The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Miss Manners: Younger colleagues are loud and distracting in the office

3 min

Dear Miss Manners: I work in a cubicle in a fairly small, open-space office. One of the other sections of the office contains a group of kids in their 20s. They are constantly talking and laughing throughout the day.

I don’t mind that they talk, but the problem is that they are loud. Very loud. Way, way too loud! Even though I sit all the way across the room, I can hear their conversations perfectly. They seem to share every aspect of their lives and feel the need to vocalize every little thought that comes into their heads.

It has gotten to the point where I am having a hard time focusing on the tasks at my desk. I am not allowed to wear noise-canceling headphones because it could prevent me from answering an important telephone call.

A couple weeks ago, I sent an anonymous letter to the director of human resources listing my concerns, but nothing has changed. If anything, it’s become worse. I have hesitated to speak with my supervisor because she is friends with the supervisor of the loud sector.

I don’t want to be considered a “buzzkill” or get a reputation for being a complainer. However, the noise is affecting my production, and I don’t think that’s right.

This is a business, not a college dormitory, and the noisy employees are not the popular kids.

Miss Manners says this for you to keep in mind — not because she is confident it is apparent to the human resources director, your boss, their boss or them.

You should speak to your supervisor, the human resources director or both. But you need to do so in a language they will understand. You must speak about avoiding reduced productivity (not your failure to focus) by finding reasonable accommodations for your preferred work environment, as it differs from that preferred by your co-workers (not the “kids in their 20s” who keep “talking and laughing”).

Dear Miss Manners: Our church recently held a picnic for those who volunteer their time and talent. A committee of six people puts the picnic on each year and makes the food.

The rub is that one of the six refuses to eat anyone else’s food! She and her spouse fill their plate with only their food and, when they go back for seconds, it’s the same thing.

The rest of our small group noticed and, frankly, we feel offended. We know it isn’t because of special dietary needs. We said nothing to them and will continue to seethe silently — or should we?

It was Miss Manners’s impression that many churches concern themselves with harder problems — such as how to treat with charity and compassion those who have done us actual harm. But even humble etiquette sees no profit in seeking to punish someone who did nothing at all.

Dear Miss Manners: I understand that “Stop by and see us anytime” is not a real invitation and should not be acted upon. But if they include their street address, does that change the calculus?

It makes it more likely that they would be pleased to see you, which is a reason to go — not a reason to do so without advance warning.

New Miss Manners columns are posted Monday through Saturday on You can send questions to Miss Manners at her website, You can also follow her @RealMissManners.

© 2023 Judith Martin