Talking and socializing in the workplace is among the leading productivity offenders. When that quick chat with a coworker turns into a lengthy conversation, it’s the manager’s job to step in. While a healthy dose of socialization supports teamwork and group cohesiveness, too much chatting can be a problem if it leads to inefficiency and missed deadlines. Therefore, it is up to the manager to keep the office chatting to a healthy minimum. How can managers do this without coming across as micromanagers or “Negative Nancy’s”? Here are some great strategies for managing a chatty team.
Identify Clear Expectations and Set Clear Deadlines
Office chatting is only a problem if work isn’t getting done. Therefore, mangers should try and refrain from micromanaging and focus on whether or not the work is getting done. By setting clear expectations and deadlines, your employees know exactly what is expected of them and when. Competitive employees thrive with deadlines and will use them to remain focused. For those employees who are overly social, a quick email or brief reminder about upcoming deadlines will get them back on track.
Focus on Problem Behavior Individually
It might be that there is that one person on your team that just can’t seem to close their mouth. In this case, it’s important to be honest and handle the situation in a timely manner. Waiting until the deadline is missed won’t do you any good, so take swift action and do it individually. Never reprimand someone in front of others, but rather take them into your office and politely ask them to keep the chatting to a minimum so they aren’t distracting themselves or others.
Designate Specific Times for Socializing
If the entire team is socializing too much, it might be that they are in need of taking a little break or blowing off a little steam during stressful times. In this case, it is helpful to implement two 10-15 minute breaks during the day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. During these times employees can get together to share ideas and collaborate or discuss issues they might be having. It provides a much needed reprieve while also facilitating productivity.
Provide Tools to Minimize Chatting
Sometimes socializing can be curbed when employees have the right tools and equipment. For example, headphones are a great way to keep employees focused on the task at hand without being tempted to engage in outside conversations. Likewise, encouraging employees to shut their doors (if they have one) or placing a red flag indicating “do not disturb” on their cubicles can also help people concentrate.
Make Use of Your Extroverts
If you have a few extroverts on your team, channel that need to communicate into something that is beneficial for the team. For example, you might select that person to lead team meetings or discussions. They might be a good candidate for presenting information to the group or attending cross-departmental meetings. Consider ways that you can use their talkative personalities to the team’s advantage.
Move the Employee to a Different Area
In extreme cases where an employee is overly chatty and distracting others, it might be necessary to move them to a different area in the workplace. Explain to them that their excessive talking has led to decreased productivity and they need to be away from others to avoid further distractions. If this does not resolve the problem, further disciplinary action might be needed.
Overly talkative employees might mean well, but their constant chatting can be a disruption in the workplace and cause others to lose focus. Managing your team effectively includes dealing with chatty individuals.