Make us your home page

Career Q&A: Chatty colleagues don't realize they're disruptive

Q: I am constantly distracted by people chatting near my desk. My cubicle sits next to a hallway, so there is an endless stream of employees passing by all day long. For some reason, this seems to be the place where they always stop to talk.

Most of these discussions are personal and have nothing to do with work. I recently interrupted two people who had been talking for almost 30 minutes and asked if they could find a water cooler somewhere. I'm becoming increasingly irritated, but don't know what to do about it. Any ideas?

A: Trying to concentrate while chatty colleagues cluster around your cubicle could certainly drive you crazy. Unfortunately, since this is the natural result of your high-traffic location, there is no quick and easy answer to your problem.

The ideal solution would be relocation, so consider asking your boss about moving to a quieter site. Perhaps you could trade places with someone who is less bothered by noise. If the traffic flow creates issues for everyone, the entire group might suggest a new cubicle arrangement.

But if you seem to be stuck in this spot, you should start making people aware of your needs. As a first step, you might post a sign that says, "People working! Please don't chat in this area." That won't eliminate the problem, but it may help.

You should also develop a friendly one-liner to politely move people along. For example: "Sorry to act like the conversation police, but I need to concentrate, so would you mind talking further down the hall?" Of course, you must always deliver this message with a smile.

To control your understandable irritation, remember that the real cause of your problem is the office layout, not colleagues who are being intentionally rude. Your chatting co-workers simply forget that people nearby may be trying to work. Offering gentle reminders will increase their awareness and hopefully encourage them to change their habits.

Public humiliation not good motivation

Q: My manager apparently believes in motivating people through public humiliation. He has created a large wall poster showing everyone's progress toward achieving their objectives. He says this will encourage poor performers to improve, but to me it seems very demeaning. What do you think?

A: Although there are different schools of thought about this approach, public embarrassment does not usually fix performance problems. This tactic is typically used by managers who either don't know how to manage performance or don't want to invest the time required to do it well.

For jobs with quantifiable goals, a more effective strategy is to establish clear standards for everyone, then publicly post results for only the top producers. This will help to establish these high-performers as role models who can share helpful strategies with their colleagues.

To assist low performers, managers should provide personalized coaching to determine the cause of their difficulties and create a corrective action plan. If these efforts fail, it may be time to conclude that the employee is simply in the wrong job.

Some make bad wardrobe choices

Q: In our office, the women often come to work wearing skimpy tops, sleeveless dresses and flimsy sandals. Although I realize some companies have a casual culture, that is not the case here. The men all wear coats and ties.

I was always taught that you should wear businesslike attire if you want to be taken seriously. These women may have no idea that they could be hurting their chances of advancement.

A: An old adage states that you should dress for the position you want, not the one you have. This doesn't mean that an ambitious mechanic should come to work in a suit, but it does mean that people should consider the impression made by their clothing.

Today, career-minded women have a variety of suitable options when it comes to business attire. Nevertheless, some of them have been known to make unfortunate choices.

Career Q&A: Chatty colleagues don't realize they're disruptive 01/26/13 [Last modified: Friday, January 25, 2013 6:06pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Tribune News Service.

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Pinellas licensing board asks Sen. Jack Latvala for $500,000 loan

    Local Government

    The troubled Pinellas County agency that regulates contractors wants Sen. Jack Latvala to help it get a $500,000 lifeline from the state to stay afloat.

    State Sen . Jack Latvala, R- Clearwater, is being asked to help the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board get $500,000 from the state so it can stay open beyond February.  [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]
  2. In advertising, marketing diversity needs a boost in Tampa Bay, nationally


    TAMPA — Trimeka Benjamin was focused on a career in broadcast journalism when she entered Bethune-Cookman University.

    From left, Swim Digital marketing owner Trimeka Benjamin discusses the broad lack of diversity in advertising and marketing with 22 Squared copywriter Luke Sokolewicz, University of Tampa advertising/PR professor Jennifer Whelihan, Rumbo creative director George Zwierko and Nancy Vaughn of the White Book Agency. The group recently met at The Bunker in Ybor City.
  3. Tampa Club president seeks assessment fee from members


    TAMPA — The president of the Tampa Club said he asked members last month to pay an additional assessment fee to provide "additional revenue." However, Ron Licata said Friday that the downtown business group is not in a dire financial situation.

    Ron Licata, president of the Tampa Club in downtown Tampa. [Tampa Club]
  4. Under Republican health care bill, Florida must make up $7.5 billion


    If a Senate bill called the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017 becomes law, Florida's government would need to make up about $7.5 billion to maintain its current health care system. The bill, which is one of the Republican Party's long-promised answers to the Affordable Care Act imposes a cap on funding per enrollee …

    Florida would need to cover $7.5 billion to keep its health care program under the Republican-proposed Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017.  [Times file photo]
  5. Amid U.S. real estate buying binge by foreign investors, Florida remains first choice

    Real Estate

    Foreign investment in U.S. residential real estate recently skyrocketed to a new high with nearly half of all foreign sales happening in Florida, California and Texas.

    A National Association of Realtors annual survey found record volume and activity by foreign buyers of U.S. real estate. Florida had the highest foreign investment activity, followed by California and Texas. [National Association of Realtors]