Recently, my co-worker and I performed an experiment. He was sick and was trying to save his voice so whispered something to me. I whispered back. Then bells rang as thought bubbles passed overhead between us.

The experiment we decided upon was this: How will people in the office react if we whisper to each other all day? It’s an observational experiment. We talk to other co-workers in a regular tone of voice but whisper to each other when nobody else is in the room.

Is Whispering and Shushing in the Workplace Unprofessional?

The experiment lasted the rest of that workday and into the following one. Results were mixed. Some office staff asked why we were whispering. Some asked if we were talking about them. Our boss quoted the movie 'Elf' with 'I like whispering too', and didn't worry another moment. Perhaps he is numb to our antics. Nobody outright complained that we are aware of. We didn’t get a notification from our Human Resources department.

My husband worked HR for a call center for a number of years. The number of complaints of people saying that someone was whispering about them was staggering.  Sometimes there were glances involved as well.

Credit Canva
Credit Canva

Whisper bullying is a thing, but not outright an offense that an employee can be written up for.' Ignore them' was the general advice. One could make the argument for a hostile working environment, but it would be tough.

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Essentially, whispering in the workplace is not about what is being discussed. It is perception. What are other workers assuming from the whispering? In our station atmosphere, talking quietly in the hallways is appreciated because the microphones are on. In the office up front, salespeople are on the telephone and need to hear conversations. Shushing is not an uncommon occurrence. I'm not saying that I have been shushed personally because I'm ever so respectful and delicate in volume control.


So if it is okay to be shushed, why is it rude to whisper? Evidently, there is a right way and a wrong way to whisper and shush. Given that a radio station is full of talkers either on the air or for sales, ours is a troubled relationship with shushing and whispering. I’m not confident it will ever be solved for us. Learning sign language is probably not a good resolution, either. Hand gestures with this bunch may be problematic.

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