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Get Out of My Office! How to deal with chatty co-workers

  • April 27, 2017

Lawyers are famously long-winded. We all know the stereotypes: the doddering old partner emeritus that goes on and on about business development in the 1930s. The litigator that can’t mention a case without arguing it in full. The boisterous junior M&A partner that doesn’t really know what he’s asking for, and so repeats his problem six or seven times while your reservations are set to expire.

We’ve all been in a situation where we just need someone to get out of our office. But in a profession of strong wills and fragile egos, it’s tough to find a diplomatic way to do it. To fill that gap, JUST. interrogated some of its members for their cleverest escape plans. (Names have been changed to protect our sources.)

"I’ve Got to Take This"

“When I see a repeat offender coming in, I’ll open up my e-mail. If the conversation drags on too long and I can’t find a way out, I’ll just get mad at something that comes in, like, 'What?! Come on!' Usually they’ll ask what’s wrong and it gives me an opportunity to say something has come up without me raising it first.”

  – ‘Mo’ (2012 call)

“I usually try something like ‘I’d love to keep talking, but I really need to get back to...’, or variations thereof. I find it shifts the blame elsewhere, so it’s a great short-term solution without signalling that you’re really fed up.”

  – ‘Audrey’ (2014 call)

“We love [senior partner], but whether it’s instructions, corrections, whatever – he just keeps repeating himself.  I have a deal with [junior partner] across the hall, where if either of us hears him getting stuck in a loop we’ll call across and the victim can be like, ‘Ooh, sorry, gotta take this’.”

  – ‘Lisa’ (2013 call)

Literally Evacuate the Premises

“Whenever a conversation in my office is dragging on too long, I just get up and keep talking as I go to grab a glass of water or a coffee.  No one ever follows me back.”

  – ‘Michael’ (2010 call)

“If they’re in your office, stand up. If they don’t stand up too (unlikely), then walk toward the door. They’ll get it at that point.”

  – ‘Jessica’ (1982 call)

“Sometimes I just interrupt and say, 'Well, anyways,’ and walk in a different direction. Probably not the diplomatic approach you’re looking for.”

  – ‘Silas’ (2010 call)

Body Language

“I’m actually okay with just showing that I’m bored. I’ll just very gradually start doing something else.”

   – ‘Eric’ (2004 call)

“The old drum-on-the-desk. Nothing says ‘we’re done here’ like drumming on the desk. If you’re still in my office after that, you’re probably a sociopath.”

   – ‘Miles’ (2013 call)

Concluding Remarks

“’This has been very helpful – thanks for taking the time to speak’ is also one I use occasionally, which I find to work pretty well.”

   – ‘Audrey’ (2014 call)

“Say, ‘This is a good discussion. Can we continue to talk about it tomorrow?’”

   – ‘Jessica’ (1982 call)

“I do it like this. 'Right now...Yes, you, get out of my office'.”

   – ‘Oscar’ (1993 call)

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