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Background

I work as a counselor in a drug and alcohol treatment facility. It is a high-stress, demanding job and requires extensive charting tasks to be completed by specific deadlines. All counselors receive weekly audits to ensure we are completing tasks on time and efficiently.

The work space is very small and there is not a lot of private space to complete necessary work. This will not change. Other counselors are focused on their work and I am not experiencing this problem with anybody else.

Dilemma

A new co-worker, also a counselor, talks a lot and talks about non-work related subjects. His talking is a source of distraction and has caused me to be less efficient in my work by his continual interrupting me while I am engaged in my work, coming into my office space, knocking on my door, etc. His continual talking and sharing about his personal life, political views, religious views and other issues is not only distracting, it makes me feel uncomfortable.

I want to be polite and maintain a good rapport and positive working relationship. I have given subtle hints such as closing my door, responding to his chatter with one-word responses, and telling him I need to concentrate on getting work done. None of these things have solved the problem, and I would like direction on how to effectively communicate to him that his talking is a source of distraction and is causing me to make mistakes in my work. I don't want to be rude or impolite.

How do I communicate this to him in an effective way?

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Since you have already tried the subtle approach, and it isn't working, it's probably best to be direct and frank. Next time he enters your office, say something like

I have [specific tasks] to complete by EOB, and I am behind, if it's not an urgent business issue, can we talk during the next lunch/coffee break?

As you mentioned you are interested in remaining polite, it would be best to follow through with your promise, and talk to him at the next lunch/coffee break.

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