Say This, Not That, Week 2: Managing office gabbers

Say This, Not That, Week 2: Managing office gabbers

Dear Melissa,

Working in close quarters, one of the groups chitchats all day long which is very distracting to the others in the area. I sometimes join in, but they talk for about an hour every day about not-work. They take their lunch at their desks and chitchat for another hour upon my return to my desk.

What can I say/ask them to do?
A struggling Spill the Truth reader

The average professional would either grin and bear it, or say something like, “Hey, can you guys keep it down? I’m trying to work.”

Either way, this can polarize the office and damage the cohesiveness of the team which only further drains productivity.

What’s needed is a strong, favorable message that doesn’t point a finger at the offenders, but rather encourages teamwork.

If chattering coworkers are causing you strife, say this: “I need your help. Because I work best when it’s quiet, I’d like to find a way for us to better balance the times we socialize with the times we’re quiet. What ideas do you all have?”

Your goal should be to find a solution and preserve everyone’s reputation. There’s no need to dwell on the negative. After all, they may not realize how distracting their chitchat is to you.

It’s only human to defend yourself if you believe you’re being attacked, so use language that neutralizes the situation. You need your co-workers to help you, not retaliate or cause a scene.

Chances are, they’ll offer to keep it down and/or move the party to a more appropriate location.
Periodically you can reinforce this change by saying, “Thanks again for helping me be more productive.”

If they aren’t so accommodating, it’s time to be more direct. Say this: “My preference is for us to talk mostly about work-related issues at our desks and share our personal stories elsewhere.” This demonstrates your desire for increased productivity at your desk without stressing your friendship or your reputation.


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to share the office communication challenge which is making you feel more like Scrooge or the Grinch than a respected and influential leader.

Each week of December, I’ll tackle a new situation in my blog. I just may choose yours.


As a bonus, everyone who submits their workplace challenge will be entered into a drawing to win a free TruPerception workshop or a personal coaching session.

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