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Ask Sue
A Weekly Q&A Column About Professionalism, Etiquette and Problems in the Workplace
by Sue Morem

Nosey Office Partner

Dear Sue: I work in a small office Ė it used to be a ranch house and was converted into office space. My office partner and I sit in what used to be the living room. There are no panels or dividers; it is a big open space filled with desks and filing cabinets. Although it is open and spacious, there is no privacy whatsoever and it has presented a few problems.

My office partner is a bit older than I am and I believe may have a slight hearing impairment. If she does, I doubt she is aware of it. She speaks very loudly when she is on the phone, and often ignores comments that are made to her. It is only when we say her name loudly or with force that she will look up. I am the greeter for the phone system and visitors, and her loud talking is disruptive. I often have to stick my finger in my ear just to help hear the party talking to me. I know I need to do something, but I am not sure how to handle this sensitive subject.

The other issue is that I think she listens in on my conversations because she often questions me about details when I get off the phone. This also happens when I am talking with people who come into our office. I have discussed a project I am working on with someone and she inevitably will add her "two cents worth" whether it is positive or negative comments. Should I address these issues with her or leave it alone? - Patricia

Sue Says: Let me see if I understand; you are concerned because you sense that your office partner may have difficulty hearing because she speaks loudly on the phone, and ignores your comments unless you speak loudly or with force. In addition, you sense that she listens in on your conversations and involves herself needlessly. I can see how these issues may be bothersome, but I have a hunch her hearing is just fine. Obviously, it is good enough for her to hear enough of your conversation to draw conclusions and make comments. For all we know, she may purposely tune you out or ignore you when it isnít of interest to her.

You can address these issues with her if you want, but I recommend dealing with only one issue at a time, and I would not recommend you suggest to her that her hearing is impaired. It appears as though you are guilty of listening in on her conversations too, whether itís intentional or not. What you can do is ask her if she could try to speak a little quieter when she is on the phone, explaining that it is difficult for you to hear your own conversations. You, too, may decide to speak quieter and solve the problem of her overhearing your conversations.

Due to the nature of the office set-up you work in, it may be something youíll have to live with. You may decide to talk with a manager to find a solution; something as simple as adding a partition or rearranging the furniture may do the trick and provide you with some space and privacy.

Dear Sue: I just received an offer for a job that I am very excited about, however, I am still receiving calls for interviews from other companies. What is the proper and most graceful way to advise callers that I have already received and accepted an offer? I want to keep all doors open with these companies just incase I ever need to call on them in the future. I donít expect to change my mind; I just want to handle it in the most positive way. So far I have told a few people that I was in the process of accepting an offer and that I would call them as soon as I finalized everything. Ė Keeping doors open

Sue Says: You are in an enviable position; consider yourself most fortunate. You have no idea how many people long for even one job offer. Once you have accepted a position, it is appropriate to promptly inform the others you have been talking with, so that they can focus on other candidates. Let your contacts know how much you appreciate their time spent with you and the interest they have shown in you. Once you are settled in your new position, you might want to send a note and a card to your contacts. This will provide them with all of your new information and depending on what you say, will keep the door open.

Sue Morem is a professional speaker, trainer and syndicated columnist. She is author of the newly released 101 Tips for Graduates and How to Gain the Professional Edge, Second Edition. You can contact her by email at or visit her web site at

Send Sue your questions by clicking here: Ask Sue
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