Talking At Work

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about an order not to talk while working:

I work for a supermarket in Australia stocking shelves. The other day my manager tells my co-workers and me that we are no longer allowed to talk to each other while we work. As long as talking is not affecting productivity, is talking legally allowed? Usually we don’t even look at each other while we talk.

Signed, Mummed

Dear Mummed:

As our disclaimer states, we do not answer legal questions. You can check with your Australian Department of Labor to learn if employee talk is legal. However, I don’t expect that there is a law saying you can’t talk while you work, and most likely the underlying issue is not a legal one. Rather your question suggests that the working relationship you have with your manager is not the most positive.¬† Apparently your manager does not trust those of you who do the stocking. Probably the manager thinks your coworkers and you are not seriously applying yourselves to the job. Or might your manager feel the pressure to get more out of you and/or might he fear that if his superior sees those of you under his charge are talking too much, he might be judged as not doing his/her job?

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