A reader writes:
So…are you ready for a weird one?
The recent snow saw me working at home in my apartment, which I share with a handful of roommates and a landlady. The landlady does not let me work on my laptop downstairs and confines me to my room. That’s fine, but the roommate in the floor above me hangs out with his girlfriend quite often, and as this recent day had it, they decided to have very loud, very obvious sex while I was on a conference call, and I did not hit mute on my computer fast enough. All my coworkers heard it, and my supervisor even questioned if someone was “making out” in the background. I tried laughing it off, saying, “Yes, I’m very sorry.
My roommates were being very inconsiderate, and I used text responses until everything quieted down again, but since I’ve returned in office, a few of the coworkers who were on the call with me avoid me (as in, they see me walking down the hall, turn around, and walk in the other direction)!
What can I do to clear the air? I don’t think I did anything wrong!
I have so many questions! How long did this period of audio-erotica go on for? (Are we talking 30 seconds or many minutes?) What exactly was heard? (Moaning? Dirty talking? Additional details, please.) And what’s up with your landlady confining you to your room?! (In a hostage/prisoner way?)
As for your coworkers … it’s hard to think that they’d be avoiding you simply for overhearing 10 seconds of some indiscreet moaning, unless you work at very conservative — nay, puritanical — place. I mean, it’s hardly professional to have sex noises on a conference call, but it also hardly merits shunning you now.
As for what to do now, I would just address it directly with your manager and your coworkers — something like, “I really apologize for the background noise on our call the other day. I have roommates and thin walls, and they clearly weren’t working that day. I was mortified, and I’m sorry it disrupted the call like that. I’ll be more careful about work calls when they’re at home!”
But really, your coworkers are wildly overreacting.