It’s the office talker – the one who sees a conversation as a soliloquy and wastes untold amounts of your time with endless chatter, opinions, or whining.
How do you handle these types of employees?
How do you tell a colleague they talk too much and they need to stop? You may seem rude, hurt their feelings or cause a rift.
It’s important to understand people talk a lot at work for many reasons. Some are anxious and fear silence, so they talk to fill the space when feeling uncomfortable. Still others have a high need for recognition. The problem of needing to be right or to be seen as an expert may cause staff to pontificate. Many like to “hold court” to underscore their own importance or dominate and impress.
Some chatterboxes seek approval and try hard to be liked. These people invade colleagues’ personal space by talking too much and taking up valuable work time.
In some cases, incessant chatting is a bad habit or even a compulsion. Lonely workers and those with a lack of social awareness can have trouble reading cues like, fidgeting, looking around or staring out the window that the other person has finished listening.
No matter what the reason, chatty workers can have a negative impact on the workplace. They can frustrate co-workers’ whose time is being wasted. They affect productivity.
When colleagues are cornered by a rambler they can’t get rid of, they may end up taking work home, feeling intruded upon and powerless all the while. The talker is negatively affected too. She may be excluded from meetings because of the excess time taken in getting to the point.
While it isn’t an easy subject to broach, politely telling someone to stop talking may be the difference between enjoying work and dreading it. There are six ways to tackle a chatty co-worker or boss:
Cornered In the Break Room: Tell the person “I have to let you go. I’ve got a really tight deadline.” Then walk off. Be sure to physically move; this signals that you are serious.
Stuck in your Office: Say, “I’ll have to talk to you later about this or I won’t get this done.” And, physically get back to work, put your head down as if your colleague heard you and had walked away.
Talk About It Later: Approach the talker and say, “I noticed you came by this morning to talk to me. I want to let you know that the best time to talk to me is when I’m not busy. When I’m busy, I focus on what I’m doing and I can’t talk. So, if it is something really important, let me know quickly and I’ll come by later and get the information.”
Be Open With Close Colleagues: Tell them: “Sometimes when you talk a lot, say for more than a minute, I get frustrated because I need to get my work done and I can’t chat.”
If The Boss Is A Chatterer: Make an agenda and give it to your boss prior to the meeting. Stick to an hour by referring to the agenda and putting topics, that aren’t on the agenda on a separate piece of paper. Set your cell alarm to ring after 50 minutes, signaling you have 10 minutes left in the meeting and it wind down, with a summary. Don’t stay overtime to finish. Instead, book another meeting.
If You Think You Talk Too Much: Work on noticing what is going on around you. Are you the only one talking? Is someone next to you trying to get some work done? Are people interrupting you to get their say? Then, limit your turn talking to 30 seconds, after that the next 30 seconds are on borrowed time. At the one minute mark, stop talking, your turn is up.
Being honest with co-workers and yourself about taking up too much time talking at work goes a long way to creating a peaceful and productive workplace.
So, be willing to talk about too much talking, you’ll get more done.
Dr. Jennifer Newman is a registered psychologist. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Information in cases cited has been changed to protect confidentiality.