Workplace People won't stop talking *at* me. How do I remove myself without being a jerk.

schadenfreude

really
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Nov 13, 2007
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I supervise a smallish but not particularly intimate department at work. The most surprising thing to me when I started was how the supervisor's office became a confessional booth where people would just come in and... talk. And talk. And talk. About nothing. It wasn't a conversation. They were laying on the couch with rampant diarrhea of the mouth and I was the shrink. I was able to nip it in the bud with the ancillary/support staff by continuing to work while they talked and not ask questions or otherwise engage.

The problem now is with the peer-level professionals I supervise. We've had some turnover, they've had to really bring it, and I am so grateful for the two I have remaining who work hard, do a good job, and don't whine all the time. I arrive and leave earlier than they do so I try to do a quick visit with each of them before I leave, just to wish them a good night and stuff. I swear to you the floodgates just open. They just start a monologue. I've tried different tactics that should otherwise imply I'm just stopping by: stopping by with an obvious huge armload of heavy stuff, holding phone in the hand, purse on shoulder, you name it. They just GO. Today one of them rambled for 20 minutes about how his family now drinks a 50/50 mix of coconut milk and almond milk because the coconut milk has a certain lipid in it that they used to think was dangerous but now they found out is really healthy. :wtf:

I am simply unable to interject without coming off like a total jerk. And because they are both nice people and good workers, I want them to feel valued. But at what cost? I left the office almost 45 minutes later than planned because of it. And it happens routinely. I even missed a doctor's appointment because of it -- no lie. They both *knew* I was rushing to leave, but would. Not. Shut. Up.

PLEASE HELP!! Any advice would be much appreciated.
 
Jan 28, 2007
11,349
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How about just avoid checking in with them before you leave? Just go out the door if you need to be out on time.


If you must, just cut in and say, sorry to interrupt, but maybe we can continue this discussion tomorrow because I have someplace to be! And then leave. Your only option is to cut them off and interrupt. You can still be nice about it, but firm.
 

anabg

Sep 17, 2011
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Do it at a different time, like after lunch.. Does it really have to be at the end of the day? Also, is this the only time of day you cross words with the people you supervise??
 

bagnshoofetish

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Feb 12, 2006
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would love to hear suggestions as simply just telling my boss, "I'm leaving now" is an open invitation to hear about 20 minutes of rant, stories, etc...
 

DrDior

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Jan 13, 2012
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I have to do this sometimes with people who after 40 or so minutes of discussion start to unfurl a terrible story that needs to be halted because I have to leave, see someone else or am just straight up exhausted because I'm on hour 12.

If I start going long, the people who work with me know to come and get me with a gentle reminder of 'you have another appointment' or 'you have to be somewhere else.' I express profound regrets and no one feels dissed.

Is there anyone you trust who could do this for you? I think if you cut them off gently a few times, you could break the habit.
 
Jan 28, 2007
11,349
6
I have to do this sometimes with people who after 40 or so minutes of discussion start to unfurl a terrible story that needs to be halted because I have to leave, see someone else or am just straight up exhausted because I'm on hour 12.

If I start going long, the people who work with me know to come and get me with a gentle reminder of 'you have another appointment' or 'you have to be somewhere else.' I express profound regrets and no one feels dissed.

Is there anyone you trust who could do this for you? I think if you cut them off gently a few times, you could break the habit.
I don't understand why she herself can't say she has another appointment. If someone else can cut in, surely she can do this. People need to realize life does not revolve solely around work. There's nothing wrong with interrupting and then politely but firmly saying, "I have a tight schedule and other after work appointments/need to pick someone up, etc. I'd love to hear more, so can I come by your office tomorrow to finish the rest? The end of the day is not the best time for me since I need to be here by X time." Having another person cut in won't resolve it permanently.
 

schadenfreude

really
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Nov 13, 2007
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Do it at a different time, like after lunch.. Does it really have to be at the end of the day? Also, is this the only time of day you cross words with the people you supervise??
Oh gosh no. The conversational traps happen all day. I was just using the ones at the end of the day as an example, probably because it's when it is most irritating, when I'm totally beat and just want to GTFO.
 

smallfry

My Sweet Angel
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Dec 18, 2005
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would love to hear suggestions as simply just telling my boss, "I'm leaving now" is an open invitation to hear about 20 minutes of rant, stories, etc...
How about a quick email or IM to say "heading out now, have a good night"?
 

natalie78

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May 6, 2008
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Hum...unfortunately, I think that kind of stuff comes with a supervisory role. I'm guilty of dumping on my supervisor at times (but, I see him only once a month or so).

I have a coworker who used to come sit in my office and rant. I would just ignore her and keep typing on my computer. Sometimes, I would send someone a quick message and ask them to call me so she would have to leave so I could get the phone.

How about cutting out the parting words? Maybe just a quick email at the end of the day to say good night and thanks for their hard work?
 

bag-mania

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Apr 6, 2007
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Part of being a good supervisor is understanding how to manage people. Sometimes that means dealing patiently with them even when they annoy you. And look at it this way, if they didn't like you they wouldn't feel comfortable telling you all about their personal lives.

When they are holding you up, develop a strategy of changing the subject and then make your exit.
 

DrDior

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Jan 13, 2012
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I don't understand why she herself can't say she has another appointment. If someone else can cut in, surely she can do this.
If you're asking this question of the OP, then you should probably quote her to get a response.

If you're quoting me in order to ask why I provided the answer I did, the answer to that question was provided by the OP:

"I am simply unable to interject without coming off like a total jerk."

As for why I suggested having someone else do it: because it looks like something outside of your control and you don't have to say things like, "wow, that's really interesting. Can I come by tomorrow to discuss it further?" which does nothing but defer the situation.

The staff have fallen into a habit and she needs to break up the rhythm of the office environment - it should only take a few tries - to start to break them of this habit.
 
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gazoo

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Aug 26, 2006
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With those that are incapable of being succinct, I simply look at the time and literally blurt out "Oh no, I've got to go, I am going to be late for an appointment", say "bye" quickly, and leave. Do it with a smile and you should be fine.

If it's during work hours, it may be a part of a supervisor's role for your company. Perhaps feeling out your own superiors about this issue would show you what lead they prefer you to take with the department, insofar as do they want you to be a confidant team builder type of supervisor, or do they prefer efficiency above all things? It's a win if you play it right, as you look diligent yet also sensitive to how they want the management to behave.
 

bagnshoofetish

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smallfry said:
How about a quick email or IM to say "heading out now, have a good night"?
I don't work in an office. I have to let her know I'm leaving and give her a quick rundown about my animals. I love it when shes nowhere to be found then I have an excuse to just leave her a note. Thats rare though...
 

natalie78

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May 6, 2008
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I don't work in an office. I have to let her know I'm leaving and give her a quick rundown about my animals. I love it when shes nowhere to be found then I have an excuse to just leave her a note. Thats rare though...
How about a quick, "I've really got to run, but here's the low down on the animals..."