Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:
I work in an academic department where many of the profs keep their
doors open during office hours. That’s doubly true in the hot summer
in an ancient building without air conditioning. Two of my friends have
offices directly across the hall from one another and adjacent to mine.
They’ve gotten into the habit of shouting to one another (and I’m
talking LOUDLY) to get answers about everything from academic
requirements to lunch plans. It’s distracting and in my mind also very
unprofessional. I don’t want to sic the department chair on them, but I
find it rude and annoying. Academics generally have low emotional
intelligence despite our big brains. How can I convey my response in a
manner that will stick, without them feeling stuck?
Dear Good Neighbor:
Ask them when’s a good time to all go out to lunch together. Have a
friendly meal and catch up on all the usual gossip about all things
personal and professional. Then tell them you have a question and
want their input. If they’re like most profs, they’ll perk up in their
seats thinking you have a professional matter to discuss. Then say
very simply: When you two shout across the hall it is disturbing to me
and my students. If it bothers me, which it does, I’m betting it also
bothers Colleagues A, B, and C much more. [Note: A, B, and C should
be names of people they do not like but would not want to challenge,
but not people they would delight in annoying.] Would you consider
doing any of the following: use the intercom; get walkie-talkies; send
emails, texts, or instant messages; or get back to your students with
answers at a later time? It would make my days better and the
hallway much more copacetic. PS: Better you solve this yourselves
before someone else talks to the Department Chair.
They’ll be deflated and possibly peeved. But by tackling them at the
same time you avoid them bonding and seeing you as the problem.
You can try and make them laugh by adding, Or maybe two Dixie cups
and piece of string, so they see that their current modus operandum is
as impractical as having a student or prof tangled in their line. Most
adult professionals should respond reasonably to such a simple plea,
no matter how emotionally undeveloped they may be in other aspects
of their lives.