I work with a loud and obnoxiously talkative coworker. Everyone finds her amiable, and I think I might be the only one who finds her talkative and a distraction. Mind you, I work in the creative department of an advertising agency. It’s an open office plan with just us sitting in the fast west corner, so most of the time it’s just the two of us working together.
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She just talks and talks about mundane and insignificant things. It has gotten to a point where I really want to take her voice box out, one and for all. I wouldn’t be writing to you if I had not tried everything in my ability to make her shut up. I give her minimal responses, and in fact, I’ve even brought this to our supervisor’s notice. But as you know how things work in a startup – the bosses generally don’t care as long as people are doing their job on time. I could be in deep thought working on something really important (without headphones – we have a ‘NO HEADPHONES’ policy) and I’d find her quacking about what kind of dress she wants for the office Christmas party. I tell her I’m busy, but she’ll come back fifteen minutes later with a cup of coffee, expecting me to return the sweet gesture with my time to hear her tales.
She is the kind of person who can make conversation with a wall. I’d very much want that, unfortunately, she just keeps talking to me. I’m not good at confrontation, and it’s difficult for me to convey what I want to say without ending the conversation with hurt feelings.
How to deal with a talkative co-worker?
Business is business. You’re not her flat mate, you’re not her girlfriend. She is either getting some kind of response from you or perhaps she wants to connect with you. Whatever the case is, you need to reinforce behaviour that ends all acknowledgement of her talking. Do not look at her, do not talk to her, do not make agreeable noises such as ‘yep,’ ‘hmmm,’ and ‘ah okay.’ It feels rude to completely ignore someone, but desperate times call for desperate measures.
- LOOK BUSY
Whenever she stops by your desk to chat, you can smile and say that you’re really busy and don’t have time anymore to chat today. If you end up spending all your time listening to this person, your work, your efficiency, and productivity will suffer.
If possible, try to have a frank conversation with her in a private place. Rehearse the conversation with another co-worker beforehand if you need to. Remember, frank conversations are always difficult.
If she refuses to respect your boundaries at work, then you need to request the Human Resources to intervene. You can only build meaningful relationships at work by navigating through complex personalities and this includes an overly talkative coworker. Draw boundaries when such issues start bothering you.
This article first appeared in The HR Digest.