Neighborly Nuisance: Dealing with an eavesdropper

by epi on February 23, 2012

Q: My cubicle is adjacent to someone who reports directly to me.  A number of times, I’ve started to update her on something and she’s responded, “Oh, yeah, I overheard you talking to so and so about it.”  How should I deal with this?

A: Your telephone voice may be the real culprit here.  In a cubicle environment, everyone has to learn to speak softly.  Besides lowering your decibel level, you could try addressing the situation with your co-worker this way: “Joan, you’ve mentioned overhearing my conversations several times.  Am I talking so loudly that you can’t concentrate?”  This approach opens the dialogue without accusing her of eavesdropping.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Camille February 23, 2012 at 5:30 pm

If she is someone who is under you, perhaps she is just trying to be proactive. Doesn’t her being in tune with what you are doing help you both? Does she need to be involved in what you are doing to do her job and to help you with yours? She may simply be attempting to be helpful by being up on whatever is going on. That said, if it bothers you I would say something. Don’t be irritated if after that she is unaware of something she should be because you forgot to keep her informed. I do understand that cubicle life is a delicate balance.

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Daniella February 24, 2012 at 12:48 pm

I agree. This doesn’t sound like eavesdropping at all, but rather the outcome of an open-concept office. Without a closed in office, your voice could be heard all the way across the room, let along the next cubicle over.

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Daniella February 24, 2012 at 12:49 pm

sorry, *alone, not along

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Linda February 29, 2012 at 10:16 am

In a cubicle area, you can hear what others are saying, unless they are very quiet. It isn’t eavesdropping. Regardless of position, it is a fact. I agree with the answer here, except I am not sure what good speaking with the person would do, except that they may pretend not to know in the future… but then you will never know when you can be overheard. It also isn’t like she is butting into your conversations. At my office, we often joke about being able to hear others. If you want something private, speak quietly or better yet, use Instant Messaging and/or email.

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