It is 3 p.m. in the afternoon, and you are vigorously working on an excel spreadsheet that has to be done for the boss by quitting time. While you pour over your work and feverishly toil away on the spreadsheet, you pick your head up after hearing a dreaded knock on your door (or the window glass on your cubicle). You look up to see Charlie, the office ‘Chatty Cathy’ lurking on the other side of your door. Unfortunately, there is nowhere to run and nowhere to hide, but you know if you let him in that he’ll spend the better part of the next hour amusing you with delightful stories on what he ate for breakfast and why Pop Tarts should be making a nostalgic comeback sometime soon.
What do you do when you need to play a game of Ding Dong Ditch when the office blabbermouth comes to track you down?
Here are four ideas that I think can you exit stage left . . .
- Pile Up The Books- Normally, you will either have one or two chairs in your office. If you have a cube, it’s likely it is one of those rollout cubes that fits squarely underneath your desk. The absolute key to this little nifty little trick is to pile up a bunch of your file folders or books scattered on the chair so there is nowhere for the office chatter to come and sit. You then politely lift your head from your project and say, "Oh, I would like to stop and chat for a bit but I have all of these projects going on right now. Let me come grab you in five minutes." See, the office Chatty Cathy is just like a gnat. Sometimes you need to just swat them away and then they’ll find somebody else to bother.
- Headphones And Hand Gestures- This method (designed of course by me) is especially effective in a cubicle type environment. Get headphones. In fact, the bigger the better, because sometimes those puny little headphones can’t be seen by Mr. or Mrs. Motor Mouth. Invest in an oversized set of headphones, which clearly creates a boundary line because of course you can’t hear anything except what you are listening to from your computer. If you combine that with a simple Stop In The Name Of Love gesture and just put your hand straight up in the air, you’ll have a good chance of warding the chatterbox away.
- Snap Like A Cobra Once And Tell Them To Shut The *$&% Up- You need to be real careful with this one as you don’t want to get in HR trouble. You have one opportunity to strike and take the motor mouth with one direct blow that will keep them away from your desk or office for many months to come. The direct approach can be simpler and doesn’t always need profanity. You can just say, "Charlie, I have to be honest with you that I just really don’t enjoy any of your stories and please don’t bother me with them anymore." The risk you run with this approach is that the office talker tells other people that you are rude or a problem, and this could hurt you come rating time. That’s why I would rather take one Cobra shot and say, "I just can’t take this $%&* today!!!" That should ward them off for a few weeks if not for a few months.
- Blame It On The Next Meeting Even If You Don’t Have One- Unless you work for a small company (and even if you do), you can always tell the office chatterbox that you would love to hear more about what happened on TMZ last night, but unfortunately you are already late to the next meeting or you have an important phone call. This should do the trick or tell them you have to head to restroom. Either way, you ditch them for the moment and hopefully they will start bothering someone else.
Every office has someone who lives to be around the water cooler and pretty much comes to work to chat. We often wonder how these people keep their jobs, but what’s more important is you develop the handbook so you can focus on the prize, which is getting the job done.