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Small Office Conversationalist... Advice Needed

We are a small office, which feels more like a family most of the time. One of our valued employees is unable to discern when she is providing too much information, or completely irrelevant information, during a conversation. Often a quick, legitimate question, can lead to 10+ minutes of "chat".

How have you been successful in dealing with this situation? What tactics have worked, without making the staff member feel invaluable (or like she has to walk on eggshells), and without seeming insensitive. She's great, we love her, but we have to find a gentle way to limit the extraneous conversations during work hours.

Answers

Topic Expert
Wayne Spivak
Title: President & CFO
Company: SBAConsulting.com
LinkedIn Profile
(President & CFO, SBAConsulting.com) |

Why not get your answer and say "thanks, but I have a slew of things to get accomplished, let's talk later"... and find the time later to chat. This way you keep the family feel alive and not bruise ego's...

Len Green
Title: Performance Improvement Consultant and E..
Company: Haygarth Consulting LLC
LinkedIn Profile
(Performance Improvement Consultant and ERP Strategist, Haygarth Consulting LLC) |

I find that if I stand up when they walk in, it sends a signal that I'm about to go somewhere, so it often triggers a question where I can then say:
-I can give you 1-2 minutes now, then I must leave, or
-walk with me and tell me what you want me to know (get creative on where you are going to walk:)

There is also coaching and mentoring: e.g.
-I know you like to do a good job, here's a few tips when you engage someone: 1. are you ready to net it out to them? 2- do they look busy, maybe ask if they can spare you time now or later...

Steve Sheridan
Title: Associate
Company: Dean Lewis Associates
(Associate, Dean Lewis Associates) |

The first two answers given here would be my first two answers also. If I had to think of a 3rd way, it would be to say something like this:
"You ask great questions. If you could do me a favor... please email them to me so I can give them my complete attention and document the answers for future reference"

EMERSON GALFO
Title: CFO
Company: C-Suite Services
LinkedIn Profile
(CFO, C-Suite Services) |

Short of just talking to him/her (which is my preferred method). talk to a closer "office friend" of the employee and tell the employee to intercede or tell the "chatty" employee the truth.

OPEN communication is part of a good office culture, even if it is the inconvenient truth. Do NOT be afraid of "hurting" her/his feelings. That is what being ADULTS is all about. You or the office friend can do this and at the same time being "tactful".

I am reminded of an instance when an employee who was a hard worker had body odor. Needless to say, I sat him down.

Anonymous
(Accountant) |

Email usually proves itself to be quite a solution - but I think it is more respectful to the person, to share with them the problem they are creating. If it is done tactfully and respectfully, she'll leave having more respect for you, as well.

Len Green
Title: Performance Improvement Consultant and E..
Company: Haygarth Consulting LLC
LinkedIn Profile
(Performance Improvement Consultant and ERP Strategist, Haygarth Consulting LLC) |

My concern with email is that when you write it:
- you cannot see the reaction of the reader
-you cannot use a soft tone and the right body language to introduce the topic
-you cannot change what you were going to say mid sentence, based on what reaction you see from the other person.

Verizon once did an ad about a couple breaking up via text message- sitting at a booth in a diner. Not a best practice, IMHO. :)

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