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Kindly Get Lost- How to Handle Employees Who Waste Your Time

Q:  Dear Workplace Wonda, 

I must have a “Waste My Time” sticker on my forehead because every day at work, “Chatty Cathy” plops down in my office chair and proceeds to tell me everything from her dog Fluffy’s latest hair-raising trick to how much money she saved recently by switching to Geico.  I don’t know if she’s completely clueless or if she realizes how much of my time she is wasting with her idle chit chat.
What can I say or do to limit “Chatty Cathy” time in my office on non-work related issues without breaking her spirit and affecting morale?

 Signed, “Kindly Get Lost”

A:  Dear  Kindly Get Lost, 

I like to call the “Chatty Cathys” of the world “perpetual seat warmers.”  They burrow into your office space and proceed to hibernate for the winter.   In lieu of waiting until springtime to nudge them out, you might want to consider one of the following tips: 


I’m not a fan of continuing to work by  typing on my keyboard while an office crasher chats away.  I believe in the importance of giving all visitors, even those who are not invited, professional courtesy and attention.   Not to mention, some people just don’t get the obvious when you are busy.  A subtle, but effective method to get anyone out of your office is to do the “Walk and Talk.” 
Stand up and state that you have to fax or copy something that needs to get out immediately.  “I am so sorry, Cathy, I have to get this document faxed.  Perhaps you can call me later and we can set up a mutually convenient time to sit down and talk.”  Proceed to walk her out on your way to the copier or fax machine.  Usually, this will be a good hint to the visitor that you would prefer a scheduled meeting.


One way to ensure that an unexpected visitor doesn’t get too cozy in your office is to not allow a space to rest.  Place a large stack of papers or folders on your chair.  If you try that, the next time “Chatty Cathy” drops by for a lengthy visit, there will be no where to sit and fester.  It also becomes an opening to inform Cathy that you are on a tight schedule.  “Cathy, I’m really sorry I don’t have room for you to sit today.  I’m on a project deadline and I don’t have any time to chat.  How about lunch next week so we can catch up?”

Finally, if all else fails and you don’t have time for interruptions, put a “Do Not Disturb” sign on your door and inform staff  you will be unavailable for a specified amount of time. 

Letting people overstep our boundaries often has to do with our inability to be comfortable with confronting people.  It’s especially hard when it’s someone you like.  “Chatty Cathy” types are usually really great people and fun to be around, but can be inconsiderate of your time.

On the flip side, don’t shut yourself off completely to friendly chit chat with co-workers.  It’s important as a team and a corporate culture to have a warm environment where friendly work relationships are cultivated.  Be sure to set aside “get to know you” time with co-workers.  Organize a monthly staff meeting, potluck, or just designate a break period to catch up with co-workers.

Oh, wow, I hate to cut this article short but I have to fax something.  Would you like to walk with me? 

Signed, Workplace Wonda


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