November 3, 2016
4 Signs it's Time to Zip Your Lips at Work

I often write about building your own authentic voice, and establishing the courage to use it in the workplace. That is not to be confused, however, with those people who just never quite know when to put a lid on it. 

Science tells us that we are programmed to use communication as a form of survival. That’s all well and good, except when you come to realize that about 60 percent of people spend their time in conversations talking about themselves. That focus jumps to 80 percent when we use social media. 

Given we exist in a "Twitter-paced", "you-have-my-attention-for-one-minute-world”, how do we understand our behaviors and learn to edit our conversations to avoid becoming the office chatterbox? 

Below, find a few simple ways to help gauge if your co-workers are on the verge of telling you to put the proverbial cork in it. 


Early in my career, I learned to not speak unless you have something meaningful to say. I work with a brilliant technologist who is so gifted at this, that literally every time he opens his mouth to share a point of view, everyone at the table takes note. 

If you are consistently the one starting the conversations and then doing the majority of the talking during them, it’s time to reassess your approach. Make your good point and then allow others an opportunity to respond. Don’t interrupt and practice your listening when they do. 

Remember, it’s intended to be a conversation between co-workers, not a lecture by you.  


Whether you are starting the conversation or are answering a question, do so with brevity and clarity.  There is no point in rattling off a several-minute response when one or two sentences can make your point. If more is asked of you, share a little more.

While we assume people want our input, co-workers tend to tune out when responses go waaaaaay too long. 


A sure sign people are sick of listening to you talk? When they sit down next to you and put their earbuds in. 

Of course, you can tell yourself they enjoy music while they are at work. But if you look around and see a number of people sitting in your general vicinity plugged in, it might just have something to do with tuning you out. 


Another sure sign you are talking way too much in the office? Your co-workers – or worse, your boss – are checking their phones, texting, or responding to emails while you are talking. 

If they have checked out of the conversation to the extent that they have moved on to other tasks, that’s a fairly good indication it’s time for you to zip it.  

If you are an individual who’s just diagnosed themselves as the office chatterbox, take pause and change up your approach. Listen more and talk less. You just might find people engaging with you more as a result.

If you are a manager with a team member who just doesn’t get it, share the feedback and provide some guidance for how to regain credibility. Pointing out behaviors with examples of how it’s negatively affecting their career and their relationships can be awkward. But it’s so valuable if done well. With an empathetic approach and constructive guidance on how to change, you might just help both of you!


Christina Luconi is Chief People Officer for Rapid7. Follow her on Twitter: @peopleinnovator.

Image via Shutterstock