Dear Matt: I sit around a group of people and one of my co-workers is always talking and very loud. What can I do to get him to stop talking, while maintaining peace and a professional working relationship?

Matt: It's important to analyze how this is keeping you from doing your job, says Bradley J. Lelemsis, a senior human resources generalist who provides HR consulting and support for a privately held company in Bloomington. Does it slow down your productivity? Or, is it more a matter of personality and style differences? In cubicle country, one loud talker can disrupt everyone.

Kristen Friendshuh, a technical recruiter with Twin Cities-based NewTown Solutions, Inc., brings up another point.

"A lot of the time, I don't think people realize how loud (or how much) they are talking," she says.

That's why honesty is often the best policy. If it does bother you, bring it up - privately and not in front of other co-workers. If you feel it would be better, send them an e-mail outlining the issue, but always keep it positive. First talk about the reasons you like working with that person, then share your feedback on how the chatting and tone of his voice is a distraction. Like Friendshuh says, this person may not even be aware of the situation.

It's best to have some examples. If they are constantly talking about non-work topics, say, "Jim, our job requires concentration and focus. The other day for instance, you were talking about (insert example)...could we limit this while trying to concentrate on work?"

This person may initially be hurt, angry or taken aback, it's a natural reaction when criticized. But let them know you are open to talking, but politely ask them to try to limit it to in the morning before you get into the workday, around lunch time when people are moving around the office and things are naturally noisier, or toward the end of the day. Many will understand and actually gain more respect for you as a co-worker because you care about work and your relationship enough to not let it become more serious.

If this doesn't work, bring it to the attention of your manager or HR office and let them know of the situation.


Matt Krumrie has written and specialized in career advice for 10 years. He lives and works in the Twin Cities. Matt answers readers' questions every week; e-mail him at askmatt@startribune.com.