How to make a chatty colleague stop nagging you

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Workplace where messaging apps like Slack, Google Chat or Microsoft Teams have become the normal way to do work, and the place where colleagues communicate, creating boundaries, can feel like a big feat. It can be especially problematic when one of your colleagues is Chatty Cathy.

We have heard from readers like you how the boundaries between work and home have blurred. people work more flexible working hours, sometimes at different times than their counterparts and use messaging platforms sometimes around the clock. So what do you do when Bob of Accounting doesn’t stop texting you? And how can you gracefully end his desire to communicate with you at any time if you always seem connected?

“It’s about recreating boundaries,” said Jeffrey Seglin, director of communications at Harvard Kennedy School. “Now that we return to the sense of the new normal, we need to figure out how to use it [digital] tools and what is acceptable. ”

Before we move on to the topic, I want to remind you that the Help Desk is here for you. We want to help you navigate the technologies and the problems they can create in your workplace. We also want to hear your stories. What is your biggest disappointment in the office? How is your work developing? Write to us and we will do our best to answer your questions or answer your concerns.

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Now back to Gabi ol ‘Bob from accounting. We spoke with three business and communications experts to help us navigate the etiquette of messages in the workplace. Let’s jump.

Q: How do I get a chatty colleague to stop texting me?

The answer to this question may seem simple. Can’t you just tell your colleague to leave you alone? While, yes, this is always an option, there are a few things workers may want to consider before moving directly to persecution.

First, what is the culture and expectations of the workplace? Is this an organizational norm or a problem or is it just one person? Second, keep in mind that the way people are used to communicating in the workplace may have changed in the last two years due to the pandemic. This may be the way workers get to know each other, because some workers are remote and others are in the office. And third, your social capital may be different if you have been separated from your colleagues, seen less often, or never met in person. So you may need to adjust the way you convey a message that can be perceived as confrontational, especially if it is a digital platform where voice tone and body language are lost.

Managers are a great place to start when it comes to setting social norms in the workplace. And now may be a good time to take stock of the way the team has worked over the past two years and reset some boundaries, experts say.

“Look in the mirror and see what kind of culture you’re creating involuntarily,” said Dustin York, an associate professor of communications and leadership at the University of Maryville. “Even if you are a night owl, you can plan messages [instead of sending them.]”

How to find out if you are talkative

If you pay enough attention, you may find that you could be a talkative colleague. There are easy ways to tell on digital platforms, says York from the University of Maryville.

  • In messaging applications: See response rate. If you send six messages and receive one short reply, you may need to opt out.
  • On video applications: Look for nonverbal cues. If colleagues are focused on another task or show no signs of listening, you may need to finish.

Email providers, including Microsoft Outlook and Google Gmail, as well as messaging apps like Slack, allow users to schedule a message to be sent at some point in the future.

Companies rewrite the future of work (again)

You may also want to create special spaces for organizational socialization. Employees or managers may want to start separate subgroups on their messaging platforms – in Slack you would launch a new channel, for example – for people who want to chat more casually or on specific topics like what they watch on Netflix, York said. . This gives workers the opportunity to decide whether they want to participate in additional discussions or simply stick to work-related chatter.

“Violent joy should not be expected,” says Seglin.

Creating community and safety at work

As an employee, if the problem is organizational, you may want to take the approach of raising it as a matter of request against your manager or team. Shaping it as a matter of consideration and improving the well-being and productivity of workers may make it less confrontational, says Heidi Brooks, a senior lecturer in organizational behavior at Yale University School of Management. “Start by creating conditions for curiosity and cooperation,” she said. “You can say, ‘I notice we’re chatting around the clock and I think the team is running out. Can we talk about that? “

When a group works together, they can come up with boundaries that suit everyone and allow everyone to feel part of the process. The idea is to make the conversation feel like a shared challenge and a shared solution. The same approach can be applied if you are dealing with a specific chatty colleague, Brooks said.

But if that doesn’t work, Brooks said treat it as a work conflict. Be more direct with the problem by saying something like, “I feel the tension of this constant communication.”

Seglin said the pandemic has forced everyone to be a little more aware of the mental health and well-being of others. So, if this is a recurring problem with one particular colleague, sometimes vulnerable honesty is the best label.

“You can say, ‘I like that you include me, I just don’t want to communicate,'” he said.

And if all else fails, you can turn to the technology itself, York said.

You can change your notification settings so that you are only alerted by certain messages or at certain times. In some applications, you can change your status to make it inaccessible. You can switch your phone settings not to interfere within certain hours. Some apps allow you to send autoresponders, like out-of-office email, within the app, while others can be paired with third-party autoresponder apps.

Or you can just change your behavior to set new expectations, York said.

“It can be as simple as sending messages in the morning,” he said. “In a week or two, Chatty Cathy will understand the hint.”

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