Employee From Hell: Sir Talk-A-Lot

 

A high level of communication within an organization is generally

considered a Good Thing. It can become an issue, however, when you have someone on the team who communicates, well, too much. Sir Talk-a-lot is the person who, whether it is a team meeting, a training session, a chat over the water cooler – whatever – likes having the floor. He (she) embellishes. He expands. He provides excruciating detail. He is verbose, pompous and ponderous. He’s painful.

While we should normally encourage employees to communicate as much as possible, this is definitely the exception. And it’s important that you deal with it for a couple of reasons: The first and most obvious reason is to try and recover a few extra hours of everyone’s productivity each day. The second is that his loquaciousness can have serious implications on that positive team environment you’re trying to build. The challenge is addressing the
behavior without hurting Sir Talk-a-lot’s feelings. Assuming he’s an otherwise valuable member of your team, you don’t want to de-motivate him.

It is possible, of course, that no-one has ever actually pointed his talkative tendencies out to him. It is also quite possible he is aware of his behavior, but at the same time unaware of how significant the negative implications really are. Whichever is the case, it’s time for you and he to have a chat. An effective strategy is to pick a time shortly after one of his soliloquies, and follow these six steps:

  1. Invite him into your office, and tell him you would like to work with him on something

  2. As gently as you can, find out if he is already aware of his behavior

  3. Explain to him that you would like to help him become a little more concise – at least while he’s at work. Tell him you’re concerned that people might take his ‘attention to detail’ the wrong way, and perceive his speaking style negatively

  4. Reinforce his positive qualities, and reinforce the benefits he will achieve by making this change

  1. Agree on a signal you can use to indicate when he is falling into his old pattern

  2. Do your part. Follow up with the signal as often as you can

One note: Positive reinforcement here is critical. Sir Talk-a-lot’s behavior is often fuelled by a need for respect. Acknowledge his effort and his wins. Whatever you do, don’t give up on this individual if you see him making an effort, but not achieving complete success. Changing speech habits learned over a lifetime is no small challenge.

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