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Working Well With Others Put to the Test

By RB_ITProfessional ·
Ok, so we've all uttered the same words in a job interview "..and I work well with others". It's just one of the many skills that employers are looking for these days. My question that I pose to the group is how do you react when actually posed with a situation that will challenge that statement?

I've always gotten along well with others and pride myself on my negotiation and conflict resolution skills. I am however faced with somewhat of an odd situation with one of my coworkers. The problem is quite simply the fact that he never shuts up. He takes it upon himself to interrupt myself and others from their work whenever he desires, and attempts to carry on a 30 minute conversation. His conversations are never about work, they always manage to revolve around him bragging about something or complaining about something. It's gotten to the point that others flat out ignore him now. The problem is that of course he's compensated for everyone ignoring him by simply talking more. I've taken it upon myself to take him aside and explain to him that we are at work to well "work" and that his tendency to carry on nonstop about himself is distracting. I've even flat out asked him on a couple of occassions to "please stop talking". After our talk, he got better for a couple of days, and then started all over again. He now goes so far as to interrupt me even if I have my headhphones on listening to the radio and clearly appear to be busy.

I've considered going to our manager about it, but I know that he will question my ability to "work it out" amongst ourselves. What else can I try to get this guy to stop his talking? Are there any other things I can do or say to help this situation? It's honestly affecting the teams ability to get work done. In addition, his nonstop talking make casual chat amongst the team "avoided at all costs" for fear of getting this guy started.

Any advice would be appreciated.

Thanks!
RB

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Its all in the approach

by JamesRL In reply to Working Well With Others ...

I would take it to your manager, but approach it not as a complaint. Tell your manager you are struggling with this issue and you would like their perspecive and advice on how to deal with it.


But as for suggestions....you have to try to get this person to see it from your perspective. I would take them to lunch or coffee break - away from the hustle and bustle. And then explain to them about the challenges you face in getting your workload, and be quite clear that you need an atmosphere thats clear of distrations. Don't make it sound like he is the only one, but ask for his help in clearing out the distractions and keeping the focus on the work - enlist him in the cause.

This is of course, more difficult than it sounds.

James

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Dishonest Request

by Bucky Kaufman (MCSD) In reply to Its all in the approach

re:
I would take it to your manager, but approach it not as a complaint. Tell your manager you are struggling with this issue and you would like their perspecive and advice on how to deal with it.
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I think it's wrong to couch a complaint as a question. God knows, your manager will probably see it as a complaint anyway - might as well be up-front about it. It's easier for a manager to manage if he doesn't have to cut through insecurities.

If the guy's annoying - better to confront him, and not the boss, anyway. If he's annoying you too much, raise your voice and say "I'm busy, leave me alone" a couple of times.

Then he'll go to somebody else's office and tell them what a jerk you are - but he'll be out of your office.

Maybe send him to the boss with a "You should tell the boss that - he loves that kind of stuff".

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Assumptions

by JamesRL In reply to Dishonest Request

Perhaps I should clarify. I am a manager, and I don't want whiners. But if I get a request for coaching thats a different thing altogether. The manager might have a different perspective and be able to provide some insight.

I am suggesting the original poster not think of it as a complaint either. Its easy to complain - its much harder to do something about it. By asking for coaching, its asking for help but not passing the buck up to the manager, which in my view is the right approach.

Its obvious to me that the original poster has tried on several occasions to confront the problem directly with the person involved, and been less than successful. And it sounds like others in the office have also tried. At some point if you aren't getting results, you have to change the method.

James

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Fatherhood

by Bucky Kaufman (MCSD) In reply to Assumptions

re:
I am suggesting the original poster not think of it as a complaint either. Its easy to complain - its much harder to do something about it. By asking for coaching, its asking for help but not passing the buck up to the manager, which in my view is the right approach.
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That's a tough judgement call. If everyone else is already aware of the problem - it's likely the manager is, too. So alerting him to it isn't really alerting him to it.

On those rare occasions when I find myself leading a team of gr'ups - basic interpersonal relationship skills are assumed.

It's tough enough to get everybody the technical and other business resources they need, to manage attendance, to juggle schedules and all that other bidness stuff. But if personal problems that have nothing to do with bidness crop up it's usually good to end them - resolution or no.

Not working well with others is a disqualifier for working within a team - that's why corporations ask that question. It doesn't mean you're a bad techie - it just means you should concentrate on work that does not require this particular trait.

It's worth pointing out that in large corporations in Dallas and NJ, I've found that the interpersonal stuff eclipses and jeapordizes a staggering spectrum of bidness needs. They spend so much time dealing with "office politics" they forget why they have an office in the first place.

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Understand the cause before acting

by Chris Elmes In reply to Working Well With Others ...

It is important to try & understand why this guy keeps talking the way he does. After all, maybe he feels excluded and talks out because of that, in which case ignoring him will surely be counter-productive, or maybe he hasn't got enough work to do. If he is part of your team it is important not only that he feels a valued part of it but that he also understands his role in making the team successful (which includes knowing when to be quiet!) Let him know again, as gently as possible, that whilst people are happy to have the odd non-work conversation & chat this has to be balanced with the need to get the job done in the required timescales. See if he can be given some tasks that are time-constrained with some fairly challenging deadlines - I don't know many people who can spend time in idle discussion when they are up against it!

If he doesn't respond positively to this, you can then take things to your manager as you have tried to identify and address the root causes of this "problem" in a constructive way in which case he is unlikely to be able to bat the issue back to you

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Added Dimension...

by RB_ITProfessional In reply to Understand the cause befo ...

Hi thanks so much for the responses. I've gotten some great ideas from the responses thus far. I have to be real careful how I approach this because I should note that the guy has a tendency to take things personally. For instance, the time I asked him to be quiet, he stopped talking alright, but he pouted the remainder of the day! I really like the idea of getting him to see things from his coworker's perspective without making him feel part of the problem. I'll try that approach next and see where I get. Thanks!!!

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Maybe he's uncomfortable with quiet or silence?

by mlandis In reply to Understand the cause befo ...

I agree with Chris that there is an underlying cause for this. Unfortunately, you and your co-workers have other work to do, and can't focus on getting this person to stop this behavior. You are not his therapeutic team!

Some people are not comfortable with silence and see every quiet space as a place that must be filled with noise - their noise.Have you ever noticed whether he talks to himself when alone?

Until you sort this all out, would giving him some calming music cds to listen to over his own headset occupy him enough to give the rest of you the break you need from his idle chatter?

Would you all be willing to wear headphones so you could work in peace? Assign one person to telephone duty on 2 hour rotation so the users and management are attended? What if you made that this guy's main function? Do you trust him enough to convey messages - or would he cause more problems in this function.

(DUUUUUUUUUDE! What is his fuctionality??)

I have always found it best to approach higher level management with some solutions in hand. Even if the solutions you present are not workable for the immediate problem, managagement will appreciate that you have thought the problem out and want to resolve it with their help, as opposed to DUMPING a problem on their lap.

If you were to explain that the individual is causing disruption and costing many man-hours of productivity, (give a money figure - 5 people at $X per hour = $Y cost to the company times how many hours, weeks months...) you will be heeded.

Good Luck, and let us know.

Maureen

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I don't like you.

by Bucky Kaufman (MCSD) In reply to Working Well With Others ...

I had one of those guys as a shipmate in the Navy. He had an on switch, but not an off... and short of a felony - there was no firing him.

He shut up once when I cut him off a couple of times saying, "I don't like you". He got hurt, and took his complaint to the Chief. The chief told him nobody liked him.

Once he knew his boundaries, he was a favorite of the division. He was a darn nice guy - but he just didn't know his boundaries.

Some people need to be hit over the head.

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Interesting apprach

by RB_ITProfessional In reply to I don't like you.

Well that's certainly a different approach! :-)
I'm really at my wits end with this guy. The whole team has already taken to the approach of wearing headphones throughout the day to detract from his interruptions. That has not worked, because he simply reverts to knocking on the cube wall to get our attentions. I'm telling you, this guy doesn't get a clue. Even when we're upfront with him.

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Honesty is Best

by Bucky Kaufman (MCSD) In reply to Interesting apprach

re:
That has not worked, because he simply reverts to knocking on the cube wall to get our attentions. I'm telling you, this guy doesn't get a clue.
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That's why, instead of dropping clues (like wearing headphones) ya just gotta be up-front with him. Call it "brutally honest".

Antag - "Hey, RB_ - did you hear about...."
Protag - "Don't bother me"
Antag - "I just wanted to say"
Protag - "Don't say it - just leave"
Antag - "But I..."
Protag - "Go".
Antag - "That's not very..."
Protag - "I don't like you. Go away".

Here in Dallas it's downright WEIRD the way office workers are aghast at the idea of honestly expressing negative opinion. That seems to be a luxury reserved for upper-middle managers, but nothing below.

But if that's the culture of the company - and it is antagonistic toward your own values - the problem is not with the company. You're in the wrong job.

MANY people in office work, find it more important to make friends at work than to actually do the work. MANY organizations cater to that belief... but not any organization I'd want to work for.

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