When A Co-worker Talks Too Much

Here’s another great question from a Twitter follower. I asked @Dustin_Nichols if it would be ok to use his question for a post, and if he cared if I shared his name or not. Obviously he was ok with both. Feel free to send any questions that you would like answered. I can use them for a post and credit you or not. It’s up to you.

Dustin asked what to do with a team member who drives everyone crazy. I asked how and he said the following:

If you’re anything like Dustin, you’ve worked with the person who couldn’t stop talking. They drive those around them crazy with constant chatter about stuff that is usually not relevant to what’s happening at the time. They can’t wait for you to walk in the door so they can tell you just how cute fluffy was last night playing Chopin on the PLAYSKOOL piano. It baffles you that they won’t let you get to your chair and turn your computer on before they’re discussing what happened last night on Big Brother.

While I’m no expert on the psychology of the over talker,  I believe there are a ton of reasons for this persons inability to respect your personal ear space. Some are:

  • They have nobody at home to talk to.
  • They do have someone at home, but they don’t get the attention they need.
  • Their personality style is such that they are a mega people person, but very immature in their growth.

Whatever the situation, you have to remember that they are a person with feelings and needs just like the rest of us. While we all need acceptance and attention, some need it more than others. So how you handle it matters. Getting mad is only going to hurt their feelings and make you feel like a dork. Instead, come at it from the side of Grace.

How would you want to be treated? Or, better yet, how would you want someone to treat your son or daughter if they were the one with the problem? You have to understand that it is imperative you use kid gloves when handling a situation like this. My suggestion is you take them out of the cubicle/office setting and have a calm discussion with them. One where you use the “sandwich” technique.

Start by telling them a few of the things that you appreciate about them most. Seriously, come up with some good stuff. Then gently tell them you have a concern that may make them feel defensive but you hope that it doesn’t. Share that there are some things they are doing that are causing some distractions to team members.

List out the items and let them know that it is perfectly fine for them to have discussion times at lunch, breaks, off hours, but during work hours they need to be cognizant of distracting other team members. It’s important that everybody focuses the time they spend during paid hours doing work. Otherwise it’s stealing from the company. Then follow-up with how great of a job they do and how much you appreciate their work.

None of this will be easy, and it has the potential to upset the over talker, but it’s something that needs to happen. Again, treat them the way you would want your child to be treated.

Question: How would you handle an over talker?

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17 thoughts on “When A Co-worker Talks Too Much”

  1. Wow what a great idea, Chris. This would have been an ideal way to handle the situation I told you about recently (aka. Mr. Machine gun). For those who may read this comment and don’t know, I was regularly word attacked last year by a co-worker. It drove me crazy and I simply didn’t know how to handle it so I just tolerated it. My personality type is one that doesn’t allow me to just hit it head on for fear of hurting the person. The sandwich technique would have been the solution now that I’m trained!

  2. Talkers are unique people. Ask them what time it is and they’ll tell you how to build a watch.

    But just as the world is full of people who are tall and short or petite and portly talkers seem to come in all sizes and reasons for their ongoing oratory.

    In long term relationships, you can probably get to know the person better and develop a plan to deal with them more effectively without hurting their feelings. With short term or casual meetings, it becomes more difficult and stepping on a personality landmine may occur.

  3. I like the idea of the “sandwich” technique. I will keep this in mind when having to use confrontation with someone else. It’s always good to start positive, then correct and then end with positive.

  4. I am the talker where I work. Mostly from ADD/ADHD, using the medication Adderall helps keep my mouth shut and suppress the impulsiveness to talk before thinking. Laugh, but it works, mostly :).

  5. Whenever I feel the need to talk (or comment on a blog!), I ask myself 2 questions: 1. Does anyone else care? 2. What is my motive for sharing this information?

    Okay, not “whenever” – some of the time. Maybe one day I will graduate to most of the time. Sigh.

    Working alone does cause the thoughts and words to collect (dam up?) in my head. Having a blog helps by providing a place to release the words.

    Maybe an overtalker could be encouraged to journal or blog!

    And I think the word you meant was “cognisant”, also spelled “cognizant”. . .means “aware”. (Does anyone else care??)

  6. Chris – what a question! And yes I have had one of those people – and she into an office where we were pretty “quiet” most of the time – except during breaks and lunch. I think she thought we were boring…..and she was trying to liven things up. It took a few weeks, but she finally realized that when we were working – we were WORKING! But then during breaks – we talked and shared. It worked out – but I was concerned for a while!

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