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How to Deal With Your Coworker Who Won’t Stop Talking

Topics: Career Advice
chatty coworkers
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Open-plan offices have unleashed many horrors, but perhaps none are as difficult to cope with as the chatty coworker.

In the olden days, you might have had an office with a door. Now, you probably spend the bulk of your workday toiling away, elbow-to-elbow with your colleagues in one big room. That’s great for collaboration and team-building — and not so great when it comes to getting work done, uninterrupted.

But of course, you can’t be rude. Being part of a team means getting along, even when one of you isn’t very good at picking up on social cues. When you find yourself in this situation, you have a few options for keeping the peace … while maintaining some peace and quiet.

1. Take the Direct Approach

If you’re a polite person — and you are, or you wouldn’t bother looking for advice on dealing tactfully with your motormouthed colleague — you might prefer to deal with problems in a non-confrontational manner. There’s nothing wrong with that, except for the fact that it requires other people to pay attention to your signals.

Not everyone is intuitive enough to register body language. Worse, some people just don’t care. Those folks want to talk and they’re going to talk, dammit, and no amount of squirming or ignoring them will put them off their quest.

When you’re dealing with a determined talker, the only thing to do is to be direct. Interrupt if you have to. That’s rude in conversation, but not during a monologue you didn’t ask to hear.

You can still be polite by framing the problem as one that you share, e.g., “Ugh, I’m up to my eyeballs in this project we’re working on, and I want to get you those reports by EOD. Can I catch up with you later?”

2. Connect When Appropriate

At The Muse, Sara McCord points out that a coworker who routinely stops by your desk to chat may not be thoughtlessly chewing up your time. She may be trying to connect with you. If so, dismissing her will only strengthen her resolve.

So instead, McCord recommends connecting selectively:

So, if you have a minute, stop what you’re doing, focus on her, and make a relevant, declarative statement. “Oh wow—I can’t believe it took you 20 minutes to get through the line at Starbucks!”

Then, when she stops by later, you can smile and say that you are really slammed and don’t have any more time to chat today. (Busy when she stops by the first time? Reverse your reactions.)

That way, you’re protecting your time, but not missing out on a chance to forge a stronger connection with a colleague.

3. Plan Your Escape

If nothing else works, it might be time to take your most pressing tasks out of the open office and into a more private workspace. That could mean booking a small conference room or hiding out in an empty office. It could mean lobbying for the right to work from home on a regular basis and using that telecommuting time to tackle heads-down work.

If you do go the telecommuting route, just remember that office workers never truly disconnected these days. If possible, answer your email on a schedule rather than as it comes in, and use an away message for Slack and other messaging applications, so that people know you’re not in a chatting zone.

Then, take advantage of your time away and get as much done as humanly possible while your coworker can’t engage with you in person.

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Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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SaraBRANDON W BARKERFrustratedHRCMoo Recent comment authors
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Tell them to shut up


I have an immature 20-going on 12-year-old-coworker who talks nonstop in an effort to void work. Being direct didn’t work. For example, I’d tell her I coudln’t talk because I had work to do or that I needed quiet time as I was tired that day. She’s give me a five minute breather and then start up again — talking the entire day, nonstop evening during break, acting inane questions, regaling me with random stories she considers amusing — basically… Read more »

Johnny Utah
Johnny Utah

I’ve had this problem before and I have this problem now in an office environment. Know what I did? I invested in well-padded noise-cancelling headphones. If they want to talk to me, they have to tap on my shoulder and be really obvious that they’re interrupting me. If they pop off some opinion while they’re at their computer, I don’t even hear it. Doing this has helped a lot.

Kristie Kim
Kristie Kim

I work in a fast-paced workplace in a group and I am usually the one who works but talks to one or two people. I’ve been in this industry for 4 years now and started off in an internship program. Sometimes, I work and then a worker will start speaking in Spanish. It can be extremely irritating because I don’t speak Spanish, and then that person will think I am ignoring him or her because I don’t understand Spanish. Then… Read more »


I did not know what to do with a chatty co-worker before this article. Thanks for this. Some people just engage the coworker in conversation until he stops, but that does not appear responsible or productive. The key tips are to say it in a non-confrontational way; Acknowledge one thing the coworker said one time, and explain that you are loaded with work, having no time to talk next time or vice versa; Go to an empty office; Work from… Read more »


I work outdoors part of the time and I have an older coworker who will talk to me on the way to work sites. Sometimes, it’s 20 minutes. I’ve listened in the past, but lately, I’ve got so much going on (grad school plus full time job) that I just don’t want to hear it. It’s mindless chatter and ignoring him doesn’t always work. I should also mention he sometimes has the radio on talk radio and the volume set… Read more »


The key to direct/honest communication is being proactive with a positive relationship. If your coworker understands that you have their best interests always in mind, you can be as direct as you want! Hopefully you have recognized their positive attributes and commented in the past. Then when you knock on their door they will invite you in. If I told you that you have an incredible way to show empathy with our patients and I wish I had that skill… Read more »

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