Confront Annoying Office Behavior With Tact

Also, transparency in compensation is the new normal
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Q: How do you handle an extremely loud coworker who takes calls on his cell at his desk in a small open-work environment?

Dear Shusher:
On behalf of all loud talkers, I apologize. To be honest, we are not always aware of how disruptive we can be. I’ll share a couple of ways I’ve been asked to keep my voice down over the years — including a giant Post-it note someone left on my laptop with the words, “Shhhh — you talk too loud.” Super helpful, to the point and it became a daily reminder for me.

Another colleague used to walk by, stare until we made eye contact and make silly faces, including holding a finger up to their lips to shush me. Because it can be an embarrassing topic, I personally always appreciate when someone uses a bit of humor.

As more offices are built with an open environment and coworking spaces are the new normal, we all need to look at ourselves and make sure we’re not part of the problems that wreak havoc on concentration and productivity. How can you work when a colleague is talking loudly, crunching an apple, tapping a foot, grooming? I’d simply bring it to the individual’s attention. Most people are not intentionally being rude and may not realize they are doing something distracting. I’d also suggest that you take a quick peek in the mirror and make sure you aren’t doing something equally irritating. You just never know!

Q: A woman I supervise recently took a job at another company. In an effort to keep her, I offered her a good-sized pay bump, but she left anyway. She told one of her coworkers about the offer (innocently I think), and now the coworker is pressuring me to give her a raise, saying she “knows we can afford it.” I’m not ready to bump her pay at this point but find myself in a difficult situation that is beginning to get out of hand. Any help would be welcome.

Dear Pay Up:
I love giving out salary increases and mid-year compensation adjustments. It’s by far one of the most pleasant aspects of being a manager. Impacting people’s lives, families, lifestyles and showing them how valuable they are can be richly rewarding. However, managing a budget is never easy, so a good manager stays on top of compensation and market conditions, proactively advocates, adjusts as often as possible and ideally prevents people from leaving for compensation issues. Unfortunately, you fell into one of the common mistakes a manager makes when an employee gives notice. Giving out an increase at that point is too late. And as you experienced, she left anyway.

It’s time to make sure you pay people fairly and equally and get real about current market conditions. The newest generation of workforce isn’t afraid to talk about pay and benefits openly with each other and share it on social media. Transparency in compensation is the new normal. Why were you willing to pay the employee who left more money but are not willing to increase the compensation for your loyal employee? My recommendation is to pay her the increase and enjoy seeing the smile on her face. She will work harder and be a more dedicated and peaceful employee if you address it now.

If you don’t, she will probably also leave and don’t be surprised if she shares her experience with other colleagues. I’d suggest you do another gut check, too. A common inconsistency in business is that men are paid for “their potential” and women are paid “when they prove they can do the work.” Given you are dealing with two women on your team, I’d also encourage you to make sure gender bias isn’t at play here.

Got a question? Send it to beth.halvorsen@tigeroak.com

Beth Halvorsen is the former managing director of asset services for CBRE Inc. in Seattle, where she forged a successful career by overcoming a slew of obstacles in a male-dominated industry. She now helps others navigate tricky, complex workplace issues, including how to deal with difficult colleagues and situations. 

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