Office coach: Employee’s chattiness isn’t trivial
Q. One of my staff members has been disturbing employees in another department. “Hannah” apparently has some friends there, so she often drops by to socialize with them. This not only interrupts their work, but is also very distracting to nearby co-workers.
Although I have not observed this behavior myself, several colleagues have mentioned it to me. While I don’t want to ignore the problem, I obviously can’t tell Hannah to stop being friends with these people. How should I handle this touchy situation?
A. Actually, this situation is not “touchy” at all. It’s really quite straightforward. If you know Hannah is bothering people during the workday, then this is a performance issue you must address. That’s just part of your job as her manager.
While you clearly have no right to prohibit employee friendships, you do have an obligation to keep them from interfering with work. This means that it’s time for a coaching session with chatty Hannah to establish expectations about excessive socializing.
For example: “Hannah, I’ve heard from several people in marketing that you spend a lot of time talking with friends in their department. These lengthy conversations are interfering with both your job and theirs, so from now on, you shouldn’t visit the marketing department unless you have a work-related reason.”
If Hannah asks who complained, indicate that you understand her curiosity, but that information is confidential. During performance discussions, employees often use this question to distract managers from the topic at hand, so don’t allow yourself to get sidetracked.
Finally, after addressing this issue with your own employee, you should ask the other department manager to do the same. After all, Hannah is not talking to herself.
Q. One of my best employees recently handed in her resignation. When I asked why, “Kayla” talked about how tired she always feels at the end of the day. She also mentioned that her husband advised her to consider staying home or working part-time.
I would really hate to lose Kayla, so I offered to hire a junior person to handle some of her responsibilities. She felt this would help and decided not to quit, but I’m afraid she might change her mind. Was I right to persuade Kayla to stay? And what if she still decides to leave?
A. It sounds as though you handled this very well. Instead of trying to convince your star employee that quitting would be a mistake, you inquired about her concerns, then proposed a reasonable solution. If the additional help reduces Kayla’s stress, she may find work more enjoyable and be motivated to continue.
You should check in with Kayla occasionally to see how things are going and nip any problems in the bud. But if she has some unspoken concerns or if her hubby strongly lobbies for a change, then Kayla’s eventual departure may be inevitable. For that reason, you should look for a “junior person” who has the potential to be her backup.
Marie G. McIntyre is a workplace coach and the author of “Secrets to Winning at Office Politics.”