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How to Handle a Colleague Who Kills Your Productivity

By Maurie Backman – May 12, 2019 at 11:02AM

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You need your time at the office to actually work. Here's what to do when a colleague won't let that happen.

You want your time at the office to be spent productively. Otherwise, you'll get stuck working late, logging on during weekends, and scrambling to meet deadlines. But what if your colleagues are to blame for your limited output? If that's the case, here's how to cope -- depending on the problem at hand.

1. The colleague who always wants to chat

Among the many distractions you're apt to face at the office, a chatty coworker could be among the most detrimental. The tough thing about shutting down a talkative officemate is that chances are, that person is well-intentioned and isn't trying to trip you up, but rather, enjoys your company and has a hard time staying quiet. If that's the case, you'll need to handle things delicately.

Woman plugging ears with fingers in front of table of men in suits

IMAGE SOURCE: GETTY IMAGES.

A good initial approach is to distance yourself from that chatty colleague as much as you can. Set up shop in company conference rooms when they're not in use, or ask to work from home during periods when deadlines loom and you can't afford to be thrown off-course. If none of these tactics work, invest in a pair of noise-canceling headphones, and slap them on when you really can't be disturbed. That should send the message that you're not available to converse.

If it doesn't, be honest. Explain that while you'd like to chat, you're really pressed for time. To soften the blow, offer to grab lunch with your colleague when things calm down.

2. The colleague who always needs help

You'd want your coworkers to step in and help you when you're struggling, so it's natural to want to help a colleague who's having a hard time keeping up. But if you have a single coworker who constantly asks for your help, it could create a scenario where you're falling behind on your own work.

To avoid having that happen, carve out some time in your schedule to assist your coworker, and tell your colleague you've set aside specific hours to help out. This way, he or she will hopefully get the message not to take up more of your time than that.

3. The colleague who can't handle stress, and lets it show

Some people handle workplace stress better than others. If you have a colleague who constantly feels the need to unload, all of that complaining could easily eat into your own work time.

A better solution? Invite that colleague out for a drink after work once in a while so you can chat after your work is complete. But make it clear that while you really do want to be supportive, you're spending so much time playing therapist that you can't get your own work done. You might also suggest some stress-relief techniques that have worked for you in the past, whether it's exercise, meditation, or even certain changes in diet.

The less productive you are at work, the less likely you'll be to wow your manager and pave the path to a promotion. If you have a colleague who's destroying your productivity, don't let it continue. Instead, take steps to reclaim your time, even if it means potentially having a few uncomfortable conversations along the way.

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