How to Deal with a Co-worker Who Won’t Stop Talking

By Dr. Perry, PhD


“If my headphone are in, I am probably trying to do some work.” ~Anonymous

I was in an office setting this past week. As I spoke to the receptionist her co-worker was loudly sharing a personal story. I could tell the receptionist was uncomfortable and was trying to get her co-worker to stop talking. I found myself not only listening to very personal details of someone’s life but incredibly I was also being asked to partake in the conversation. To state it simply this person would not stop talking.

In every office, there is usually one person who feels the need to fill in everyone around them with the latest details of their life and day. No matter how minor the detail may be the office overtalker must share it. We do our best to avoid them but they often hover over our workstation or walk uninvited into our office to chat. Trying to complete your work for the day you may try to avoid eye contact but that doesn’t help. I believe we all have had encounters with a co-worker who either does not recognize social cues or chooses to be inconsiderate and disregard them.

It is appropriate to have some light conversation during work hours but it is important to recognize that you are being paid to work and not to socialize at the workplace.  Conversations that require a person to stop working for an extended period of time while at work are a no go. Further, I recommend avoiding discussing your personal life during work. A conversation regarding work matters is fine as long as it does not distract you from work. As my Mother says, “You work with your hands, not with your mouth.”  I realize that often times friendships and work may overlap. We can always have lengthier personal conversations during breaks, lunch or after work.

Perhaps, the first time this happened you allowed yourself to become engaged in the personal conversation and now every time they see you they have the need to ramble on about their life or day. So how do you handle that co-worker who sees the office as a place to share their personal life and thoughts, who constantly talk over you, dismisses what you say or fails to follow social etiquette?

Here are some tips on how to handle the office compulsive overtalker:

1. Try to ignore them by not encouraging the conversation
Don’t give the overtalker your full attention. Continue doing your work and when the person begins to overshare try to remain unresponsive to their story. Often time the overtalker is seeking attention and validation. If they see that you are not a source of either they will eventually move on to someone else.

2. Confront it head on
No one wants to participate in office drama but you may need to confront this head on. In a non-confrontational manner bring the focus to your needs. Speak up and explain that it is difficult for you to work when there are many distractions in the office. You need to set this boundary early and stick to it.

3. Offer alternatives
Stop them by saying something like, “Let’s talk after work” or “Why don’t we discuss this later? I really have a lot of work to catch up on.”

4. Do not disturb sign
If management approves, put up a “Do not disturb” sign at your desk. By doing this you are not singling out one person and can inform all co-workers you need to focus and concentrate on your work.

5. Switch it up and talk about work only
If the office overtalker continues to seek your attention try to switch the conversation back to work matters. Every time they approach you with a personal story, talk about work and seek their advice on work matters. Do not discuss anything personal. Over time, the overtalker may learn to avoid you since they will not want to talk about work.

6. Leave your work area
At times, in order to get the person to stop talking you may need to get up and leave your work area. By walking out of your office you will at the very least get the person out of your work area. The person may get the hint to stop talking.

7. Wear earplugs
If your work permits, speak to management and explain you need fewer distractions in order to concentrate at work and get approval to wear earplugs to silence out noise or earbuds to listen to music while you work. By wearing earplugs while working the over-talker should get the point that you are trying to work.

8. If all else fails, speak to the supervisor!
If you find that you have tried everything and this person still does not respond to appropriate social cues and does not respect your boundaries speak to your supervisor.

I hope you enjoyed this post. I would love to hear your experiences with an overly talkative co-worker and how you dealt deal with the situation?

If you would like to schedule a free initial consultation to work with me on your mental health please click here.

Kindly,
Dr. Perry


www.MakeItUltraPsychology.com
“We specialize in a solution-focused approach to psychotherapy, specifically treating depression, anxiety, relationship issues and narcissistic abuse.”
Verified by Psychology Today


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54 responses to How to Deal with a Co-worker Who Won’t Stop Talking

  1. Sara L. says:

    I have a co-worker who bombards me with her words! It is so bad I am starting to dread going to work. I’m going to try these steps and hope for the best! Thank you so much for this post.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Inez says:

    I had to confront the office overtalker who is also a bully to stop coming into my office when I am working. She had no respect for my personal boundaries and didn’t seem to notice any subtle cues! I had to be bold to have any peace of mind at work. Thank You Dr. Perry. I love your blog.

    Liked by 5 people

  3. ugh, I have a co-worker who talks NONSTOP all day, everyday. Unfortunately, we are in an open office so you can’t exactly leave or kick her out. Even if you walk away or answer the phone or wait on a customer, she literally just turns to the next person who is seemingly unoccupied and continues the conversation.
    It is really obnoxious, but at my last review, my GM told me my numbers were more than double everyone else’s so … I do my thing.

    Liked by 6 people

  4. truthbetold1111 says:

    This is great! I had a co-worker like that. I explained I had to get my work done or I wouldn’t be able to give them the attention they deserved, and asked if we could catch up on break/after work (like you suggested). It worked.

    Liked by 7 people

  5. Shawna says:

    I think you must have been at my work Dr. Perry. This is something I deal with on a daily basis and I am thankful that I now have some good tips to use. Will be trying this ASAP

    Liked by 5 people

  6. Not just coworkers. I live with my parents and every five seconds if I’m at home, mother is trundling in and out interrupting an important email I’m writing, or a reading, session plan, lunch and the list goes on.

    Duct tape could be one solution however, I just end up going out all the time and on occasion booking into a hotel so I can actually just think in peace and quiet!!

    Liked by 6 people

  7. My boss needs to read this. She usually talks about her daughter. Starts with something related to work, but then takes it to her offspring. Another thing she does is touch your stuff, use your stuff, even eat your food. Most of us eat at our desk as we don’t have an appropriate eating area in the building, nor a nearby lalce to go eat. We have to drive. So we bring our snacks and food to work every day. If she walks to your cube and sees something she likes, she helps herself without even asking or caring if you are on a diet, counting calories, or could go hungry.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. PJ says:

    Excellent ideas! I am sending this along to someone who deals with this issue. Nice person, but spends way to much time socializing, to the point that an office-mate leaves and works at an empty desk to get away from the chatting. The supervisor has repeatedly talked with the overtalker, but the OT seems unable to control the socializing, to the point of not getting work done. Maybe some of these ideas will help the coworkers.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Liz says:

    I thankfully do not have to deal with anything like this now, but in the past, many years ago I did. This advice is great that would have come in handy then and also anytime in the future if I experience this.

    Liked by 3 people

  10. How to deal with my maid who won’t stop talking about her life and her family situation every single day? She even come up to my bedroom just to gossip. I don’t want to be rude to her but no idea how to approach her 🤔

    Liked by 3 people

  11. laronda65 says:

    Try working with one who has no volume control! It doesn’t matter where she is in the office-a room away or standing next to you-her volume is the same. And she loves pronouns! No specifics; just he, she, it, that. And besides the boss, she’s my only coworker, which is probably goood because I can’t start any inter-office drama, right? Thanks for good advice on office talkers! Most of us have had at least one.

    Liked by 3 people

  12. I have had this happen with people that work for me, actually. I am a kind person and I used to have greater difficulty setting these boundaries. But being more direct about the request can definitely help. It was not something most of us were “trained” to do when young (especially in Minnesota!) but it is a helpful skill to practice. Thanks for the great advice.

    Liked by 4 people

  13. Just_Me :) says:

    We had one guy (yes, guy!) who talks about everything he knows (and pretend to know!) to these two other staffs in the office before. I don’t care if they talk there all day but he can at least tone down his voice so not everyone in the room would hear him. Because other people wants to work. One day, I just couldn’t ignore him any longer so I told him to tone down his voice because not everyone of us is interested with what he’s saying or better yet, shut up. Since then, he didn’t talk much anymore then eventually quit his job.

    Liked by 3 people

  14. Man, who hasn’t had this problem at work? I’ve tried all of the suggested ideas listed in the article. Especially where I work at now. Some people think you’re okay bringing your personal life to work just because they are or who just talks all the time not realizing you need a break. Now, I just say, “I don’t bring my personal life to work” for those that don’t get the point when I begin to sit elsewhere or I just say something like “I gotta get this done” or “let me talk to you later, I’m trying to work on this”.

    Liked by 3 people

  15. Angana says:

    Haha..thoroughly enjoyed reading this! Could totally relate to it as I have quite a few over-talking co-workers around, and have been doing all of this (except 4th and 6th) 😀 😀 Great post 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  16. Bob says:

    I personally prefer #2, the head on approach as I think it is typically best to be honest with folks and set boundaries early. Thanks.

    Liked by 2 people

  17. J. Ruiz says:

    I’m printing this and sharing with office to get the message out. Great tips to help get through to those chatty patties.

    Liked by 2 people

  18. Dee says:

    Thank you for this post! I wish I could email it to all my co-workers! One in particular is such a blabber mouth!

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Right on, I get this often. I’ve been a bachelor for some time and every time I meet a woman now all I get at work is ‘how’s your girlfriend?’. Relationships are complicated enough without it interfering with your working life. My method is often walk out or cave in a little information awkwardly, but it doesn’t always work and when your co-workers are always gossiping about other people and sharing the dirty on one another you start to feel a little isolated. They’re being friendly, but natural tension can arise quickly when you don’t feel in control of the situation.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Charlene says:

    Thank you for visiting my site! I love how relevant this post is. I don’t have a specific coworker, but more so my entire team is very focused on talking about each other’s personal lives and it’s always made me super uncomfortable. 1.) Because I tend to save my private life for my friends/family and 2.) Because a lot of times it feels like work-accomplishments aren’t as valuable on this team as “life-accomplishments.” For example, my colleagues getting shout outs in team meeting for getting engaged/buying a house, but no mention of my recently-received award from the CEO.

    I will HAVE to try some of these tips. Thanks again for posting!

    Xo Charlene

    Like

  21. gavdale1963 says:

    Until recently I was guilty of this. Once confronted, I had a long hard look at myself. Why I have become like this. I am usually quite reserved. I just need to talk to this one particular young female work colleague who only recently started there but we were working together on projects on occasions and we found we could speak quite freely to each other. I started to wonder if my mind was wanting more. Once confronted I realised what I was doing and how much of an impact I was creating. I then realised the cause – loneliness. I leave home before everyone else gets up. I get back home and everyone is on their devices. I feel so alone. When I speak to my family about it, they brush it off and my wife gets defensive. She is going through depression so making it doubly difficult to solve. I am hoping though now that I’ve identified this I can get to a good outcome.

    Liked by 3 people

  22. jm97531 says:

    It was perfect timing that I came across this article! The receptionist at my office sits just outside my own office and constantly comes to the door to start talking about her kids, her kids and their extra-curricular activities, her kids and their inability to have a bowel movement….I mean, ughhhh. It’s absolutely endless! She’s a very nice person, but cannot take a hint and has absolutely no idea about social cues. A couple of weeks ago the office did a re-shuffle of offices and the ladies in the office next to mine, got moved and so now this problem is worse than ever. I mean, I’ve been on the phone and she comes to my door and starts talking to me while I’m already in mid-telephone conversation with someone else! Who does this?! I’ve told my husband about this and he laughs and says “It can’t be that bad.” OMG, I think I’m actually downplaying how bad it really is. *sigh*

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Nancy Ruegg says:

    Great suggestions, Dr. Perry. Perhaps the Do Not Disturb sign AND earplugs would provide the winning combination of strategies. The harried worker can point to the sign and then the ear plugs, give a “Gotta-get-this-done” gesture and keep working!!

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Thank you for this post! Light conversation in your “inside voice” that is appropriate for the workplace is ok in my book but the moment I hear about you spent shopping all day on the day you called off because of a upset stomach my que to walk away has just showed up lol. Many tell on their own self and wonder why the pink slip was left on his or her desk.

    Liked by 2 people

  25. Auntysocial says:

    This brought to mind the little hi-viz waistcoat thing I used to put on in the office when I was super busy that had on the back “One of the vast numbers of people that couldn’t give the tiniest shit for whatever you’re about to interrupt me for unless it’s important”

    I added a little notice to the back of my chair “It better be good”

    Liked by 2 people

  26. TA Sullivan says:

    Oddly enough, I had a co-worker like that and I tried every one of the ‘tricks’ you described. This woman never got it. Even when I’d leave my cube to go to a meeting, the bathroom, wherever, she would simply follow me and continue talking. I got no peace until I finally left the company.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dr. Perry says:

      Thank you Debbie. I always appreciate your positive feedback and warm wishes. Have a wonderful day✨

      Like

  27. I have tried this “Try not to encourage there conversation”..
    & I believe this is the most suitable way.. 😇😀
    Thanks for sharing..
    I’ll also try the other ways..

    Liked by 1 person

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