First, Rachel is a loud talker. If she is speaking, especially in our small break room, no one else can. Literally, you can’t hear anyone else speak. She’s also a “one-upper.” Any problem you manage to bring up, she’s had it way worse. (Or, failing that, she has a distant relative who’s had it way worse.) She’s the type of person who asks about your weekend only because she wants to tell you about hers.
Additionally, she makes every single conversation topic about her or her child. One example: I was once chatting with a colleague about a book we had read and, as I opened my mouth to tell him what I thought of the book, Rachel walked in and (loudly) began giving her opinion on that book, other books by the author, and the TV show they had made from the book, and she finished by saying she didn’t really like that author anyway. I was so shocked I left the room without saying anything.
The thing is, she’s not a mean person. She’s intelligent, she does her job well, and, if you can avoid getting trapped in conversation with her, she’s okay to work with. I don’t think she’s aware of what she’s doing or why everyone leaves the break room when she’s in it.
My question is this: Is there any possible way to kindly tell Rachel what she’s doing? I can’t imagine that pulling her aside and explaining would end well. I think her conversation tactics are probably due to some level of insecurity, so I’m hesitant to be too blunt. I don’t want to meet rudeness with rudeness, especially at work. Do we simply have to deal with it? Do you or your readers have any suggestions aside from flat-out avoiding her (I do this already, but again, small office) to make it less painful? — Tired of My Loud, One-Upping Co-Worker
You cannot tell Rachel that she’s overbearing or annoying. What you can tell her is that her voice is too loud in your shared spaces and it’s affecting people’s ability to concentrate on work and decompress for a few minutes in the break room. When you focus on how her behavior affects your ability to work, rather than focus on how her personality simply rubs you the wrong way, you limit the likelihood of: a) alienating her; b) being ignored; c) getting your tires slashed or becoming a target for Rachel’s work rage. In fact, unless you are the boss or the HR contact, I’m not sure it should even be you who talks to Rachel about her loudness. Go to your supervisor and ask if he or she can talk with Rachel about her volume in shared spaces. Do this in person and not over email as emails can always be leaked, as we’ve all learned. Continue avoiding Rachel in the break room and consider meeting with likable co-workers away from the office, for happy hour or whatever, for the chance to blow off steam and connect in uninterrupted. Rachel-free glory.
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