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November 26, 2013

WorkWise: Excessive talk? Knock it off!

Blame baby boomers for expressing themselves. They spend forever talking to make people feel good and understand the complex world around them.

Blame baby boomers for expressing themselves. They spend forever talking to make people feel good and understand the complex world around them. The consequences are real. For example, Laura Stack, in “What To Do When There’s Too Much to Do: Reduce Tasks, Increase Results and Save 90 Minutes a Day,” writes that “gossiping and complaining ... waste time (and damage) corporate culture” (Berrett-Koehler, $15.95).


Be ready to respond to substandard interactions like these when they materialize, recommends Lorin Beller, owner of Lorin Beller & Co. in San Diego, Calif. Watch out also for being “TOOO NICE – listening and appeasing, choosing not to get your work done,” she says. Forget etiquette, which overlooks the psychology underlying a damaging and inappropriate habit. The resulting resentment, procrastination and frustration also complicate workplace dynamics, Beller mentions.

“When you’re (overly) agreeable and pleasing and allow others to step on your values,” she observes, your pleasantness puts you in uncomfortable situations. While comfort isn’t everything, getting the work done is essential. Excessive nice-ness wastes an inordinate amount of time, throws you off-balance and places you in a no-win situation.

“Being NICE almost has a lie in it,” Beller comments, “because you’re not explaining that your boundaries are being pushed (and, presumably, not recognizing that you’re the one pushing them). You can’t blame the other person, because you’re not taking responsibility for your own values. Take care of yourself first and the needs of the other person will be taken care of. Speak your needs kindly.” Don’t just think them!

“Draw the line,” she adds, “by saying, ‘I’d love to speak with you and have a conversation about X. And I need to go get my work done.’”


If “nice” isn’t your specific problem, you still may need to recover precious time when acquaintances come to your door, indicates Angelo Knicki, a professor of management in the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University in Tempe, Ariz. “I tend to politely say, ‘Hi. How can I help or be of service?’” Knicki states. “I don’t want to put people on guard; I just want them to state their business and get on with it.” He also advocates closing the door occasionally when you need help focusing on a task.

Sometimes the company provides a vehicle – one-on-one talks – to minimize unnecessary conversations. Nomi Doherty, account manager at ePromos Promotional Products Inc. in New York, N.Y., found herself in this position. She assessed it while taking a “wait-and-see” attitude. Would the company support it? Would it be beneficial?

The weekly one-on-one conversations with managers were slated to save time from unnecessary telephone calls and emails. “This dedicated time, not being interrupted, removed all barriers and (helped us come) to solutions,” she reports. “She started noticing that her call came each week. (She works virtually.) She had to retrain herself not to email or call unnecessarily and to prepare for it to gain the most from her “me-time.” Doherty has learned to prioritize problems and collaborate with her manager to fix them.

Her sales group huddles every morning for 15 minutes. She concedes that huddling then “makes sure everyone’s at work on time” but adds that everyone brainstorms and saves time. Sharing ideas about meeting their greatest customer needs also motivates them to focus on their work and objectives for the day.

Recover some of your life. Take the initiative to end excessive talk and maximize opportunities your company presents to you. Get YOUR time back.

Dr. Mildred L. Culp of WorkWise® welcomes your questions at

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