I suspect we’re all guilty of bringing our personal lives and challenges into work from time to time. For some people, however, it’s a regular occurrence, and their daily tales of woe unfold before you like some bizarre reality soap-opera that you can’t turn off. At best, it is distracting; and for all but the most stalwart of reality TV fans, the constant stream of personal problems can wear thin very quickly.
This particular type of coworker isn’t typically a bad person – it’s just someone who doesn’t understand that it’s inappropriate for people to regularly bring their personal lives to work (and vice versa!). The good news is that they will usually stop once they realize that they don’t have a sympathetic ear. You don’t have to be abrupt, rude or nasty about it. Just try one of these two approaches:
1. As soon as he (she) starts, interrupt her by putting your hand up. Look him in the eye, smile, and say, “John, don’t take this the wrong way – but I have to get to work.” It’s direct, but if you say it with eye contact and a smile, he will get the message without getting offended.
2. As soon as he starts, gently (emphasis on gently) have some fun with it. Interrupt him by saying something like, “Are you a member of the problem-of-the-week club, or what?” or “I should get you to dictate this into a tape recorder. I record all my other soap operas.” One Winning At Work subscriber says that whenever her co-worker began his rant, she flips up a little tent-card on her desk that says “The Doctor is In – $5”
Have fun – but don’t be nasty about it, otherwise you’re the one he’ll be talking about next!
“If people put as much effort into solving their problems as they do complaining about them, imagine how much happier we all would be!” – Shaun Belding
[This is from the Archive Project – where we are attempting to get 10 years of Winning at Work on the web! Original publication date: 11 March, 2005]
Shaun Belding is CEO of The Belding Group and has been consulting and speaking on customer experience, employee engagement and workplace performance for 24 years