Ask Laskas: “How do I get my coworker to stop humming while he works?”

Advise this distracted employee on how to get some peace and quiet at the office.

My coworker, who sits in the cubicle right next to mine, hums all day long! It is a constant, off-key droning that drives me insane. How do I 
ask him to stop without hurting his feelings? —Distracted Employee


What’s your take? Give your best advice in the comments below, and your answer might appear in the magazine.

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  • Your Comments

    • Cliff Harald

      I work with a guy that hums and whistles all the time. He’s also extremely “active” when he works, he keeps moving his chair back and forth and keeps “jumping” in his seat all the time. It’s like he’s hyperactive or something. Kind of annoying.

      • Ant

        I had the same problem….in fact thoughts of picking up a
        chair and busting that co working in the head did occur! But I
        did take someone’s advice, and walked right over to him and told him, that the humming
        is driving me crazy man!”, and, it comes
        thru my cubical like a bumble bee buzzing in my ear. He apologize, and every
        now and then he starts humming but catches himself, only because it’s a habit.

        The more you coward out and not say anything , the more they
        will do it!!

    • Jess McConnell

      Easy. Just pull him aside, and ask him politely.

    • R McClintock

      There are white noise machines that can drown out a lot of noise. I’d try one of those.

    • Nanette

      Your coworker doesn’t have an evil plan to break your concentration! As someone who hums frequently, I can tell you it’s a very subconscious habit. I suffer from tinnitus and the humming helps cover the buzzing when I’m concentrating on something. Have some compassion and try gentle humor: “Hey, can you change the radio to a news station?” or “Hey, do you take requests? I haven’t heard (name of song) in ages!”

    • Carla

      Just gently tell him “You may not realize you hum quite often. It’s distracting, and I’d love it if you would stop. Oh, and feel free to let me know if I distract you in any way.” Then smile.