Dear Mary Pat,
I have a co-worker who talks constantly throughout the day. I find it very difficult to concentrate on my work and I’ve tried unsuccessfully to get him to zip it. He also complains that he doesn’t get his work done and is always behind. Um, maybe because he’s a run-on sentence since the time he walks through the door? I know way too much about his girlfriend, his family, his car collection, his favorite movies, and then some. He’s a nice enough guy, but in two years of working together I’ve hit a wall. I don’t want to tell on him, but I also don’t want to get fired for messing up my work because of the distraction.
Sturgeon Bay, Wis.
I’m sure you don’t want to tell your boss on him, but let’s look at this from another angle. If your co-worker was stealing from the company, I bet you wouldn’t hesitate to report him, right? Since stealing is so obviously wrong, you wouldn’t feel like a snitch for turning him in. Well here’s the thing…he is stealing from the company. He isn’t taking cash from the office safe or running off with a company car, but he is stealing just the same. That’s what lost productivity is – company theft. Your boss isn’t paying either one of you to chitchat about relationships, cars and movies. Your boss is paying you to work. Obviously, a little conversation here and there isn’t a crime and it helps make the work place friendlier. Talking non-stop for eight hours isn’t just a little conversation…it’s a big problem. I would politely and firmly tell your co-worker that you really need to focus on your work and that his talking is causing you to make mistakes and/or fall behind. If he doesn’t respond to this last warning, you have no other choice than to tell your boss.