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Workplace chatterbox irks "can-do" employee

Coach's Corner--March 16, 2009

The Client
Name: Ayanna
Age: 37
Title: Marketing consultant
Industry: Publishing
Issue: Dealing with a chatterer at work
Q. I have a co-worker who spends a good portion of her day chatting. She is likable, and I don’t think management sees her as a problem because I’ve complained and nothing has changed. I am a “can do” type, but often I ask myself why I am working so hard. How can I control my mind and keep myself thinking positive?

A. To help stay positive, consider whether there really is a business problem. If there is, try new ways to communicate the effects. If there isn’t, focus on changing your reactions. 

The inner game
Accept your feelings. Clearly, your frustration is showing, affecting your attitude about doing your work. It doesn’t do any good to pretend that you are happy. However, it may help to understand where your feelings are coming from. The situation may feel unfair, you may find the talking distracting, or you may feel left out. Each of these has a very different emotional impact on you.

Do a reality check. What is the impact of the chattering? Is customer service suffering? Are you getting overburdened by extra tasks? Or is it really more of an annoyance with little practical impact? If there are real effects, be able to show them so that you’ll have a stronger case to share with management.

Control what you can. And, yes, that’s your response. By accepting the situation as is, you can better manage your emotional response.

Notice the positives. In addition to being likable, what other good things do you notice about your co-worker? These might explain management’s lack of concern. Pay attention to other things you like about your job and your company, and in other areas of your life, too. Be aware of the things you’re grateful for. Build a list of positive things to focus on, instead of the irritations in your day.

The outer game
Manage yourself. If you’ve gotten into a habit of being cross, it’s time to break it. Pay attention to your moods, and notice when you’re being irritable. Then find solutions. For example, consciously disrupt the pattern by replacing crabby thoughts with positive ones. Take a quick walk, or find someone to talk to about something fun. You’ll feel better, and you will prevent damage to your workplace reputation and relationships.

Communicate the effects. If there are performance impacts that are affecting you, talk to your co-worker. Let her know about your concerns so that you can problem-solve together. If things don’t change, then consider taking it to your boss again, but with specifics. Keep it positive — not about you, but about your interest in helping maintain a successful business.

Help find solutions. It doesn’t help to bring up problems without ideas to make things better. Offer ways to minimize the effects of her talking on you. For example, if her talking is distracting, suggest steps that would help you focus.

The last word
Deal directly with your frustrations while looking for ways to stay positive. It’ll be good for you and for your company.

Liz Reyer, President RCC - Posted March 18, 2009
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