Turn it down

How do you address the office loud talker? Diplomatically, our expert says. (Tribune file photo illustration)

Q: "Paula," one of our team members, talks so loudly that we can hear every word of her phone conversations and discussions with other co-workers. The constant sound of her voice is both distracting and annoying. I personally believe this is just Paula's pathetic attempt to show us how busy and important she is.

Everyone walks on eggshells around Paula, including our team leader, because she is very defensive and can be downright mean if someone rubs her the wrong way. To make it worse, Paula is good friends with the human resources manager, so no one is willing to complain about her. What can we do about this?

A: Politically intelligent people know how to raise issues diplomatically without sharing all their feelings. Instead of attributing questionable motives to your vociferous colleague, try taking the slightly more charitable view that Paula might be experiencing a hearing loss. Making this reasonable assumption will allow you to approach the HR manager in a spirit of helpfulness.

For example: "We've noticed that Paula seems to talk quite loudly almost all the time. This is very distracting for the rest of us, and we're beginning to think she might have a hearing problem. We're not comfortable bringing up such a delicate subject, but since you seem to have a good relationship with Paula, we thought you might be able to ask about it."

After that, having done all you can do, you just need to let it go. If you're lucky, the HR manager will take steps to resolve the problem. And who knows, perhaps Paula really does need a hearing aid.

Q: In an effort to attract new customers, the small shop where I work recently created a Facebook page. During weekly staff meetings, our manager has the whole team brainstorm Facebook ideas, then authorizes me to make the changes. Before I post an update, I always talk with her to be sure I have it right.

Recently, a co-worker informed me that our manager feels I'm not keeping her up-to-date regarding the information on Facebook. Apparently, she doesn't remember our discussions. Should I start sending her a confirming email after every conversation?

A: Having received this news through the grapevine, you need to be careful about jumping to premature conclusions. Instead of getting all worked up over hearsay, talk with your manager directly, describe your concerns, and suggest a strategy.

For example: "I want to be sure that you are aware of everything on our Facebook page, so I try not to post any updates without your approval. To ensure that you have all the information in advance, would you like me to send you a summary email before I make changes to Facebook?"

Managers frequently have unspoken expectations about communication, so it's always a good idea to inquire about their preferences. If your colleague's comment was correct, your boss will undoubtedly appreciate your desire to keep her in the loop. On the other hand, you may find that there really is no problem.

(Marie G. McIntyre is a workplace coach and the author of "Secrets to Winning at Office Politics." Send in questions and get free coaching tips at http://www.yourofficecoach.com, or follow her on Twitter @officecoach.)

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