In recent years, workplace culture has shifted away from the ‘traditional’ format of employees being segregated into cubicles and discrete spaces for purposes of focus and control, to an experimentation with more open formats that attempt to foster collaboration. Now there's the more hybridized concept of the so-called 'agile' workspace.
Working agile respects an employee’s individual need to operate solo or in groups, depending on the moment. It also respects a ‘flatter’ corporate hierarchy, one in which open commentary and input are welcomed to ensure the benefits of creative diversity are captured.
However, a more open working culture also requires a certain sensitivity to the needs of others; the respect to let them work as they need to without interruption or diversion. It’s the cultural ‘software’ that goes with the territory.
It doesn’t give free license to create noise, disrespect colleagues. So, when an employee displays overly talkative, loud behavior, how can managers confront them effectively?
When Confronting Talkative Coworkers, Define The Default Setting
First, define what the accepted ‘norm’ is for your working environment.
Although outright silence isn’t a prerequisite for workplace productivity, given the choice between ‘more noise’ and ‘more quiet’, a quieter environment prevails because it caters to the needs of the majority. If music is required, it can be collectively chosen or selectively listened to via personal headphones.
Excessive talking doesn’t come with a volume control. It infringes upon the ‘default setting’ of workplace calm, breaking up concentration and flow. When talking oversteps the common boundary of acceptance it may be one of several things in play; a ‘cry for help’ in gaining attention when that employee feels pressured, a form of ‘presenteeism’ by making an auditory statement to conceal the fact that work isn’t being done, or the employee in question may be used to different conditions.
Either way, handling that employee requires a few key steps to align their understanding of what the ‘default setting’ needs to be, and those steps also require a certain level of diplomacy and tact on the part of HR or management.