Make us your home page
Instagram

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

Loading...
  1. New owners take over downtown St. Petersburg's Hofbräuhaus

    Retail

    ST. PETERSBURG — The downtown German beer-hall Hofbräuhaus St. Petersburg has been bought by a partnership led by former Checkers Drive-In Restaurants president Keith Sirois.

    The Hofbrauhaus, St. Petersburg, located in the former historic Tramor Cafeteria, St. Petersburg, is under new ownership.
[SCOTT KEELER  |  TIMES]

  2. Boho Hunter will target fashions in Hyde Park

    Business

    Boho Hunter, a boutique based in Miami's Wynwood District, will expand into Tampa with its very first franchise.

    Palma Canaria bags will be among the featured items at Boho Hunter when it opens in October. Photo courtesy of Boho Hunter.
  3. Gallery now bringing useful art to Hyde Park customers

    Business

    HYDE PARK — In 1998, Mike and Sue Shapiro opened a gallery in St. Petersburg along Central Ave., with a majority of the space dedicated to Sue's clay studio.

     As Sue Shapiro continued to work on her pottery in St. Petersburg, her retail space grew and her studio shrunk. Now Shapiro's is bringing wares like these to Hyde Park Village. Photo courtesy of Shapiro's.
  4. Appointments at Raymond James Bank and Saint Leo University highlight this week's Tampa Bay business Movers & Shakers

    Business

    Banking

    Raymond James Bank has hired Grace Jackson to serve as executive vice president and chief operating officer. Jackson will oversee all of Raymond James Bank's operational business elements, risk management and strategic planning functions. Kackson joins Raymond James Bank after senior …

    Raymond James Bank has hired Grace Jackson to serve as executive vice president and chief operating officer. [Company handout]
  5. Cooking passion spurs owner to pull open AJ's Kitchen Drawer

    Business

    TAMPA — After graduating from the University of Tampa in May 2016, AJ Albrecht spent four months traveling around Southeast Asia and Australia.

    AJs Kitchen Drawer offers a wide variety of unique kitchenware items, such as handcrafted knives and wooden items, as well as local gourmet products. Photo by Danielle Hauser