My coworker never shuts up

1487
 
Dear Joan: 
My question is what to do about a co-worker who constantly is talking, interrupts conversations, and interjects herself into any conversation, even when nobody is talking to her, or looking her way. 
 
She will walk up to my desk, and will start talking with no regard to the fact that I may be on the phone, or speaking to another person.  When she is working at the front desk, checking out patients, she will ramble on and on about her personal life, medical issues, or her past experiences regarding completely irrelevant issues. 
 
After she makes phone calls, she will turn around and say, “Did you get that?”  She talks over the top of people during conversations, and has been told repeatedly “We were talking, can this wait?”  At which point she will just continue on, and on, and on.  Some of her co-workers try to just ignore her, and go about their work, but she will still push her way into their personal space, or get mad and make statements like, “Well I can see that nobody likes me!”
 
Patients and parents will avoid going to her check out window, just so that they do not have to deal with her. 
 
She can be rude, loud, condescending, and just unbearable to have to deal with.   Any time that I try to talk to her and make any suggestions towards her work, she turns it into an argument, and always has to have the last word. 
 
Whenever co-workers are trying to plan any after work, get-together, they will try to keep quiet about it around her, as they don’t want to include her.
 
She has been spoken to on numerous occasions by our boss, to no avail.  Being written up doesn’t even phase her. 
 
Answer:
I always scratch my head when I hear cases like this. If she is rude, loud and condescending to co-workers and customers, why on earth is she still there? If she is outrageously disruptive, and interrupting the productivity of others, why is she still there? If she has been written up on numerous occasions, why is she still there?
 
The only answer could be her boss doesn’t think she has the grounds to terminate her. She may think she has to find a “work problem,” such as a quality or quantity issue. Wrong. Even if she is in a “protected class” of workers, her boss probably has enough evidence of her disruptive and insubordinate behavior to fire her.
 
The first step for your manager is to call her in and reiterate the expectations: do her own work without bothering others, limit conversations with patients and parents to work-related, appropriate topics, and the need for being respectful to co-workers, for instance.
 
Her manager needs to summarize, in writing, all of the expectations (and reference all prior conversations—resulting in no improvements). She should then close by saying, “I feel it is only fair to tell you what could result, if you fail to meet these expectations. You could lose your job. I hope you won’t force me to take that action and I hope you will turn this behavior around.”
 
With this two-by-four, she should get a clear message about what she needs to do. In addition, because she was clearly warned, she can’t some back with a lawyer and say it was a surprise.
 
If she is unable to make this adjustment, she probably needs the help of a professional. If your organization has an EAP (Employee Assistance Program), your manager may wish to pursue this option. However, there is no guarantee that this employee will keep her job if she agrees to seek counseling. She has to demonstrate significant improvement, or she should be exited.
 
It’s sad to see her complete lack of awareness about how her desperate behavior is driving people away from her. However, it is her problem and not one that must be endured by her co-workers.


Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 354-9500, mailto:info@joanlloyd.com, or www.JoanLloyd.com 
 
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