putting March 2014-October 2014 instead of March 2014-present on the current job), and thus the interviewers always knew the reason he was leaving.

  9. spidergirl*

    Re 1, surely it’s important to find out if the person who asked you to be quieter is HrR. If you’re 6 days into a job then this might be very important feedback about the expected behaviour at this company. Also if the office isn’t set up properly ro allow staff to make calls without disturbing others, then your voice might be interrupting other people’s calls – the wider impact of this is that you might be smashing your targets but causing multiple others to fail on their calls and overall lower the sucess rate for you company which would not reflect well on you.

    On a related note it’s never a good idea to get defensive or angry when a colleague says stuff like this. Talk it through with them. You might discover that they are mad, that they can help you get a private room to work in so you can do your stuff without bothering others, that they have more experience they can share about other ways of working, that they become a good contact or friend who gives you a good job in the future or many other thing.

  10. glache*

    Hi everyone, I’m the pharmacist in question. The 7 were temp only and I did clearly specify that on my resume using the term “locum” however I’m not sure if the recruiter may have understood that as she sounded like a corporate HRy type of person and “locum” is a very specific term for contractors used only in a healthcare context, e.g. locum pharmacist, locum doctor, locum dentist, etc. Maybe it’s a cultural thing here in Australia, I’ve only ever been asked why are you interested in this job, which I suppose is the same as why you want to leave, but phrased positively rather than negatively.

    I think the other thing that really unsettled me was how on the spot it was, or what felt like it to my virgin eyes anyway.

    1. GrumpyBoss*

      “Why are you leaving” and “why are you interested in this job” are very different questions, and it isn’t really uncommon for both to be asked in the same interview.

    2. Judy*

      If this was through the same agency, it should probably be listed as one job on your resume.

      Pharmacists R Us, Locum Pharmacist, May 2012 – August 2013
      Temporary assignments at 7 clients.
      Shop1, Shop2, Hospital1,…

      1. Zsazsa*

        I’ve had friends finish their pharmacy programs in the US and have a similar job history their first few years. HR at a pharma company should be experienced enough to know this but I wouldn’t take it for granted since they also hire from other science backgrounds that are primarily lab work.

        I had an issue with my resume that no one had really noticed until I an interviewer asked about it. I went to a school that really pushed students to do internships for class credit. The snag was that you couldn’t get multiple semesters’ credit if your interned at the same place so I interned at a number of great places. This is not as common outside my field of study and in an interview, my interviewer did not mince words that it made me look flaky. The interviewer understood that they were internships but wanted me to be aware of how that looked. I didn’t get the job but that info was priceless. I found a way to condense them in a way that made sense for my resume format so I could reference work there without looking flaky.

    3. Kelly L.*

      I’ve never heard “locum” before myself; while I’m hardly everybody, I think she didn’t understand the industry term.

      1. doreen*

        I have, and I had to look up the definition, at least one of which which specified that some professions have special terms such as “substitute teacher”. The impression I got was that locum positions either involve a specialized temp agency or an employer maintaining a list of qualified per diem employees who can be called in to cover in cases of illness or other absence. In either of those cases, I would list a single job. I would only list seven separate jobs if seven employers hired me directly as a temp

        1. glache*

          Yes seven different employers hired me. But they were all grouped together like so:

          Locum Pharmacist
          Place A – Date A
          Place B – Date B
          Place C – Date C
          [Description of what I did combined]

          No-one’s given me feedback that it’s a bad thing. I was actually wondering (on a separate but related tangent) whether I needed career/interview coaching and maybe I could lump in my resume with that…

  11. Livin' in a Box*

    I used to work in a call centre with an open floor plan and there was a really loud woman there. She sat about ten rows away from me, but she was all I could hear. My customers always complained about her. She got fired after a few weeks because she was too loud. Don’t be that person!

  12. Rebecca*

    #1, what you perceive as enthusiasm may be very distracting to those around you. Please try to dial it back and use your inside voice. You don’t need to shout. Modern phone technology allows for clear communication without letting the whole office know what’s going on.

    We have a loud person in our office. You can hear every single word she says, on every single phone call, personal or business (more personal than business, unfortunately). When I was first hired, I had to sit near her – that’s where they put all the new people, and as I soon found out, everyone begged to be moved if a new person came on board. She was so loud, and had boisterous laughter, and on more than one occasion my customer would ask me if there was a party in the office and was I being kept from it. I regularly asked her to hold it down, and to use her inside voice. She just pouted. When she started singing along with show tunes along with her CD player, oh, that was fun, something with Barbra Streisand and various other people singing along, the CD “disappeared” one day. I hid it under her desk drawer.

    I was so thankful to be moved out of that corner. She’s still in our office today, because she’s our manager’s friend, and she’s still just as loud. Even though she’s in another room across the hall, I can still hear her. We all remark how peaceful it is when she’s on medical leave or vacation.

    1. Raine*

      We have someone like this. She’s down a hall and around a corner, but might ad well be shouting into my phone, people on the other end can hear her so clearly.

      1. Nicolette*

        There was a girl like that at my work. Other than talking super loudly on the phone with supplier with flirtatious voice – think high pitch girlish voice – she also tend to do very noticeable gestures that will make you need to take a look at what was going on. Fortunately she’s already resigned.

    2. soitgoes*

      I was trying to think of a graceful way to advise #1 that viewing oneself as gregarious or blowsy isn’t actually a good thing. It always reads rather young (not the same thing as immature), so it’s fine if the OP actually is young (and she might be, as she’s only 6 days into this job and seems rather new to the workforce in general). I think this might be a good wake-up call that she needs to adopt a more adult demeanor in general. Being “bubbly” isn’t the same thing as being charismatic.

      And don’t worry, OP. We all get these wake up calls and adjust accordingly. :) This one just happens to be yours.

  13. Michele*

    #1 I have found in both my personal and professional life that sometimes loud people do not realize how loud they actually can be. I have a few family members and people from previous jobs that have very loud voices that can really carry. I was actually one of those in the loud group when I started my first real job out of college. A co-worker, who later became a good friend pulled me aside one day and said you are really loud and need to dial it back a notch. I worked in customer service and was always on the phone. From that day forward I really worked on my volume and it has not been an issue since. That was 18 years ago. I have actually said to both my mom and sister why are you yelling we are all in the same room. I understand that this is part of your personality but there really is a way to speak in a normal volume while still maintaining your enthusiasm for what you do. I really do not think this person was trying to be rude. I think she was just being direct and sometimes it is just hard to hear criticism no matter how it is communicated.

    1. Graciosa*

      I think you really addressed what concerned me about the letter – “I … AM an enthusiastic, gregarious person.”

      This makes it seem as though the noise level the OP produces is an immutable characteristic of their being, and the requester has made a personal attack on their character. It isn’t. Speaking loudly is a behavior and it can be changed.

      Sometimes people who see themselves in this way have a bit of a blind spot about the impact it has on others. The OP may be feeling enthusiastic, energized, excited and brimming with joyful energy – not realizing that others are receiving this as a loud, intrusive, and obnoxious attack on their ability to think.

      I really hope that the OP can hear the message (which may have been very hard to deliver) and find ways to moderate the behavior so that the “enthusiasm” can be expressed without a direct correlation to volume.

    2. the gold digger*

      I, too, am a loud person. I don’t want to be and make an effort, but would be mortified if I knew that co-workers were bothered and said nothing. I would rather be told I am speaking too loudly than be resented.

      (I do not, however, appreciate it when my husband and I are arguing about something and he tells me to quiet down rather than address the points I am making. That makes me see red.)

      1. Amy*

        That’s a good point, GD. One of my husband’s best qualities is his big, outgoing personality (which manifests itself as “loud” much of the time) but when we’re arguing, the first thing I want him to do is dial down the volume by 50% because it comes across as “yelling” and I need that to be addressed before I can listen to what he’s actually saying. I feel like I’m being attacked and we can’t have reasonable discourse when I’m in “fight or flight” mode because his normally loud speaking voice is slightly elevated due to the subject matter and now it feels like yelling, my defenses are up, I calmly suggest that he lowers his voice. . .and he sees red, just like you.
        I need to be approaching this in a more effective way that is more respectful of people who are loud by nature.

        1. the gold digger*

          Hmm. Now, I am totally sympathetic to you, Amy, because I, too, don’t want to be yelled at! But when my husband tells me to be quiet, I feel like it’s a man/woman thing of the Man Trying To Keep the Woman Down. I wonder if it’s just that he doesn’t want to be yelled at. But given that he is bigger than I am, I don’t think he feels threatened in any way.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            Men can feel threatened when their other half is upset. This means they have failed in some manner. I saw this with my husband- the drive to fix everything. I doubt he feels physically threatened by yelling. It’s more of an emotional threat- his heart might break.

        2. Tris Prior*

          I am glad to know that I am not the only one with this problem. My partner is the same way and if he gets the least bit annoyed – not even really angry – he comes across as yelling and my shoulders just go up around my ears. I grew up in a yelling house and rather than making me a yeller, it made me afraid of it.

      2. Vicki*

        I understand you re: your husband. Mine says “you’re bellowing.” I say “No I Am NOT!” (uhuh)

        The problem is, I don’t think I’m louder. But what I have realized over time is that I do get more strident and more stacato and it certainly can sound louder.

      3. Victoria, Please*

        I once stopped an argument between my husband and my father by reminding them that Mother was still asleep and could they keep it down. It turned out that they were incapable of arguing at less than full volume. Thank god.

    3. FX-ensis*

      This is true, but to me…well this may be an unpopular view, but then I think sometimes we need to accept how others are if well-intended. it’s like if a person has a relative who asks invasive questions…not to hurt anybody, but they never learnt any tact or to respect privacy.

  14. A Dispatcher*

    #1 – A couple of things…

    First – You want to make sure you’re receptive to the feedback from that coworker (and others) in a pleasant way. Your letter has kind of a defensive tone, and that could just be because it’s you’re venting a bit (and I absolutely won’t fault you for that), but if you saw what the coworker was saying as a personal attack, you may have come across defensive in the moment too. That is not the best way to portray yourself in your first few weeks on the job, so be mindful. Even if someone has a truly ridiculous and off-base critique, be as gracious as you can. There is a world of difference between hearing a new coworker say “Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t realize I was being so loud/bothering you” and “Sorry, I’m just a loud person”.

    Second, make sure you’re being mindful of the environment. Step back a bit and listen to everyone around you. Is the room generally more quiet, particularly more quiet than you’re used to? It could be that at other workplaces, including your last, your volume was totally normal or blended in with other noise but in this workplace it’s loud. We see this variance shift by shift, in the same workplace. I have a coworker who was certainly never thought of as quiet on her shift (the busiest shift of the day with the highest call volume and most employees working), but oh wow did we want to kill her when she invaded our quiet overnight shift and could be heard loud and clear across the whole, normally very quiet room at 4am.

    1. A Dispatcher*

      And here you see the effects of trying to post after an overnight shift ! I meant to say she was never seen as quiet on her shift, but wasn’t thought of as obnoxious or overly loud. She kind of just blended in with the general loudness of that shift. However on overnights, she stands out like a sore thumb. It doesn’t make her a bad person, but it also didn’t make any of us mean, nor did it mean we were putting her down, when she was nicely talked to about the general volume expectation on our shift.

    2. en pointe*

      Good point about paying attention to the surrounding environment. I think a good point of reference for the OP could be the other salespeople he/she works with. OP, you said you’ve had nothing but friendliness and praise from your boss and co-salespeople, but I don’t think that necessarily means all that much in terms of your voice volume; lots of people are really reticent to speak up and be direct about this kind of thing. Could you maybe ask your boss and/or some of the other salespeople about it directly? I’m no good at coming up with wording for this stuff, but I don’t mean anything too blunt. Just ask for an honest opinion about whether they think your volume is a problem in the office. And try to resist any defensiveness you may / may not have if you don’t like the answer, and go into the conversation genuinely open to hearing feedback.

      Whether this HR person is right or wrong, your letter did come off as pretty defensive, and if that came across in the moment, (or in any future relevant interactions), it’s probably going to reflect worse on you. Maybe you could reframe this and take it as a valuable opportunity to try and learn whether you really are too loud? If not, no worries. If so, you can assess whether that’s something you can conceivably work on (and if you’re loud even by the other salespeople’s standards, it presumably is), and how you’re going to do that.

      1. QualityControlFreak*

        Very good advice. Observe others in sales and note their volume. It can be difficult to gauge one’s own volume, so if you feel comfortable asking others for input on your volume in the office, go for it. As en pointe says, be open to the feedback – this is valuable intel that will help you understand the way things work in an environment that is very new to you.

    3. ella*

      I agree about the being defensive. Regardless of whether your coworker is correct about your volume level, you need to take basic suggestions or observations without getting “incensed” or thinking she’s trying to sabotage your success. Not everyone can phrase themselves as nicely as Alison generally suggests, but one of the reasons it’s so hard to train people to solve problems directly with each other is because the reaction is so often defensive or dismissive. Don’t be that person.

      The office had a “baseline” noise level before you arrived. It’s possible that you are in fact violating that noise level by being too loud. Loudness is subjective and differs from office to office. I’m unsure why it matters if the woman is from HR–presumably, you’re trying to suss out how important it is to take notice of what she’s said to you, but I’d throw out two possibilities: either one of your coworkers asked her to tell you to be quiet, because you were interfering with their work but they didn’t want to confront you themselves, or multiple people have been annoyed by your volume level, and talking about it in the break room, and the HR person either volunteered or was volunteered to do the actual confronting. Or, of course, maybe the HR woman works near you and is bothered herself (my HR department is in an entirely different building, but obviously that’s not universal). Either way, I’d think over the possibility that you’re not annoying the HR person, necessarily, but that the HR person is representative of an unknown number of people whom you ARE annoying.

      If you truly don’t know how loud you’re being, or find that it’s hard to pay attention to your own volume levels when you’re in the middle of a sales call (because, entirely understandably, you’re focused on making the sale), maybe ask some of your friends and family about whether they’d call you loud (keeping in mind that your family probably has a similar volume level to you). Maybe one of your friends can give you a friendly heads up when your voice exceeds a certain volume, just so you know when it’s happening. I know that groups like Toastmasters or drama classes can help people who don’t like speaking in front of groups get more comfortable, but maybe a drama class could teach you more control over your volume? Being able to project (or not) is an important part of being an actor. Just an idea.

  15. Christy*

    My manager has SUCH a loud voice. Back when he was an analyst, he was pushed to the very edge of the cubicles, because his loudness is a known issue. So when he got promoted into being manager, everyone was relieved he’d have an office with a door on it. I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s a part of the reason he was promoted, if only subconsciously.

    And I love what someone said above about loudness being a behavior and not an immutable trait. That boss never tried hard to change. He just didn’t. It is still obnoxious, even with his door shut.

  16. MissDisplaced*

    Ugh! The perils of modern cubicles. OP 1 you probably ARE loud on the phone. It’s not unusual and it’s not really your fault, but unfortunately in cubicle-farm life everyone’s got to hear you. But don’t get mad at your coworker, her wording could’ve been better but it’s not like she was rude either. Try and turn it down a little.

    If heavy phone work is a large part of your job, you can perhaps ask for some better equipment (phone attachments, headsets, maybe another wall panel for the cube) that can help keep the volume down. When you’re new, sometimes companies don’t give much thought to where they stick people, so it’s perfectly reasonable to ask to move to more isolated cubes where the calls won’t bother people as much. Frame the request as a benefit to them.

  17. Cruciatus*

    I have a desk near the door (no office for me) at the beginning of a hallway (visitors must stop at my desk). Anyway, everyone else down the hallway has an office. There is one coworker who is SO LOUD and she knows it and has commented/joked about it. I hear everything, even when her door is closed. And she insists on always using speakerphone when she calls her boyfriend so I hear the entire conversation. But what really drives me crazy is I don’t have a door to close on her, but whenever I have a 2 minute conversation in relatively quiet tones with someone walking by she’ll slam the door because *I* am now too loud for her. Oh, it drives me crazy!

    I do think sometimes you don’t know how loud you are. I was always the one getting my friends in trouble at sleepovers when we were supposed to be sleeping. I would always start out whispering and it’s not that I was yelling, but eventually I’d be speaking in a normal enough voice that parents would come yell at us to get to sleep. And if you add needing to bring a certain energy to something, I think that may automatically raise the volume of your voice. It’s not necessarily a “fault” but your coworker is obviously sensitive to it. If you find you can manage to lower the volume, great, but if not and this is what works, well… It sounds like your have your boss on your side so that works in your favor.

    1. the gold digger*

      Really, the speakerphone for everything – is it that hard to hold a phone receiver?

      I actually finally bought a headset for my boss to use on Skype calls because I was so tired of hearing his voice boom through the door while he was on speaker. (I charged it to the company, though!)

      1. Kelly L.*

        Ugh, I hate speakerphone. The sound quality goes waaaaay down, plus putting people on speakerphone without telling them is a bit like secretly bcc’ing. Found myself on a call a few months ago with someone from a different office, couldn’t figure out why the sound quality was crap, but she asked me a question and I answered truthfully with an internal cogs-and-gears kind of explanation. And it turned out that an external person was in her office and I was on speaker. I hadn’t said anything rude, but I’d said some procedural stuff that wasn’t really for outside ears. I’ve started actually asking anytime the sound is horrible, just so I know who all is listening.

        1. Judy*

          I’ve never been in someone else’so office with a call on speakerphone where they didn’t say “I’m on speakerphone and Judy is in here too.” I’ve also not ever found out after the fact that someone was listening and I wasn’t told.

          I have found out that someone showed IM messages to other people, or someone was looking at the screen when an IM message came in.

          1. sunny-dee*

            Yeah, the rule of thumb with business communication is just to assume someone else is going to see it. (oh, past self, if only I could remind you of that…)

            But I’ve had the same experience. Someone usually clues me in — either on the phone or before, when setting up a meeting — if someone else is going to be on the call. And I’ve been on dual IM conversations before with people in the same office — and it turns out they were reading over each others’ shoulders at their statements and my responses.


      2. Vicki*

        My “top this if you can” speakerphone story is the time that two coworkers were both on the same conference call on speaker phone. One was just the other side of the cube wall from me; the other was an aisle away in a straight line. So I not only got two loud co-workers (because people tend to raise their voices when on speaker) but also a weird echo quality to the voices coming over the speaker from wherever the other people were.

        We’d have long email conversation on an internal discussion forum of how best to handle speaker phone calls. The idea I liked best was to just walk over and join the conversation. After all, if you can’t help but hear it, you’ve been implicitly “invited”, right?? Even if it’s not your project.

        1. Kelly L.*

          Ugh! Can’t top it, but I used to work with someone who would call me from about 20 feet away and got a somewhat similar effect–I could hear her actual voice and then her phone voice with a slight lag. I’d usually end up giving up, getting up, and going to her desk, because it was hard to understand in stereo-lag like that.

  18. Kelly L.*

    During my brief telemarketing stint, I occasionally got placed next to this one particular guy. He was also a local radio DJ and so his voice was really professional/polished and he did well at the job…but he was also so. damned. loud. I mean, when he was on the radio they must have been doing so much modulation just so people wouldn’t be deafened when the music stopped and his voice came in. When I was seated next to him, I could literally not hear my own calls, especially since the quality of our signal was usually terrible anyway (echoes, etc). I’m sure the people on the other end of my calls could hear him bellowing too. I never had the nerve to mention it to him. The first time it happened, I moved to a different carel. Another time, I couldn’t, because the room was full. That was a long shift. This can genuinely hinder your co-worker from doing her job. It sounds like she may have tried to compliment-sandwich it and did it badly. I’d give her the benefit of the doubt and try to crank it down a little. Sorry, OP.

  19. Relosa*

    I can be that loud person. My voice just carries. I try really hard for it not to but it just happens. At the same time, generally the opinion falls in support of the sale I’m closing or client I’m making, so it’s not a huge deal. That and most of the time I work by myself.

    1. fposte*

      Yes, I get that way sometimes, and then I hear how loud I’ve gotten in an enthusiastic moment (with some poor person two feet from my face) and am shocked at the volume.

      I also have a colleague who has a bad combination of being slightly louder than average (20%, maybe, so you don’t notice it until you’ve had a longer exchange or meeting with her) and hanging into what she’s saying like grim death, so it’s tough to get a word in edgewise. I’m definitely at risk of that, so I try to use her to remind myself to be more mindful of me.

    2. Traveller*

      I can be that loud person too (ok…I am).
      I’m on hours and hours of calls per day – my role is different than many of those around me, who make few calls.

      If I try to keep it down, the folks on the other end of the call inevitably ask me to repeat myself.

      I don’t know really what to do, other than to give an honest & humble invitation for those around me to ask me to pipe-down if it gets too bad.

    3. Vicki*

      I get enthusiastic and loud on the phone. Once, when I was complaining about telephone voice noise in cubeland, a co-worker said “Vicki, you can be loud too, sometimes”.

      My reply was “And that is why I _never take or make telephone calls from my desk_”.

      (At LastJob, I disconnected my deskphone and returned it to IT.)

  20. Illini02*

    #1, I’ve come to the realization that I am considered a “loud” person. I don’t think so. But apparently I have a voice that carries even in normal conversation. Normally I’d say you should do what you need to do to do YOUR job right, and if that bothers others, too bad. This woman did seem a bit harsh with her wording. However, the fact that you are so new makes it a bit different. I think at least for now, you need should probably try to quiet down a bit. You don’t know the kind of pull this woman has in your office, no matter what her position, and until you are a bit more proven in your role, you may need to just suck it up for a bit. Overall though, I’m against telling people to quiet down if they are doing their job. If you were just constantly on personal calls, that would be one thing. But you are bringing the company money. Jane’s lack of ability to concentrate isn’t YOUR problem. She can get headphones or something.

    1. ella*

      I dunno if I agree with the “you don’t know how much pull this woman has” part. That implies that the OP should only modify his behavior for people who are above him on the foodchain (which, admittedly, is mostly everyone in the office). Whether she’s above him or not, she has her own job that she’s trying to do well which the OP is apparently interfering with. I don’t think that’s about respecting hierarchy, but about respecting coworkers.

      I’m not arguing that the OP should absolutely quiet down, necessarily; just that if he does, he shouldn’t do it just because this woman has power over him. He should do it because in cubicle land, accommodating others is a necessary part of maintaining a peaceful work environment.

      1. Raine*

        Well, as mentioned somewhere above, she’s from HR and OP is only days on the job. My first thought is she is conveying a message after multiple complaints to HR.

        1. Kelly L.*

          Oh, that’s a good point. I had assumed the HR person was situated next to the OP herself, and making the request for her own sake, but it may be that the OP’s neighbors have actually taken this to HR and that’s why she did it.

        2. ella*

          I thought of this too. I’m just not wild about the mindset of, “I’ll take suggestions from my manager/other higher ups but not from my coworkers” even though I know it’s really common. (When it comes to things of general office culture, I mean. Not questions of job performance or official procedures.)

      2. Illini02*

        Well, I wasn’t referring to heirarchy necessarily, just that she may have the ear of the OPs boss and can sway opinion. There are people in my office who aren’t necessarily higher on the food chain, but definitely are listened to by management more than others.

    2. Kelly L.*

      It’s not necessarily a matter of “focus”–the co-worker may be physically unable to hear phone calls she is making, or people she is talking to in her office. The co-worker’s job, whatever it is, is presumably important to the business too and needs to be done. Really, it’s a problem of bad office design more than anything else, and it sucks that the adjustment needs to fall on the OP, but sometimes them’s the breaks.

      1. MissDisplaced*

        Yeah. It’s kind of hard to tell here. As the OP is so new, she doesn’t even know what type of work her cube neighbors are doing, so she should probably keep it down until she determines what the lay of the land is.
        But I’ve seen new hires get stuck in wrong places. Imagine sticking a salesperson next to a coder?
        Oh the horror!

        1. Kelly L.*

          And I feel for her! I’m a natural loudie myself, though not on the same level as the co-worker I mentioned upthread. But part of being a loudie is getting used to the fact that sometimes people will gently tell you to pipe down, and trying not to take it too personally.

    3. Ted*

      If they can quiet down, why shouldn’t they on a regular basis? Loud Howards please listen- you are disturbing others. I don’t care how much they bring in, I doubt the $$ is based on volume. Oh and others contribute to work, that’s why they are there.

      1. Illini02*

        Thats true, but some people have voices that carry more, and some people get distracted a lot more easily. As someone said, its probably bad office design if anything. But I don’t know that if I’m sitting next to someone who needs it super quiet to concentrate that I should always be the one to have to compromise. Its 2 different styles, and there needs to be a middle ground, not just the loud person acquiesing to the other person

        1. Artemesia*

          Actually the person hanging into someone else’s space is the one who always needs to compromise. It is like smoking. My not smoking is not drifting into your breathing space; there is nothing for me to compromise. My not perfume is not choking you; your perfume may be triggering my allergies or asthma. My quietly doing my work is not drifting into your working space while your loud braying is drifting into mine.

          And yes it is partly an office design issue and management should try to zone louder people or people who need to be on the phone a lot away from those who need to concentrate and speaker phones should be banned in any shared space — but in the meantime, ‘enthusiastic, gregarious, boisterous, big personalities’ and all the other euphemisms for being loud need to figure out how not to be a constant distraction. Regular voices on the phone all day make it rough on their co-workers; loud talkers are a nightmare.

          1. QualityControlFreak*

            You’re right; a lot of this is workflow. We have people who field a large volume of incoming calls. They are situated in two separate offices, and we use headsets in these areas. If I am walking into one of these offices I pause in the door, make eye contact with one of the staff and mouth “are you in the phone?” (pointing at my own headset). If she’s on a call, she’ll hold up a finger and I’ll wait or come back later. She does the same when walking into my area.

            We do have our loud and boisterous personalities, but a lot of the time you can place these people in areas where these traits are an asset. In our front office operations there are constant distractions and it’s organically a loud, semi-chaotic environment. Our receptionist is loud and gregarious, and our clients love her. Our data entry person needs to focus; she plugs in her earbuds and tunes the rest of us out.

            This works for us. We all have different work styles and needs, but we share work spaces, so we try to group like functions together where we can, and encourage collaboration within workgroups to be reasonably accommodating to the needs of individual members.

    4. Artemesia*

      WOW. You really think the OP should only be considerate of the work of others if they are ‘powerful’ not just as a matter of being a decent human being?

    5. Vicki*

      “Jane’s lack of ability to concentrate isn’t YOUR problem. She can get headphones or something.”

      No no no.
      Jane’s lack of an ability to concentrate IS your problem if you’re causing the problem.
      Some of us can’t wear headphones (headache). Some companies forbid headphones.

      Some of us can still hear you, even through noise isolating headphones with foam earplugs underneath.

    6. Observer*

      If you are the cause for someone not being able to do their job, then it IS your problem. And she may not be able to get headphones for a whole host of reasons.

      Sometimes you just don’t have much of a choice, but if that’s truly the case, you still need to be understanding of the other person. However, the first step is to really make sure you CANNOT change it – not that you don’t want to or can’t be bothered.

  21. Brett*

    #3 I know this was not the focus of the letter, but I was bothered by the fact this was an ambush phone screen. I’ve been through one of these too, and e practice really has to stop.
    Does this really lead to a better quality hire? Or is this just for he convenience if the person screening?

    1. Courtney*

      Yeah, I can’t stand it when that happens. If I’m going through a period of applying for jobs and I start seeing phone numbers I don’t recognize calling me, I won’t answer the phone because I don’t want to get ambushed like that – especially if I’m out in public or distracted by something else at the time. It’s one thing if I’ve scheduled a phone interview for a certain day and time, but calling me unexpectedly and firing interview questions off at me really sucks if I’m not prepared for such a phone call.

    2. JMegan*

      I’ve had that happen to me as well. I work 9-5 office hours, and the jobs I’m applying to are 9-5 office hours, so guess when the phone screeners call? I can usually get to a private room, or at least to a hallway, but I would appreciate it if people could at least start out with “is this a good time to talk?” if they’re doing more than just scheduling an interview.

  22. Felicia*

    I hate this too. Generally the employer will ask “Do you have time to talk?” And I say yes, because technically I have time to talk and I’m bad at lying on the spot.. But then they start doing a phone screen. Well technically I have time, but I’ m most definitely not prepared to do a phone screen for a job i can’t remember the details of because I may have applied a mmonth ago and applied to dozens of other jobs in between

    1. fposte*

      What about saying “I have a couple of minutes–will that be enough or should we schedule a time?” It won’t help with the weird people who think there’s some advantage to the surprise, of course, but it’s something you could say to distinguish a scheduling call from a phone screen.

    2. Stephanie*

      I wonder what the advantage to the employer is? It seems like it’d be better for both parties to have a prescheduled time.

  23. C Average*

    Fellow loud person quietly putting up hand here.

    I’ve inherited a resonant voice and a loud, infectious laugh from my grandmother and mother. It’s a wonderful asset at parties and for community theater, but can be trouble in the office. I try to modulate, but when I’m excited about something my volume can and does creep upward.

    I’ve let all of the folks in surrounding cubes know that I will take no offense whatsoever if, when I’m on the phone and getting too loud, they IM me or even hold up a piece of paper that says, “INDOOR VOICE!” I want them to be comfortable asking me to tone it down if necessary, and a preemptive acknowledgement seems like the best way to do that.

    1. Sam*

      This seems like a great way to acknowledge that this is something you’re aware of, you’re working on it, and you want to make people feel comfortable being part of helping you. There’s absolutely no excuse for people to feel resentful about it when you’ve openly invited them to give you feedback (even in a warm, humorous way, no less!) when you’re being too loud. I wish more people could find ways to say “Hey, I’m working on this piece of my personal development, here’s a way you can help me by calling me out in an easy, playful way.”

    2. soitgoes*

      I did something similar in my very first office job. “I can be chatty and I get loud when I’m excited so please tell me to be quiet if you need to.” It actually helped me learn a lot about office culture, since every “be quiet” moment was a lesson in “try not to talk when someone is doing this specific thing.” Young employees sometimes have a hard time sussing out the right times to approach higher-ups with questions, and I was being taught when people didn’t want to be interrupted.

      Even so, it did hurt my feelings a bit every time someone told me to be quiet. Even though I’d given them permission! So yeah, you really just need to learn how to keep your hackles from going up.

      1. C Average*

        I think it’s been easier for me not to take “INDOOR VOICE!” reminders personally because I grew up with someone loud (my mom) and can remember, for example, the nightmare of bra shopping with her as a pre-teen. (I think the Macy’s loudspeaker would’ve been quieter than my mother announcing, “I think you need a smaller size!” “MOM!”) My mom is a lovely person who happens to be loud, and there are many times I wanted to shush her but didn’t. I’d rather be considered a lovely person who happens to be loud and doesn’t mind being shushed when necessary.

    1. glache*

      I emailed Alison at the same time I posted to metafilter, not after. yes I was satisfied it was unprofessional timing rather than unprofessional questions as such.

    2. fposte*

      And it’s not like this is a manuscript submission, which is supposed to be exclusive. I presume OPs ask lots of people in addition to AAM–I don’t think it’s a problem myself.

  24. Katie the Fed*

    #1 – even your letter reads “loud!” to me. I don’t think your coworker was out of line – just take it at face value and shush :)

  25. Zsazsa*

    #5 Congrats on making the right call. I can imagine it was tough to step away from something that might be a good opportunity. I had to make a similar call a month ago and barely slept for two days before a deadline to decide. When I look at it now, the only pluses were: 1) It’s a job! 2) The org cares about doing work that I care about. This did not outweigh all the other elements that sound a lot like the org you left. I’m now in the midst of a flurry of interviews and it sounds like things are working out for you too.

  26. Resignation without notice*

    4: Are any of the following grounds for resignation without notice, provided a discussion with superiors has taken place?

    1. Demotion without notice to a lower position with a lower salary
    2. Substantial, negative changes to job duties and/or working conditions without notice with the salary unchanged

    1. Artemesia*

      It is all about burning bridges. It doesn’t matter if it is justified; what matters is ‘will this follow me around?’ Giving notice when these things happen is a powerful statement but doesn’t add ‘unprofessionally quit without notice’ to any future reference. If you think the action is sufficiently punitive that you can’t live with it or you know your reference will be vicious then there may be nothing to lose.

  27. glache*

    I emailed Alison at the same time I posted to metafilter, not after. yes I was satisfied it was unprofessional timing rather than unprofessional questions as such.

  28. Sandrine (France)*

    I am loud too. Apparently I got it from being the eldest of 5 children.

    My ex boyfriend started having me “work” on it in a bizarre way (that I can’t quite remember, just that it was slightly weird) and it worked. It worked so well that when I started a call center job, I was the “quiet as a mouse” one to the point where people would wonder where I was.

    It is NOT easy controlling yourself when you are loud. But even if only one person tells you you are, the least you can do is think about it and try to work things out.

  29. Vicki*

    #2 – I love these “Can they require me to…” questions.

    They’re so like the “is it legal” questions.
    Yes, they can ask. They can try to require. But you can always refuse to do it (either actively or passively).

    If they want to require you to wear a tie or a blue shirt, they’ll know if you don’t do it.
    If they want to “require” you to share information, never eat cheese, or not see ex-co-workers out of the office… how will they police this?

  30. Not So NewReader*

    OP1. If you have to call me as a customer, please dial it back. To me, “gregarious and enthusiastic” can be a huge negative. I’d rather speak with someone who knows their products/services and places the right product in the right place.
    If other sales people are not using the same techniques, I would do a double check. You maybe presenting in a manner that your company does not prefer. Try to match the people around you to some degree.

    1. FX-ensis*

      True, but then salespersons are individuals and will all have their own styles. The issue perhaps is if there is a script, and if s/he is getting sales. Or if their manager/supervisor has any concerns about it. If not, then (IMHO) the OP’s co-worker needs to suck it up. We all on some level deal with co-workers (well people in life generally) with incompatible personality traits.

      1. Kelly L.*

        My guess is there’s likely a script, so that all the salespeople are starting with roughly the same material (though in my experience, people will tweak wording in a way that’s more natural phrasing for them, that kind of thing), and that the LW just has a louder voice. I don’t think her techniques are any different in any real sense.

  31. Pluto*

    Thanks for answering my question! I really appreciate it. I used to work for a company where two other people got demoted but they were able to keep their salary even though they had way less responsibilities. They said legally the company couldn’t take away their pay.

    I work for a new company now but in the same field of child care. I was in charge of multiple sites and now I am back down to only one. This is pretty much the same scenario as my previous co-workers and I thought I might be able to keep my salary. There is nothing in my contract that says they can’t change it but I still have the same title for running one site instead of two. Does that make a difference?

    Thanks again!

  32. Ask a Manager* Post author

    An employer can change your salary at any point, even if you’re in the exact same job with the exact title. They just can’t change it retroactively, but they can change it going forward (and you can decide to accept that, try to negotiate it, or leave over it). It makes sense that your salary would be lower when you go from being in charge of multiple sites to one. Your coworkers who told you it was illegal were wrong.

    1. FX-ensis*

      Hello, I’m gratified you have this site, as I enjoy the advice you provide here.

      I don’t live in the US, but then does federal law or one of the states’ laws say an employer can uniterally change salaries? Or has the employer got to consult with the employee about this?

  33. FX-ensis*

    #1 – You can say your co-worker “I know you said I am loud, but then I am not being so to be offensive to others, it’s just part of my personality and who I am. If you like, I can take calls in another office or cubicle, but I’m here to be welcoming to all of my colleagues here and not rough them up.”

    Whilst you are morally in the right, so to speak, I don’t think you should come across defensive when explaining this. As you’re acting as you, and not out to purposefully offend others, I think your co-worker lacks tact in this case. That said, I think mentioning something like this to him/her may help, just to state you’re acting on good faith when taking calls and not to irk others.

    1. Beth*

      That suggested script sounds VERY defensive to me. It comes across as a rebuke for “not being welcoming” (so what?), and the fact that OP had no offensive intent in being loud does not change the impact of their volume on other people’s productivity. I think that if OP really has to bring it up to the co-worker at all, the shorter the better -I’d suggest “Sorry about being loud the other day, I’ll bear it in mind from now on.”

        1. FX-ensis*

          And the person is naturally loud, then it’s unfair IMHO to expect him or her to change. It’s just a case of good social discourse and meeting others halfway. If a co-worker is very quiet, or very brusque, without any real intent to offend or annoy others (or even has some medical condition causing such) just doesn’t seem right to scold them for it.

          1. Helena*

            I don’t agree with that at all. Just because someone doesn’t intend something doesn’t mean that their actions don’t have consequences, or that they don’t need to be responsible for them. Just because someone is naturally loud doesn’t mean they aren’t responsible for their loudness if they;re bothering other people or that they can’t or shouldn’t change it. It’s like the saying about people stepping on your foot. If someone is stepping on your foot, it doesn’t matter if they intended to step on your foot or not; all that matters is that they stop stepping on your foot.

            1. FX-ensis*

              Just that sometimes you have to cut people slack, and see their intent and we’re they’re coming from. I honestly reckon that the OP’s colleague should suck it up, or even in a non-threatening way just explain s/he’s too loud, or just move to another part of the office. Just seems the OP’s co-worker lacks emotional intelligence or tact.

              1. Kelly L.*

                The colleague did “in a non-threatening way explain s/he’s too loud,” unless you perceive a threat in what was said? I don’t see it. And I really don’t get what you mean by “welcoming” in the earlier post.

              2. Observer*

                The coworker probably has no choice to move to another part of the office. And, it certainly sounds like she did “explain in a non-threatening way” that the OP is too loud.

          2. Ollie*

            I’m naturally quiet and soft spoken. Sometimes it’s hard to hear me if there’s a lot of background noise or if someone’s hard of hearing. But since I’m naturally soft spoken, does that mean no one should expect me to speak louder so that they can hear what I’m saying? I try to speak louder because that’s what’s needed to allow other people to get work done. It makes sense to expect someone who’s naturally loud to try to quiet down a bit if they’re keeping others from getting work done.

  34. FX-ensis*

    #4 – OP, to be honest and not rude, your point doesn’t make sense. As remuneration is often based on seniority, experience, qualifications, etc., then it makes little sense for you to keep the same salary. Also, it may be part of the “punishment” for you to get a lower salary. I’m not an HRM professional, but then perhaps it depends on if you have dependents who are sick, or you need the money for some other urgent circumstance. Depending on how empathetic your HR Dept. is, they may bend in that case.

  35. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    #4 – but – be careful. Often in the private sector, if you are on a pension plan – an end-of-career pay cut is a stunt designed to reduce your final pension formula. In the private sector, it’s often based on your LAST five years, in the public world, your best five.

    It might be wise to consider jumping ship, if this is done to you. And if you should get another job and quit and they try to lure you back with a counter-offer, make sure they FIX the problem — by “fix” = not give back your normal salary, but if a short period of time has transpired, they might retroactively give you back the money you lost.

  36. Shalia*

    I am hard of hearing, so I speak louder than the majority of people in my office, whether my co workers like it or not. I am certain my laughter is loud as well. I have been at my employer 16 years – we are there together 7.5 hours a day, five days a week, so we are kind of thrown together like a little family. Personally, I would not find it rude if a co worker were to ASK me why I speak louder ( although most people in my office already know of my hearing problem). What I WOULD find rude would be the condescending, ” I am so sorry, but can you please lower your tone?”, etc… comments. No, you are not sorry, so don’t apologize.

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