SOURCE: Lee Hecht Harrison

July 09, 2014 07:00 ET

Survey Finds Talkative Coworkers Are More Distracting Than Email

WOODCLIFF LKE, NJ--(Marketwired - July 09, 2014) - Constant chatter is the biggest annoyance in the workplace, according to a survey by talent mobility consulting firm Lee Hecht Harrison. The survey found that 45% of workers cited talkative coworkers as the greatest source of distraction and disruption.

Lee Hecht Harrison surveyed 848 U.S workers via an online poll in April 2014 asking, "What do you find most disruptive or distracting at work?" The survey identified: 

Talkative coworkers 45%
Emails 18%
Odors 9%
Telephone calls 8%
Ambient noise 6%
Office design 5%
Technology 4%
Nothing at all 5%

"We are social creatures and our success in the workplace depends on our ability to communicate," said Jim Greenway, Executive Vice President for Marketing and Sales Effectiveness at Lee Hecht Harrison. "Serendipitous conversations in the hallway or brief stops by a coworker's office or cubicle for some chit-chat can yield tremendous benefits in terms of collaboration, generating new ideas, creating trust and increasing productivity. However, too much talk can also be a distraction as our survey found."

According to Greenway, disruptions and distractions develop when a talkative coworker lacks self-awareness, fails to understand boundaries and doesn't know how to read body language. "Overly talkative coworkers usually have no idea how annoying they are to their colleagues. They simply lack the self-awareness to recognize the signals. It's important to be aware of the things we say and do. We must pay attention to non-verbal and environmental clues and set limits that are respectful of our colleagues' time."

Greenway believes it's up to each of us to take responsibility for how we conduct ourselves in the workplace and recognize when our actions are annoying others. "Developing self-awareness is key to taking responsibility. Is the person you're speaking with tapping their fingers impatiently? Glancing at their watch? Looking distressed? If so, adjust your behavior and wrap up your conversation immediately. Remember, leave your audience wanting more, not looking for an escape route."


Lee Hecht Harrison ( is the global talent mobility leader. We connect people to jobs through innovative career transition services and help individuals improve performance through career and leadership development. LHH assists organizations in supporting restructuring efforts, developing leaders at all levels, engaging and retaining critical talent, and maintaining productivity through change -- helping organizations increase profitability by maximizing their return on investment in developing people, while assisting individuals to achieve their full potential.

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