ASK THE STRATEGIST: Speakerphone Snafu Causes Workplace Drama
February 7, 2011
Dear ATS: I work in a small office in the DC area. All of us have cubicles and are in somewhat close quarters. One of my co-workers is a multi-tasker who always uses the speakerphone for business and personal calls. A few days ago, a group of us was talking about a situation involving our supervisor. It wasn’t a nice discussion. Well, my co-worker let us go on and on with our conversation without telling us our supervisor, who was on travel at a conference, was on speakerphone! Since then, the office atmosphere has been really tense. Should I say something? – T.R., Fairfax County, VA
T.R., I could admonish you and your colleagues for talking about the supervisor out-loud in the office where you all work, but I think you now be cured because you were busted in the act. Having said that, a lack of speakerphone etiquette, i.e. not letting folks know they are on it or that others are within earshot is unprofessional, and it is just not the cool thing to do.
I suggest two possible approaches to dealing with this issue. Since you are in a small office, there is a possibility that most of you eat lunch together. I’d suggest gently bringing up what happened and directly address the co-worker who placed your supervisor on speakerphone and let him/her know that, even though it was a mistake (hopefully), the faux pas has caused a little tension. Use this as an opportunity to acknowledge that both sides were wrong, and approach the discussion as a teachable moment, rather than a blame game.
The second suggestion is a more formal approach to dealing with Phone-gate. If the supervisor is still smarting after hearing the comments from you and your co-workers (you did not indicate in your question if he/she did), and the rift has interfered with workplace productivity, then you may want to engage a company human resources professional to help handle the situation through one-on-one or group training session as appropriate. It takes the pressure off the co-workers and places the problem solving in the hands of a neutral party.
Good luck, and keep us posted. THE STRATEGIST
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