Excessive Talking and Noises

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about coworker talking: She talks non-stop from the moment she walks in the office until her shift is over. She reads every email out loud, reads news articles from the internet out loud, announces every little thing she is doing, gossips about everyone and everything and doesn’t really seem to be able to control herself.

I work near an employee who talks excessively. It’s not just a little problem of too much chattering but I believe it may be a mental illness. She talks non-stop from the moment she walks in the office until her shift is over. She reads every email out loud, reads news articles from the internet out loud, announces every little thing she is doing, gossips about everyone and everything and doesn’t really seem to be able to control herself. I know more details about her family, her dogs, and her friends than I want to know! She often has an overwhelmingly negative and sarcastic attitude, which makes her words even more abrasive and annoying. As if this list isn’t already bad enough, add to it that she frequently bursts out into song randomly throughout the day, whistles out loud, farts or burps and laughs about it, and even uses vulgar language in the workplace.

Management has “talked” to her about it, but seems to now turn a deaf ear on complaints. Considering that 95% of this employee’s day is spent not focusing on working for the company, it makes me upset that I work hard for my paycheck and she collects hers for doing nothing but yakking all day long. Several people have tried to gently and kindly let her know that she needs to control herself, but it only makes her angry and she starts hurling comments like, “I’m not going to let anyone bring me down. You aren’t going to tell me what to do.” We’ve tried giving gentle guidance, walking away, and even interrupting her, but she doesn’t seem to care. Any advice on how we can let her know we think she should see a doctor and try medication?

Signed, Needing Earplugs!

Dear Needing Earplugs!:

This is a classic case of a problem that should have been stopped a long time ago, but everyone just backs down rather than take it on. The treadmill is like this: Coworker complains, supervisor says, “It’s been awhile since anyone complained so I think she’s been doing better. Maybe it’s just her personality.” A coworker complains again and the supervisor finally has to do something. The employee gets angry and acts up in the office but no one confronts her about it and finally, when she doesn’t change, they say, “See, it didn’t help to complain.”

Months go by and someone complains again and the supervisor says, “Gee, it’s been awhile since someone has complained so I think she’s been trying to do better. Maybe it’s just her personality.” And the cycle begins again.You can make a change but it will probably make you a bit uncomfortable while you’re doing it. On the other hand, wouldn’t it be nice to have the problem solved?1. Document in written form some of her behaviors in the last week. Be specific. Include some past behaviors to show what you’re talking about as well. Make the written picture so clear that no one reading it can say they didn’t understand how serious it was. Link each one to work. Mention what you were trying to do when she made noises or how it made you feel when she did other obnoxious behaviors. Show that her behavior has a negative impact on work.

At the end of your letter say that you are asking for assistance to make the workplace a professional place where people are not disrupted and offended by one employee who will not change her behavior. You can say that you are available for further discussion and you are sure others are as well.

Submit that and perhaps follow it with a direct conversation with HR or your supervisor. Be insistent that this isn’t about personality or habits, it’s about bad behavior and performance that is hurting every part of the office and could be hurting the business.Wait a few days an update them with other behaviors. If she is talked to by supervisors and complains to employees, send a note about that as well and say that it is disruptive and uncomfortable and that the rest of you shouldn’t be punished by her for what she has done in the first place.You’ll notice I sound rather harsh about this. That’s because it frustrates me that it has been allowed to go on. Don’t let her continue this behavior. I think each of you should confront her personally, but if you won’t do that, at least talk to your supervisor every single time.Stick with this and keep going to your supervisor and HR.

Essentially, force them to either fix it or tell you that they never intend to fix it. I don’t think they’ll do that. I think they WILL fix it if you and others push about it enough. But you can never give up. Don’t let tiny improvements become enough. She has to behave correctly or it isn’t an improvement. Best wishes to you as you tackle this–and I hope you will, for your sake and the sake of everyone else. Keep at it and don’t give up. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know what happens.

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.