Developing Your Career

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Don’t be Held Hostage by a Talkative Coworker

By James Greenway on August 1, 2014

Is your workplace fertile ground for time bandits—the talkative coworkers who interrupt you with long stories or chatter endlessly right outside your workspace? A recent LHH survey of nearly 600 US employees found that talkative coworkers rank first among disruptions or distractions in the workplace (48%) with emails coming in a distant second (14%).

Of course, spontaneous office conversations can yield tremendous benefits in terms of collaboration, generating new ideas, creating trust and increasing productivity. But, as a recent George Mason University study concluded, “Interruption can cause a noticeable decrement in the quality of work, so it’s important to take steps to reduce the number of external interruptions we encounter daily.”

When too much idle chit-chat interferes with your productivity—and steals your time—you may find it necessary to stay late, skip lunch, or take work home in order to catch up. Ask yourself: Are you being held hostage, abdicating power and letting others monopolize your time? If so, it may be time to step up, take control and address the issue directly. Politely—and diplomatically—deliver a straightforward message. “I really have to get back to work.” Then turn back to your work. There’s no need to apologize or offer additional explanations. When your message is honest and direct, there’s less chance for discord. And you can always offer to pick up the conversation when it’s more convenient for both of you.

You’ll feel great when you’ve handled the situation professionally, and you’ll have established boundaries that will have a positive impact on your productivity.

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