Maybe they ramble even when the Zoom meeting is scheduled to end. Maybe they catch you in the hallway, then suddenly you look at your phone and realize it’s been 30 minutes. Maybe they constantly ping you with paragraphs on Slack; maybe they stay unmuted in meetings and really make their voice heard — but silence other voices. The bottom line is: you have a coworker that talks too much.
If you’re dealing with an overly chatty colleague, here’s how to deal.
1. Get serious about your deadlines.
Instead of placing the blame on your coworker, make this about you and your deadlines. At the beginning of every meeting, tell this coworker you have a hard stop and need to hop off the call when the scheduled time is up to finish your work. If they’re chatting you up in the office, politely dismiss yourself from the conversation and tell them you need time for heads-down work. Focusing on finishing your work signals to them that it’s time to stop talking — and that their talking is preventing you from getting your job done.
2. Set your boundaries.
Strict boundaries are crucial to a healthy life, regardless of whether your coworker’s a little too conversational. Set your boundaries in any and every way to make it clear when you’re available to talk, and when you really shouldn’t be bothered. Block off your calendar to set up a time to get certain tasks done. Set your Slack status to “heads down” or put yourself on “Do Not Disturb.”
Saying “no” is especially crucial here. Saying no to work that’s outside your job responsibilities and role is as important as saying no to this chatty colleague when they try to take up your time with conversation. Every minute is valuable!
3. Have a kind, action-oriented discussion.
If being clear about your deadlines and setting boundaries doesn’t work, it may be time to get honest and direct with this coworker. Ask them to sit down or meet virtually to discuss some feedback you have. If they’re receptive to feedback, use the time to kindly discuss what’s happening. Use specific examples of when their talking detracted from someone else making a point in a meeting or holding up someone else’s work. Then, offer some proactive next steps and goals.
Inc. columnist Alison Green offers some helpful sample dialogue for a manager dealing with a rambling employee. She suggests saying:
“You have a habit of supplying far too much detail and making it tough for others in the conversation to get a word in. It’s holding you back from opportunities I know you’d like, like X and Y, so it’s crucial that you work on this and make the sort of changes we’ve talked about in the past. To give you a sense of where you should be aiming, I’d like to see you cut the amount of talking you’re doing in work discussions down to about 30 percent of its current level. That’s a big cut, obviously, but it’s essential to be able to advance here.”
The feedback is direct and gives the employee clear action items. Most importantly, it shows the positive impact talking less can have on their career.
Your work and time are valuable, and so are theirs. If your coworker’s talking too much, it may be time for you to say something.