Ask LH: How Can I Stop Pointless Chit Chat In My Workplace?

Dear Lifehacker, I work in an open plan office doing marketing. I love my job, but I get interrupted a lot and it’s usually just mindless chit-chat. I don’t take well to interruptions and have snapped a number of times. (Our CEO doesn’t believe in working from home so I’m basically stuck.) Are there any coping strategies you can suggest? Thanks, April

Image: BBC

Dear April,

There’s no excuse for rudeness in the workplace. Sure, chatter-box colleagues can be annoying but acting snappy is not the solution. While this may eliminate casual chit-chat, it will also make you the office jerk who everyone secretly bad-mouths.

Even if you don’t care about being liked, having a reputation for being “difficult” can have an adverse affect on your career. Managers generally don’t promote people who are openly hostile to the rest of the team. So stop snapping!

With that said, we do sympathise with your plight. Open plan offices are great in some respects, but they do encourage people to wander around and socialise during downtime, which obviously isn’t ideal when you have a personal deadline. Indeed, a recent study found that private workspaces tend to yield higher productivity out of employees than open layouts.

So what can you do about it? One possible solution is to don a large pair of headphones. When your eardrums are visibly occupied, people are a lot less inclined to try and get your attention unless it’s for something important. This should help to cut down on the casual conversations that keep distracting you from your work.

In addition to acting as a conversational barrier, your headphones will also blot out the chattering of nearby colleagues. If you don’t like listening to music while working, try white noise, ambient sounds or use noise-cancelling headphones and keep them muted.

Otherwise, the best approach is to (politely) explain you are very busy and will catch up with them later. Most people will take the hint and happily leave you alone for the rest of the day.

If any readers have suggestions of their own, let April know in the comments!


Have a question you want to put to Ask Lifehacker? Send it using our [contact text=”contact form”].

The Cheapest NBN 50 Plans

Here are the cheapest plans available for Australia’s most popular NBN speed tier.

At Lifehacker, we independently select and write about stuff we love and think you'll like too. We have affiliate and advertising partnerships, which means we may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page. BTW – prices are accurate and items in stock at the time of posting.


13 responses to “Ask LH: How Can I Stop Pointless Chit Chat In My Workplace?”