Office Coach: Chatty colleagues don't realize they're disruptive
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QUESTION: 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?
ANSWER: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."
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. 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.
First Published December 30, 2012 12:00 am