Steps for quieting a chatty coworker

I have been dealing with an over-talkative co-worker for the last eight months (we work in the same office), and suffice it to say that it’s been a challenge working with her. She’s either constantly talking to me or being incredibly disruptive by discussing non-related work with me out of the blue. I’ve tried keeping the peace by not saying anything.


What upset me recently is that my boss (who recently became a manager and has no management experience) basically told me that I have been seriously remiss in not saying something eight months earlier. She went so far as to say that I would have done my other co-workers (those who work around or near her) a great service had I said something earlier.


I’ll concede that I should have probably settled this problem when it first manifested itself, but I don’t believe I am responsible for resolving other people’s problems, if they have an issue with her chatter.


Whose responsibility is it to say something, the boss or the co-workers who are frustrated by her chatting?



It may have done your co-workers a great service but it isn’t your responsibility to speak to a fellow co-worker on their behalf.


If you could go back and relive the last eight months, the ideal situation would be to say something to your chatty co-worker after a few days or weeks of her interruptions. It

would have probably happened in stages.


Stage I: “Gee Cathy, I’m really swamped right now. I’d love to talk but I’ve got so much to do…Why don’t we chat at lunch?”


Stage II: “Cathy I’m really busy right now. I’ve got to get this done.”


Stage III: “Cathy, I can’t really afford to spend time at work talking about non-work stuff. If I do, I fall behind and that causes problems for me. So, if you don’t mind, I’m going to have to stick to business. Sorry. I don’t mean to ignore you but I’ve got a lot to do.”


Stage IV: Ignore her.


Stage V: Talk to your supervisor and ask her to step in.


Would’a, should’a, could’a.  Let’s fast forward to your current situation.


Go to your boss and tell her that you will speak to your co-worker but if that doesn’t fix it, you would like her to step in. Tell your manager that you realize you probably should have said something sooner. Try out the wording in Stage III with your manager and see what she thinks.


In addition, tell your boss that you will be speaking for yourself, not for the rest of your co-workers. If they tell “Cathy” the same thing you do, she may get the hint.


If your co-worker continues her disruptive chatter, suggest to your manager that perhaps your co-worker doesn’t have enough to do and suggest that the supervisor could check her work output more closely. If Chatty Cathy is able to find that much time to talk about irrelevant subjects, she must have plenty of time to fill.


If, indeed, the problem is boredom, sloppy quality or low output, the supervisor can fix the issue quickly. On the other hand, if the person is getting a significant volume of quality work done, and still has this much time to chat, she can assign a challenging project to fill her time. Finally, if none of the above applies, and “Cathy” just can’t shut up, she may need to have her desk moved to the broom closet.


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) 573-1616,, or 
About Joan Lloyd
Joan Lloyd & Associates provide
FREE subscription to receive Joan's article by email

Email Joan to submit your question for consideration for publication, request permission to reprint an article for distribution, or for information about carrying Joan Lloyd's weekly column in your publication, or on your Internet or Intranet site. Visit to search an archive of more than 1700 of Joan's articles.
© Joan Lloyd & Associates, Inc.