a coworker left me an anonymous note … and a pacifier

A reader writes:

About two weeks ago, I came in to work and found a manila envelope on my desk. It had my name written on the front. I opened it up and was stunned to find a typed note that read “Dear Loud Talker, I know more about your TV-watching habits than anyone sitting 30 feet away from you ever should. Please be more quiet. Thank you.”

I was both mortified and angry. The tone of the letter was super rude and dismissive, not to mention totally childish to type an anonymous note. I also come in earlier than most of the office (around 8:30), so this means the note-writer came in extra early to hand deliver it, which just makes me uncomfortable.

For the record, I do sometimes talk loudly, especially when I am excited about a topic. This is something I am aware of, and actively working on. However, we sit in an open cubicle environment. I hear other’s conversations all day long, from medical issues to childcare conundrums. It’s just part of working in an open office.

I was upset by the note, but decided to let it go. Then, today I came into work and found a pacifier sitting on my desk. There was no note, even though it was sitting next to my cup of pens and a post-it note stack. I can only assume this was another passive-aggressive dig at me to be quiet.

I went into the bathroom and cried. Since I received the note, I have intentionally NOT engaged in playful conversations with my teammates. I have been walking around on eggshells in fact! I tried to talk to my boss’s boss about it, but he is at a conference all week. My direct boss knows about both incidents but hasn’t done anything, though she agrees they are inappropriate. What do I do? I feel kind of ridiculous going to HR about a typed note and baby pacifier — this is all so odd.

Someone left you a pacifier on your desk?! That’s so incredibly mean-spirited that it sounds like something from a movie about teenage bullies, not something you’d expect in an office of adults. (I’m assuming, of course, that it was left there intentionally and not dropped by an office-visiting baby. But pacifiers don’t usually randomly turn up in offices.) It’s so beyond what’s reasonable to expect in an office that whoever did it is not playing by normal rules here.

And that’s particularly irritating because before the pacifier turned up and we were just working with the note, I was going to tell you that the person might have a valid point, if you are indeed regularly talking more loudly than others.

But now what might have been a legitimate message is getting overshadowed by the person’s truly terrible choices in delivering it.

So let’s separate those out and treat them like two different things. Frankly, this person has behaved so horridly that it’s tempting not to bother considering their message at all. But there can be value even in rudely delivered feedback, so let’s put their lack of charm aside and explore it for a minute.

Since you acknowledge that you do tend to talk loudly, there might really be an issue here that a colleague would be bothered by. You’re right that in an open office, overhearing other people is unavoidable. But an open office plan is actually more reason to be really thoughtful about how loud you are, because the effect can be so much more pronounced. It can be maddening to need to focus while you’re trapped in a space with loud people. So it’s possible that you do need to do a better job of modulating your volume.

But that doesn’t make it okay for a co-worker to handle that by being an enormous jerk.

It’s not even just the pacifier. The anonymous note wasn’t a great choice either. Anonymous notes are rarely the way to handle something at work (or in life, for that matter). They’re cruel, because the recipient now has to suspect everyone around them of leaving the note, and they deny the person the chance to talk face-to-face about whatever the complaint is. They’re a terrible way to communicate. And in this case, it sounds like the tone of the note was gratuitously rude, as well.

There’s no reason that this person couldn’t simply have come to you in person and said, “Hey, could you try to keep your voice down? It really carries here and can be distracting.” That’s an utterly normal conversation that people have in offices all the time.

Of course, it’s true that some people are incredibly bad at speaking up, and so they look for less direct ways of delivering that kind of message. But usually when people are afraid to make basic requests like this, it’s because they’re afraid that they’ll come across as too confrontational or rude. This person does not seem to have any qualms about being rude, though; they just want the cover of anonymity. It’s cowardly on top of being mean.

As for what to do about it … Mean as this is, it’s not at the level of something that you should escalate to your boss’s boss or HR. It’s more a one-time mention to your boss herself, because it’s useful for her to be aware that this kind of personal nastiness is happening on her team, and because she might decide to talk to your whole team about how to work effectively in an open space and how to handle grievances professionally. But because your boss already knows, there’s not much more you can do here. That said, if anything else like this happens, at that point you can argue you’re being harassed (not in the legal sense, but in the colloquial sense) and push for stronger action.

Meanwhile, please don’t walk on eggshells to cater to a jerk. Yes, you should be thoughtful about how loud you’re being, but so should everyone — and that definitely doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t talk at all. Talk at the same rate as other people do; just know that you have volume tendencies that you need to pay attention to.

And don’t let yourself be too thrown off by anonymous hate mail. This person’s complaint is ultimately about a pretty mundane office problem, and the level of vitriol that they chose to direct at you rather than just having a face-to-face conversation is not only unwarranted, but it exposes them as an immature jerk with no sense of scale. That’s not someone who deserves to have any power over how you feel at work.

Originally published at New York Magazine.

{ 546 comments… read them below }

  1. Another Jill*

    I’d be tempted to loudly announce that someone needs to look up “passive aggressive” and toss the pacifier into the waste can.

    1. AdminAllDay*

      I actually like this idea, because naturally the people around you will start asking questions. I would take the opportunity to address it by mentioning that you are aware you’re loud and trying to work on it, but that obviously a cubicle farm will always be a little loud, and that they are welcome to come speak to you face to face in the future because that is what adults do. I would imagine someone that cowardly will crumble under the pressure alone.

      Then again, I’m from the Midwest so my gauge for appropriate amounts of passive aggressive behavior is probably a bit off.

      1. Mike C.*

        I don’t think there’s a need to “address it” at all. If this activity was something that an actual adult would have an issue with, that adult would speak up and say something.

      2. Diana Prince*

        I would respectfully disagree that adults always speak face to face. There is value in anonymous speech.

        1. Anonanonanon*

          Anonymous speech only really benefits the person doing it because they are the only one who gets to talk. There are very few situations where it would be appropriate. Either a problem is important to address openly or it is not.

            1. Anonanonanon*

              That is different though since it is possible to have a conversation. Even if your real name isn’t associated with your comment, you do put a name. Leaving a note is not a conversation. It just leaves people feeling attacked.

          1. SoNotAnon*

            We know that we can take this statement on anonymity seriously because it was posted by ‘Anonanonanon’

          2. Gay Drunk Patriots Fan*

            Honestly-intended counter-point: what if the person had left an anonymous note, but written it very politely and kindly, maybe even with an apology for it being anonymous? Seems like everybody would have won: the noise issue would have been raised, the LW would have been faced with the reality that it’s become a real problem for at least some co-worker near him or her, BUT there wouldn’t have been all the extra completely counterproductive stress and hurt feelings caused by the horrible nasty tone of the letter.

            TL;DR: my problem is with the NASTINESS of the note, not the anonymity.

            1. Oranges*

              I think that it still would have been kinder to not be anonymous but some people are very conflict avoidant because of reasons and being upfront is not something they can do at this time in their life.

              The only time I’ve tried to be anonymous is when I brought up my male co-worker and rape jokes (they were joking about being afraid of the car park because they’d get raped). I don’t need that at work but I also don’t need everyone at work knowing my personal history. It… didn’t work so well.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          There *are* some situations where there’s value in anonymous speech — like whistleblowing. But not in a relatively mundane conversation about how to share space in an office.

      3. AKchic*

        I think you’re right in this case. Obviously, the passive aggressive officemate (PAO) knows LW went to the boss about the note, because they then left a pacifier as a secondary “note” afterwards as a “you’re a baby, go suck on this” passive-aggressive notification. It’s telling in its own right. That either the person was told by the boss, saw the discussion (and heard it), or *is* the boss (or within management).

        Being a loud talker has its drawbacks, I admit (I’m a loud talker, from a very loud family), and yes, moderating yourself and teaching yourself to speak in office-appropriate tones is a good thing to master; but being passive aggressive and leaving anonymous notes and childishly leaving items like pacifiers is ridiculous. What next, a stuffed animal head with duct tape over the mouth in a pseudo-Godfather reenactment?

        1. Penny Lane*

          I don’t know why everyone keeps interpreting the pacifier as “you’re a baby.” A pacifier is a thing that is used to shut people up. It’s kind of like that ad for some candy bar (I forget which one) where it’s used to prevent people from saying stupid things they shouldn’t.

          1. AKchic*

            It is highly unlikely that adults would use pacifiers to sooth themselves. Infants and toddlers use pacifiers for soothing/calming. So they don’t suck their thumb because apparently society frowns upon thumb-suckers (and now, pacifier-users).

            The two incidents (anonymous letter, then the pacifier) are stepped levels of aggression. An anonymous, yet worded letter says “hey, this is what I want”; a pacifier is a veiled message left open to interpretation, but is still very much a message and an insult. A many-layered insult. It signifies that the LW is both a baby that needs to be soothed, and that there are other things she can do with her mouth that the sender would find more pleasing (which, to be frank – EW).

          2. LadyCop*

            I 100% interpreted the pacifier as meaning “shut up.” And in response to AKchic, there is no evidence to back up your assumption that the person knows LW spoke to the manager. There is nothing “Obvious” about it…seeing as you’re already jumping to conclusions about what a pacifier means…

            If I dared write the word obviously in a report…lawyers would tear me a new one in court.

          3. MommyMD*

            The pacifier is a request to shut up, I agree. Very immature and cowardly, but if she is an intrusively loud talker, esp about personal stuff, she needs to rein it in. There may be more than one person in on this. It’s super distracting when a coworker is super loud.

        2. Jadelyn*

          I actually read it less as being about knowing OP went to the manager about the note, and more in the vein of “stick this in your mouth to stop yourself talking, the way we give it to babies to stop them from screaming”. So I’m not sure we can say definitively that PAO necessarily is the boss or knows about the OP’s conversation with the boss.

            1. Specialk9*

              The other person who would have a pacifier, other than a baby, is a parent. I’ve got 2 pacifiers and at least 1 toy car in my purse at any given time. So there’s a miniscule chance that a parent dropped it from a purse, pocket, or coat and someone put it up on the closest desk assuming it was theirs.

              It’s a big stretch, and unlikely, but not impossible.

              1. Anna*

                Not impossible but definitely improbable and at this point the LW shouldn’t have to make that stretch for benefit of the doubt points.

    2. fposte*

      The problem with this is that it’s passive aggressive in its own right; as a bystander I would, because my brain works this way, think more about the unnoticed irony of the statement than the shittiness of the behavior that elicited it.

      1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

        I thought that the irony was the point.
        To illustrate that LW is going to react to passive aggressive behavior by saying it’s not OK.

        1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

          Or, now that I’ve had a minute to review. Put up an Irony bulletin board. Use a couple ironic memes. Then a Passive Aggressive Hall of Fame section, and pin up each donation. :)

        2. fposte*

          But she’d be being passive aggressive while saying being passive aggressive isn’t okay. So I would be thinking about her being passive aggressive rather than thinking about people being mean to her.

          1. LouiseM*

            Agreed, fposte. Escalation never helps in a situation like this. No matter how in the wrong the note leaver is, the OP will come off as the crazy one if she pins a pacifier to the wall. It’s not fair but it’s life!

            1. fposte*

              Yeah, I’m all about winning the hearts and minds of the bystanders here. If the OP handles it right, her co-workers will be on her side even if they think she is too loud (they’ll in fact be eager to separate themselves from the kind of jackass who left that note), and I think that’s the main victory to be gained.

              1. Indie*

                It also gains her several pairs of eyes, because this may continue. Also someone this aggressive is going to bully/has already bullied others and she can cast herself as an ally if anyone needs it.

          2. Chalupa Batman*

            I agree. It might feel good, but would reflect more poorly on OP than the nasty co-irker. I have to ask though-does it really count as being passive aggressive to express your dismay to the room when the specific person you’re addressing has declined to give you the opportunity to talk to them directly? (This assumes that if the OP knew who had done it, or even had a strong suspicion, they would have mentioned it.)

            1. fposte*

              I think expressing your dismay to the room isn’t passive aggressive; however, anytime you use the phrase “someone” in a way that could be followed with “and they know who they are” you’ve headed into the PA weeds.

              I don’t think it deeply matters, though; mostly I just think it makes sense for the OP to handle this in ways that enhance her relationship with her other coworkers as much as possible.

      2. OlympiasEpiriot*

        But, is it when the writer doesn’t know who left it? (Assuming it was left on purpose, like the letter.) I mean, if I knew who left something, I would confront them. Or, if I didn’t know who it was, I’d do a little snooping/careful listening/poking around (without invading privacy) and try and figure it out and *then* deal with the person directly. The OP doesn’t have that information.

    3. CurrentlyLooking*

      This note reminds of when a former coworker came into my office and announced that we have a lot of passive aggressive people in our office.

    4. The Southern Gothic*

      …or put the pacifier up on the wall in the break room with a note asking if it belongs to anyone.

      1. EddieSherbert*

        I’d be tempted to do this, just because I’d feel like I have to do SOMETHING… but Alison’s advice is more mature. Anyways, I think the OP threw it away already.

  2. Murphy*

    What a jerk move. I don’t think this would have the desired effect on most people either.

    1. wb*

      Yeah. Honestly, my response would be to change absolutely nothing about my behavior until and unless someone actually adults the heck up and talks to me personally. Literally zero hecks given about what an anonymous note-writer thinks about anything I do.

    2. Lil Fidget*

      yeah whoever did this should have realized it was more likely to wind somebody up than settle them down.

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      I have never heard of someone receiving a mean anonymous note, reflecting on the truth of the writer’s observations, and changing their life.

      It’s somewhat akin to trolling. Most of us comment anonymously, but with the understanding that it is on a topic raised by Alison or a letter writer. If I use it as a platform to anonymously rave about my feelings vis a vis sandwiches I will be banned and the subthread killed. Online communities only work if trolls are quickly banned; anonymous note leaving in the office gives rise to similar feelings of hurt but no redress.

      1. OlympiasEpiriot*

        We use pseudonyms, but each has an identifiable character and internal consistency. We aren’t actually anonymous.

        1. Gay Drunk Patriots Fan*

          As much as possible, I try to lack character and consistency. Also, I’m a dog, which you don’t know, because this is the internet.

          (To stay on topic, just going to repeat what I already said: I truly don’t think this would have been a problem or a bad thing had the anonymous note been written with 100% politeness and respect and kindness, instead of 0% all of those things.)

          1. Luckyone*

            I kind of agree. While I can’t endorse the passive aggressive approach as the best way to go, rarely do convos regarding shared space, stinky food, loud voices/music/toys issues in open offices go over well. Regardless of how polite or well intentioned the request is, it winds up creating a hostile conversation, defensive person who refuses to respect the request of the coworker, creates rumors and division.
            Unfortunately, it is rare for an employee to even consider other nearby workers when engaging in their loud, smelly or annoying practice. I worked with someone who would intentionally be as a loud as possible in an open office, simply because someone had complained about one of his loud and supposedly offensive antics. He even amped things up by yelling to someone across the room, tossing items across a row a desks, you name it. He was determined to get back at the person who had complained about his antics.
            While the note was harsh and the pacifier may or may not have been a “hint” to be quiet, may or may not have been in response to telling management about the letter, or placed there by accident or some other reason, I think a nice polite note including something positive about the OP may have been acceptable.

  3. Katniss*

    Don’t want to distract from the post, but it would be really interesting to have a subthread, maybe in the Open Thread this week, about leaving/receiving anonymous notes. I’m very curious to know how many AAM commenters have received them or if anyone has left them, in the workplace and outside of it.

    I actually have left one, but it was outside of a work environment.

    1. Antilles*

      This probably would be an interesting topic for the Open Thread, so I’d definitely suggest posting it there on Friday.
      That said, I’ve personally never left an anonymous note, nor received one. Honestly, if I received an anonymous note, I’d look at it and think about it…but unless it confirmed something I was already wondering about (you know, I guess I *do* get really loud when I’m talking about college football), I’d likely toss it right out and never give it a second thought. We aren’t 3 years old. If this issue isn’t sufficiently bothersome for you to raise the issue directly like an adult…well, how important can it really be to you?

      1. Katniss*

        Definitely agreed generally speaking. The one I left wasn’t actually a complaint note but a concern one: I was sure my neighbor was being abused, but also sure that speaking to her in any direct way would get her in trouble, so I left her information on resources when she was home but I knew her abuser wasn’t.

    2. shep*

      I would be super-interested in this as well. I contributed to a grand total of one letter, although not anonymous, in graduate school (so not work), which we delivered to the program director. It was in regard to a fellow student who was acting erratic, belligerent, and overall unsafe. It definitely wasn’t a malicious letter, but we felt uncomfortable confronting him ourselves and to let our administration know what was going on. It was done in large part to document the behavior, but in retrospect, I think it might’ve been better to go talk to admin directly first, and then put it in writing later.

    3. OlympiasEpiriot*

      All the times in my life I have received an anonymous note, it has been casting aspersions on my sexuality, making assumptions about my body or commenting negatively on my behaviour in a distinctly gendered way. These all happened where I lived. I haven’t received any at work, but, I’ve definitely been the subject of gossip on job sites (where I never engage in any sexual behaviour, but I can’t change my gender to suit the scum around me).

      It has revolted me, made me feel like I’m stepping on slime, but, ultimately, made me MORE likely to do whatever was pissing off the perp. That, and carry handy things to use as a weapon.

      So, anonymous notes don’t work on me. They wouldn’t either, if someone was complaining about my voice, my food, or the tidiness of my desk.

      1. Triple Anon*

        I’ve had similar experiences. I’ve only had them left on my car – and usually for understandable reasons – but they all contained really creepy stuff. Death threats, wishes for bodily harm, that kind of thing. I’m not sure if that says more about the mentality behind wanting to leave an anonymous note or what people do when they’re anonymous.

    4. xkd*

      At a job some time ago, I noticed that everyone (including me) was forgetting to use a specific setting in a process, so I made a sticky note that said “Don’t Forgot to Do X” and put it up. (Shared machine) Someone did take it as an anonymous dig, which was not intended – it was a reminder! Which made this even more awkward, because the sign was staying up until we’d all mastered this for a few weeks. (This was the days before the all-staff emails took over)

      1. Beth Jacobs*

        Oh! I would never think of that post-it as an anonymous note – I use stickies around the house for myself (“keys, trash, light” on the door”) and they’re super useful. In a workplace, I think a note above the copier to check whether you’re printing in greyscale are actually more useful than an all-staff email because they remind me exactly when I need it. Notices like that don’t be signed – the same way road signs aren’t!

    5. anon for this*

      I had one written about me and sent to every higher up they could trying to get me fired. Specifically said it was trying to get me fired. I didn’t get fired but got “in trouble” anyway even though they couldn’t prove I did what the anonymous person claimed I did.

      Changed my life, I can tell you that. I absolutely keep my mouth shut these days unless I have to.

    6. lady bird*

      I’ve only dealt with anonymous notes when I had roommates in a four person apartment – not hard to deduce who wrote the note but still sort of anonymous. I posted one (that I meant to be a friendly reminder) to not use metal utensils on the ceramic pans because it scratched them. Did not go over well. Next time I had an issue, instead of posting an “anonymous” note in the kitchen, I texted our group chat and said that I didn’t mind if people ate my food, but to please ask/tell me so that I can know to buy more. Also didn’t go well, because everyone denied eating my cereal and accused me of eating all of it without remembering. So. Negative experience both ways. I think I just had crappy roommates.

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        Ugh, same here. I ended up moving out to get away from the one asshole roommate who kept trashing my property even after leaving her written reminders and speaking to her face to face. Never again will I live with another human.

    7. lexal*

      In high school I faked a letter from the admissions department at an elite university (Yale) one of my classmates applied to. He was a massive cheater. The letter said they were aware of the accusations, were taking them seriously, and recommended he withdraw his application if they were true.

      They were true, but he didn’t withdraw and ended up going there. Annoys me. Wish I’d taken other steps like reporting him directly to our school.

      1. Millennial Lawyer*

        Oy, clearly you were in high school but in hindsight yes reporting him would definitely have been the better thing to do! You could have gotten in real trouble for that. It is horrible when undeserving people seem to succeed… you can only hope one day it catches up to them.

      2. Old MacNonnald*

        …I mean… How. How was faking a letter the first thing teen you came up with in these circumstances. Can you elaborate a bit? I’m having a really hard time wrapping my mind around it.

        1. Lenora Jane*

          I think high school is EXACTLY when this might be the first thing that one thought of.

    8. LadyCop*

      I once had a note left on a rental car in Florida saying I needed to learn how to park. To be fair…the car was a little crooked in the lines, but it was in the lines. And honestly, it wasn’t like there wasn’t a lot of space in the space the begin with. Of all the things to leave a note for…it was petty.

      I however, have left the occasional “Princess parking” note on cars of people who park at/near the entrance of a gas station/grocery store/Target etc… because they’re too special to park like the rest of us…and even though they’ll “only be 5 minutes” I still manage to beat them in and out of the store. But that’s my “Minnesota Nice” at work. (Just FYI, despite what some Minnesotans think, Minnesota Nice doesn’t mean nice, it means so passive-aggressive you think you’re being nice)

      1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

        Yeah, I have seen those “Princess Parking” notes on cars, people who park in handicap spaces, fire lanes — in Boston they call ’em “$100 Parking Tickets”.

      2. LS*

        I photograph and report people without disabled stickers who conveniently park in the disabled spots “just for a minute!” Especially delivery vehicles who already have a designated area.

    9. Dust Bunny*

      I have never received nor left one, but I can totally understand why people do because I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a reasonable request made directly that didn’t end up escalating in some way. “Could you please be careful about the volume of your voice?” or some other not-unreasonable (especially in an open-plan or cubicle Hell) always seems to turn into a battle of pettiness between the person who thinks s/he is already working on modulating his/her voice, and whoever thinks s/he hasn’t made enough progress, or whatever other difference of perspective was at issue. Addressing an issue directly in some ways just makes it feel like a more personal, one-on-one attack, even if it’s gently worded and not an out-of-line concern. (Honestly, OP, would you have been less embarrassed if this person had basically told you to your face that you’re loud? Or does it just seem like a better option because it’s not the one that happened?)

      1. Kate 2*

        Have to agree with you there. In my experience, people are usually too afraid of the person (straight up afraid or afraid they are going to make work life he**) to ask them openly. And sometimes the resentment of the person doing the irritating thing builds and builds to BEC levels and this happens.

        With all due respect OP you mention you know you are loud, but then you make excuses about open offices always being loud. As Allison says, that is not an excuse to be loud, that is a very strong reason to be extra quiet.

        Being really, really honest with yourself, if one of your coworkers came up to you and asked you to be quieter, would you have been, or would you have told them open offices are always loud and brushed it off?

        1. Liz*

          Totally agree. In my call center days, I sent a co-worker an e-mail asking him to atop leaving trash on our shared desk. He responded by attacking me verbally, and almost physically. Another got extremely defensive when asked to stop sending e-mails saying I needed Jesus.

        2. Luckyone*

          I also picked up on the excuse regarding the office being noisy, which makes me want to conclude that the OP does not realize that there are others around he/she should be considerate of. However, I really don’t know what the OP intended to communicate with the choice of words.
          I will say this. Regardless of what brand of fancy over the ear headphones you are wearing, noise cancelling effectiveness, you can still hear some people. Some people are just that loud. My personal observation or generalization (not good, I know) is that the loudest people are often constant talkers. The constant talkers seem to need the attention or validation of an audience, which only keeps them talking more.
          It boils down to people learning to be considerate of others I think.

      2. BF50*

        I have both made and receiver such requests without resentment or drama. I would say I’ve been lucky to work only with mature adults, but that has not always been the case.

        I do work with mature adults now, but haven’t seen anyone need to make such a request at this position. I did find an anonymous note on the break room a few months ago, but it was a thank you to whatever early bird makes the coffee. Not all offices are dysfunctional.

        1. Luckyone*

          Worker seeking mature, reasonable, rational, productive coworkers with sense of humor!

          Can I work in your office please? I am all for nice anonymous thank you notes.

          Thanks for giving us hope that normal offices do exist!

  4. Game of Scones*

    I’m too petty and I make bad choices, so I’d probably just leave the pacifier in the kitchen or any common area with a note that says “Found: Pacifier. Probably left behind while fussing. Please return to Office Baby.”

    1. MuseumChick*

      OMG, I want to tell the OP to do this s badly! To bad we have to be mature adults even when another person is being rude and mean spirited.

    2. Xarcady*

      I’d be going around to all my co-workers, asking, “Hey, is this your pacifier? It was left on my desk last night. Not sure who it belongs to. Who has kids around here?”

      Not that I would expect the person who left the pacifier to own up to it. But taking the battle into the enemy’s camp, so to speak, frequently shuts them down.

      1. Anonanonanon*

        Even if they don’t own up to it, the person who did it is likely to look less confused than everyone else.

      2. Naomi*

        Actually, I can see the advantages of this approach. It’s like responding to someone telling an offensive joke by pretending not to get it and forcing the other person to spell it out. If you pretend you didn’t get the mean-spirited intent, the other person either has to shut up or admit the childishness outright. Granted, it’s easier to do that if you know who sent it. But telling your other coworkers in a baffled tone might also generate some peer pressure on your side, if the rest of them are decent people. “Someone left a pacifier on your desk? Who does that?”

        1. Antilles*

          “It’s like responding to someone telling an offensive joke by pretending not to get it and forcing the other person to spell it out. ”
          I love doing this, by the way since it’s a win-win: Either (a) the person quietly reconsiders and declines to retell the joke, presumably after realizing that it was a little further over the line than they wanted or (b) the person explains the joke, clearly indicating to you that yes, they really are *that much* of a jerk.

          1. Specialk9*

            I used to do that ‘I don’t get it’ to crude jokes a lot when my best friend lived in a frat house. They didn’t get embarrassed, I just got a reputation for being dim. Enh, win some lose some.

        2. Luckyone*

          Ah, but what if other coworkers also thought the OP was being too loud, but weren’t concerned enough about it to say anything? Might not work in OP’s favor.
          Decent people can be people who opt not to take sides or get involved with minor work spats, not just people who would side with the OP. So, I think it is unfair to say “if the rest of them are decent people”.
          Using a fast paced open office software development environment as an example, other workers may not care, let alone have time to get involved and take sides.
          I think the OP needs to forget it or let it be water under the bridge, so to speak, not take it personally (hard, I realize that) and just try to keep her voice down from now on.

          1. Naomi*

            If the other coworkers are decent people, they will recognize that the pacifier was over the line even if they also think OP is too loud.

      3. OlympiasEpiriot*

        This is (imo) a perfect way to handle it.

        Appropriately bewildered and assuming a baby was in the office and dropped it…like so many babies do.

      4. my two cents*

        this would be my method, too…even if it’s just asking people one-by-one throughout the day until I got to everyone.

        Because while I don’t have kids myself, I have many friends who do/did have kids, and pacifiers and wipes end up in every bag/glovebox/purse/satchel available. Without regarding the previous awful note, it is slightly plausible that it tumbled out of a parent’s bag. So, I’d be asking around based on someone having dropped or misplaced it.

        “Hey, did you happen to drop a pacifier by my cube?” “Hey, weird, someone dropped a pacifier by my desk – do you think it’s a cleaning person or something that lost it?” “Anyone around here misplace their kids’ pacifier?”

        1. Specialk9*

          Ha I drop pacifiers and toys (sometimes a clean diaper) all the time. Some I stash in my bag, sometimes my kid toddles over and puts it in.

    3. LKW*

      Oh man, this would be so good. Had the OP not told boss and boss’ boss, I would have given this two thumbs up.

    4. Kms1025*

      LOLOLOL!!!!! This is absolutely the best. And add something about children’s TV shows that might appeal to the fussy baby :)

    5. Glomarization, Esq.*

      Came in to suggest something similar. Tack the paci to the bulletin board and say “FOUND on LW’s desk. If this is yours, please come to me and talk like a grown-up about whatever problem you have with me.”

    6. Hey Karma, Over here.*

      I was thinking this, too. Not an email or tacked to the bulletin board, but in the break room, with a note that “This was left on my desk. I’m sure the owner needs it back.”

    7. Erin*

      Hey, the OP’s boss knows about the situation and hasn’t done anything, so he or she must believe this kind of stuff is okay in the office. I say go for it!

      This person is not playing by normal rules and the powers that be are not interfering. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.

    8. AKchic*

      I’d want to be petty and do it too. Maybe put it on a lanyard to be “helpful” so the Office Baby can’t lose it as easily next time.

  5. Kristine*

    Classic projection. The leaver of the pacifier is the one being childish. Assume the best of others and make civil requests of them in person.

      1. Snark*

        To the point that it makes more sense as a projection than an insult! What’s the connection between a pacifier and loud talking supposed to be?

        1. Hills to Die on*

          I think it is to imply that OP should be doing something else with herr mouth. Like, put a plug in it. Just so damn rude of that letter writer. and petty.

          1. Al Lo*

            In my family, we called pacifiers (uh, for the babies) “plugs” for that exact reason. Some people call them binkies or pacis; we plugged in the quiet-maker.

            1. Al Lo*

              (I think my [then-12-year-old] uncle coined that when I was a baby, and it stuck with the rest of my siblings.)

            2. Snark*

              Huh. Snarkling never wanted, and in fact disdainfully flung, a pacifier when he was crying. He cried like an air raid siren, and why cry if it’s not audible across the street?

              1. Parenthetically*

                Oh yes, that’s the stage where we are right now. “How DARE you try to SILENCE MEEEEE”

            1. AKchic*

              I dunno… technically, we can already interpret it as veiled sexual harassment. It’s a stretch though.

              The implication being “I know of other things you could be doing with that mouth of yours… perhaps some sucking actions… here’s something to practice on…” Yeah, no. Ew.

              1. Old MacNonnald*

                That’s reaching pretty hard, tbh. It was a pacifier, not an adult entertainment item.

        2. Lynca*

          The only thing I can think of is that they’re equating her talking loud to a baby crying. Or they found out the OP went to the boss about the note.

          1. Lil Fidget*

            When I thought about it more I remembered that some people do equate the act of giving a baby a pacifier with “shutting them up” by putting something in their mouths so the sound is muffled. It’s weird because I don’t tend to think of them that way, it’s more like offering a comfort object to help soothe them – but I suppose we already had sufficient evidence that this anonymous person is unkind.

    1. Hills to Die on*

      That’s what I thought too. I’d be so tempted to say something publicly (and professionally) as it would surely get responses from your coworkers about the shameful way the note-and-paci-leaver is behaving.

      OP, I can understand why you’re upset about this but please do try and let it roll off of you. It’s one (very insecure, becaues who does that) person and not the entire office. It’s hard to do, but try to remember that other people’s character defects are not a personal reflection on you.

  6. AdminAllDay*

    Comparing it to a teenager is pretty accurate. My first thought was this sounds like an internet comment written out IRL. It has about the same effect as comments on the internet too.

  7. Detective Amy Santiago*

    As a fellow loud talker, I definitely agree with Alison’s point that you should make an effort to modulate your volume in an open office setting. “Everyone else is doing it” isn’t a good reason not to work on it. Perhaps ask a trusted colleague to give you a signal if you are becoming too loud.

    That being said, you work with at least one horrible person and I’m sorry about that.

    1. Delphine*

      The letter writer does say she is already actively working on modulating her volume.

    2. Natalie*

      Volume and maybe frequency as well (the other volume). Do you talk a lot more than your coworkers?

    3. MillersSpring*

      Also topics. The OP said that the note complained they knew more than desired about her tv-watching habits. Maybe the OP’s voice grows louder and more animated when she’s chatting about The Americans.

      1. LouiseM*

        Yup! I work with someone who is already a very loud talker–but when she starts talking about TV she literally starts shouting. Once I pointed it out to her (politely! with a smile! in person and not leaving notes!) she made an effort to modulate her excitement.

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          My mom had to remind me not to talk so loud at lunch on Saturday because I got excited sharing the features of the wedding tracking spreadsheet I made for my brother and his fiancee.

          1. pope suburban*

            This is the most beautiful match between the content of a comment and the username of the commenter I have ever seen.

      2. Lil Fidget*

        The subtext of that message to me, wasn’t that OP was just being too loud, but also chatting too much.

    4. Specialk9*

      Yeah, this person was so incredibly rude… but it’s still worth watching your volume.
      At Old Job, we switched to open seating (but with a bold green stripe on the wall so it was fun!!) and there was one lady (across the room) who talked so loudly that everyone fumed about her. It impacted others so much that they literally wouldn’t come in to work, they found ways to work from home because she just couldn’t modulate her volume.

      So OP, maybe get a visual volume meter to help you. You can watch how loudly other people talk, and then how loudly you talk. I suspect your understanding of how loudly you talk compared to others might be off.

      Or they could just be deeply unkind and bullying you for another reason.

          1. fposte*

            I believe Specialk9 is sardonically referring to the fact that the compensation for moving to open seating was to be in a space with a stripe on the wall, because that was super zesty.

    5. Dust Bunny*

      I have never yet met a loud talker who was “working on modulating volume” who had a realistic grasp of how loud he or she actually was. My mother tends to increase in volume over time when talking on the phone and she used to get furious with us when we’d get out of bed late at night to tell her to keep it down (through two doors and a hallway) but she was literally so loud that we could hear every word as though she were in the room with us. She insisted she was “talking normally”. I guess it was normal for her but it was borderline shouting-volume for everyone else in the family. I didn’t like to hurt her feelings but she was keeping us awake!

      1. Kate 2*

        Yep! OP I would pay a lot of attention to how others talk, at work and in other places. Quite frankly even in an open office or cubicle farm no one further than 10 feet away or so should be able to understand you, much further than that they shouldn’t hear you at all. My own office has a weird sound funneling hallway that carries sound like crazy. Even so we meet the standards I listed. Your volume needs to be just high enough that the person you are speaking to can hear you comfortably, and NO louder. Try watching the person you are talking to. Are they leaning away? Too loud! Are they leaning in? Too quiet!

        I empathize with you, when I am excited I get very loud, and when I was a kid I was a constant loud talker. But my mom worked with me until I was in the habit of using “conversational volume”. It makes me sad personally, when I am trying to talk to someone nice but they are so loud it is painful, or to watch someone in that positions leaning and backing away from the loud person. It can’t be fun for the loud talker, and must be mystifying when people avoid them or cut conversations short.

      2. Somniloquist*

        I’m a very loud talker, and I do know it and I try to work on it all the time but it gets frustrating because it’s so ingrained. My voice also carries even when I’m talking low and forget about it when I’m not focusing on controlling it.

        I usually try to just situate myself next to a swing space so I can limit my conversations in the open office, and I’m in a section not so close to too many people but I think people who don’t have this problem don’t understand how truly hard it is to be productive and work to combat something you can’t even hear.

    6. Traffic_Spiral*

      Yeah, in the immortal words of The Dude, “you’re not wrong, you’re just an asshole.” The note leaver is sorta an asshole, but s/he’s also not wrong.

  8. Amber Rose*

    Jerk move aside, it’s so needlessly antagonistic that it’s kind of funny. It’s really not something to cry over! Not that I don’t think I would too in your shoes, but next time you feel like crying, try to laugh instead. Because really, who does that?! Are you working with a reject from Mean Girls? Did you get stuck in a TV sitcom high school when you weren’t looking?

    The views of this one extremely cranky baby do not reflect the views of your office as a whole, so keep that in mind and instead of walking on eggshells, maybe see if you have a close coworker who wouldn’t mind giving you a little nudge when you start getting loud.

    1. Hills to Die on*

      Following the passive-aggressive beak room note theme, how about a Mean Girls pitcure with the paci taped onto the mouth of Regina George? Or put it in your OWN cube and tell anyone who asks about it –loudly–what happened and how funny you think it is. Best defense = good offense.

      Not saying you should, just that it would be funny.

      1. Specialk9*

        Oh yeah, you laughing at how funny it is will make the passive aggressive office so mad. Good punishment for making you cry. Mwahaha.

    2. MicroManagered*

      +1 on this idea of “next time you feel like crying, try laughing instead.” For many of us (me!) that really is a skill that takes practice to develop (letting things go, not taking them to heart, being able to laugh them off). Literally: try to laugh at it. Try to create a moment of space, just a breath, between What Happened, and your reaction to it and notice that you have some choice in how you react. As you begin to be able to widen that space, you’ll find you have the power to transform your own emotions and reactions to things. It’s work though!

    3. Wendy Darling*

      My boss at my last job was gratuitously mean. I once watched her approach every single living human in the office EXCEPT for me and the admin assistant and ask them if they wanted to get in on the lunch order she was doing for a meeting. The same day she neglected to tell me she was cancelling our 1:1 and just locked her door when it was supposed to happen and ignored me (including ignoring our email to ask if I should reschedule. I GUESS NOT THEN?).

      It was so gratuitously mean it was funny, but it only became funny like 2 days later. At the time I was so furious I discovered that there is such thing as a rage-induced migraine.

    4. EddieSherbert*

      Right? My first thought was… did this person go out and BUY a pacifier?! To leave it on your desk?! As a subtle “plug your mouth hole” dig?! What the heckkkkk. Who does that?

      1. Specialk9*

        Buying a pacifier seems so implausible that I’d look toward someone who has a kid 5 and under, or a niece /nephew, or someone who babysits. It seems like something that a fuming person would scoop up when seeing it, rather than something one goes out specifically to buy.

      2. smoke tree*

        It does seem unlikely that the offender’s confidence in the joke would survive the trip to the pacifier store. I’m really curious about how it all went down.

  9. Mildred*

    And don’t let yourself be too thrown off by anonymous hate mail. This person’s complaint is ultimately about a pretty mundane office problem, and the level of vitriol that they chose to direct at you rather than just having a face-to-face conversation is not only unwarranted, but it exposes them as an immature jerk with no sense of scale. That’s not someone who deserves to have any power over how you feel at work.

    Alison, thanks for including this paragraph in your answer. You are so good at helping letter writers to not be adversely affected by jerk-ish behavior – behavior that would be so easy to take as a referendum on one’s worth as a person. Thanks for always being compassionate, while at the same time not negating any constructive criticism you have for your letter writers.

    1. Happy Lurker*

      I found AAM because of an issue with a coworker.
      I stay with AAM for exactly what Mildred said.
      I strive to internalize AAM and be more compassionate and aware of others and their situations.

  10. Bea*

    I had some turkey think it was hilarious to leave tampons on a guys work station many moons ago. I was not amused and “pranks” were covered in the next monthly safety meeting about harassment.

    This is outrageous and creates unnecessary drama. Stepping up their game would have me also talking about never approaching someone’s work space without them being present as well. Nobody benefits from an office bully and nobody gets to intimidate others on my watch. Your boss needs to step up their game, this is toxic and I’m sure you’re not the only target.

  11. Ainomiaka*

    I have so much sympathy for the OP here. I know it can be necessary, but there is I think no way of saying “stop talking so loud/much” that doesn’t feel like “be less of yourself. “

    1. Penny Lane*

      Yes, there is. It’s a shared office and a cubicle space. It’s incumbent on all to keep their voices low or conversational level. Make no mistake, the anonymous note is ridiculous but the loud talking does need to be addressed.

    2. Matryoshka*

      Is there really no way to ask politely for consistently loud voices to be moderated? I mean, I know that the loudness can be unconscious, but that is why someone else pointing it out could be beneficial. It might be embarrassing, but ultimately a kindness to let someone know that their talking is louder than necessary. Not anonymously and sans pacifier, obviously.

      1. Antilles*

        There’s absolutely a polite way to do so. Coworker talks to OP directly and says something like this:
        OP, you have a minute to chat? Good. I know you get really excited about Game of Thrones and love to talk about it. I don’t know if you realize this, but given our open office plan [wave hand towards rest of office], your voice can really carry and be pretty distracting to me. I hate to bring this up know you aren’t trying to be loud, but I would really appreciate it if you could just try to keep it down a little more?
        Note: Co-worker only needs to be this polite because it’s the first time they’ve discussed it. If this is a repeating issue, then you skip all the moderating language and jump straight to “We’ve discussed this before, but can you be more quiet?”

        1. Whoa*

          Yep, this. I sit next to a loud talker in a cubicle farm, and I’ve used a similar script before. Even a short or to-the-point phrase can be polite- You just simply ask “Hey, I hate to interrupt but could you be a bit quieter/take your conversation elsewhere? I’m on an conference call/working on an important project/etc and can’t hear/focus very well.” I’ve had people ask the same thing of me in the past as well. Part of working in an office is being respectful of the shared space, and a request like this isn’t a personal attack- it’s a reminder that your actions have effects on others around you.

      2. Ainomiaka*

        You can ask politely. But see below. You are asking for constant effort and vigilance. Being polite helps a lot. And at work it may be needed. But that doesn’t make it a small ask.

        1. Bleeborp*

          There are people who are just loud and have no problem modulating their voice but there are people, like you describe, who have a lot of personality traits bundled with loudness, such as being a ham, being a jokester, enjoying being the center of attention etc. and that’s much harder to change about yourself if that’s just your personality. Of course, everyone should try to be as unobtrusive to the people around them as possible, but people who fall into that loud+ category may speak quieter but are still likely going to find ways that draw attention to themselves in a way that some people might find very distracting in a work setting.

        2. Jennifer*

          Yeah, we have a naturally loud coworker that just … her voice is not quiet. That’s just how it is. Even in a whisper. Lord knows I’m sure she’s been told to be quieter a billion times, but that is a “constant vigilance” sort of thing. Honestly, I think we just all need to deal with it. That is going to happen.

          I feel for OP getting straight up shamed here, but yeah, that would certainly make me never talk again at work if someone’s that awful about it.

        3. Kate 2*

          Everybody has to do this! Being loud isn’t some special feature of personality. Every little kid I know has to go through the indoor/outdoor volume lesson, some just seem to remember it easier than others. And I know some whose parents never teach them this, to the detriment of their children.

    3. Snark*

      I….disagree, really. And I say that as a fellow with a naturally booming voice that tends to rise in volume when delivering a punchline or getting excited. The fact that I tend to chat at the top of my lungs left to my own devices is a part of me, but so are lots of other things about myself that I consciously attenuate at work, like my affection for the f-bomb and tendency to whistle when listening to music.

      1. bb-great*

        Yeah, this. Most of us have natural tendencies that we have to curb in public, especially at work, out of consideration for others.

      2. Midge*

        As someone who has intensely negative reactions to whistling (like instant headaches and unfounded rage), I am very glad that you don’t do that at work!

        1. Ex-Academic, Future Accountant*

          (Oh my goodness, I’m not the only one after all! I don’t get headaches, though — just the rage. A current neighbor of mine is a frequent out-of-tune singer, which also sets it off. Small apartment building, thin walls…what can ya do but turn up the headphones? *sigh*)

      3. Ainomiaka*

        Oh I’m not saying that you can’t attenuate it or that that’s not the best thing to do. But see below about the constant effort of that.

        1. paul*

          A degree of effort and vigilance is going to be required to work with people. That’s true of nearly everyone.

          I don’t pepper my speech with weird regionalisms and profanity, and try not to pass gas so much, and you don’t shout.

          There’s behaviors you have to modulate at work. It’s annoying but it’s life and you’re not being singled out.

    4. Yorick*

      Loud talking isn’t your inherent self, and you can express your thoughts and personality just as well with a quieter tone.

        1. Antilles*

          True, but you *can* intentionally keep your voice quiet if you think about it. After all, you’re probably not as loud at a library or movie theater or funeral as you are in other situations, right?
          It may require an effort to intentionally keep your tone quieter than normal, but if your loud talking is irritating others, you really owe it to others to put forth that effort.

          1. LBK*

            Yeah, if I think about it, but it’s a lot of energy to intentionally speak at a lower voice for 40 hours a week for the next 40 years of my life.

            I’m not saying I’m just going to blare in people’s ears forever and they have to suck it up. All I’m saying is that I think a lot of people think loud talkers are being inconsiderate or that they must be able to tell they’re being loud, but I genuinely don’t hear it. It’s just the volume that comes out when I speak naturally.

            1. JeanB in NC*

              If you start training yourself to keep to a reasonable volume at work, it will become habit and you won’t have to actually use much effort after you get used to it. Those of us with with noise sensitivities will thank you!

            2. Wehaf*

              “It’s just the volume that comes out when I speak naturally”

              I suspect it is actually the volume that comes out when you speak habitually; it is how you are accustomed to speaking, so much so that it has worn figurative grooves in your brain – you are using muscle memory to speak this way. But you could certainly retrain yourself to where it felt equally natural to speak at a much lower volume, just as you could retrain yourself to have different hand-writing, or different posture. Neurologically, there is nothing intrinsic about the volume at which you speak.

            3. Leela*

              I feel for you LBK. I definitely think there’s a point in what others are saying, and it seems like you see that point too, but some cultures are full of people who naturally talk a lot louder than white protestants. Some people, like me, were raised in a military family that was VERY loud, and in addition to that I’m giant (female and six feet) with huge lungs and a huge lung capacity. I can be quieter in settings but it takes a lot more work than people think it does. It means that I can’t speak freely because (if I can even remember to, when it’s put upon me but not other people who were raised in a way that everyone thinks is *default* or *normal* but is actually specific to the dominant background) I have to stop beforehand and check my volume, and the volume of everyone around me, and calibrate. I have to anticipate how angry the people around me are going to be if I use my default speaking volume that has been trained into me since birth and yes, they are going to get angry. Like you said, people have a tendency to think we’re just being rude/inconsiderate.

              For me there is an element of people who naturally speak loudly to watch themselves, especially in an open office setting, but there is also an element of people starting to realize how much they think is default/normal referring to things that are white, male, middle-class or upper, cis, etc. Don’t they realize how BAD their food smells? Don’t they realize how UNPROFESSIONAL that hairstyle is? Don’t they realize how INCONVENIENT for everyone else that she got pregnant while working, etc, are things that are coming forward and being discussed as discrimination issues but previously were thought of as people deviating from what the norm obviously is and should be, and while I don’t feel it’s at the same extent that is how I feel about the loudness issue.

              1. Penny Lane*

                Every loud talker that I’ve ever known has actually been a white, upper middle class Protestant, for what it’s worth. Please don’t turn this into some pseudo-classist or racist issue.

                (Psst … it could be argued that “default WASPs” have MORE of an opportunity to get away with loud talking, in the way that they “get away” with other behavior in general. It doesn’t escape me that as a white woman, when I go out wearing sweats and my hair in a ratty ponytail, I’m just a white woman who didn’t bother that day, but if a black woman looks like that, she’s somehow a reflection of her race.)

                1. Leela*

                  My point isn’t that people who aren’t white middle-upper class protestants are automatically loud, or that people who are part of that group are always quiet. Nor am I making inferences that OP must be in one group, and that the coworker must be in a another. But what is considered default, normal, or reasonable can vary between different backgrounds and it’s not an absolute like “ten dollars” or “forty degrees”, and in general, US culture (like every culture) is driven by who’s in power, which has historically been white, middle to upper class protestants. To act like class and race aren’t playing a part in how we view what is default and normal is to really miss an important piece of the puzzle. Pointing out that those issues can play a part isn’t the same thing as turning this into “that kind of issue” when it otherwise wouldn’t be; it’s pointing out that it’s already there, affecting things. Since it’s being discussed on this thread a lot, I feel that it’s worth pointing this out and keeping it in mind, whether or not it applies to the individual circumstance you happen to be thinking of at the time.

                2. Specialk9*

                  I thought Leela’s comment was well measured and thoughtful, with an excellent comment about how unwritten rules can channel our cultural id in negative ways.

                  And just because you have noticed white male Christians getting away with loud talking doesn’t mean that other people aren’t judged for the same thing. (In fact I think you just made their argument for them.)

              2. Luna*

                This is definitely not a case of loud-talkers being in some oppressed minority. I’m a naturally quiet speaker and people have no problem rudely screeching at my to “SPEAK UP!” whenever they think I’m being too quiet, or making comments about how I need to be more confident and empowered (even though the natural volume of my voice in no way correlates with my confidence). I guess I’m just so used to it I don’t think to complain or point out to them how rude that is.

              3. Bleeborp*

                Hmmm that’s an interesting point and there are definitely cultural difference in appropriate speaking volume in a public place but that’s not really the issue. Work, a lot of times, requires people to concentrate and so the standard of speaking less loudly isn’t so much cultural as practical in an office setting. I work in a library which is another place where being less loud is ideal because there is an expectation that students will be able to study with minimal interruption.

              4. Kate 2*

                Leela, your comment doesn’t really make sense to me. Could you explain more please? You say that WASPs are the default and set the standard and have the power in our culture. But then you say that WASPs are quiet and imply that all POC are loud.

              5. Kate 2*

                Loud talking is rude not because it is particularly associated with POC (it isn’t), but because it infringes on others’ space. It’s the classic “you can swing your fist as much as you want until it hits my face” rule of thumb.

                People should not be forced to listen to your conversations if they don’t want to. And when it is possible, the expectation is that you will consider the feelings of others and lower your volume.

                No one wants to hear a play by play of last night’s TV show, the details of someone’s medical procedure, or even the best conversation in the world that doesn’t matter to or involve them.

            4. Penny Lane*

              No one is saying that you are being inconsiderate on purpose, but if you’ve gotten the feedback (appropriately delivered, of course – not with a note and a pacifier!) it is incumbent upon you to train your voice to be at an appropriate conversational level.

              I’m sure you can do it!

            5. Ainomiaka*

              Yes! This is exactly what I mean. It’s possible. And it’s necessary sometimes. For sure. But it’s absolutely doing extra work 100% of the time, that you can’t EVER forget. And that’s really tiring.

              1. fposte*

                I think that’s mostly true when you first start changing the habit, though; like other aspects of office etiquette and communication elements that take a lot of concentration when new, it becomes more ingrained as it’s practiced and you get more attuned to your own audio feedback of a better level.

                1. Ainomiaka*

                  Eh. I can tell you that almost
                  2 decades later it’s still something I have to actively think about. So I am not sure about that.

                2. fposte*

                  Yeah, I still get loud sometimes too. But not as much as I used to, because I start out at a lower volume and I don’t get involved in situations where I have to whisper, because I apparently just can’t :-).

                  And I also think it’s okay to ask somebody to do something that takes effort when the alternative is disrupting their co-workers.

                3. Ainomiaka*

                  For fposte- oh for sure they can ask. My sympathy doesn’t mean they can’t or shouldn’t ask. All of my replies have some statement that asking is the right thing to do. It’s just that I understand how hard it is.

                4. Penny Lane*

                  We don’t need to act as though this is some super-duper special thing, though, when it’s just part of … life. We use a different tone of voice (which encompasses loudness) to talk to a 1-year-old who just fell and went boom than we do to talk to our spouse or to 90-year-old grandma who has hearing problems. We use a different tone of voice to mutter something to the person behind us in line that “boy, this cashier sure is slow” than we do to yell to the bus driver, “Hey! You missed my stop!” We use a different tone of voice in the movie theater, the museum, the funeral parlor, church, the symphony, the rock concert. Those of who present as part of our work use a different tone to command a room of 5 people, a room of 30 people, a room of 300 people, and we have to adjust on the fly to all kinds of different acoustics, microphones, etc.

                  I feel like this is just overdramatizing the “I’m a loud talker and it’s soooo much trouble to change,” when in truth, the loud talkers aren’t really loud-talking at Uncle Bernie’s graveside when they are lowering him in the ground, are they?

                5. LBK*

                  But you’re describing modulations off a baseline. I’m not saying it’s impossible for loud talkers to control their volume when they intend to, I’m saying that if you just open your mouth and speak without any kind of intentional adjustment to your volume, there is a natural one that comes out, and that baseline is different for me than it is for the average person.

              2. Jennifer*

                I agree. This is why I have various tapes playing in my head all day reminding me to BEHAVE in ways that please my coworkers.
                It’s not pleasant and it sucks and it makes me feel shitty, but at this point I’ll do anything to please, or at least not make anyone madder.

                1. Luckyone*

                  Good point. I don’t bring my hard boiled eggs or leftover salmon to the office in order to avoid offending people, I choose my words carefully at work, I leave my personal problems at home, don’t push dress code boundaries, etc. I call it my work persona or being an actor all day while at the office. Yes, it sucks, but I am being paid to be a professional and perform a service, not be myself, share all my opinions on every topic, etc. I find it can be exhausting, but I don’t feel bad about having to do so, because my acting or work persona will benefit me in the long run.

                  Any person I offend could possibly be someone who provides a peer review for me or a future boss or something. Plus, in my line of work, nearly everyone else in that open office is likely someone I will have to interact with, at some level in the future. Furthermore, I sometimes encounter former coworkers years later who try to lure me to work for the companies they are now with.

                  It isn’t about pleasing the coworkers, for me, it is about the working relationships, keeping things professional, and having coworkers that I have and will have to interact or attend meetings with, not have any negative preconceived ideas about me and being taken seriously. I could care less if my coworkers like me or not, or even what they think of me, though I kind of hope they do view me favorably, but I sure hope I can successfully work with them on future projects since my performance depends on it.

                  I have also noticed that in the larger corporations, image, conformance to the existing norms, and not irritating or offending people, has been beneficial to my career growth. That being said, the smaller companies I have worked for have been more tolerant of people being themselves or less restrained. This is likely due to the industry, however.

              3. Windchime*

                I appreciate that it’s tiring for the loud talkers to use a quieter tone of voice, but guess what–it’s exhausting for me to have to listen to what sounds to me like excited shouting all. damn. day. There are a couple of people like this at work at it’s so distracting and exhausting. I don’t expect complete silence all day long, but I honestly should not be able to hear the lady who works about 50 feet away in a different section of the floor as she screams and laughs at top volume all day.

                1. Julia*

                  This. Plus, we all have something we need to modulate at work. For some, it’s their volume, for others, it’s remembering not to burp or fart (I once had a roommate for whom I’m sure this was super hard), trying not to swear, pulling ourselves together when we’re tired or depressed, and a lot more. It’s all part of living in a society.

                  No one gets to make their life easier by making mine harder.

              4. Totally Minnie*

                I’m a naturally loud talker as well, and I’ll admit that it takes some extra work to remind myself of that, but it’s not substantially different from the other limiters I put on myself while I’m at work.

                I don’t sing tuneless nonsense to myself or eat the super loud pita chips I’m hooked on when I’m working in close proximity to other people. In return, my coworkers also rein in their more annoying habits. It’s part of the social contract. It’s not easy or natural, but it’s not an unsustainably large hardship.

            6. Kate 2*

              As Paul says above, we all do this! It’s not special or unique. We all have to make this effort with various things in our daily lives, especially at work. No one is oppressing loud talkers or singling them out.

          2. Brandy*

            The thing is that the Loud Talker may be unaware when she’s going up in volume and she’s not a mind reader. The anon lw shouldn’t assume she’s knows and is doing so on purpose. There’s no reason for the snark in the anon. Just ask them to take it down some. If they refuse, escalate to manager. no reason for an anon letter.

    5. The Original K.*

      I used to sit near a team of women who were very, very loud, individually and together. Clients commented on it. They were always being reprimanded for their volume, and rightfully so. I see voice modulation as part of normal workplace etiquette; you do things at work differently than you’d do them at home, and keeping your voice down is one of them. The pacifier is a dick move, but the OP says outright that she knows she’s sometimes too loud.

      1. Ann Nonymous*

        I’m actually on the side of the PA letter-writer (PALW). LW KNOWS s/he is too loud yet persists. I may be wrong, but I feel that s/he’s prickly about it and the PALW has had it up to here. All day, every day, PALW has to listen to LW belting out across the office. Instead of LW ramping things up, s/he needs to be hyper-aware all the time of hizzer volume. Please, for the love of the office, keep it down. Always.

        1. Russian girl*

          I learn so much from this Letter! I think, that Letter-Writer is too emotional, she should be more careful about other co-workers in her workplace and needs to talk more quietly. Talk to such people does not always work, including, if they are more senior to you in hierarchy.

        2. Leave it to Beaver*

          I gotta disagree here. The anonymous note leaver hasn’t told anyone they’re irritated and assumes the loud talker is being insensitive to those around them. It is inappropriate to be rude and aggressive with someone when you haven’t attempted to address the problem before. Therefore, the note-leaver is simply satisfying their own sense of entitlement by not solving the problem, but foisting their own emotional warfare onto an unsuspecting victim.

          1. Mananana*

            I don’t know that it’s true that the note-leaver hasn’t told anyone (including the OP) that he/she is annoyed. Because the OP didn’t say that — she only said that she knows she’s loud.

            Now, I’m not a fan of anonymous notes. But we don’t know that this was the first communication. Perhaps note-leaver HAS said something before, and OP hasn’t lowered her volume. And I find it interesting that OP’s inclination is to talk to grand-boss. That has an escalation feel to it that isn’t good. Because what does she think should happen? Should her boss interrogate the staff to find out who left the note and pacifier? Should there be a training? What, exactly, does she envision either her boss or grand-boss doing with an anonymous note and passive-aggressive token (paci-aggressive?)?

            1. Leave it to Beaver*

              I’m perhaps assuming a bit too much, but my guess is that if the note-leaver has directly mentioned to the loud talker that they’re being loud, then the loud talker would have a relatively good idea about who might be leaving the note. In which case, I agree with you that escalating it to their boss’s boss was extreme and the appropriate action would be discussing it with the coworker to avoid any hard feelings and working out a resolution to the issue. Yet, by leaving an anonymous note the coworker has voided out that opportunity, left the loud talker with little opportunity to address it (or determining the success of any attempts to address it) and rather than resolving the situation has created a less productive work environment.

            2. a1*

              The LW is feeling harassed and boss hasn’t done anything about it. Why wouldn’t she think about taking it higher? I’m not saying it’s the right thing to do, but I’m also not going to read in some personality flaw into it.

              1. Dust Bunny*

                I’d say the pacifier-leaver is also feeling harassed if OP knows she’s loud but is maybe sorta cavalier about it.

            3. Anonanonanon*

              The pacifier really takes it up to a level of aggression that is indefensible. I can see someone being frustrated and writing a note. I think it is not a good choice, but I can at least see why someone would do it. But the pacifier was just done to be mean. If someone I was supervising was bullying their coworkers that way, I would want to know.

              1. else*

                Yes, this! I am no fan of loud talkers in my vicinity, but it’s not like it’s usually a malicious thing – generally if you ask them to please modulate, they make an effort to. I get it that the person may fear conflict and chose to leave a rude note instead of something more effective or polite – but that pacifier just elevates their rudeness into the realm of malicious and bizarre.

            4. Anxa*

              I actually don’t have much of a problem with the anonymous note, it’s the pacifier that undermines the whole thing for me by making it petty.

              As far as the PALW knows, the OP isn’t considerate enough to coworkers to speak at a reasonable volume. I’ve seen many instances of a boisterous coworker being asked to curb an intrusive behavior and then shutting out or retaliating against the requester (I think out of a displaced embarrassment in most cases). So I can see wanted to avoid that.

            5. SophieK*

              Yes, this.

              And when OP didn’t get the desired response at work they wrote to Alison for sympathy. I’m thinking that this is not a person who responds well to polite requests for reasonable changes. Hence the note, followed up by the pacifier. (Not condoning, but I get the frustration.)

          2. Penny Lane*

            The OP says that she’s aware she’s loud and has been working on it. How has she been made aware that she’s loud? Have other people (calmly and professionally) told her to keep her voice lower?

            Again, not excusing this act, but I can see how it would be frustrating to tell someone repeatedly to keep their voice at a normal level and have them “forget.”

            1. Leave it to Beaver*

              I see your point. But here’s where the whole thing goes off the rails. Loud talker may have been informed about her loud talking. And perhaps not doing their due dilligence in keeping it down. Perhaps they’re self-absorbed or don’t care or a dramatic personality who is incapable of moderating themself. And while those are all super frustrating character flaws that no self-respecting employee should have to deal with, the fact is that we are adults working in an adult environment. I would argue, if one has said something directly in the past, is it really realistic to assume that leaving an aggressive anonymous note is going to make the situation better? The note-taker had no interest in resolving the issue, only to make the loud talker feel as frustrated or irritated or upset as they were. Which is equally self-absorbed, uncaring, and dramatic. So no one wins and therein lies my issue with anonymous note leaving.

            2. Anonanonanon*

              The productive thing to do though is to point it out in the moment. Leaving a note doesn’t do that and a pacifier definitely doesn’t.

            3. JB (not in Houston)*

              Sure, that could be it. But I know I can be loud, and nobody has ever told me that. It’s just something I noticed one day and kept noticing. Maybe someone in the office said something to the OP, but not necessarily.

        3. AKchic*

          PALW lost all moral high-ground when she not only left an anonymous note, but left the pacifier in a second non-verbal, non-worded communication.

          If you can’t put your name to your communication, it isn’t worth communicating. Period. If you have to resort to petty, passive-aggressive props to deliver a message with veiled multi-layered meanings, then your message isn’t appropriate for a work setting (this isn’t the mob).
          The PALW could have discussed it with a supervisor if she felt that going directly to the LW wasn’t working (if she discussed the issue with the LW at all in the first place, we don’t know because if she did, the LW doesn’t mention it, and since the LW doesn’t appear to know who did it, it doesn’t seem like she has had any meaningful “hey, you’re too loud/boisterous for me” conversations with anyone in the cube farm).
          The deliberate malicious intent negates any goodwill and potential ally feelings I’d have for PALW, regardless of how justified she may be in the long run. Her cause may be worthy (I can’t say for sure, I’m not in this office), but her delivery completely annihilated any chance for her platform to be valid.

    6. LBK*

      Agreed – I know it’s annoying, but as a loud talker I seriously don’t hear it/realize I’m doing it. It’s just…how my voice comes out? It would be like someone saying “Oh my god, your hair is so brown – can you please stop it?”

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        This is why I suggested elsewhere that LW ask a trusted colleague to help with a sign when she is getting too loud.

        I end up being louder when I’m excited about something and it helps to have someone point it out to me.

        1. xkd*

          I too have a volume issue – I have a close friend at work who lets me know. However, more frequently in my office are those who swallow their words. I cannot describe how frustrated it makes me – speak clearly! Let your voice carry! It’s not volume it’s projection! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

          1. Detective Amy Santiago*

            Not even gonna lie – I have deleted so many phone messages because the person mumbles and I cannot make out a single word they are saying to call them back.

            I was a theater kid though – enunciation and projection were drilled into me (and my regional accent drilled out) at a very young age.

            1. AKchic*

              Agreed. I frequently tell my kids “sing out, Louise!”. My smart alec kids look at me and say “we aren’t Louise, mom”.
              Actors… can’t work with ’em… can’t put on a show without ’em!

        2. Jennifer*

          I asked someone to let me know when I was ticking them off, but uh…they refused. I guess I’m supposed to figure it out on my own :P

          1. fposte*

            Generally that’s true, though–we’re supposed to internally generate our boundaries for civilization, not have other people have to stand in for them. Sometimes a “tell me when I go too far” can work with good friends or family, but it’s asking a lot in a workplace.

        3. Specialk9*

          Yeah I do this with my partially deaf family member. I have very sensitive ears. We respectfully worked out a deal on a sign I could use when he is yelling by accident.

      2. Leela*

        Yes! I also don’t think people realize what it’s like when I’ve cut my volume down by half and I’m still getting angry side-eye glances from people and being talked to about how I have to try to be more quiet and I’m like “guys…I *AM*”

      3. Saradactyl*

        I’m also a loud talker and I also agree. My voice is just…that way? It’s also deeper than probably the average female voice and I’m a fast talker. I’m conscious of it and do try to keep it down (it’s harder than it might seem!), but yeah, I am always so embarrassed when someone comments on it in a negative manner because it feels so personal.

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          I actually got sent to speech therapy when I was in grade school because I talked so fast, so I feel you.

          1. AKchic*

            They should never have given us the character of Six (Blossom) to look up to as a fashion icon or a role model in the 90s.
            Loud and fast (talker, among other things) here.

      4. fposte*

        This is one of those wobblers for me, like resting facial expressions and sneezing noises. Most of us don’t think consciously about those things for ourselves, and mostly it’s on us to largely roll with what other people do because it’s not that big a deal.

        But the fact that it’s unintentional doesn’t mean it couldn’t or shouldn’t be changed, and I think we tend to conflate those two too much. There’s been quite a list of stuff posted here over the years of things people weren’t doing on purpose had no clue they could do differently (the loud burper and farter being the most dramatic case). That doesn’t mean that you can change a habit merely by wanting to, but, as a loud, fast, interrupting talker myself, I think the fact that it would take me effort to keep up such a change isn’t enough to get me off the hook if I’m bothering other people.

        1. LBK*

          I think I’m mostly just looking for more empathy from the people who treat it like a switch that could be shut off if I really wanted to stop being rude (which I obviously am because I could stop it and I’m just not choosing to).

          1. fposte*

            Yeah, I definitely don’t agree with that. I am firmly staking out the middle ground.

          2. Kate 2*

            That’s not what people are saying though. They are saying that we all make that effort, and make the same effort for various other things (burping/farting for example), and that this isn’t any different. It takes time and effort, but it is possible to remember to put yourself on “open office” volume when you speak. It isn’t natural, but neither is the many, many other things people do to be polite in shared society, and especially in shared spaces.

      5. kb*

        Yeah, sometimes it’s not even a volume thing. An old roommate of mine had a voice you could practically hear across campus, but he wasn’t shouting or bellowing– his voice just carries. He had a hard time modulating because speaking more quietly only helped a little and whispering was worse.

        1. Alienor*

          I sit near a guy like that in the office. His voice is just super deep and resonant and penetrates even through loud music playing in my headphones. I wish he’d go get a job as a radio DJ so I could switch him off when it got to be too much. :)

          1. Julia*

            Do you work with my husband?
            I shouldn’t be making fun of him, because my own voice apparently carries a lot. My modulation is pretty good (I’m a singer and have shared offices and asked for feedback), but since my voice is so high-pitched, even at a normal volume, people can apparently pick me out of a crowd.

      6. Kate 2*

        But everyone has to do this! Seriously, it isn’t special or unique or anything. We all modulate our voices all the time. It is NOT the same as hair color. It’s just a polite thing that everyone does, like farting quietly instead of letting it rip, or lying when coworkers ask you how your day is on a horrendously bad day.

        I hate wearing shoes, even comfortable ones. I’d rather go barefoot. But do I take my shoes off when I get to work and wander around barefoot? No! Because that is just what people do. It isn’t really a part of my personality, it isn’t unique or interesting and it doesn’t make me especially oppressed.

        I’m a naturally loud talker too. I empathize, but the number of loud talkers making this out to be a special form of oppression and loud talking a unique part of their personality and having their self-expression crushed because they are forced to speak at a non-painful volume by Evil Society is EXTREMELY grating. Everyone has things that are natural and instinctive that are Not Okay to do at work.

        And sadly this attitude is one I have encountered from nearly every other fellow loud talker I have met, so I am not surprised. If OP has this attitude, no wonder someone snapped and left an anonymous note.

    7. Bea*

      Nah it’s about delivery. My partner had to just tell me “I’m only 4 feet away!” the other night when I was getting loud.

      Funny because I spoke like a mouse until a couple years of having to compete with heavy machinery to get attention. So monitoring my volume is all over the place.

      1. WonderingHowIGotHere*

        There is also the issue of proximity. One of my co-workers is obnoxiously loud, but what pushed me over the edge (not quite to pacifier levels, but given that his volume had been brought up as an issue, by me directly, my coworker sitting next to me, AND a manager, I was sorely tempted to just wrap his face in duct tape) was his habit of standing NEXTTOMYDESK to shout-discuss last night’s GoT or whatever, just because my desk is the closest to the water cooler and he was in a queue.
        Something has been said though (I’m not sure by whom, possibly his grand-boss), because he is now very quiet and respectful when getting a drink. So it’s possible to modify volume; either that or he has laryngitis. It took a long time to get to this point, but not once did I consider anything but the direct approach (even if I had to temper my own temper because he just talked so loudly, and with hardly a pause, that it was difficult to get a word in to ask him to stop).
        OP – you work with a child. As long as you are working on at least acknowledging when your volume may be bordering on annoying your co-workers, and your boss is supportive, let baby throw their toys out of the pram – they’re probably being passive aggressive to other co-workers about other minor infractions as well.

    8. KR*

      I had to tell an employee something along this lines nicely. She would be really loudly speaking about whatever on the sales floor and the store manager asked me to say something. So I took her aside and said, “I love when you’re your friendly, bubbly, happy self but can you tone the volume down a smidge.” Or something like that. She still looked a little crest fallen and I’m still not happy with how I handled that interaction. It’s so hard to bring up as a manager. That being said OPs co-workers are being childish.

      1. Washi*

        I think the more you explain that her personality is great, etc the more awkward it is, because it starts to signal that this is a big deal. I’ve found the best thing is just a quick “could you talk a little quieter? thanks!”

      2. Dust Bunny*

        This right here is why people leave anonymous notes: There is no way to say this, even nicely, that doesn’t get taken as a personal attack.

    9. Jersey's mom*

      I spend my work time about 50/50 at a cube farm and out in the field on construction sites. I know that I sometimes have “loud construction voice” while inside, especially if I’m talking to someone at a site while at my desk. I perodically send a brief email to the cube people sitting nearby “that sometimes I use my loud construction voice without noticing, and if I’m getting too loud, they can email me at the moment it’s happening and remind me to use my cube farm voice.” I’ve gotten a few reminders over the years, and I just make an effort to tone it down and send a quick response “thanks for the reminder, I’m working on it.” No harm, no foul.

      Because what I’m actively thinking about is not using all the cuss words that I normally use on-site, as that would completely freak out my cube coworkers (especially since my NYC accent comes back loud and clear when I do cuss).

      1. Specialk9*

        Ha – you’re using your filter, but it’s the cussing filter not the volume filter. Love it. Dammit, I’m not made of magic, how many filters do you all expect me to keep track of at once?!

      2. Kate 2*

        Love this! I actually have the same problem with modern slang and ancient (Tudor era) language. Guess it’s one of the hazards of reading a lot of histories. I still find myself letting a “It’s da bomb” slip out now and then!

    10. Louise*

      Eh, my partner and I both have theatre backgrounds and so we’ve both literally been literally trained to talk very loudly. And I get what you’re saying, being told to speak more softly sucks! But it’s also super necessary. We actually have a rule in our relationship that we’re not allowed to get angry when the other person tells us we’re accidentally screaming in public. It works becaus we both acknowledge we have the problem and want to be better about it, even if it sucks being called out in the moment.

    11. Dust Bunny*

      I like to listen to music when I work (my job is mostly pretty tedious) but since I share a space, I keep it turned way, way, down. Like, “I can barely hear it” down. Shared offices are like apartment buildings: You don’t get to do everything your way or make as much noise as you want. I can’t play music as loud as I’d like to and you don’t get to talk at your preferred volume. There are a billion small ways in which we don’t get to be our absolute selves at work (my weekend clothes are a bit flamboyant) and if you’re old enough to have a job, you’re old enough to deal with that.

  12. CatCat*

    I’d ask around if someone lost a pacifier. “It’s so weird, but someone left a pacifier on my desk. Do you know whose it is?” Plus cheerfully, “I am sure it was left there by accident. Sad to think of a baby without his or her favorite pacifier so hopefully we can get it returned to that baby.”

    1. LKW*

      would love to see this! If the OP does this – look first at where people’s eyes track to, that’s where the person sits. Second, look for blushing -that’s another likely target. Don’t for one minute think this person didn’t brag about leaving that on your desk.

    2. Tessa Ryan*

      I love this idea! Sending a memo around the office, “Hey, someone must have had a pacifier drop out of their bag! Let me know who I can return it to.” Make it look like an honest mistake or accident. If it turns out it was, you’ll feel a lot better.

  13. DNDL*

    I’m a little hard of hearing, so I can be a little loud at times simply because I can’t hear myself. The first time a person says something to me, I tell them, “Oh, thanks for letting me know. I’m a little hard of hearing so sometimes I don’t catch myself being loud. Please feel free to tell me again in the future if it gets out of hand.”

    Passive aggressive anonymous notes are not the way to handle this situation. Ugh. Good luck OP–you have my sympathies.

    1. CityMouse*

      I am the same. I am loud sometimes, particularly when talking on the phone, because I have trouble hearing. I learned to pitch my voice low on the phone (I am female) because it naturally makes me quieter.

    2. Jennifer Thneed*

      I was actually wondering if this might be a contributing factor. So many people are slightly (fill in physical thing) but don’t know it yet because it hasn’t gotten bad enough to be noticeable.

      Personal example: I have reasonably good hearing, but I know for a fact that I’ve started to lose some of the higher-pitched sounds, because sometimes my wife mentions that the cat outside wants to come in, and I can’t hear the cat at all. That’s the thing that will spur me to get my hearing checked one of these months, and I wouldn’t have known about it if we didn’t have the particular back-door-and-cat setup that we do.

  14. Leave it to Beaver*

    Now that I’m older with less ****s to give, I would start by asking everyone around me whether I was talking too loud and then ask them to give me a signal or let me know if I was being annoying. Two birds / one stone. I fix the problem by being more aware of it, let my neighbors know I’m working on it, and let cowardly anonymous-note idiot that I’m more mature than they are and they can suck it.

    1. Brandy*

      yea, I tend to get a little loud when talking, but my mom is the only one to mention this and just mentions it and tells me to take it down a notch. You don’t have to be rude. The anon person could’ve just mentioned “Hey you talk a little loud, can you take it down some” as opposed to how that was written.

    2. Hills to Die on*

      I’d probably do that too. I’d probably also announce that someone left a nasty note so instead of that, anyone please just let me know if I am being too loud. I think a little public shaming (even if the note-writer is anonymous, THEY still know they did it) is in order.

    3. President Porpoise*

      I literally do this always, only with the opposite problem. I tell my coworkers that I’m a habitually quiet talker, and if they can’t hear me, to feel free to tell me to speak up. They do, and I’m so appreciative.

    4. Grace*

      But why put the onus on your colleagues? don’t they have enough to do without monitoring your decibels? If the LW is loudly discussing binge-watching Netflix at work, perhaps LW might rethink their conversational habits in the office.

      1. Leave it to Beaver*

        They don’t have to monitor my decibels, but if they’re irritated by my decibels, they should tell me and I in turn will also try to monitor my decibels.

        I find it strange to argue that it’s not someone’s responsibility to let others know when they’re being annoying. It is as much their responsibility to say so as it is for someone to be more aware that they are being annoying. We learn nothing by accepting the status quo and blaming other people for our frustrations.

  15. Earthwalker*

    It might not hurt to take a note of these incidents and the date and time in case a pattern forms. Don’t focus on them but keep a file just in case.

    1. Leela*

      Huge yes to this! I had a coworker really escalate odd and unacceptable behavior toward me, and I let it slide for a long time because it wasn’t *quite* impacting work but generally made it awful to be at work. When I finally brought it forward, my supervisor wanted dates and specifics of each incident, which I didn’t have. I knew what was done and I could say “a few weeks ago” or things along those lines but they really wanted something like an excel spreadsheet with dates and serious specifics.

      It feels weird to start doing this from the beginning I know, but I have in later jobs, keeping track of small things that thankfully never turned into anything causing me to need that documentation, but when it does you’ll be really glad you have it because even if your manager believes you, they may not feel that they can move forward without this kind of information and that they may come off as unfair for taking action without something a little more official

    2. Grace*

      And then the anonymous note writer can keep a file of loud conversations. The Stasi is everywhere.

  16. fposte*

    I do wonder if there might be more than one person in the know on the note–that’s the kind of thing that often comes out of people egging each other on, and sometimes one person not really meaning it and the other taking it seriously. So it’s possible that there’s somebody doing as much skulking as the OP right now and thinking “I never thought Lucinda would actually *do* it.”

    1. Bea*

      Shiver. Literally something that happened in junior high. The idea adults haven’t grown out of that mentality is nauseating:(

      Good point but it also hurts even more than just one prick lashing out.

    2. Kalros, the mother of all thresher maws*

      It’s possible, but one disgruntled person could easily conceive and carry out this idea on their own, so I wouldn’t necessarily extrapolate that this was a plot that grew out of mean-spirited talking behind OP’s back. I don’t think OP should be worried at this point about how many of her coworkers secretly agree with the spirit of the note (by which I mean the nastiness of it, rather than the request for volume control, which, if done neutrally, would be different).

      1. fposte*

        Cake’s comment got what I was trying to get at–I can see a situation where this makes it actually slightly *less* nasty, because it was people losing their heads (possibly alcohol-aided) in a shared folly that they wouldn’t have done on their own. In that case, polite and puzzled dignity on the OP’s part will serve her well in keeping them from feeling justified and enhancing the shame.

        1. Kalros, the mother of all thresher maws*

          I’m not sure I see that as a less nasty scenario, since it would involve a group of coworkers talking behind her back about something she’s already been made to feel self-conscious about. I agree that polite and puzzled dignity is the way to go regardless.

    3. the cake is a pie*

      Bingo. This was my thought too. This totally seems like a something that started with “wouldn’t it be hilarious if we . . .” and then went too far. (Though, of course, the note was already too far.)

      If you are truly curious who did this, I’d imagine that people petty enough to carry this out might also be petty enough to rat out another. Or that someone feeling bad about all this might want to assuage their guilt.

    4. Triple Anon*

      Good thought! It does sound like the kind of thing that would come out of a group conversation. It would start out as a joke, then turn into a dare, and then one person would do it while the others watched to see the reaction. Pretty nasty, though. I really feel for the OP, having to work with that person / people, and without management being supportive.

  17. voyager1*

    I am pretty loud talker and well the note was one thing the pacifier is another. I don’t know what I would do personally but I do think I would do something outlandish about it… maybe hang it from the ceiling. Tie it to a plant or a office bulletin board. But yeah I would do something outlandish.

    1. AdminAllDay*

      When I worked in cubicles we used to pin up funny memes and notes on our walls. I would probably just pin both of them up and let them sit there in the open as a lovely conversation piece. The person wants to be an anonymous jerk – well now it is on display, so good luck staying anonymous.

    2. Lil Fidget*

      There was no need for either the note *or* the pacifier! They should have just calmly said, “Lucinda, I’m having trouble concentrating at the moment, could you please try to keep it down over there?” Repeat as necessary. Perhaps introduce at a staff meeting the need to reduce the volume in the bullpen overall. These are adult suggestions for tackling the problem.

      1. Eye of Sauron*

        True… but if everyone found having uncomfortable discussions easy then AAM would be a really boring place since 90% + of the problems boil down to “You should talk to the person”.

        1. Lil Fidget*

          Hehe that’s true of *all* advice columns. Most of them come down to, “I want to do X thing without running the slightest risk of hurting anybody’s feelings,” where X may be anything from “breaking up with my fiancee” to “telling my father he smells bad.” The answer is *always* “just talk to them.”

          1. Specialk9*

            USE YOUR WORDS. (Unless you’re a raging ahole or mad someone ‘stole’ your baby name, in which case don’t use your words.)

            -all advice columns in a nutshell

        2. Detective Amy Santiago*

          I’d say that “have a conversation” is probably the solution to 95% of the problems that people in general have.

        3. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I think often people know the answer is “talk to them,” but what they want help with is how to approach it / what to say / how to minimize fall-out.

          1. Hills to Die on*

            Yes, I can go talk to anyone but I need help with phrasing so I don’t come across as passive, aggressive, or both.

    3. Yorick*

      I don’t really understand the pacifier, it doesn’t seem like it fits with loud talking. Do you hear someone talking loudly and think, “I should get them a pacifier”? I sure don’t. Maybe there was some visiting baby and it’s unrelated.

      1. Lil Fidget*

        Agree, I thought this was weird, although I assume the implication is that they should muffle themselves. But I agree, it seems to better convey the idea that OP is being immature than noisy. Glad I’m not the only one who was puzzled.

      2. Eye of Sauron*

        I wonder if the boss did do something (like gather up the rest of the team) and now it’s a nod to the LW tattling.

        1. Bea*

          This was my take on it. It was in reaction to OP telling about the note. “wah wah stop being a baby”. More than “shut up”.

      3. Aurion*

        I think it’s that if you have a pacifier in your mouth, it’s a lot harder for a baby to scream as loudly.

        Which is…really terrible for all the reasons mentioned by Alison and the commentariat.

        1. President Porpoise*

          Also, the baby can scream just as loudly, but they get a lot more saliva everywhere…

      4. Penny Lane*

        It was pretty obvious – you put a pacifier into someone’s mouth to shut them up.

        1. Yorick*

          But you put a pacifier into a baby’s mouth when they cry, not when they happily make loud noises. It doesn’t correlate with loud talking about TV shows.

          Also, it must not be that obvious if some people don’t think it makes sense.

    4. Triple Anon*

      For me, the pacifier pushes it to the level where I’d be concerned that the person was really unstable and wouldn’t want to do anything to provoke them. An anonymous note can just be bad judgment or immaturity. But the escalation of it . . . That’s getting creepy.

      Honestly, I think the whole thing is being taken too lightly. As someone who has been stalked and dealt with some really bad situations like that, this is how it tends to start. Someone starts trying to provoke you. And they usually do it knowing that you won’t have any support. Of course it might just be someone being childish. But I’d be concerned.

      1. Specialk9*

        Hm, I don’t see creepy, I see petulant and immature.

        Unlike the push pin seat letter, which made the hair on my arms stand on end.

  18. RabbitRabbit*

    I’d be tempted to set up a camera. We nearly did it in my office when we realized someone – either security or cleaning staff – were sitting at our desks in offhours and using phones/computers, etc. but apparently the nastygram from our VP did the trick.

    1. Kate*

      This is exactly what I would do, and provoke the anonymous person even further as bait. I would not hesitate to escalate things to that (admittedly high) level after the second offense, because nothing gets me personally madder than anonymous letters, etc.

  19. LKW*

    I had a co-worker who complained to the project lead about our chatting and loud talking instead of turning and askinng three of us who sat within 2 feet of her to be more quiet. The lead walked over when it was just us three, repeated the complaint in the most monotone voice possible, rolled her eyes and walked away. We would have happily shut our yaps had she asked but instead she took it about 4 levels higher. She was a doozy.

    1. all aboard the anon train*

      I can understand not going directly to the source sometimes. I work with people who can be extremely petty and hold grudges, and if I asked them to quiet down, they’d hold it against me forever. Going to my manager means that the loud coworkers won’t know who made the request.

      You never know who is going to get offended by reasonable requests. I’ve seen more than one loud talker across different offices get upset when someone asked them to lower their voice.

      1. Delphine*

        If a person is the type to get offended over reasonable requests made in person, I doubt leaving them a rude note is going to help.

      2. Allison*

        Oh yeah man, some people are really weird about being asked to quiet down. I sit in the quiet car on the train to and from work every day, and sometimes I (politely) inform a chatty commuter “excuse me, this is the quiet car” and they get really snarky about it, like it was so rude and disrespectful of me to tell them they couldn’t talk! There are people who respond with “oh, sorry, my bad” and there are people who feel it’s their God-given right to make as much noise as they please, and you sometimes don’t know what kind of reaction you’re going to get.

        But if you think someone’s gonna get upset over being asked to quiet down, a note isn’t going to get a better response. If I wasn’t sure how someone would react, I’d probably do nothing and learn to deal with the extra noise unless I had a really good reason to say anything.

        1. Julia*

          People chatting in the quiet car deserve a special place in hell. Doubly so for reacting with “it’s a free country, I can do whatever I want!1111!”

        2. Anxa*

          I work in a learning library and take public transit and the single greatest thing that would make my world a better place would be if people used their headphones by starting on a low volume, and gradually turned up the volume until it was comfortably audible, and then STOPPED.

      3. Anonymous72*

        Yep. I work with someone who was told to quiet down by the boss, and that someone ranted and raved about it for days, and intentionally spoke louder just to make the complainant mad.

        To be honest, I probably wouldn’t approach three peers at once about a single issue, especially if the issue is as blatant as “I’m literally sitting two feet away from the three of you, and all three of you chat and speak loudly regardless of my presence.” I would naturally assume that the three already know they’re being loud and just don’t care that someone else is trying to work two feet away. What would saying something accomplish, except potentially summoning MY coworker who just likes to do whatever she wants and pull everyone’s chains when she gets called out on it?

  20. Michelle*

    This note and pacifier leaver would hate working in my office because we have several loud talkers and no amount of face-to-face requests or reminders stop them from being so loud. Luckily, most of us have learned to tune it out.

    OP, sorry your coworker is being a jerk.

  21. Audenc*

    Damn. I can relate to feeling irritated by loud office talkers, but even in my meanest fantasies, I can’t imagine leaving a pacifier.

    1. Triple Anon*

      Yeah. This says way more about the person who left the note than anything else. We all get annoyed with people for minor reasons. And there are a million ways to handle that without anonymously harassing the person!

  22. LSP*

    I work in an open office as well, and we all take turns being too loud for the others. When I can, I wear ear buds, including when I’m on a conference call, with one bud in one ear and my headset on the other. If I’m having a “too loud” conversation, I might be asked to please keep it down, at which point, I apologize and either end the conversation or just lower the volume and/or move physically away from the person.

    I do NOT like open offices, but they are a reality, and as long as people are respectful and direct with one another, there is NEVER a need to resort to this kind of behavior. If the complainer in OP’s case had simply asked she keep it down, OP could have apologized, said she knows she talks loudly sometimes and is working on it, and the complainer may have felt better as well, knowing OP is aware of the problem and is trying to improve. What happened here is rude, immature, cowardly and unprofessional.

    1. Eleutheria*

      “I do NOT like open offices, but they are a reality, and as long as people are respectful and direct with one another, there is NEVER a need to resort to this kind of behavior”

      Then again, as new parents say, there would never be a need for Chicken McNuggets if everyone fed their kids wholesome organic veggies.

      I don’t think pacifier was called for, but my take on the anonymous note is that someone has already had a face to face with OP and it hasn’t done any good.

      1. The Original Flavored K*

        If there had been a face-to-face, the OP would likely know who sent the note. Also, OP said they’re working on modulating their volume.

        1. Lindsay J*

          Unless multiple people have had conversations with the OP saying that they are too loud, so OP doesn’t know which one of them it is.

          And working on it doesn’t mean much. If they’re working on it and are now quieter 1 more time out of 100 than they would have been previously, the complainer probably doesn’t notice the difference. Or even if they are now quieter 99 more times out of 100, the complainer could just be at BEC levels and that one time is all they notice.

      2. Observer*

        What is your basis for saying that? The OP says that she IS working on the volume issue.

        1. fposte*

          I think we’re talking a little as if a problem is either cured or unchanged, though. The behavior could have changed but not changed enough to satisfy the people it bugs. I think it’s unfortunately common and frustrating that one side feels like they’re trying really hard and the other side feels like they asked and nothing much has happened.

          None of it justifies the crappy note stuff, though.

  23. Rusty Shackelford*

    But an open office plan is actually more reason to be really thoughtful about how loud you are, because the effect can be so much more pronounced. It can be maddening to need to focus while you’re trapped in a space with loud people. So it’s possible that you do need to do a better job of modulating your volume.

    Oh, god, this, so much this. I mean, the pacifier is inexcusable. And the note was really badly done. But please, please do not assume that since everybody has to hear everything in your open office, that means it’s okay to speak loudly. It just makes it worse. There’s the level of speech that everyone can hear, which everyone just needs to deal with, and there’s the person who doesn’t have an inside voice, which no one should be forced to deal with.

    1. all aboard the anon train*

      Ugh, yes. I have a loud talker in my department and we sit on opposite ends of the floor and I can hear him WHENEVER he talks. He’s that loud. He refuses to quiet down and gets really angry when people ask him to lower his voice, which just makes him talker even louder.

      1. Naptime Enthusiast*

        It sounds like you work in my old office! I learned more about heart attacks and kidney stones than I ever wanted to know from that guy. EVERYONE knows him.

      2. Narise*

        My last place was open plan and our team had one job that was focused/detailed at beginning of the week and the other team was focused/detailed at the end of the week. First of the week they were so loud and acted like they had nothing to do. We addressed it with our boss but that went no where, he was a people pleaser not a manager. It finally got to a point that we as a group would stand up and walk over to boss’s boss and stand outside his door until it quieted down and then go back to work. We did this three times in one day and finally sent an email out that our work i.e. payroll for thousands of employees, would not be completed by Tuesday deadline. Suddenly we had lots of attention to the problem. We still had to get up and go stand outside his office a few more times until everyone realized we were not going to put up with it any more, but it did get better.

      3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        The worst is the person I can hear through my headphones. Through. My. Headphones. With my music blasting.

        1. all aboard the anon train*

          Yeah. This is my coworker. The worst is when he puts on his own music and sings….which is more like sing screaming. It’s one thing to mouth along with the words of a song, another to whisper sing, but his “whisper singing” is most people’s normal volume when talking.

          IT’S THE WORST.

          1. Snark*

            Oh nooooooooo. I mean, good Christ, most people sing like mating barn owls even when they can actually hear themselves, but take away the feedback and we’re in Pain Town.

    2. RabbitRabbit*

      All. Of. This. Dampening down your volume a tad out of respect for your colleagues is not crushing your spirit/being untrue to yourself/whatever.

      1. Lil Fidget*

        Although it sounds like part of the writer’s objection wasn’t JUST the volume, but also how much time was devoted to small talk. It’s probably never a bad idea to consider cutting back on chat in the office.

        1. RabbitRabbit*

          Yup. Open-plan here and a division head (not my division) comes over and loudly gabs about various not-work stuff with her supervisees a couple feet from my desk. I have to stuff in the earbuds and tune them out.

          Not saying the workplace has to be cold and silent, but watching out for your volume and your overall professionalism (or appearance thereof) is never a bad idea.

        2. Anon because this might be too identifying*

          I wouldn’t necessarily make that assumption. It could be that the anonymous LW was making a point that the OP’s conversations were so loud, she could clearly hear what was being said. This kind of happened to me. Someone complained to me, in the breakroom, about our office’s loud talker, and commented that even if she closed her door, we knew every detail about the event she was planning. This was reported to the loud talker, who decided we were complaining about her event planning during the workday. And I couldn’t care less what she did in her office. I just cared that she was so f-ing loud about it.

        3. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

          Yes. Essentially the same complaint could be made against someone who speaks quietly — except I suppose it would only come from the person in the next cube.

          I’m feeling pretty sympathetic to the note-leaver (even though the note itself was rude), probably because I’m struggling with a cube neighbor who hosts lengthly off-topic chats in her cube. Ugggggh.

          1. Luna*

            And people do complain about quiet people all the time! Often quite rudely, too. I understand that it requires effort to change your voice, but that doesn’t mean no effort should be made. I spend half my days feeling like I’m shouting just so people can hear me, and no one thinks anything is wrong with making me do that. I just have to do it. It can be frustrating sometimes, but doesn’t mean I’m losing any piece of myself or whatever.

    3. Koala dreams*

      Also, there is this cycle: a lot of noise make people speak louder, when everybody speak louder noise levels get higher, and people need to speak even louder. In the end, everybody has an headache and nobody can hear what the others say for all the noise. Please keep your voice down, everybody!

      1. fposte*

        And you know, sometimes this is about the physical space, too. It makes me pretty frustrated that so many interhuman problems could be solved with better design and building.

        1. Anxa*

          I work for a tutoring center without a dedicated space, although we seem to be establishing a little footprint in one of the academic buildings (that the tutoring center feels like an afterthought at a college with high DWF rates is just, well, higher ed in a nutshell).

          It has no baffling in the ceiling. It’s like a warehouse. It’s…. not good. I don’t know that my voice is very quiet, but it is high and it doesn’t travel far. I’ve felt like I’ve practically screamed from the shower to ask my boyfriend a question and he just can’t hear me no matter how loudly I shout. But if I project just the slightest bit in this room, the whole room has to listen to my mini lecture. It’s not good.

          Also, I wish when rooms are designed a certain way, that usage was enforced. Like no eating in work spaces.

  24. AnotherAlison*

    I guess we don’t really know the note-leaver was also the person who left the pacifier. I assume it is, but I look at the message more as “stick this in your pie hole and STFU.”

    The anonymous coworker is definitely a jerk, but I can’t help but wonder how much the OP talks about non-work stuff. I have a loud coworker who has a speech disorder, who also talks constantly about his personal stuff. I had to sit in a cube by him temporarily for 3 weeks, and it was really irritating. The worst thing was he said to me, “You’re probably ready to get out of here. I talk too much and it’s probably annoying.” If you are aware that you have a talking problem, you should fix it, just like you would if it was a problem showing up to work on time or properly checking your work.

    1. Audenc*

      Yeah, the anonymous note’s reference to hearing about OP’s TV shows from 30 feet away gave me PTSD-level flashbacks to my former office. I’ve never left an anonymous note, but I can understand the impulse. The pacifier is inexcusably rude though.

      1. Someone else*

        I don’t know what this says about me, but my first impulse when I read it was”ok let’s measure; whose desks are approximately 30 ft away?” That’s your suspect pool. (or your “find a colleague you trust who you can ask” pool. Not about any of the things left on the desk, but just “hey, I know I can be loud sometimes and I’ve been working on improving that, do you generally find you can hear me over here?” and see what they say. The point of doing this is a part of the “working on modulating volume” not “figure out who the jerk is”.)

    2. Oxford Comma*

      The anonymous co-worker could have been a grown up and just asked the OP to lower her voice and said something about not being able to concentrate.

      Awkward? Sure. Possibly uncomfortable? Sure. But infinitely preferable to resorting to middle school tactics.

  25. jk*

    OP, you need to keep being you. Screw this person. The fact they can’t even come up to you or go through the proper channels to ask you to keep it down is cowardly.

    They are harassing you in the workplace. I hope you took those documents to HR and reported them?

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      This is terrible advice. There is nothing wrong with asking someone to keep their voice down in a shared workspace. The note and pacifier were not an appropriate way of doing so, but the actual request is perfectly valid.

  26. Knitting Cat Lady*

    I once considered changing my WiFi name to ‘Please close the windows when having sex, I’m trying to sleep’.

    1. I was extremely grumpy from being woken up in the middle of the night by people loudly shagging. Every night. For weeks.
    2. It was summer, sleeping with closed windows was murders.
    3. It could have been anyone in around 100 flats and due to echoing I couldn’t even tell which building they were in.


    I have hyperacusis. Most people talking is painfully loud to me. I work in an open plan office.

    I have special ear plugs that are made of silicone and moulded to my ears. They don’t block all sound, which would be bad for my ears, but take the edge off.

    Seriously. Some people.

      1. LouiseM*

        Wait…to clarify, I was not having loud sex with the windows open. I ALSO had neighbors who did this. Drove me nuts!

  27. Robot Fencer*

    Reminds of a suitemate I had in the dorms in college, who, if he felt I was being too loud, would call the RA to complain instead of talking to me.

    1. Anonygoose*

      Ugh, yeah, my roommates and I were once hosting a small party in university, and we went to all our neighbours to let them know, ask if it was okay, and to ask them to let us know if it was getting too loud because we would shut it down ASAP if it was getting out of hand. Instead, the upstairs neighbour called the cops on us, who slapped us with a $500 noise fine. Thaaaaaaanks.

      1. Bea*

        Meh. I know how things can get out of hand and telling a bunch of rowdy uni students to take it down a notch isn’t on my to-do list. That’s how you get vandalised later on. I know you know your crowd and wouldn’t have those petty jerks in your crowd BUT your neighbors do not. So it’s best to call the cops on a loud party for safety purposes.

        If you got fined, you were loud AF and after quiet hours.

        1. Anonygoose*

          Oh yeah, I’m over it now, but the bylaws were so strict that if they got ANY complaint, you would be fined automatically, no matter how loud you actually were (university town…). Even the cops said they didn’t think it was an unreasonable amount of noise, and there were only about 15 of us there. All our neighbours were also students, and it was homecoming weekend. It was just annoying because we tried to cover all our bases ahead of time!

          1. Bea*

            Fair enough! I’m pleasantly surprised by strict bylaws. I’m from a college town and it’s hell on wheels to get much done unless there’s a rager going on. I assume you’re not US given the University language, over here it’s a much messier situation especially during football season, bleh!! So I’m probably just extra cranky.

            1. Julia*

              Why does everyone watching football or socker think that their desire to yell trumps everyone’s right to sleep? I don’t give a flying f*** about any of those sports, but sometimes I wonder how people would feel if I started a firework every time my favorite figure skater did a great jump. I doubt that would go over well.

        2. Lenora Jane*

          I had one very long-running neighbor noise battle when I was in my early twenties, and while I guess I get this trouble/reprisal fear kneejerk calling of the cops just made the whole situation…so much harder to deal with and more acrimonious? We basically figured out which neighbor it was by process of elimination (getting to know everyone else in the building over time), but by that point it had been many many months and maybe five calls? Some of which neither we nor the police could figure out the cause for. Meanwhile, like: if I’d had any idea who was calling when the problem first started I could have done several things, like a) try to work out workable noise levels, better times for noise, etc, and b) apologize for the problem in the first place. By the time we figured out who she was there was this unbreachable wall of anger there, and also since we’d sleuthed it out rather than her making her role known it felt creepy and kinda aggro to say anything at all.

      2. best served cold*

        I hope you found some building code/zoning violations on your neighbors property and reported them!!!

    2. Snark*

      Every dorm has That Guy.

      I think That Guy also graduated and moved to my parents’ neighborhood. My parents invited the entire neighborhood to my dad’s 60th birthday party, where there was a band playing. One guy took the trouble of RSVPing no, then called the cops on the noise.

      So the cops get there, and my dad’s like, oh hey, Doug, wanna beer?

      1. Just Employed Here*

        My dorm had That Girl. She first attended the party, then decided to go to bed, and later came to complain that the party was too loud for her to sleep. That’s a good way to not get invited to parties any more.

    3. Oxford Coma*

      In college I was plagued by door slammers, rather than loud talkers. What are college-aged women doing, that they endlessly go in and out of their dorms every few minutes all day long?

      1. Julia*

        My worst neighbor ever did that, in the middle of the night! She was a heavy smoker, so I assume she went out to smoke.

    4. char*

      Oh dear, this reminds me… when I was in college, I had the worst conflict resolution skills. My idea of an appropriate reaction to my neighbors being too loud was to stand in my own room screaming. Just wordlessly wailing for 10+ minutes. Spoiler alert: it did not solve the noise problem. My poor neighbors must have been baffled to find that they seemed to be living next door to the most passive-aggressive banshee in the world.

  28. Bertha*

    “I also come in earlier than most of the office (around 8:30), so this means the note-writer came in extra early to hand deliver it, which just makes me uncomfortable.”

    It could also mean they left it late the day before, after you left! I don’t know if it that makes it better or worse or matters at all…

  29. ExcelJedi*

    I know this is a know-your-workplace thing, but I actually disagree about going to the boss’s boss. In my workplace, it would be normal to go a level up with something this inappropriate if our boss didn’t respond. (My office works in the social sciences and most people have social worker or educator backgrounds, although we’re also in a slightly more open version of a cube farm, so take it with the grain of salt it’s given with.) I just wouldn’t discount this approach in all workplaces – even office settings.

  30. Quickbeam*

    I work in an open office and had a coworker who planned every stage of her parent’s wedding anniversary party standing by my desk. We have weird cell coverage and the window by my desk was a good spot. I knew the color of ther napkins,. the party favors, the photo booth price and the flavor of the cake. It was non-stop all day, for weeks. I could not hear myself think but I knew all about the buttercream frosting.

    I finally went to her and asked her to find another phone booth. I pointed out face to face that I knew way too much about her parents’ party and began reciting the specifics. She ended up making the rest of her calls in the parking lot. We aren’t great pals but at least I manned up and did this face to face.

  31. Diana Prince*

    Why does AAM assume that the person who left the anonymous note also left the pacifier? The letter writer is by her own admission a loud talker. (And no, you don’t get to dismiss this as “something that’s part of working in an open office” and concurrently admit you have a problem with it.) The likelihood is that his co-worker’s are all miffed at the loud talking, and that they’ve been discussing it amongst themselves. In that case it is reasonable to think that two different co-workers each left a “message.” I don’t think the pacifier was appropriate, but I don’t really have a problem with the anonymous note.

    1. Murphy*

      The simplest explanation is that there’s only one anonymous message leaving jerk rather than an office full of them.

      1. Naptime Enthusiast*

        +1. And really, once you know one person is willing to leave the note, why would someone else add fuel to the fire? Let that one person be the anonymous messenger for everyone.

    2. Lil Fidget*

      The note was too mean-spirited. Even if you did decide you wanted to deliver the message via that route – which I can’t recommend, but okay – a more kindly note would have gotten the same point across and had a better shot at the desired outcome. Being mean just makes people disregard your point and dig in deeper because screw you.

    3. Parenthetically*

      It just is not that hard to talk to someone about this. “I’m pretty sensitive to noise and I find I’m having trouble concentrating when you talk loudly. I know you get excited about stuff, but can I ask you to make an effort to keep it down?” Followed by, “Hey Jane, could you turn the volume down, please? I’m having trouble concentrating.” on repeat as needed.

      A typed anonymous note is a cowardly, passive-aggressive move, and the pacifier is utterly childish.

      1. Snark*

        When I was still in the habit of whistling when listening to music, my old coworkers would just mime twiddling a volume knob at me. It worked.

        1. MAnon*

          At a previous office we would just mimic Ross from Friends and his hand gesture to keep it down. (Weird facial expression included.) You can’t get mad at that.

          1. JB (not in Houston)*

            Ha! I don’t know about other people, but that would definitely work for me.

        2. Oxford Coma*

          May I recommend chair dancing? I need headphones for some work tasks, and busting a move in my seat cured me of humming. I look insane, but I’m old enough to be running low on f***s to give.

      2. Mananana*

        I agree, but……. the OP’s instinct to take it to the grand-boss gives me an inkling that a face-to-face talk may not have gone well. Because that seems like a weirdly out-of-proportion reaction to me.

    4. Delphine*

      The letter writer says she’s working on her volume (which she says is an occasional problem, not an always problem)–I think hearing other people’s conversations in general is the part she felt was a fact of working in an open office. And she’s right. Unless she starts whispering, it’s unlikely that coworkers in the area are going to be able to avoid hearing her or anyone else altogether.

      1. Name Required*

        I and all my co-workers are very capable of having quiet conversations in our work environment. We’re not special and some of them (not me, I’m a quiet talker by nature) are loud talkers.

      2. Windchime*

        There is a whole lot of room between shouting so loudly (about non-work issues!) that someone 30 feet away can hear you and whispering. If LW doesn’t also have volume problems at, say, church or concerts or libraries, then this really is just a matter of being more conscious of using her “inside voice”.

    5. London Bookworm*

      Assuming that OP is polite if people ask her to her face to quite down, the note is really passive-aggressive and childish.

    6. fposte*

      It’s a pretty unlikely coincidence, so if it were two people, they’re probably working together anyway.

      And even on its own, the anonymous note is nastily phrased; this goes beyond somebody who is too shy to speak to somebody face to face–which is still the most appropriate action–into somebody who wanted to be meaner than they had the nerve to be in person.

  32. Blue Eagle*

    The LW might want to consider how she would have reacted had the anonymous person asked her to tone it down. Is she the kind of person who would talk louder to show the asker up? Is she the kind of person who would make fun of the asker with her clique or do something rude to the asker in return? Has she ever mentioned to co-workers that she is aware that she is loud sometimes and to let her know if she needs to use her inside voice?

    The reason I’m asking is that I have left anonymous notes in the past to people who: react negatively when I or others ask them nicely, bully me or others with their clique when asked to modify their behavior, and never seem to be aware or care that their behaviors are bothering others.

    Obviously I have no idea if the LW is one of the above kind of people, but something for everyone to consider if your own behavior needs to change regarding receiving feedback if you receive an anonymous note.

    1. London Bookworm*

      I agree. OP, I’m a fellow loud talker, so I sympathise that sometimes you don’t realise your volume is creeping up. In these cases, you want to be polite and understanding if someone draws it to your attention.

      If you’re defensive or huffy, then passive-aggressive requests are likely to come.

      That said, it doesn’t sound like this is the case with OP.

    2. MarketingGirl*

      This is exactly what I was going to say. The note was in bad taste no matter what. But what brought it to THAT point?

      1. Rhubarb*

        I’m guessing it’s a combination of volume and topic. Nobody has to have conversations about TV shows at work, loud or otherwise. If I was swamped with work and stressed out and constantly subjected to loud conversations about The Bachelor, showing how much more lax their job was than mine as well as a lack of awareness of their coworkers’ needs…I wouldn’t be in the land of mean notes, but it would definitely be raising my blood pressure.

    3. Eleutheria*

      “The LW might want to consider how she would have reacted had the anonymous person asked her to tone it down. Is she the kind of person who would talk louder to show the asker up? Is she the kind of person who would make fun of the asker with her clique or do something rude to the asker in return? Has she ever mentioned to co-workers that she is aware that she is loud sometimes and to let her know if she needs to use her inside voice?”

      Exactly – since OP wrote that she is already working on the issue, that suggests someone has already brought up the problem with her directly, but that it hasn’t worked.

      1. EBStarr*

        Wait, what? She literally said she’s working on it, which means she’s open to this feedback, so I think all these insinuations that she might respond immaturely are totally contradicted by the facts in the letter. Someone talked to her directly and she’s trying to break the habit. Even if she’s not 100% perfect at it yet, that means that talking directly *does* work (to the best of OP’s ability), and doesn’t justify an anonymous note at all!

        1. Penny Lane*

          But “working on it” isn’t a request that makes any sense in this context. Your voice is too loud – you turn it down and you keep it down. The end. It doesn’t require speech classes, it doesn’t require special training.

          This is like saying – the scent of that candle bothers me, can you please not burn it in the office? You don’t “work on” that solution. You don’t burn it between the hours of 1 and 3 and say “I’m working on it.”

          1. fposte*

            Oh, I disagree with that. “Working on it” is exactly what happens with human behavior; we don’t come with adjustable knobs. Otherwise we’d adjust the knob to “eat better” and “work out an hour a day” and “go to bed on time” and “put that money into the 401k” and that’d be the end of it. The OP isn’t performing a conscious action like lighting a candle that she can choose not to do; she’s changing how she performs something she does constantly throughout the day. It’s inevitable that she’s sometimes going to slip back into the way she’s done it for years.

          2. EBStarr*

            It absolutely does if you think of the volume of your voice as more of a habit than a conscious choice you make every time you open your mouth. Habits are very hard to break; there are vast amounts of studies about this.

            Even if you don’t buy this, though, you can’t possibly think she’s being malicious, right? Many of the leading questions in the original post on this thread implied that the OP was somehow maliciously defying or bullying those who spoke to her about this, which I think seems unfair given that she’s clearly trying. And sans malice, I don’t think anyone has standing to leave even a polite anonymous note, honestly.

          3. Oxford Comma*

            We’re not talking about one conversation. We’re talking about changing a personal habit. That is a harder than you might think to do.

            I have a bad habit of interrupting. It comes from growing up in a family where everyone did it and if you waited for a pause in the conversation, you would never get to speak. I have spent decades trying to learn not to interrupt. It’s way better now, but it takes constant vigilance. It’s my first instinct.

          4. a1*

            I agree with fposte and EBStarr here. It’s not an instant thing. It’s like training yourself not say “Ummm” or “You know” all the time. It’s just not something you turn on or off if you’ve been doing it all your life.

        2. Traffic_Spiral*

          “Working on it” is internal, AKA, something only LW really knows. If she’s still being loud, “working on it” doesn’t change what the coworkers are hearing.

    4. Oogie*

      I work with someone like this. Any time our supervisor or anyone else tries to give her constructive feedback back on her volume or any other issues she flips out and calls our grandboss and says her ” rights” are being violated. I have thought so many times about leaving a “use your f£#&ing inside voice” note, but I haven’t. Mostly because she’s the type who will talk louder on purpose after the note was left just to be obstinate.

  33. Kms1025*

    I was/am? a loud talker, and an even louder laugher! I don’t try it. I stifle myself when I realize it. I consciously have to tell myself to speak quietly and try not to laugh out loud. My awareness came from a co-worker/frenemy? that went to our boss and said my laughter gave her a migraine. Boss moved my office to the farthest end of the opposite hallway (around a corner and five offices away from Migraine Milly. She still complained. Company sent us both to EAP counselor who after listening to both of us determined that she had a hyper-sensitivity to me or my voice! Stated that company had done all they could reasonably be expected to do and this was her problem to deal with. I felt…..picked on, singled out, somewhat justified, and guilty. All at once. And I cried. And 30 years later do not think of this episode with any fondness whatsoever. But I was made hyper-aware of the tone, timbre, volume of my voice.

    1. TheCupcakeCounter*

      I am a loud talker (also working on it) and co-worker has a very loud and somewhat jarring laugh. We are also both tall and in an open cube farm with the really low walls. Everyone can hear us very clearly because our entire heads are taller than the cube walls.
      Ironically our boss has only ever said anything to me because of how my cube and his office are situated – it is like a tunnel straight into his office. I was once having a work conversation with another group who came to me desk and he walked over to interrupt that we were being too loud. He and I had a little discussion about that one as I thought it was very unprofessional of him. I can understand interrupting a personal conversation but not one that is work related and involves several people.
      I have seen a couple of people jump when she laughs but boss never seems to notice.

      1. Lil Fidget*

        Disagree, FWIW! If my boss told me to keep it down, I’d assume that even my work related conversation was less important than whatever senior-level thing she was trying to achieve, and I should move our conversation somewhere less distracting. (But ideally the boss wouldn’t ask you in a way that was publicly embarrassing, either).

        1. AvonLady Barksdale*

          I completely agree with this. I have been a Loud Talker (sometimes I still get that way, but it’s rare unless I’m in a room full of people), and I work with several Loud Talkers. It doesn’t matter what the conversation is about– if it’s long and it’s loud enough for the boss to complain, it’s time to take it elsewhere.

      2. biobottt*

        How is it unprofessional to ask someone to speak more softly? Why do you think it’s unprofessional to interrupt someone at work, but not unprofessional to blast everyone’s eardrums?

  34. London Bookworm*

    I agree. OP, I’m a fellow loud talker, so I sympathise that sometimes you don’t realise your volume is creeping up. In these cases, you want to be polite and understanding if someone draws it to your attention.

    If you’re defensive or huffy, then passive-aggressive requests are likely to come.

    That said, it doesn’t sound like this is the case with OP.

  35. Fellow Loud Talker*

    I feel you. I was talking on the phone on the train recently. Usually I’m pretty aware of commuting norms but I was getting pretty agitated over a last-minute work problem. The woman across from me interrupted me to tell me I was being loud. I was immediately apologetic but she had already decided she was going to shame me so she continued with a lecture. When she got off the train, one of the other passengers thanked her.

    That was weeks ago but I still think about it because they made me feel so bad. Yes, I’m in therapy.

    1. Kms1025*

      I just don’t get it :( why must messages be so often delivered in a way that demeans the receiver and makes them feel so awful?

      1. beanie beans*

        Right?! Both the angry train person and the anonymous complainer are thinking they are addressing the behavior, but really they are just venting their anger, which doesn’t resolve the issue.

        Direct communication and resolving issues is all about addressing the behavior, not assigning judgment to the person.

        1. Traffic_Spiral*

          I dunno, if LW is still thinking about it, then maybe she’ll remember it next time she feels like being loud on the train. She made all the people around her miserable by being too loud, so she got a lecture on being quiet – which people clearly appreciated. Most living creatures (humans and animals) have an intrinsic sense of fairness that makes them want to see offenders reprimanded.

      2. Jennifer*

        Easy, because if you feel like crap and shamed then you’ll feel too awful to speak.

    2. Family Feud fan*

      Response #1:

      “This is not the quiet car, and I have every right to speak on my phone. MYOB.”

      1. fposte*

        I can’t get behind that–if you’re speaking loud enough to disrupt people in a shared space, that’s a problem. She shouldn’t have lectured in response, either, but she would have been within her rights to ask FLT to keep it down.

        1. Snark*

          Seconded. The other person was totally in the clear to politely ask FLT to be a little quieter, even if the lecture and scolding was rude.

        2. The Original K.*

          Particularly since someone else on the train thanked the lady for telling Fellow Loud Talker to keep it down. I think that’s pretty solid evidence that FLT WAS being disruptive (odds are good that others beside Lecturer and Thanker were irritated, they just didn’t say anything).

      2. Moonlight Elantra*

        Yeah, daily train commuter here, and that would be considered extremely rude. The rest of us don’t want to hear your loud talking. Take it to the vestibule.

      3. Fellow Loud Talker*

        Lol. Even if I believed that, I wouldn’t have the nerve to say it. Kind of envious of people who can though.

    3. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

      What? That’s just ridiculous. You apologised and lowered your voice. She should have let it go. Sounds like she was taking the opportunity to feel superior. I’m sorry she did that.

      If it helps, I’d be thinking about it for years if someone did that to me.

        1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

          Heh, definitely not just you. You wouldn’t believe the stuff I still think about!

          I will say that I do think about these things less over time, and it’s often more of a habit. I recognise that it’s a habit and I’m able to talk myself out it. Stuff stays with me, but it lessens over time. I hope that will be the same for you, and also hope you have a great day! :)

    4. Temperance*

      You made a mistake and violated the train rule of no loud cell phone conversations. It’s not something to beat yourself up over – you annoyed a few people a few weeks ago. You didn’t cause actual harm to anyone.

    5. Bea*

      I know folks who strongly dislike anyone talking on phones on public transit, I’m sorry this happened but that lady was most likely a crusader, you were just a target in this case and I hope you shake the bad feeling soon.

    6. Penny Lane*

      You must have been pretty loud, though, for another passenger to thank her.
      Do you ever look for cues from others, such as if they put their finger to their lips and say “shhhh”, or do the sign with their hands that means “lower”?

    7. ragazza*

      Uggh this kind of righteous attitude drives me crazy. When you point out a problem and it is graciously acknowledged, let it go. Don’t shame the person. I was on a flight a couple months ago where I unknowingly was holding up the line of people in the aisle–it was pointed out to me and I said “Oh, I’m so sorry” and moved, yet the lady behind me continued to make snarky comments. Not sure what the point of this is.

      1. Fellow Loud Talker*

        Yeah, exactly. As someone else said, the point is to make the commenter feel superior in the moment. Not that they’re doing it consciously. But when delivering any message, I think people should at least start by giving the benefit of the doubt.

    8. LurkNoMore*

      As Miss Manner’s always says, it’s rude to point out another person’s rudeness. By her giving you a lecture; she ended up being just as in the wrong as you were.

      1. Temperance*

        I sort of hate that logic. It’s not just as rude to say, hey, stop chatting on your phone loudly in an enclosed space as it is to be the person doing the chatting.

        And on the bright side, LW will not make the same mistake again.

        1. fposte*

          But asking somebody to be quieter isn’t rude. It’s perfectly polite to politely ask somebody to change their behavior. What isn’t perfectly polite is to say “You’re so rude, Loud Person!” Especially since you have the perfectly polite and far more effective option available to you.

        2. Fellow Loud Talker*

          I might well make the same mistake again in a couple years. It’s not that I didn’t know the rules, I just didn’t realize how loud I had gotten.

  36. Sarah*

    I love the comments/suggestion to leave a note saying this pacifier has been found. Lol.

    I speak from personal experience– OP, have you tried seeing a doctor? It could be a simple earwax issue. People who speak loudly sometimes have hearing/ear issues.

  37. Ann Nonymous*

    I’m actually on the side of the PA letter-writer (PALW). LW KNOWS s/he is too loud yet persists. I may be wrong, but I feel that s/he’s prickly about it and the PALW has had it up to here. All day, every day, PALW has to listen to LW belting out across the office. Instead of LW ramping things up, s/he needs to be hyper-aware all the time of hizzer volume. Please, for the love of the office, keep it down. Always.

    1. fposte*

      The thing is, no matter how annoying people are, the person who deliberately writes a mean note to them is in the wrong, because they’re being intentionally hurtful. That outranks unintentional loudness.

      There’s a middle ground of polite anonymous notes–not my favorite because people really should talk to one another, but I get sometimes they just won’t–but your right to leave any anonymous note at all disappears if it’s even snippy, let alone mean.

      1. LouiseM*

        +1. If you’re leaving an anonymous note because what you want to say is so mean you would never say it in person…don’t say it!

    2. Snark*

      They ceded any claim to the right side of the argument by being needlessly hurtful and rude.

    3. SoCalHR*

      We are asked to take LW’s at their word, so if the LW says they try to be mindful of their loud talking, we should take that as fact. No one is perfect and something like loud talking is fairly inherent to someone and takes a *conscious effort* to change and its easy to get off track especially if excited about something (and no, I’m not personally a loud talker). There are plenty of personality ticks that my coworkers have that I need to be flexible with because, hey, we live in a world with other people, most of whom are different than us.

      Besides, if it was as bad as you assume, then the passive aggressiveness is even less excusable. If its something that bothers the whole office, then it should be handled proactively by management, not mysterious notes and childish ‘gifts’.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        We are asked to take LW’s at their word, so if the LW says they try to be mindful of their loud talking, we should take that as fact.

        I would not accuse the LW of lying, but I would say it’s possible that she doesn’t understand how loud and possibly disruptive her voice is to others.

      2. Penny Lane*

        I don’t doubt that the OP tries to be mindful of her loud talking. That doesn’t mean, objectively speaking, that it isn’t tremendously irritating / disruptive to her coworkers. At a certain point, you can’t just rely on “oops, I did it again, so sorry!” – you have to stop the behavior.

        1. SoCalHR*

          I stumbled upon this other article from Allison regarding a loud coworker (which really shouldn’t even be up for discussion on this question as its totally not the point, but apparently is all over this thread):
          “Maybe a loud person embodies every single one of your pet peeves. One reader said her co-worker is socially awkward, cackles constantly, and loudly blows her nose like “a horrific, nonstop symphony.” The reader was so irritated that she started ignoring the sniffler, refusing to say hi while passing her in the hallway, which made things worse.

          When you’re beyond frustrated with someone’s behavior, Green says you should try to feel compassion toward that person, stop and ask yourself why you’re irritated, and remember that you’re being paid to get along reasonably well with your co-workers. “The way you treat her will reflect on you,” she writes. “You want to be seen as someone who can handle annoying people with grace.” “

    4. Jacques Snicket*

      I kind of am too, at least for the note part. The pacifier was a bit much though.

    5. beanie beans*

      I think most people can get loud at some point, and it’s our responsibility as coworkers to be direct and speak up when someone’s getting too loud.

      “Be quieter all the time” is a little extreme. “Hey, you guys are getting a little loud, could you keep it down or find a private room” is completely reasonable.

    6. i appreciate quiet*

      Yeah, I think it’s important that two weeks passed between the letter and the pacifier. The letter was a pretty rude way to convey the message, but it’s possible that afterward there was no appreciable change in the OP’s behavior. I know the OP thinks he was “actively working on” his behavior, but that might not be coming through to his coworkers — especially ones already sensitive about their lost productivity. Likewise, one person’s “walking on eggshells” could simply be the same type of self-consciousness that most people already aim for in an office environment.

  38. Kalica*

    Can I daydream about the letter writer picking up the habit of humming themesongs from children’s cartoons? “Oh, no, sorry, It’s just that after so many complaints about GoT and the Big Bang Theory, I thought this would be more work-appropriate. Muppet babies, they make your dreams come truuuuue…”

    1. Name Required*

      or – the wheels on the bus go round and round, round and round, round and round…

    2. Pebbles*

      “99 little bugs in the code,
      99 little bugs,
      Take one down,
      Patch it around,
      117 little bugs in the code…”

  39. Guitar Lady*

    LW says she made an effort to be quieter after the first note and yet still got another “message”. At this point I would say the person is at BEC stage with the LW – hearing her speak at all probably gets his goat. I would say shrug it off, try very hard to be mindful of loud talking in an open space (as a loud voiced person myself I work on this too) and only bring it up to a higher up if you get a 3rd note/item, because at that point whoever this person is really needs to be told to take issues up with management and not through rude anonymity.

  40. epi*

    This behavior is so creepy and mean-spirited that I would be concerned about the note leaver escalating. In a way, they already did. The OP reacted to the note by being much quiter and possibly appearing nervous. Instead of deciding they won and enjoying the silence, the note leaver responded by taunting the OP with a pacifier.

    I bet it feels really embarrassing to have inspired this level of vitriol in someone, but in reality there is no speaking volume that justifies behavior so nasty and personal. I hope the OP will mention to a couple of trusted coworkers that this is happening. It could be helpful later to have others know about it and to look a little more closely at who approaches the OP’s desk when she isn’t there. Hopefully this is just one very inappropriate person who can be shamed into acting right. If so, it also wouldn’t hurt to have the guilty party learn through the grapevine that others have heard about it and don’t approve.

    1. Kathletta*

      I think that’s a leap; there is nothing in the letter that says the OP was being “much quieter” she just says she’s working on it. This kind of thing can be really hard to work on because it’s hard to notice it in yourself. I agree with some of the earlier commenters that if you have a trusted person at work you could ask them for a signal when you’re being too loud. Alternatively, depending on your rapport with the rest of your co workers, I would maybe just tell them all to let you know if you’re being too loud and get it all out in the open. Then at least this disgruntled coworker will know you’re working on it and might leave you alone.

      I think these comments about escalating are over the top and I don’t think you need to be afraid of this coworker.

  41. Name Required*

    I’m reading a lot of comments about the delivery, which I agree is really wrong. That said, (1) the OP admits that they are a loud talker and working on it (yay for self-awareness!), and (2) loud talkers in open work environments are really annoying, particularly if they are constantly loud-talking about things unrelated to work. It’s very distracting.
    I work in an open work environment and each person on my team as well as the one down the hall are very capable of having extremely private conversations. I can actually walk past a cubicle and not pick up on what’s being discussed. An this is not a hush hush office, it’s just people speaking softly and keeping their conversations quiet. Literally, in the 5 years I’ve worked here, I’ve only had to ask 2 students to keep it down.
    I have worked next to and near loud talkers in the past and asked them to keep it down, and while it worked for a time it always returned to the loud level. I recall one person even thinking it was cute that they kept reverting, and she’d giggle when corrected.
    While the person delivering this message to the OP has for sure crossed the line, the message has been strongly received by the OP who can use this information to their and everyone’s benefit by being even more aware of their volume. I know that when I’ve been embarrassed by a bad habit that was called out, I’ve worked even harder on correcting which allowed me success. Ironically, one of my worst talking habits was the opposite of the OP – talking too softly, so softly that once I was made aware of it (publicly and to my face in front of people) I had to question people if they’d heard me. I don’t struggle with that any longer.

    1. beanie beans*

      Maybe the message will help the OP be a little more self-aware of their loudness, but what would really help is coworkers pointing out when they are getting too loud. This would be a favor to everyone in the office. An open office can’t be healthy living on passive-aggressive behavior.

      1. Name Required*

        I don’t disagree with you, but I pointed out in my original post that co-workers don’t always take having this pointed out seriously. Maybe they don’t think it’s a big deal. I also said that I had one co-worker in the past who thought it cute that they “forgot” and would giggle (loudly) when pointing it out again.
        But I do agree with passive aggressive behavior being an unhealthy component, not only in the office but outside of it as well. Passive aggressiveness is a major pet peeve of mine. All that said, there are lots of PA people out there and no amount of writing posts about hating it is going to eliminate it. Since the only person you are in control of is yourself, take being embarrassed as a lesson learned, be super aware of your volume, and develop a habit of lowering it to an inside voice. It’s not always easy, it’s never fun being embarrassed. But I was embarrassed for having a ridiculously soft speaking voice and I have since been hyper aware that I need to raise my volume when speaking in crowds. It literally is a lesson that has stuck with me for years.

  42. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

    Sorry that happened to you, OP. Some people just enjoy causing drama! I don’t blame you for being upset, I would be as well. I hope this is the end of it and you can go back to enjoy your life and TV shows.

  43. Purple Jello*

    One other point about the open office: acoustics. You may be lucky enough to be in a spot where your voice bounces exactly to wherever this person is sitting. A person sitting at desk or cube a few feet away – even if closer to you than the complainer – may not hear you as clearly. We have voices bouncing around corners in our open space.

  44. The Original Flavored K*

    I’m a loud talker. It’s something I try to control, but between a couple of other fun alphabet soup diagnoses and actually trying to get shit done, personal volume checks aren’t always high on my list of priorities. Because of that, back when I worked in a cube farm, I basically didn’t talk — greeted people in the morning, and then just kept my head down and listened to audiobooks all day, and texted people on my phone on my breaks rather than speak to anybody. I’d knock on my cube and wave when I left at five.

    You’d be amazed at the drama you can avoid when you literally don’t speak and very rarely even hear anything. You’d also be amazed at how isolating that feels. And if someone had left me an anonymous note and then a pacifier? I’d have been annoyed as all hell. Whether or not OP is working on their volume, as they say they are, nasty, passive-aggressive gifts that at best mean “do something else with your mouth” are not appropriate. At all.

  45. what's my name again?*

    Not excusing the letter or the pacifier but I wonder if the OP may not realize just how loud he or she is. My dad was hard of hearing and even though he knew he was loud, he honestly didn’t know how loud he was.
    If the workplace has a staff meeting, perhaps it would be worth bringing up in a general way, “The acoustics in this place are such that sound carries and conversations can be quite loud and distracting at times, would everyone please work hard to keep the sound level down.”

    1. Unblocked*

      Agreed. This is a super hurtful way of doing this, but OP may genuinely not realize her loudness.

    2. Parenthetically*

      She says right in the letter that she is very aware that she’s a loud talker and is working on it.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        True, but she also brushes off the complainer’s concern a little bit by saying It’s just part of working in an open office.

        1. Parenthetically*

          I interpreted that to mean, “It(Hearing others’ conversations)’s just part of working in an open office,” because it’s right after, “I hear other’s conversations all day long, from medical issues to childcare conundrums.” Not that she was saying that being subject to loud conversations is part of working in an open office.

      2. what's my name again?*

        Yes, I realize that, but still, as in the case of my dad, the OP may still not truly realize how loud she is. I think my dad thought it was just my mom griping, but my siblings and others also thought so but just did not have the guts to say so.

    3. beanie beans*

      I think if it’s brought up in a staff meeting, they should also add “Part of respectful behavior in our office is resolving issues directly. If you notice your coworkers getting louder than, kindly let them know.”

      As a recovering passive-aggressive-aholic, I know I need reminders that direct communication is not conflict. It’s communication.

  46. Poster Child*

    OP, sorry this happened to you. Something similar happened to me (the anonymous hateful note, not the pacifier) about ten years ago at a different job than where I am now. I never did solve who could have left it because the cubes around me were all either empty, my direct manager, or coworkers who I was very friendly with. I asked people I trusted if they had heard anyone complaining about me being loud but either no one had or they wouldn’t tell me. My manager did take it to HR and we chatted about it but there was nothing they could do and nothing else ever happened. It was the cruelty of how the note was written rather than the complaint of me being loud that was so hurtful. I looked at everyone suspiciously after that, even people I thought were my friends.

  47. She Who Must Be Obeyed*

    This really sucks. Is there any way you can turn it around and make it into a joke, and make the person leaving the note and pacifier the butt of the joke? I got what purported to be an anonymous note once (I say “purported” because, while the note itself was typed, the envelope with my name on it was stupidly hand-written–and the note itself was full of mis-spellings, so I knew exactly where it came from). A lot of people wanted to blame it on a woman I had some personal conflict with, but I knew it didn’t come from her, because she would have told me to my face, plus the note would have been better written. Anyway, I just laughed at the note–and the writer, the grammar and the mis-spellings (mean, I know–the sender was a total b-word, though)–and made it known that I knew where it came from, even though I *was* nice enough not to tell everyone where it came from.

    I realize you don’t know where this came from, but if you could somehow make a joke out of it, it would not only ease *your* reaction, but probably stop future actions, because you’d have all of y0ur coworkers looking for the sender and speculating who the cruel person is. I’d also be tempted to do my speculating rather loudly–just to be extra annoying.

  48. beanie beans*

    Could the OP have some conversations with the people who sit closest to them? Something like:

    “Hey, I know I have a pretty loud voice, so if you notice that I’m getting too loud, would you mind letting me know?”

    It would acknowledge that the OP is trying to work on it, but also give the coworkers an opening to be more direct than these passive-aggressive mean notes.

    1. Someone else*

      I think asking the people sitting closest is unlikely to help though. If we take the complaint at face value (ignoring for the moment the rudeness of the delivery mechanism), the problem isn’t just that she’s loud but loud from very far away. So, sure, people close by might think “wow! loud!” but they also might just think “of course I can hear this person, they’re right there”. For solving the issue in the complaint, we need to know if in the acoustics of this building, the voice is audible farther away. I’ve been in lots of spaces where someone standing 5 feet away doesn’t sound overly loud, and yet…keep walking and get 20 feet away and somehow they seem to be the same volume. So if the Loud Talker is trying to be more considerate (despite the rude manner in which the message were delivered), they need feedback from NotCloseDesks.

  49. bohtie*

    oh man, this sets me off so hard. My partner is a LOUD DUDE. there’s no two ways about it. Someone set his volume control to 11 and then snapped the knob right off. I am also a fairly noisy person. We’re both just, ahem, highly excitable, and thick about it.

    You know what we do about it if it’s not the time or place? Our friends and family do this, too.

    The other one of us says, calmly, “Hey, you might not realize this, but you’re talking really loudly right now.”

    The response, no matter who delivers the message, is immediately, “Oh! I’m sorry about that!” followed by an attempt to modulate.

    That’s it. That’s all it takes. Seriously.

  50. OhGee*

    Wow, that’s horrible. I am so sorry this happened to you! I’m stunned that managers don’t go out of their way to address this sort of thing immediately…but then again, my boss avoided dealing with a bullying colleague for months, until several of us went to great lengths to emphasize that their behavior (which had been reported before) was creating a hostile work environment.

  51. Tata*

    This makes me think about an article I read last week about Cynthia Nixon (gubernatorial candidate of state of New York). The article was about how women can take a negative comment and turn it into a positive and own it like a boss. Cynthia was told by another that she was “unqualified lesbian.” So Cynthia ended up tweeting and making campaign buttons to wear — “Unqualified Lesbian.” The article gave more examples on how to turn the negativity around to positive. I’m not sure if this is what the article meant but I would use a ribbon & wear the pacifier around my neck for a day. If anyone asks, I would say I found it on my desk and not sure why it was there.
    But I agree with Alison and, in retrospect, you may not be able to do this depending on your office culture. But thinking about it is fun.

    1. DowntheUpstaircase*

      Put it in the lost and found (or if no lost & found, put it in the kitchen with a Lost/Found Sign).
      Why? Because you literally shouldn’t take it – it is not yours.

      The pacifier and the rudeness is not yours. Remember the cliche, “What other people think of me is none of my business.”

      1. Penny Lane*

        Huh? That’s passive-aggressive to put it in the lost and found. Just throw out the darn pacifier already.

      2. Sylvan*

        I don’t think that’s going to communicate anything to Anonymous Pacifier Person, but that might not be the point.

  52. Nita*

    Not to excuse the note or the pacifier, because that’s incredibly juvenile and upsetting, but I feel like asking someone to lower their voice is really hard. I sat next to a loud talker for half a year and it was so awful. He had this horrible braying laugh that he let loose over and over when he was on the phone, started every phone call with a sugary-sweet “How AAAARE YOUUUU?!” that sounded like the person on the other end is his long-lost relative, and it was impossible to concentrate on anything else even with the best headphones I could buy.

    I thought about finally talking to him or going to HR every. single. day. but I just didn’t know what to say. I mean, “please stop laughing so much” or “I find your voice incredibly irritating and wish you wouldn’t gush over your clients like that” are just horribly mean things to say. I thought maybe I’m just being a Grinch, and that I don’t really have any right to say anything… but it was really, really hard to have all his conversations forced on me, and maybe I would have snapped if his entire department hadn’t relocated to another floor.

    Sooo… OP, the whole thing was really mean and I’m sure you’re not out to cause anyone aggravation (unlike the anonymous person). But also, they may be having a really hard time just plain talking to you, and there are probably others who are also struggling, and you don’t owe the office jerk anything, but it would be kind to the others to try to keep your voice down (if you can!)

    1. Strawmeatloaf*

      They could always go and ask their boss for a nice way to say it? I have a horrible time not being blunt with people (aka, emails that sound neutral to me aren’t considered ‘nice’ because they don’t have tons of passive phrases and how sorry I am and etc.), but even I could say “Hey, could you please lower your voice a little? It’s a little loud.”

    2. Autumnheart*

      “Corporate Accounts Payable, Nina speaking. JUST a moment! Corporate Accounts Payable, Nina speaking…”

    3. Oxford Comma*

      How about something like, “Would you be able to lower your voice a little? These cubicles/the open office environment makes it hard not to overhear and it’s very hard for me to concentrate. Thanks for understanding.”

    4. AKchic*

      I had a boss like this. He thought he oozed charm. He oozed something all right, but it certainly wasn’t charm. Pompous windbag.

    5. Argh!*

      I have found “Can you please keep it down? Thank you” to work. I wouldn’t let 6 months go by without saying something and then complaining to higher-ups. That’s totally unfair to the person.

    6. Julia*

      Oh, you worked with the male equivalent of my former behated co-worker! “How are YOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOUUUUUUUUUUUUUU?” was actually pretty funny (her English was also much worse than she claimed it was), but the fake laugh…

  53. Buu*

    If OPs boss hasn’t acted on the note, they may not have acted on noise complaints….so they may have an idea who sent it. That said, if they are staying late or coming in early to leave the note, and your office has CCTV or swipe cards they could solve this in 5 Mins. Op has a bad habit, and is trying to fix it. The note leaver is being deliberately mean. They could have spoken directly or less advisably but still better could have left a polite note. Other than saving TV chats for lunch break, Op is not culpable.
    Escalate this with your boss and tell them it’s made you feel unhappy.

  54. All. Is. On.*

    I mentioned this in the comments a few weeks ago, but there’s a woman in my office who doesn’t go with notes or pacifiers or even ‘Harrumph’s. She literally POUNDS on her desk with her fists until the office is absolutely silent, EVERY time someone talks above a whisper! Doesn’t matter if it’s work-related or chitchat. One time I was on the office phone with our BOSS and she started pounding on the desk saying I was being too loud!

    This should not be a shock to anyone; I’m putting in my notice next week.

    1. Bea*

      WUT!! I’m glad you’re getting out if there. Even my worst boss would have canned her ass for being so outrageous over noise. That’s just as bad as shouting “STFU” at someone. It’s violent.

      1. All. Is. On.*

        The boss is her relative, so she pretty much does whatever she wants. Most days she naps and paints her nails.

    2. AKchic*

      “What’s that Lassie? Timmy fell down the well again?”
      “Delores, has that desk done something to offend you?”
      “Remember folks, it must be silent in here or the poor desk gets it!”

      1. All. Is. On.*

        I think she’d prefer if we all left. Our floor had 18 people last August and now there are only 10.

  55. DowntheUpstaircase*

    My old job building had offices on the external walls (every office had a window), and cubicles in the center of the floor. I sat in a 4 cubicle section (2×2) in the corner of the floor. This put my cubicle right in front of a VP’s corner office (not my VP). The VP apparently had an issue with the conversations from the cubicles and he complained to my VP that I was too loud. This mystified me (and everyone who worked directly with me), as I am not a talker, and did get/take many calls at my desk. It never occurred to me that he was overhearing the conversations of the other cubicles around me, as I had gotten used to tuning them out. And apparently it didn’t occur to him either, as he only complained about me.

  56. Jane*

    I work with a loud guy – we all have our own offices but he is LOUD. You can hear him up and down the hallway. I tend to be louder anyway so I don’t mind too much but it really really bothers one co-worker so she complained to her boss who complained to someone and it got back to him that he’s too loud. So now he keeps his office door closed. The complainer keeps her office door closed too. And then this other woman started closing her office door.

    The hallway is now always super quiet and super dark and honestly work is just less . . . fun. I know it’s a job and it’s not supposed to be FUN FUN FUN. But sometimes a little bit of excited loud is not so bad.

  57. JeJe*

    It’s hard to pick a side with this post. Passive-aggressive note writers are terrible to have around the office. If your truly can’t deal with minor amounts of confrontation yourself, you need to loop in someone who can. Or better yet, develop that basic life skill. Either way, no one needs this extra drama.

    On the hand, loud talkers cause unending frustration during the workday. (I do appreciate that the OP working on this.). I see some people saying it’s difficult to control their volume. Well, it’s difficult to be productive at certain types of jobs when get your cognitive stack blown every time a loud talkers forgets about their surroundings. Of course, this doesn’t justify meanness, but, I get why the note writer is mad.

    1. Brandy*

      I appreciate our white noise pumped in. People can talk away and you don’t hear much.

      1. fposte*

        Wow, that’s great! I wonder how much it costs–I bet that would be helpful in a lot of spaces.

      2. soon 2be former fed*

        We had that installed in my office, for confidentiality reasons, and it didn’t do much at all except provide another distracting source of noise. I like quiet, so working at home alone is perfect for me.

      3. Rusty Shackelford*

        I have a white noise machine in my office, but it doesn’t do much to cover my own personal Loud Talker.

      4. JeJe*

        White noise by itself doesn’t help me. The only thing that seems to work in my office is the combination of ChatterBlocker (an amazing app for $10), noise cancelling headphones and earplugs (since I have to play ChatterBlocker so loud). But, I can only do this for about 2 hours before I start to get a headache.

        I think the loud talkers in my office do work that requires a different type or level of concentration and they don’t realize how much of a negative impact they are having on others.

  58. Pebbles*

    We used to have a loud talker at CurrentJob. He was in a customer-support tech position, and when he would take customers’ calls, if he wasn’t busy looking at their system remotely he’d stand up and roam around the cubicles. It was impossible to hear other conversations or focus on your work when he was up and in your area, so we started sending him back to his own cube. “Hey, could you please keep your calls in your own cube?”

    Well he got the hint that he wasn’t allowed to roam anymore, so he’d instead stand up in his cube (but stayed put) and then his voice carried over the cube walls and if he was facing your direction, it was still bad! “Hey, your voice carries over the walls, would you please sit down?”

    He was eventually relocated to a corner of the building at his own request.

  59. Genevieve*

    Unpopular opinion apparently, but while you should definitely work on modulating your voice, I’d VASTLY prefer a loud talker than a habitual whisperer/quiet talker. I’m a little bit hard of hearing, and people in general get INCREDIBLY upset and condescending when asked to speak up. Just adding something to the tide of people asking you to quiet down:)

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I think that’s a contextual thing. It makes sense in a one-on-one work related conversation to ask someone who is soft-spoken to speak up, but this LW was speaking loudly about non-work topics in an open workspace.

    2. Luna*

      I think that probably has more to do with the tone of your voice when asking them to speak up…I have people ask me that frequently, and have heard it asked of others a lot, and never seen anyone act visibly upset by it. The only times it irritates me is when the person is saying it in an unnecessarily rude tone.

      1. Argh!*

        If someone has some hearing loss, and coworkers know it, not speaking loudly enough to be heard could be interpreted as bullying.

        I have gotten exasperated with people who won’t speak up after repeatedly being asked to repeat themselves. How does someone not get it after 2-3x that they aren’t loud enough?

      2. Sylvan*

        I’ve seen mumbling people act affronted if anyone asked them to speak up, even older people who we knew were hard of hearing. I ask people to repeat themselves anyways, but it is sometimes hard to ask.

    3. Bea*

      I prefer loud only because I’m conditioned to listen to what’s going on and whispering or muttering is noise, whereas words can tune in or out for me.

    4. Argh!*

      I hate having to ask people to repeat themselves! The worst are the low-volume-talkers who don’t ramp up the volume after being asked a couple of times to repeat something. I’ve known a few that need to slow down, but low-volume-talkers seem more numerous. Or maybe they’re just harder to adapt to. I can speed up my brain, but I can’t learn lip-reading, and some of these people also talk with their heads down so it’s a constant battle getting them to communicate! I’ve known people with that neurological thing that makes it sound like they’re choking, and I have no problem with them. So if they can do it, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect people with normal voices to use a normal volume. I’m with you on this one!

  60. soon 2be former fed*

    Management should address the unacceptability of this type of bullying behavior posthaste. Call a staff meeting, present the evidence, and make it unequivocally known that this type of unprofessional and childish behavior will not be tolerated, and that if you have a sensitive issue with a coworker, bring it to the manager’s attention for intervention. Managers should stop sticking their head in the sand about issues like this.

    I have been on the receiving end of anonymous complaints and bullying behavior and it is a disrupting distraction. I am so sorry that you had to go through this, OP.

  61. SP*

    I too am a loud talker in an open office so I totally relate to the OP.
    One time, I guess I was being extra loud so someone sent a message to my boss…who works in an entirely different state. I’m pretty sure I know exactly the moment too. It was 4:30pm on the day before I going to out of the office for a week and crap just kept piling up and up and up. I was frustrated and talking to the project manager who sits a row of desks away from me.
    Instead of just saying asking for me to keep in down in the moment like a normal person, they decided to involve my boss who works remotely. A few days later, my boss felt obliged to mention to me that someone had mentioned it to her and that I should be mindful of the open office. Fortunately, my boss was very much ‘this is stupid but as a manager, I have to say something’, but it’s still so embarrassing.

    1. Argh!*

      I hate this kind of thing. People should be direct and bosses shouldn’t placate the weasels who won’t. Unless someone has a documented psychiatric disability, I would tell a report to talk to the person before coming to me. Getting along with other people is just part of the work world, and that includes addressing problems with others in a constructive way. I would be willing to do some coaching if it’s someone with little work experience, but really…. why why why was going to the boss necessary in this person’s mind?

  62. Lady Phoenix*

    I probably would just loudly say: “I dunno who’s innature. Me when I talk a little too loud on stuff I love, or this jerk for thinking they can leave a pacifier on my desk. Wait, scratch that, it is obviously the person and they should take it back before they have another tantrun.”

    And i would be very loud and direct to see who squirms.

    But that is bad advice. I would still tell the rest of the office about it to see who is Team You in case the jerk tries again.

  63. AKchic*

    This resonates with me. I’m a loud person. I’m talking: can hear me across 10 acres when I project (not yell) my voice kind of loud. I come from a loud family. I’m not the loudest. I’m just the smallest of the loudmouths.

    I have also had to learn how to moderate my volume for office work (because why wouldn’t the loudmouth work in small, enclosed spaces?). Yes, I sometimes get excited and get exuberant, but I still remember myself and modulate that volume back to “publicly acceptable for an office”. It shouldn’t take long if you are consistent, even in a cube farm set-up.

    My uncle refuses to moderate his volume. Combination of “oldest boy”, certain um… *cough* mindsets *cough* and “I’m set in my ways” (plus maternal coddling), he absolutely refuses to lower his voice. Unless a male boss tells him to. Yeah.
    My great-aunt is going deaf and won’t admit it, but she’s always been loud too.

  64. KimberlyR*

    Solidarity OP-I also have problems with being loud. My voice carries. I do try to modulate it but it is difficult, especially when I’m excited, upset, happy-pretty much any stronger reaction. Good luck!

  65. Argh!*

    Sounds like the anonymous note was written by someone who knows LW is sensitive. Crying in the bathroom isn’t that common even for worse blows to the ego.

    So… just speak more quietly, and leave it alone.

    The pacifier is just stupid. It may not be related, but even if it is, try not to get upset. You can take it to whoever handles lost & found, or put a note on it saying “found in open office” and leave it in the break room.

    If more stuff gets left on your desk, that’s when it’s time to escalate. You could be passive-aggressive and leave cookies for “Santa” or maybe leave a note saying surveillance video knows who’s been doing it and if one more thing is left on the desk someone’s going to HR.

    Or… leave a package of ear plugs on your desk. “Thanks for the note. Here are some ear plugs for you. No need to repay me. Seeing you use them is all the thanks I need.”

  66. Free Meerkats*

    Sounds like a trip to Cabella’s for a cheap game camera is in order. Set that puppy up to operate on motion capture during your off hours and put it in an unobtrusive place in your cube. Then be loud until the next note/offering appears on your desk. You’ll not only know who did it, you’ll have photographic or video proof.

    Then take the note, pacifier, and the latest thing and drop them on the miscreant creep’s desk and tell them, “Here you dropped these.” If you get any bluster, let them know you have proof, and it can stop, or the two of you can go talk with HR together.

    1. fposte*

      That’s a big no for most offices, dawg. HR is going to be extremely unhappy to find out that you’ve been videoing people in the workplace without permission; people get fired for that.

      1. AKchic*

        Yeah, I’m going to have to say don’t record people too. Depending on the business, it could actually be shades of illegal (federal, state, etc.) so don’t do it.

  67. Clarice Fitzpatrick*

    As someone who recently encountered a group of loud talkers on a train and absolutely wasn’t pleased with being stuck with them, I really don’t think the solution is to be purposefully malicious and humiliating. Even if the idea was to “shock” someone into changing their behavior, this was a really mean way of doing it, especially over something that while obnoxious, isn’t an act of cruelty. Heck, there’s even ways of leaving more polite but firm anonymous notes if this person didn’t want a face to face conversation.

    Also, I’m someone who’s a loud talker when excited, and this sounds like my nightmare. I’m so sorry you had to deal with this. Definitely don’t be afraid to appropriately socialize with your coworkers while working on your volume control. It is a worthy thing to keep working on, even if someone is being mean about it.

  68. anon for this*

    I didn’t notice anyone mention this… there are people who cannot hear either the tone or the volume of their own voice. Physically cannot tell how loud (or quiet) they are, and the modulation of volume and tone becomes a hit or miss lifelong effort. I am such a one. I assumed when I was young no one could really tell what their own voice sounded like. So you can tell me to speak up or quiet down as much as you want and I will keep trying, but that doesn’t mean I will always be successful because I can’t tell when I’m failing for the most part.

    But even assuming that’s not the case for the LW, there’s an awful dearth of sympathy for the challenge of remedying voice volume which I think we can all say, anecdotally, is clearly a hard thing to do consistently. “LW was told and knows and is still loud so they must be doing it in spite of me and don’t care!” is a pretty cruel and nasty thing to say – no habit was formed in a day, no habit will be changed in one either.

    1. 12345*

      There are a lot of weird assumptions going on here from…

      “I once asked someone to talk quieter and they actually laughed and talked louder so of course a p/a, rudely written letter is fine. I feel for the coworker.” because apparently that means since it happened to you once that all loud talkers are assholes. Just because it happened once or twice or even a few times doesn’t mean all loud talkers, or especially the OP is an asshole.
      “loud talkers know they are loud and annoying so they should just stop” because apparently loud talkers are mind readers? and also breaking habits is easy?
      “how weird that people think an item associated with a baby means they are saying the LW is a baby” OK. yes, there could be other interpretations, but to act as if this an odd interpretation is weird to me.

      1. SoCalHR*

        I agree – I am completely turned off by some of the assumptions and tones against the LW in these comments. There seems to be no gray areas or nuisances possible and very little empathy for not just ‘sucking it up’ and/or ‘fixing the problem’ that triggered the letter in the first place.

      2. a1*

        And so many people suggesting that she note that she does talk too loud and to maybe do something about it. She knows this! She said so in the letter and that she’s been working on it. Given that, I’m not sure what all these suggestions are supposed to accomplish.

        1. Sylvan*

          We’re all great at talking! We want to tell everyone about our talking skills and opinions!

  69. Bobstinacy*

    I had something very similar happen and after almost a month of notes, insulting gifts, and having some personal items messed with I finally snapped.

    I had a cork board by my station and I tacked everything on there. The gifts, notes, pictures of things that were ruined/hidden. I labelled it “Rude and Lewd” (two things I was repeatedly called in the notes) and spent the day cheerfully explaining the cork board to anyone that asked.

    My boss finally stepped in, my co workers were shocked/amused that this had been going on without their knowledge, and I turned the whole thing into a joke. I knew who was doing it but didn’t have any proof, and let me tell you she was very quiet that day.

    People like that can only thrive when they’re hidden and unopposed. Once they have to face consequences they’ll usually retreat, or at least change tactics.

    I wouldn’t suggest my approach exactly, since my industry is not widely known for it’s professionalism. But along with working on your own volume control finding some way to take the note leavers power away might make them back off.

    1. Hills to Die on*

      Oh, I would happpily suggest your approach! I agree–calling them out will stop it faster than anything. I bet this absolutely ate her lunch, Bobstinacy! First you are Rude and Lewd, then you called her out?! It’s all about taking your power back.

      1. Storie*

        Bobstinacy, I love how you handled that. A sense of humor about it definitely made the culprit feel idiotic.

      2. Bobstinacy*

        I didn’t even call her out specifically, I kept an air of “This is a mystery, how strange, who on earth could be doing this”.

        It was The Gossip in the restaurant for a while, which meant I got to watch the note leaver awkwardly trying to navigate the speculative discussions about it.

        She ended up being a whole experience, most of my bad coworker stories are about her.

  70. Laura*

    Has anyone actually asked others to keep their volume down? I have. As politely as possible. What did the other person do? Put me down by telling me how I am a problem for not being like my predecessor. We had to go through mediation to resolve this. Eventually we actually became close, and I still bring up issues directly when necessary, but asking people to keep quiet is not as easy as it should be.

    1. Clarice Fitzpatrick*

      Multiple people have noted horror stories of asking others to lower their voices and multiple people have noted perfectly smooth interactions where they’ve been asked to quiet down. It’s not always bad or good. You can’t judge from the outside whether someone is gonna be rude/angry/volatile or polite/calm when you ask for someone to change their disruptive habit, so it’s not always easy. No one has said it’s easy. But it’s simply the better, respectful way to go about these kind of issues. And certainly this note writer was much ruder than they needed to be.

  71. Specialist*

    They make these electric stop light noise monitor things. They are green when the volume is acceptable and go to yellow and red when things get loud. They are popular to put at the nurse’s station in hospitals to remind everyone to keep it down. Something I’d recommend for those of you with office noise level problems. (NOT the OP)

    There are many suggestions on how to publicly show how ridiculous this behavior is. I’d recommend picking one and following it. Can you talk to someone and relate a complaint about how petty and juvenile someone is?

    Do you fit in with the rest of your office? Is there more going on here?

  72. Storie*

    If this were me, I’d be tempted to tape the note they left up in my cubicle so that it was visible to anyone walking by, and write on the bottom–You’re right, I get way too excited talking about certain topics and I am working on monitoring my volume! I hope the same can be said for your passive-aggressive, unprofessional demeanor–good luck as you endeavor to mature in this area.

  73. Peachywithasideofkeen*

    Follow up question: Was the pacifier new or used? Because purchasing a pacifier just for this purpose is wild…and leaving a used one is gross. Not sure which is better?

  74. Keep Your Eyes On The Prize*

    You could send an email to your co-workers quoting from the note and say that you are working on your volume and that if anyone has an issue to speak to you personally. I doubt that anyone would though.

  75. Nox*

    Gonna need to pardon my lack of filter today but I strongly dislike noisey ass people who can’t talk without getting loud. I’m sound sensitive so I would of just told you to your face you’re too loud, take it down a notch please. Wouldn’t even be interested in hearing an excuse or anything just tell you directly it’s a problem you need to remedy cause it’s aggravating my condition.

    I’d rather be blunt and shut it down directly than leave you a note. I don’t agree with the method handled but please be mindful that not always will people be able to tolerate being a work in progress and I’m wondering if that’s where this person was coming from.

  76. Mouse*

    So unpopular opinion it seems but I am going to share it anyway: I work in an open plan office where half of us are on the phone all the time (we are an inbound call centre) and the other half loudly chatter about tv shows and gossip and other things completely irrelevant to our work about 20% of the day. Despite repeated requests for them to quiet down the behaviour continues.

    OP is aware she’s loud maybe because she HAS been asked before. Maybe she should just make more of an effort to stop disrupting the work of everyone else in the office with non-work discussions? I’d have a bit more sympathy if the anonymous note hadn’t specifically mentioned TV shows…

    This anonymous letter seems like it has come from someone who has tried but reached breaking point? Like several of my coworkers are rapidly heading towards…

  77. LeRainDrop*

    No doubt that the message was delivered very, very poorly and I would throw a lot of shade at them if I knew who they were! That said, given that you were singled out to receive this feedback, it came from someone sitting far away from you, and you acknowledge a tendency to be loud, I am betting dollars to donuts that you often talk far too loudly for the office environment that you work in. I would use this as an opportunity to check your volume and try to keep it down. Also keep any eye out for whatever jerk co-worker communicates in this manner.

  78. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    When I was in college – the Boston University News asked celebrities to send their hate mail. A controversial attorney of the day, William Kuntsler, obliged them, and the crank mail was a barrel of laughs to read.

    Fast forward a few years – when I started a modest rise in my computer career and managed to advance a few steps ahead of others. I had crank notes left for me on my desk. I wished I had kept some of them now….

  79. Jennifer Thneed*

    In my fantasies: I would post the note on the outside of my cube wall with a handwritten addition about YOU COULD HAVE JUST SAID SOMETHING. Possibly pinned up with some super-bright paper behind it to set it off. Or maybe I would have done this on a public bulletin-board.

    In my realities: I would probably feel really crappy for a day. And then I might put that note up on my cube with a handwritten “I’m really sorry about this. Next time please just say something.” Maybe.

    But that pacifier! That is … I don’t even know. WAY too much.

  80. Crystal*

    I’d just ignore it. If you’re not big enough to talk to me about it, I have no reason to care what you say.

  81. Nicole*

    If it had been me, each of these items would have been calmly tossed into the trash (but in an obvious enough fashion that the spineless person could see it happening). If you can’t be mature enough to address me, you don’t deserve my attention. Garbage in, garbage out!

  82. LissyLou*

    I used to work in an open office. I had about 30 coworkers, and 2 or 3 or them constantly whined at my desk…about everything. “But I don’t like the new coffeeee”, or “The new process is stuuuuupiiiiidd”, or “Oh my gaaahhhhhh, Jane said something so meaaaannnnn to meeeeee”. These people were 40+ years old, but acted like 3yr olds. Literally whining and elongating their words, as a child would.

    After a year of this, I (26 at the time) brought a pacifier to work- one I caught at a Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans. It was on a neon colored string, and would light up different colors if you pressed a little button.

    When the whining started, I would hand over the pacifier, and say, “You have 5 minutes to fuss and cry in the break room with this passy. After that, I need you to put on those big girl (or boy) pants, and act like the middle aged adult that you are.”

    Literally took one time for each “whiny butt” to quit that behavior (with me). Everyone else thought it was hilarious, and I’d occasionally hear, “Quit whining, or I’m going to get LissyLou’s pacifier!” from somewhere across the office.

    I wasn’t anonymous with it, tho it did solve a problem. So, anecdote aside, I would take the pacifier to mean that perhaps you tend to come off as fussy or whiny?
    I think sending that package was ridiculous, and speaking directly would have been better, but facts are that someone has made their thoughts known. Whether they’re right on target or just an ass, we have no idea. Maybe in the next few days, think about your normal conversations and responses to people, and analyze how that might sound to different colleagues.
    Also, don’t feel down on yourself. If you’re conscious of being loud, take steps to tone it down. Beyond that, throw that stupid pacifier in the trash. *Or maybe keep it (or a photo of it) and the note in case they keep leaving notes for you- you’ll want proof if you need to go to HR later.

  83. spinetingler*

    Melt the paci in the office microwave and then impale it on one of those phone message spikes on your desk, perhaps with a little sign saying “next”.

  84. N Twello*

    Let’s take a step back here. LW admits that she talks too loudly and she talks a lot. It also sounds like she talks at length about TV shows, which can be super annoying. Someone was apparently driven too distraction by it. Their attempt to improve the situation was ill-considered but understandable. LW’s reaction should be to take the [huge] hint and shut up.

    To her credit, it sounds like she’s trying to be quieter. What concerns me is that she adamantly wants something done about the person who complained. She went to her boss, didn’t get satisfaction, and now wants to go to her grandboss or HR. What’s her end game? To have the complainer reprimanded?

    When you drive someone to distraction, they don’t always complain in the most rational way. When you behave badly and your reputation suffers, your reputation doesn’t recover as soon as you cease the bad behavior; in fact, repercussions typically continue for a while. Instead of looking for revenge, LW should work on improving her reputation and conduct.

  85. OP*

    Letter writer here! I tried to get through all the comments, but there are a lot! To clarify, I told my boss in the vein of like “this is really weird, do you know who left this here?” and it was in private. She and I are more like friends so it really wasn’t me being a tattle-tale. When I got the pacifier, it was actually she who suggested I say something to her boss, as now it was getting a bit out of hand. Also, regarding the pacifier, it definitely wasn’t accidentally left behind. It was a brand new, unopened pacifier.

    I appreciate everyone’s feedback – I would have honestly been way more receptive to the message had it been written nicer – as in, addressed to my actual name for example. The way it was written just turned me off. And I recently found out someone else on the team also received a rather nasty anonymous letter once, for using the wrong printer! So I guess there is just some passive-aggressive grump on the team.

    1. a1*

      Thanks for the info. I’d be glad to know I wasn’t the only one to get a p/a letter. I agree, there’s a p/a grump on team.

    2. OlympiasEpiriot*

      Ok, even if it just one person…

      That can cause some serious office morale dips.

      And someone *spent money* on a new pacifier to make this point.

      Mind. Boggled.

  86. Pete*

    I did the “kind” face to face talk with the office loud mouth who works in the next set of cubicles. The one everyone complains about. She was offended and ignored me for a couple years afterwards. And it did not help, the loud talking has continued for literally 13 years. . In this case the recipient was kept guessing, and perhaps this was more effective. Next time an unsigned note for me…

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