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. Memorial Day sales not enough to draw shoppers to Tampa Bay malls


    TAMPA — Memorial Day sales at Tampa Bay area malls were not enough to compete with the beach and backyard barbecues this holiday weekend.

    Memorial Day sales weren't enough to draw shoppers to Tampa Bay area malls over the long weekend. 
  2. Austin software company acquires second Tampa business


    Austin, Tex.-based Asure Software acquired Tampa's Compass HRM Inc. late last week for $6 million. Compass focuses on HR and payroll.

    [Company photo]
  3. Hackers hide cyberattacks in social media posts


    SAN FRANCISCO — It took only one attempt for Russian hackers to make their way into the computer of a Pentagon official. But the attack didn't come through an email or a file buried within a seemingly innocuous document.

    Jay Kaplan and Mark Kuhr, former NSA employees and co-founders of Synack, a cybersecurity company, in their office in Palo Alto, Calif., in 2013. While last year's hacking of senior Democratic Party officials raised awareness of the damage caused if just a handful of employees click on the wrong emails, few people realize that a message on Twitter or Facebook could give an attacker similar access to their system. 
[New York Times file photo]
  4. Big rents and changing tastes drive dives off St. Pete's 600 block

    Music & Concerts

    ST. PETERSBURG — Kendra Marolf was behind the lobby bar of the State Theatre, pouring vodka sodas for a weeknight crowd packed tight for Bishop Briggs, the latest alternative artist to sell out her club.

    Sam Picciano, 25, left, of Tampa and Molly Cord 24, Palm Harbor shop for record albums for a friend at Daddy Kool Records located on the 600 block of Central Avenue in St. Petersburg, Florida on Saturday, May 20, 2017. OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times
  5. How Hollywood is giving its biggest stars digital facelifts


    LOS ANGELES — Johnny Depp is 53 years old but he doesn't look a day over 26 in the new "Pirates of the Caribbean" movie — at least for a few moments. There was no plastic surgeon involved, heavy makeup or archival footage used to take the actor back to his boyish "Cry Baby" face, however. It's all …

    This combination of photos released by Disney, shows the character Jack Sparrow at two stages of his life in "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales."  Johnny Depp, who portrays the character, is the latest mega-star to get the drastic de-aging treatment on screen
[Disney via Associated Press]