What Do You Do When An Absent Colleague's Mobile Phone Keeps Ringing?

You hear someone's mobile phone ring in the next cubicle. The owner is absent in a meeting/out having a crafty smoke/sobbing about the US election results in the toilet. The ringing is loud and annoying and constant. How do you react?

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This happened in Allure HQ today, and Kotaku editor Mark Serrels suggested that it should be legal under those circumstances to smash the offending device with a hammer. I wouldn't go that far, but what's an acceptable reaction? I'm sometimes tempted to hang up the call, or hide the phone in a desk drawer. If the phone wasn't locked, I'd dive in and change the ring tone and volume.

What do you do when this happens, especially with repeat offenders who don't seem to realise that a mobile phone is, well, mobile? Share your ideas and strategies in the comments.


    I turn the phone off. If it is a repeat offender that you are comfortable with - steal the battery, (if it is possible).
    I have been tempted to dunk in a cup of tea/coffee/water.

      turning the phone off is the standard reaction around here if it's going off repeatedly. I've never seen anybody annoyed about it when they get back, just apologetic that it was so annoying.

    Silence the ringing (Not reject call) and turn the phone to silent if it keeps going off, explain to co-worker when they return?

      Yes exactly. I've done this many times. Rejecting the call will result in the person not knowing about a potentially important phone call.

    Ignore it.

    It will last no more than 30 seconds and if that's the most annoying thing to happen to you today, then you're going is pretty good.

    Also, I love it when people try to create office etiquette policies & other policies around this stuff. It's preaching to the converted really, because if the offender doesn't have any respect for others around them what difference is a waving a bit of paper in their face going to make?

    Last edited 07/11/12 4:37 pm


      Bit hard to ignore when they have an obnoxiously loud pop song ringtone, and you're on the phone to a client trying to talk while it goes off less than 2 metres away

    i pick it up and put it in their top drawer, then send them an email that i did so

      +1 for the email. That way they have to acknowledge the fact that they've inconvenienced everyone, and they are more conscious that it happened so will remember not to do it next time

    I put the phone in the persons desk drawer and close it to muffle the sound (making sure to put tissue paper around it to muffle any vibration. Works every time.

    Phone meets sandwich bag. Sandwich bag is introduced to bowl of water. Bowl of water has a pow-wow with the freezer.

    Ring the phone and leave a message explaining why they found their phone had miraculously made its way to the bottom of that locked filing cabinet.

    My dad had a vibrating phone on his coworkers desk, he wrapped the phone in styrofoam and duct tape.

    The top drawer is no good, you need something insulated and well sealed to really dampen that noise.... Like a fridge!

    "Dominos what would you like to order?"

    First time hang up.
    All further times: turn power off.
    It might be only 30 seconds, but getting out of the zone cost at least 15.

    If it is an iPhone just flick the switch on the side, problem sorted. Any other phone see if it not password locked and how to put it on silent. Most phones you can tap the power button and it will be an option, hold down the volume down button on the side of the phone or hold down the power as a last resort. My Android phone even comes up with the power menu on the lock screen if I hold down the power button.

    i'm not a cubicle bot so i guess these ideas are fine. but in my work place an annoying phone is likely to get screwed clamped or glued to the ceiling, i once saw a phone "accidendtally" fall under dozer tracks and an iphone cut in quarters on a band saw

    just press the power button once? it will keep acting like there is a incoming call, but silently.

    no call rejecting, no answering, no switching to silent needed.

    ... seriously? NOBODY would answer it? I mean, I wouldn't answer it the first time, but if it's constantly ringing and the owner's not around, how hard is it to say "Hey, X's phone, they're away right now but I'll tell them to call you"?

      It would depend on my relationship with the phone's owner, I think. There are some people in my office whose mobile I would feel comfortable answering, but others for whom it would be an issue.

    I guess it depends on the phone, if possible I think turning it to silent is the most reasonable although that will only work on phones which can be silenced without unlocking such as iPhones.

    What awful phone was this that you couldn't change the volume while locked?

    The problem with ignoring it is that often when someone gets a call they get another dozen over the next half-hour. Maybe someone calling back, maybe not. Who knows?

    I've set phones to silent a number of times (and left them sitting on a stack of paper to deaden the vibration). I've removed the battery a couple of times because it couldn't be silenced without being unlocked. Only for one (loud, many times repeated) offender have I dropped it in his water glass and feigned ignorance later. The person got a new phone and started doing the same thing. Two weeks later they found their phone in their water glass again. I didn't do that one.

    For repeat offenders and you have some time on your hands do the following:
    1. Take out top drawer of offenders desk
    2. Insulate top drawer with felt
    3. Next time phone rings put in newly sound proofed drawer

    I find loud tutting to be the norm in my workplace...

    First I check to see who it is calling, usually it is displayed on the front of the phone. It might be an important call.

    If it's an iPhone, I will flick the silent switch on the side. If other type of phone and I know the person is going to be gone for a long time (hours), I will switch it off completely. If they're coming back soon, I put it in their drawer.

    Dilbert has the answer :)


    For those advocating destruction of personal property, shame on you. If someone is a repeat offender discuss it with them or raise it to management.
    If you resort to passive aggressive violence, it just points to underlying psychological issues you need to deal with.

    Hide it in the ceiling and when they return, call it at random times throughout the day.

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