≡ Menu

Chatty Cathy At The Office

I really need some ideas and suggestions. I have a co-worker, “Jane” who is slowly driving me insane with her incessant, oft times inappropriate, talking. I have tried bean–dipping like crazy, making up excuses to be gone from my desk and straight up avoiding her. She is actually a really nice person and would do anything to help you; she once paid a coworker’s rent because the young woman had been in the hospital and had used all of her paid vacation and sick time. But…

She talks all the time. And I do mean ALL the time. It does not matter the topic of the conversation, she will go on at length about it. If she is telling a story and you have to leave, she will hound you for days until she gets to tell that story. She has been talking to me and I said, “Jane, I have to go to a meeting,” she followed me all the way to the meeting, still talking. This has happened several times.

She tends to talk too loudly at times and I think it might be because she seems to be a little hard of hearing. She is my “across the hallway” neighbor (we work in a cubicle office, the way our cubicles are set-up, your face inward, so Jane and I are sort of back to back but there is a little walkway between us), and unless I turn around and face her, she cannot hear what I am saying. For example, if I am deep into a project and cannot answer the phone, I might say “Jane, can you grab that?” She either a) doesn’t hear me at all or b) realizes I have asked a question and comes over to ask what I need, at the top of her lungs. By that time, the phone has gone to voicemail or I have already picked it up, to keep others from grumbling about the phone ringing. (Seriously, I could write volumes about the little idiosyncrasies in our office.) She will come over to ask a question and lean down right by my ear and she is so loud that it borders on screaming. I have actually recoiled and flinched from the volume.

I think she may have to read lips to understand what people are saying. If she is in a meeting, she cannot hear what is being said, unless she is facing the speaker. That is hard to do sometimes if they are using a PowerPoint or projector or moving around the room, so she spends the entire meeting asking, “What did s/he say?,” in a stage whisper. That, of course, attracts attention and we have an executive director whose attention you do not want to attract during a meeting (again, volumes about our office). Since we are both administrative assistants, she generally wants to sit next to me and I do not care to be reprimanded about talking during a meeting when she is the one talking. A coworker once mentioned, gently and politely, that maybe she should get a hearing test; she very huffily said, “I know I’m older than most of you, but I’m not that old!” She has not spoken to that coworker since.

Also, she talks inappropriately at times. Our office is approximately 85% women, so, naturally, some of us have gotten to be quite close friends outside the office. If we have lunch or break together and Jane is sitting with us, she joins in the conversation and mostly, it’s not a problem. When she hijacks the conversation and turns it in a totally different subject or starts one of her long-winded stories, it’s very frustrating, especially if we were discussing a work related project or when she gets graphic in an adult way- turning the conversation to sex. We will bean-dip and try another subject but she will inevitably turn it back to sex and state, “I don’t care about having sex anymore because you have to bathe before and after and shave your legs and I just don’t have the energy anymore”. TMI times infinity.

We had a young male coworker (22) that would join us for lunch if we ate late some days. She would say all kinds of inappropriate things, including the line quoted above, in front of him. You could clearly tell it was embarrassing for him and I was mortified. I tried to speak to her about it one day and she brushed it off, “Oh, he’s a young man, I’m sure he has heard/said/done worse”. That may be true but I think what she was doing was borderline sexual harassment.

A group of us were talking about a movie we saw. It was my friend, 2 other ladies who had seen the movie and me. Jane came in about half-way through the discussion. One of the ladies made a comment about the movie, it was a little raunchy and totally out of character for this lady, but Jane thought it was hilarious and was in stitches. When young male coworker stopped in to grab a drink, she insisted, several times, that the lady repeat the comment for him to hear! Of course she flat-out refused. When he left, the lady said, “Jane, please do not ask me to repeat things like that in front of men. It was just a little joke for girls-only”. (As a side note, he has since left the company but he still calls, texts and emails me regularly. He is a great person and I enjoy knowing him.)

There are so many other examples, especially with the inappropriate sex talk, but I think you get the idea. As I mentioned in my opening paragraph, she really is a nice person. I do not want her to think I do not like her but the incessant talking is driving me nuts. She used to work in the front line area and her supervisor chuckled when she got the admin job. She said “Jane is a talker. She used to talk to customers so much that they would eventually just walk away as she was talking”. Former supervisor chuckled because she knows how the admin office is and she knew it would be an issue eventually. Thank heavens she did not talk about sex in front of our customers!

Has anyone had a similar situation? How did you handle it? Any suggestions?   0726-12

When subtle no longer works on the hopelessly obtuse, it is time to start ratcheting up the volume.   When she starts in on inappropriate sex talk, tell her directly, “Stop.   We really do not want to hear this.”   If she continues, you walk away in mid sentence, silently at first, but if she still doesn’t get the hint, you may need to say something such as, “I have better things to do with my time than hear this.”   Or lighten the mood with, “Well, that was more than I wanted to hear and so I leave you all.”

There are times I must talk with an employee wants to keep the conversation going about non-work issues.  I’ll entertain a small diversion from my work day but I really do not have time to indulge in chitty chatty stuff.  I will matter-of-factly say, “I must get back to work”, and if that is not enough to cue them in that the discussion is over, I may repeat it and follow it by turning my back on them to begin working at my desk.

As for the meetings where she stage whispers asking what was said, forewarned is forearmed so come with a pad of paper and pen and tell her that she misses something that was said, to write a ? on the pad and you’ll respond.   Or you can tell her ahead of time that you will not be available to interpret for her as you must be busy taking notes yourself.

And during non-phone call times, noise canceling headphones might deter her from bothering you.

Anyone else?



Comments on this entry are closed.

  • miss-em August 9, 2012, 2:46 am

    Slightly off topic, but can someone please explain to me what “bean-dipping” means? I have seen this phrase in a few posts now, and cannot figure it out… Thanks :o)

  • Cat August 9, 2012, 11:41 am

    It’s simple. Tell her she needs to get a hearing test. She already won’t speak to the lady who made that suggestion first.
    Every time she starts to speak, stop her with, “My dear, you don’t realize how loud you are speaking. That’s the first sign of someone losing their hearing. You need to have your hearing checked immediately…Let me recommend Dr. XXX.”

  • Cat August 9, 2012, 11:44 am

    Bean-dipping is changing the subject, as in, if someone mentions to you that your good friend Joyce is having an affair, you reply, “Oh, how interesting. You must try some of this marvelous bean-dip Martha made. She is a wonder in the kitchen. I ‘ll just run in and see if she needs any help.”

  • Hemi August 9, 2012, 1:09 pm

    miss-em ~ “bean -dipping” is changing the topic. If someone is talking inappropriately, gossiping, etc, you “bean -dip” to change the topic.
    Ex: Party guest ” Jane heard that she jumped on top of him, ripped off his shirt and proceeded to…”
    Party host ” Have you tried the bean dip? It’s simply scrumptious!”

  • Tricia August 9, 2012, 2:56 pm

    My question exactly, miss-em. What is bean-dipping?

  • Martha August 11, 2012, 12:20 pm

    “Bean dip?” is a way to change the topic of conversation. If someone says something you don’t want to respond to, you offer them bean dip.


    “No, sorry, that won’t work for me. Bean dip?”

  • directt March 21, 2018, 7:56 pm

    it has been my observation that hinting or being passive-aggressive in such situations DO NOT work. We turn ourselves into a pretzel to give them ‘hints’ but instead feel two times worse : they do not get our sophisticated hints 2) the painful problem continues.

    We are afraid to be politically incorrect with those who make us feel uncomfortable. Unfortunately, the only way to eliminate the problem is being as direct and as fair as possible. Simply tell them what you stated here and thats’s it. Cannot stomach to deliver the truth? Then you have no one to blame but yourself. sorry.