Socializing at work helps build relationships and leads to higher job satisfaction. But what do you do when an overly chatty employee keeps coworkers from being productive?

With an increase in open work environments, there are now fewer barriers between coworkers in today’s work spaces than those of just 10 years ago. Although these workplaces may be great for collaboration, they also have their negative downsides that often point to distractions. According to Mark Gorkin of Columbia, Md., here are several suggestions to help combat a productivity-killing chatterbox at work:

1. Find time to have a one-on-one conversation about the problem with the talkative employee in a non-threatening way. (A group discussion may miss the target if the employee has no idea they’re creating any negative effects.)

  • Start by creating a safe environment and sharing all of the positive attributes and contributions the employee has, including their ability to talk with anyone.
  • Then explain the problem and use examples (in a non-accusatory way) and invite them to talk with you about the concerns of their chattiness.
  • Be kind but candid; you need to deliver the message clearly and directly, with specific details about the outcome you want to achieve.

2. Try to identify the root cause behind the excessive chatter. Is the employee stressed? Do they show signs of anxiety? Are they bored and need more work to do? Any of these can cause a person to become more talkative.

3. Talk to employees that have complained or been within earshot of the chatty employee to help discover other areas of concern. You may discover that the talkative employee is doing more than killing productivity if they’re sharing destructive gossip that is hurting morale. If this is the case, employees may need coaching on how to say “no” to an inappropriate conversation and how to stand up for themselves in an appropriate, assertive way. You may also need to incorporate corrective action in your one-on-one meeting with the chatty employee.

If your workplace has available space, you may want to offer private work spaces for employees to temporarily work when needing to focus on a project or simply want to be distraction-free. Another option for employees to be away from workplace distractions is to offer telecommuting, at least on a part-time basis.

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Chatty Employee - what to do

If your workplace has an overly talkative employee, here are steps to address the problem.
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Cariann Lieske, SHRM-CP

Author Cariann Lieske, SHRM-CP

While Cariann used to run an office, she is now focusing her career on Human Resources. When she’s not helping others resolve their employment issues, Cariann can be found wedging her way through an obstacle race or chauffeuring her husband for another 50-miler.

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