Loud & Inappropriate Telephone Etiquette

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about telephone  etiquette:

My coworker will speak endlessly on phone, loudly and will spin her chair turning her back to anyone, including boss, who dares try to cut her conversation short. She has argued loudly with her boyfriend, belittled him, and when all is well she will easily talk about “last night” and go into various details of what she especially enjoyed. She says to me he is so oversexed, she can’t sleep some nights. I have tried saying do you need to be alone, left room, told her well that’s so personal I don’t think I can answer that. I told her she needs to keep home life out of work. Put on ear buds, put music, and pretend to be deaf. Boss hasn’t done anything really. She will argue back and be loud, as if she will win by being loud and in truth it worked for her. Seven years and only getting worse.

I recently came back from medical leave and she was granted overtime. due to being short-staffed. She wants to keep o.t. so all my work is duplicated by her, changed slightly, has boss sign letters and memo. Boss does not realize I already did the work, and when calls come in he credits her for good job and follow up. I realized that she would do this duplication during day and then do her actual job on o.t.

I asked her why she is working on cases I already worked on; she says she didn’t realize it. I say wow, hard to miss when my letters are on file and on company server, so please just focus on her work not on mine. Well, come to see computer records were being deleted. I made some noise and had IT dept. restore deleted records and saying, “Wow, how can this constantly happen on only my work? “She suggested maybe I have a computer virus! OK. Computer checked out fine. Mysterious deletions ongoing. She knows that I know what she is doing. I think, think, think she may have suggested to someone that I am the one wasting time and ever since I came back feel threatened by her because she did both jobs for over a year. BS.

I was happy to get back to work, even forgot about her bad phone manners and the sex talks, until I was back full time. I was also working from home making my money regardless, so there’s no threat because if I was dispensable I would have been let go as dead weight. I say this is what I think only because of suggestive remarks by other coworkers, but I always say something to make light of comments so as to reduce their gossip. One of my bosses got hip to her and called me in to verify what he noticed with specific instances of actual work product issues. I said he doesn’t need me for that, if he noticed anything then to speak to her but leave me out. I did say to him while you’re at to speak about her rude loudness and personal conversations on phone, maybe she could please clock out on a break to discuss what she needs to in private area. He said he would but nothing yet. So, how else can I handle this loud obnoxious woman? I have taken to recording her while I am at my desk, is that okay to do? She isn’t entitled to privacy, she’s on the clock. Am I right? All I want right now is proof that I’m not crazy, she is inappropriate and a cheat to good employees. If boss conversation doesn’t take place or worse, doesn’t work, maybe one day I will play it back to her and tell her I will put this on intercom if you don’t stop, yes, I said what we all sometimes dream; I would blackmail her into silence. What do you think?

Signed, Not Gonna Take It Anymore!!!

Dear Not Gonna Take It Anymore!!!:

Seven years? That’s long enough for the pattern of behavior of your loud and cheating coworkers to be well established. Habits are not easily changed. Your individual effort hasn’t curbed her loud or personal chatter. Nor has whatever you did to solicit the help of your superiors. Therefore, if you aren’t gonna’ take it anymore, an assertive effort will be required.

Ideally, your work group with the leadership of your boss would collaboratively spell out the rules of communication, those dealing with personal calls, overly personal sex talk, loudness, etc. But since that hasn’t happened. Nothing will change until you or someone from above insists distracting and cheating performance is off limits. That probably will entail your carefully documenting, just as you have to us, what you think and know about her behavior. To get a change you will have to make a case for an investigation.

That first should be done privately and orally. I advise that you don’t early on disclose anything in writing what you prepare, but that you have a backup log of her distracting and cheating actions. If your boss and/or Human Resources agree to investigate this individual’s performance, then at an appropriate time in the investigation, you can disclose what you know. I’ll not provide further detailed suggestions. Only you can know the context of your work environment and when and to whom to appeal. I do suggest that you avoid making this a topic of gossip or allowing you to become obsessed with the problem employee accumulated seven years of loudness and other misbehavior. Even when seeking change, I’m sure you will be careful of her feelings and take to focus on the good of all concerned. That is the meaning of my close: Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS.

William Gorden