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How to handle a workplace distraction

Q. There is an attorney in my office who conducts his business at his secretary's desk, this includes telephone calls, dictating, etc. I'm very busy and my concentration and productivity is greatly affected by this. I've tried talking to my boss, but to no avail. Any suggestions?

A. This sounds like an unpleasant situation. With open offices and cubicles being the trend, this is a more common situation than in past years. It sounds like your boss may not want to confront the situation either.

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I am also someone that can be very distracted by background noise so I share your pain. Here are some suggestions:

- Reserve a conference room for a block of time during the day and take work that requires focus and concentration into this conference room. I have even seen employees use a lunch room or quiet spot in the cafeteria to avoid distractions.

- Try to determine if there is a schedule or pattern that this attorney follows, specifically with the time spent at his secretary’s desk – is it after lunch, late in the day? Then, can you work around it? Can you take lunch at that time or use another cubicle or desk at that time?

- Consider purchasing ear plugs and using in a discreet manner.

- Can you use a small set of headphones to provide some white-noise relief?

- Ask his secretary if he/she has any suggestions – perhaps ask his secretary to offer to relocate to the attorney’s office for activities like dictation rather than handling some of these tasks at the secretary’s desk.

- And lastly, could you approach him in a non-threatening but polite way? Although I see this as a viable option, I do know what your work culture or organization. I would not want you to threaten your employment situation so this is certainly an option that might be risky.

I realize that this attorney may be driving you nuts with his noise levels but my guess is that he does not realize it is affecting you so negatively.

I am alway interested in the opinions of our readers. Do you have any solutions to offer?

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