Ms. Spiritual Matters

Dear Ms. Spiritual Matters,

My new coworker, Jane, was assigned the cubicle backing up to mine. She is constantly on her handheld devices. Jane brings two phones to work. She uses one for games and one for calls. I can hear the ping-pong and squawking as she navigates through Candy Crush and Angry Birds. On average, she gets a text every 15 minutes.

The constant distractions bother me. The quality of my work is being affected because I can’t concentrate.

How should I approach this problem?

Irritated Joan


Dear Joan,

Have you ever played Candy Crush or Angry Birds? These games are fun and can be quite addicting.  Your new coworker may have had spare time to play these before she took the job. So, let’s give Jane some cues that this habit irritates you.

First, talk to her. I suggest you be assertive and tell her this noise distracts you. Say, “The sounds from your electronic devices make it hard for me to concentrate.” She may not realize you can hear the ping-pong and squawking. She might not have enough work to do yet as she learns her job responsibilities and, therefore, she finds herself with time to fill. She may have unknowingly annoyed you, feel embarrassed, and apologize profusely. By telling her, you make her aware.

Second, you could ask her to silence her device. Be prepared, however, as we have some folks out there for whom silence is uncomfortable. The ping-pong and the squawking relax them. They are calmed by the constant clanging.

If silencing the device does not work, she needs headphones. It’s okay to tell your new office mate how you feel. Just be sure to use a positive approach.

Good wishes,

Susan Schoenbeck holds Baccalaureate and Master’s degrees in nursing from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is an experienced educator and teaches nursing students at Walla Walla University — Portland, Oregon campus.  She is an oblate of a Benedictine Monastery where she learned centering and contemplative meditation practices. She is author of the book, Zen and the Art of Nursing, Good Grief: Daily Meditations, and Near-Death Experiences: Visits to the Other Side.


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