Other associate stopping by my office too much

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cleantheD

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Other associate stopping by my office too much

Postby cleantheD » Thu Jan 09, 2020 8:46 pm

So I'm a first year associate at a small firm (30 people) and there is also another first year associate who started at the same time in the same group. He's a really nice guy but a big talker. So I'm posting because I don't know what to do about him stopping by my office constantly. He stops by 5-10 times a day to just chit chat and ask me what I'm working on. It's really distracting. I never stop by his office and I've told him can't talk too busy a few times but that doesn't stop him from coming by the next day and the next. We aren't best friends and don't hang out outside of work so I don't know why he thinks this is ok. He has to pass my office to get to the kitchen so he pretty much stops in on the way to the kitchen and back from it. Any advice in trying to figure out how to approach this would be much appreciated. Thanks!

wishywashy

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Re: Other associate stopping by my office too much

Postby wishywashy » Fri Jan 10, 2020 12:16 am

Be honest with them and say you have a really hard time with interruptions and that it takes a long time to transition back to your task.

Let them know you are happy to set aside one or two days a week to go out to lunch with them or grab a drink/coffee after work and chat.

They may be really nervous about their own performance and are stopping by to compare. It might be an attempt by them to network or build a relationship with you (their colleague). Tons of reasons.

Just be clear that to get work done you have to minimize interruptions. Be equally clear that you value that person, want to interact with them, and are willing to set time aside to spend with them.

There is a lot of value in having people on your side and you are in a small firm. See it as an opportunity to build a good work relationship. Also, having a good relationship at work doesn’t mean making someone your best friend.

“Work friends” can be very valuable and I would caution you against using some kind of “best friend” metric to determine who is worth hanging out with or getting to know. Professional friendships that don’t cross over into personal “best friends” are extremely valuable especially when you need candid work advice (your best friend might just tell you what you want to hear and they may not be versed in work politics or your professional specialty of law).

Even if this person is annoying I would still see it as a chance to develop people skills. If you push away all the people that annoy you it tends to push a lot of opportunities away too. Find something about this person to value - everyone has something to bring to the table most of the time.

Good luck! Learning to navigate people might be the most important skill you can develop and it is a skill that is never “done” - you can always get better.

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mjb447

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Re: Other associate stopping by my office too much

Postby mjb447 » Fri Jan 10, 2020 9:47 am

cleantheD wrote:I've told him can't talk too busy a few times but that doesn't stop him from coming by the next day and the next. . . . I don't know why he thinks this is ok.

This doesn't necessarily seem unreasonable - "can't talk too busy" today doesn't prevent you from being able to talk tomorrow, and, especially at a firm that size, "work friends" who talk that frequently are part of the culture. I agree that you need to be more direct but that, ideally, you'll be able to preserve the relationship at some level.

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Re: Other associate stopping by my office too much

Postby objctnyrhnr » Fri Jan 10, 2020 9:56 am

I’m going to take a bit of a different view. I think you deal with it for the most part but, after a couple mins of conversation, say you gotta get back to it.

Sounds like you’re new in firm life. To echo what another poster said, having somebody your year that you can gripe to, hang with at networking-type events, etc. is somewhat valuable. I lateraled to my current firm and don’t quite have that to the degree I’d like in my current group and I wish I did.

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logical seasoning

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Re: Other associate stopping by my office too much

Postby logical seasoning » Fri Jan 10, 2020 3:41 pm

Does he still come in if the door is closed? Where I work, if the door is closed that signals a do "not bother"

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rcharter1978

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Re: Other associate stopping by my office too much

Postby rcharter1978 » Fri Jan 10, 2020 5:27 pm

logical seasoning wrote:Does he still come in if the door is closed? Where I work, if the door is closed that signals a do "not bother"


If possible, this sounds like a good solution.

I feel for you OP, I had a work friend who I really, really like but she would Skype message me like all damn day. Multiple messages, and there was no way to silence or mute her messages exclusively so sometimes it seemed like five straight minutes of Skype beeps and popups from her.

She got another job, so I got lucky in that way (though she still texts me during the day). It was also easier for me to just tell her I was going to "brb" and then follow up around end of day.

Maybe you can "need" a bathroom break like a minute or two into the "chit chat"and if you do that often enough he will catch a clue.

BUT, if you do that or close your door, try to follow up with him like once a day or every other day. That way you can let him know you don't hate him, you just can't talk to him all the time.

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Yea All Right

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Re: Other associate stopping by my office too much

Postby Yea All Right » Fri Jan 10, 2020 8:14 pm

Can you wear headphones to signify that you're working? Some partners don't like this though.

cleantheD

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Re: Other associate stopping by my office too much

Postby cleantheD » Fri Jan 10, 2020 9:31 pm

Thanks for all the helpful advice. As a new associate, closing my door is not an option because we have an open door policy. Can't wear headphones either because I don't want partners to see that.

I should clarify what I mean by "chit chat." The conversation always starts out harmless. But after a few minutes, everything he says is so NEGATIVE. He is a nice guy but I don't think he understands what he's doing. He speaks poison and I can feel the anxiety radiating from him. By the end of a conversation with him, I always feel drained but he always look energized and ready to go. In short, he puts on a happy face but ends up going into morose fatalism. He tells me of course that he isn't being fatalistic, rather, that is just the way the firm is. He's also lied to me about little stupid things and makes promises that he doesn't fulfill, but that isn't what I'm worried about.


So today when he stopped by, I said hello, crossed my arms, and waited for him to start. A couple minutes into his usual fatalism, I just nodded my head and didn't say a thing. Things got awkward and he asked me if I was feeling ok. I said "no I'm a little out of it today." He just said oh ok and left shortly after. Didn't even try to make me feel better haha. He only came by one other time today and I crossed my arms again and did not try to make any conversation. Hopefully he stops by less and less. If not, I will have to be direct and just tell him I don't like being interrupted and that if you want let's set up a day to get lunch once a week and catch up.

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Re: Other associate stopping by my office too much

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Jan 10, 2020 10:31 pm

As you have quickly discovered, lawyers like all other people have a wide variety of personality quirks. While I don’t stop by people’s offices to shoot the breeze, I admittedly fall into the category of people who has a hard time ending a conversation (or avoiding excessive explanations). It’s not intentional, and I continue to work on it, but I know it can be obnoxious when others (including me) are racing to get things done. As someone with this weakness who is aware of it I actually like when people cut me off and say they need to get on with things. It’s a good reminder that I need to improve and it gets everyone back on task.

I share this because if this is really as bad as you describe you should exercise your right to abruptly end conversations or stop them before they start. If he’s a first year too there is not much to lose if you offend him, but if you don’t want to do so there are other subtle ways to get him moving. One thought would be to put your office number on speed dial on your cell phone and then dial it when you need to end the conversation. “I need to take this call” is a cue that offends no one.

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burritotaco

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Re: Other associate stopping by my office too much

Postby burritotaco » Sat Jan 11, 2020 12:43 am

There's nothing wrong with telling someone you're too busy to chat. Everyone at a firm should understand that. All that matters is your tone and delivery. I had a chatty coworker and my solution was to just start working on stuff and say something like, "Hey, gotta get back to this." Unless someone's lacking in picking up on cues like that, almost everyone will get it and leave you alone.

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rcharter1978

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Re: Other associate stopping by my office too much

Postby rcharter1978 » Sat Jan 11, 2020 12:53 am

cleantheD wrote:Thanks for all the helpful advice. As a new associate, closing my door is not an option because we have an open door policy. Can't wear headphones either because I don't want partners to see that.

I should clarify what I mean by "chit chat." The conversation always starts out harmless. But after a few minutes, everything he says is so NEGATIVE. He is a nice guy but I don't think he understands what he's doing. He speaks poison and I can feel the anxiety radiating from him. By the end of a conversation with him, I always feel drained but he always look energized and ready to go. In short, he puts on a happy face but ends up going into morose fatalism. He tells me of course that he isn't being fatalistic, rather, that is just the way the firm is. He's also lied to me about little stupid things and makes promises that he doesn't fulfill, but that isn't what I'm worried about.


So today when he stopped by, I said hello, crossed my arms, and waited for him to start. A couple minutes into his usual fatalism, I just nodded my head and didn't say a thing. Things got awkward and he asked me if I was feeling ok. I said "no I'm a little out of it today." He just said oh ok and left shortly after. Didn't even try to make me feel better haha. He only came by one other time today and I crossed my arms again and did not try to make any conversation. Hopefully he stops by less and less. If not, I will have to be direct and just tell him I don't like being interrupted and that if you want let's set up a day to get lunch once a week and catch up.


Emotional vampire, yikes.

Hope your solution works. I think you should be friendly but maybe not too friendly. I think people who are super negative all the time eventually end up rubbing people the wrong way. And if he is a chatty cathy, he may not mind telling your business if you vent to him.

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Re: Other associate stopping by my office too much

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Jan 11, 2020 12:05 pm

Is he the type that wants to be partner? He sounds like he doesn’t have enough work, and is either venting to you or considers you “competition” and wants to figure out what you’re working on. Either way, he’s not a friend - I have one in my office; he’s a senior who still feels threaten by junior associates because some of them got to work on a project he wanted. He comes to my office to “talk” about it. The only thing I found that gets rid of him is to tell him there’s a work shortage coming so he better get in some hours now. It didn’t get rid of him, but it does make him come by less. Don’t piss this kind of people off. They’re vindictive. The last person who pissed our guy off had rumors spread about him.

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rcharter1978

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Re: Other associate stopping by my office too much

Postby rcharter1978 » Mon Jan 13, 2020 1:53 pm

OP - did he come by the office today?

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notinbiglaw

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Re: Other associate stopping by my office too much

Postby notinbiglaw » Mon Jan 13, 2020 3:23 pm

"Are you free? I am a little swamped with this project and there is something non-billable I could use some help with."

That line works like a charm... and it's almost always true since there is always some non-billable research project floating around.

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Re: Other associate stopping by my office too much

Postby QContinuum » Mon Jan 13, 2020 6:16 pm

notinbiglaw wrote:"Are you free? I am a little swamped with this project and there is something non-billable I could use some help with."

That line works like a charm... and it's almost always true since there is always some non-billable research project floating around.

I don't know that I'd use that line on a yearmate. It may be taken badly. If OP was even a single year more senior, I'd say to go for it, but it sounds like they are the same year.

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Re: Other associate stopping by my office too much

Postby cleantheD » Mon Jan 13, 2020 10:46 pm

rcharter1978 wrote:OP - did he come by the office today?


He stopped by three times today. The first time, he stood at my door and let out a sigh, but before he could open his mouth I said "hey sorry I'm trying to read this case if this isn't important can I stop by your office later." Of course, whatever he wanted to say wasn't important so that got rid of him. The next time he stopped by, I within 30 seconds I called my office from my cell and that got rid of him.

The third time he stopped by before heading out for the evening just to see what I was working on. I told him that it was "nothing" and I ran out of excuses at this point so he managed to spew his usual poison for about five minutes as I stood there in silence. It was already late and most of my work was done, so I decided to walk out with him just to end the conversation. At the end of the day, only spent about 10 minutes with him so I'm happy with this progress and I think I didn't offend him.

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rcharter1978

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Re: Other associate stopping by my office too much

Postby rcharter1978 » Tue Jan 14, 2020 1:27 am

cleantheD wrote:
rcharter1978 wrote:OP - did he come by the office today?


He stopped by three times today. The first time, he stood at my door and let out a sigh, but before he could open his mouth I said "hey sorry I'm trying to read this case if this isn't important can I stop by your office later." Of course, whatever he wanted to say wasn't important so that got rid of him. The next time he stopped by, I within 30 seconds I called my office from my cell and that got rid of him.

The third time he stopped by before heading out for the evening just to see what I was working on. I told him that it was "nothing" and I ran out of excuses at this point so he managed to spew his usual poison for about five minutes as I stood there in silence. It was already late and most of my work was done, so I decided to walk out with him just to end the conversation. At the end of the day, only spent about 10 minutes with him so I'm happy with this progress and I think I didn't offend him.


Sounds like a good compromise. You lost 10 minutes at the end of the day but didn't alienate him.

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