Can My Manager Ban Whispering At Work?

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about whispering:

A coworker and myself were talking amongst ourselves when my manager asked what we were talking about. To which I replied “It’s between me and him and we are not whispering.” The manager now says that whispering is banned in the office. What advice would you give me and my coworkers? Does the manager have any right to try and do this? In my opinion this is ridiculous.

Signed, Whispering

Dear Whispering:

Yes, your manager can make a rule of this nature, especially if the whispering or under-tone conversation appeared to be negative about work or about someone at work. I think it would have been better for him to talk to each of you individually and direct you not to do that in the office in the future, but he may have reacted out of frustration and irritation.I would imagine there are other things going on in your office that present the bigger issue. Maybe you could use this situation as a way to bring those out and deal with them. If I were you I would start by talking to my manager in a courteous way to explain what I was doing and to say I’ll be aware of how it might be perceived in the future. Then, maybe you can go from there about other issues. It’s not fun to work where you’re unhappy, no matter what the cause.

So, I hope you’ll take responsibility for improving some parts of it.Ironically, I received an email a couple of weeks ago complaining about someone who whispered or talked in an under-voice to a coworker on a regular basis. The writer said she and the others were aware of it and knew it wasn’t good news or pleasant talk! She asked what could be done to stop it and said she thought the office policy of treating everyone with respect should apply. She said it was very distracting and she thought it was very rude.I doubt that was anyone in your office, but those may have been the thoughts of your manager or others.

Your manager may have felt you were talking about him or about someone else, or complaining about work requirements or the company. Any of those things would be considered a poor use of work time when a salary is being paid for work or at least for productive activity. So, the bottom line is that your manager can make such a rule, even though it might be extreme. If employees are courteous and professional that rule won’t have any impact on them because they won’t do it anyway.I hope you’ll find a way to deal with the larger issues and move past this unpleasant situation. Best wishes to you!

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.