A reader writes:
My boss and I work together in a small office. We get on well and have a great relationship, and she is easily a contender for the best boss I have ever had. The problem is that she is very chatty, usually about mundane personal things but also often about unimportant work-related matters, and I don’t know how to get her to stop talking. I have tried all manner of strategies, including headphones (which we are not supposed to use but I can resort to maybe once a week), saying things like “I need to do some work now,” and explicitly saying “I am wasting time with all these interruptions” and then naming her as one of the people interrupting me when she asks who is causing the breaks in my concentration. I have tried standing up and leaving the office to make teas and coffees, but she will continue the conversation upon my return. I tried going to lunch with her so she could “get it out of her system” but this only encouraged more talk about our lunch plans, and talking on the way back to our desks which did not end when we sat down. Moving desks is not an option. I feel like I am preemptively shooting down all solutions here, but I want you to know I have considered all the options and need a fresh perspective.
I think the problem is that, from her point of view, there is always time to chat as she catches up on a lot of work at home. I have specifically made it so that I am unable to work from home, as I like to keep these my work and personal lives separate or I will end up working all the time. I find I now come into the office earlier and earlier to avoid her, so that I can have an hour’s peace and get some work done.
I am falling behind with my work, and not only that I am now starting to resent her presence in our office. I cheer inwardly when I learn she will not be in that day, and feel irritable and deflated the moment I hear her arriving in the morning. This is not what I want at all – I do respect and like her as a manager and if I could just sort out this one tiny thing, life would be perfect!
You can read my answer to this question over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and often updating/expanding my answers to them).
Also, a note about my articles at Inc.: If you’re outside the U.S. or using an ad blocker, Inc. may ask you to register in order to read more than one article there. That’s because they otherwise aren’t able to earn any revenue from those page views, which they’re of course dependent on in order to continue to exist.