Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Vivamus convallis sem tellus, vitae egestas felis vestibule ut.

Error message details.

Reuse Permissions

Request permission to republish or redistribute SHRM content and materials.

Ask HR: How to Quiet a Chatty Co-Worker

​Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP

SHRM President and Chief Executive Officer Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP, is answering HR questions as part of a series for USA Today.

Do you have an HR or work-related question you'd like him to answer? Submit it here. 

A co-worker, who I generally like, would stop at my desk once daily to chat for a few minutes. Recently, they have been dropping by more frequently and it is beginning to disrupt my work. How can I let them know that we need to put a limit to our chatting? —Serena

Johnny C. Taylor, Jr.: I think we've all been in your shoes. It can be a good thing to take a break and catch up with a co-worker, but if not held in check, those conversations can become disruptive and even stressful. In this case, there can be too much of a good thing. I know it can feel awkward or rude to address it, especially at first, but set the boundaries now. Your time is valuable, and you are the only one who can protect it.

You can start by politely telling them, "I'd love to hear more about this, but I need to get back to work." Sometimes co-workers may not be managing their time the same way you do, or they may not be aware you're on a tight schedule. So, a reminder can bring awareness to the situation.

Nonverbal signals can help get your point across, too. Let your body language show you are focused on your work, minimize your eye contact, and say something like, "I'm on a deadline, so can we catch up later?"

You can also emphasize your priorities and needs. When others hear "I" in a statement, it can help demonstrate that your needs are a priority right now. Again, your co-worker may not know what you have going on. Reset their expectations by saying, "I know in the past I've had more time to chat, but with my new responsibilities, I need to focus."

At this point, if they keep coming back, maybe there is something they need from you. Put yourself in their shoes. What are they coming to you for? Might their camaraderie with you be how they manage their workplace stress? Perhaps let them know you can chat, but only for a specific time frame. You might say, "I only have 5 minutes to chat right now" or "I'm feeling overwhelmed right now and can't focus on our conversation. Can we schedule a time to connect next week?"

Finally, if they still seem to not be getting the message, ask for help. Reach out to your supervisor and bring them up to speed on the situation. Sometimes it takes a third party to get the message across.

Setting boundaries is hard, but it can be done. Take little steps to protect your time and you'll see your confidence build. It takes practice, so start small and you'll soon see others value your time as much as you do.

We have been trying to hire someone for a specialized position at my company for weeks. Though many of the candidates we have seen have great experience and acumen, none have experience in the specific work the position requires. What should I consider when hiring someone for work they haven't done directly? —Raul

Johnny C. Taylor, Jr.: In this market, many employers share your struggle to find talent. Organizations are having to adjust job duties, combine roles and reconsider qualifications, such as education and experience. 

This might be a good time to look at the existing talent in your organization. Consider current employees in good standing who may be interested in the role and who have already proved their value to your organization.

Whether you are evaluating an internal or external candidate, look for similar or related work experience in their background that might align well with the position you're hiring for. Rather than looking just at hard-to-find experience, evaluate what job competencies it takes to perform in this specialized role.

During your interviews, present real-world scenarios to highlight a candidate's approach to problem-solving and their perspective. Skills are often teachable, but attitude, character and preferences are more permanent facets. So, look for someone who matches your organization's culture. Certainly, they should have a base level of competency to build upon, but I see positive attitude and strong character as non-negotiable requirements.  

Pair the new hire with a colleague or mentor so the new employee learns the ropes and receives adequate training and support. You could even pair the employee with an expert outside the organization to better learn the role. Consider an in-depth training plan with direct hands-on training, external courses, and certifications or credentials relevant to the role.

Hiring a candidate who's hungry for the role and eager to learn may be the best hire you make. Your investment in their career path is not likely to be forgotten.


​An organization run by AI is not a futuristic concept. Such technology is already a part of many workplaces and will continue to shape the labor market and HR. Here's how employers and employees can successfully manage generative AI and other AI-powered systems.