Annie Lane: Out-of-control office chitchat

Published 5:39 pm Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Dear Annie: I’ve been an admin for many years at many different offices, and the admin’s office/desk is usually equivalent to a home’s kitchen -— the gathering spot.

The problem is, I have a LOT of work to do. My focus is broken a million times a day because people just come up to my desk to hang out and talk. How do I get people to stop doing this but still retain our friendly atmosphere?

We really have a nice group of people, but I’m losing my mind. My boss knows, is often in the conversations and considers it part of being on a team. But it happens way more often than he realizes. If each person talks to me for 10, 20, 30 minutes, that’s my whole day. And it’s also exhausting. Thank you.

—Chatty Kathy

Dear Chatty Kathy: It sounds that you’re so full of honey that all the office bees are attracted to you. There’s nothing bad about taking occasional breaks to speak with co-workers. It helps to form bonds with the team and to rest your mind. If it’s distracting your work, though, then it’s time to start setting boundaries.

First, keep working. If someone approaches your desk, apologize and say that you need a bit of time to finish something. Try to keep your eyes on your work, and don’t fully engage. Send a message that you’re focused while also being polite and asking to engage later.

Second, if it’s the location of the chatting that’s hard for you, there are two options to try. While focusing on your work, you could politely ask them to move to another area so you can concentrate. Alternatively, you can try to establish a “no chatting zone” around your desk and identify another spot in the office to hold gab sessions. It is up to you to establish boundaries with your colleagues. So long as you continue to be polite and engage with them, you should be able to manage the sessions away from your area over time.

• • •

Dear Annie: I have been a member of Al-Anon for over 45 years, and I agree with everything you said. I have learned over the years, and am still learning, that not only am I powerless over my spouse’s drinking, but I’m also powerless over other people, places and things. The only thing I am not powerless over is me. And every day, in any situation, I have a choice over how I respond to anything.

— Grateful in Recovery

Dear Grateful: I’m grateful for your letter. I hope that it inspires others who are in similar situations to see help.

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Dear Annie: “Trying To Be a Good Dad” was worried about repeating parenting mistakes with his newborn. As someone with the same upbringing and a parent of two (22 and 13), I can say loving your child unconditionally is not enough. He needs to do two things: take a parenting class (or two or three) and attend therapy sessions so that he can heal his childhood wounds and prevent overcorrecting, which is as common as repeating the pattern.

— Been There,

Healed That

Dear Healed That: Congratulations on your healing.

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