How to protect your time from the office time goblin?

Aiva Strelca 19.04.2022
how to protect your time

In a dream workplace, everyone is a team player and a real professional. However, in real life, you often have to face people who make you waste your time. And you need to learn how to protect your time from time-gobbling coworkers. 

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In this post, we will talk about the types of employees that make everyone unproductive, discuss possible reasons for such behavior, and give you some tips on how to guard your time.

What does a person who steals everyone’s time look like? 

People who make everybody else waste their time can do that for many reasons. Oftentimes, it’s because they don’t know better. 

Here are some types of coworkers to look out for based on the characters of a popular TV-show Parks and Recreation

The Incompetent Andy Dwyaer

In almost every team, you can meet a person who visibly lags behind. Sometimes it’s someone who has just started their career, but not necessarily. 

People with little-to-no experience ask a lot of questions and it can take a lot of time for them to complete relatively simple tasks. Moreover, sometimes they don’t even do what they’re asked right, and you have to cover for their mistakes. That, of course, can influence the quality of your work, besides just being plain annoying.

If you work with a beginner employee, remember that most people are like that when they’re learning. However, it’s your employer’s responsibility to make sure that the person is catching and not bothering others. 

Perhaps, you can talk to your supervisor and ask to assign this colleague a personal mentor who would monitor their professional development. Similarly, for people who are lacking expertise, a personal growth plan could be helpful. 

Managers can often notice red flags when it comes to identifying difficult workers with the help of time tracking. Inexperienced or incompetent workers spend a lot of time at the computer, but their actual output is small.

The Perfectionist Leslie Knope

The perfectionist is a hard worker and is usually a valuable asset for any team. However, the problem with this type is that they often take the concern about the quality of their work too far. 

For example, perfectionists are often convinced that nobody can do the work better than them or that it should be done their way to be acceptable. They constantly bother everyone on their team with commentaries or require them to re-do the same work. 

People often hate to work with perfectionists because they start feeling bad about their own professional qualities. Some may also find it difficult to work with someone who’s constantly checking and rechecking their work, especially if it isn’t even their supervisor. 

That said, it’s even worse if the perfectionis is your supervisor. Managers and team leads who are pathological perfectionists can be particularly harmful for the business, as these people may not let employees realize their full potential. 

The best way to deal with perfectionists is to politely but firmly communicate your boundaries. You can help them understand that you were hired to do your job for a reason and don’t need anybody to monitor your every step.

One of the signs that can help you detect a perfectionist via your time tracking system is that they could be spending hours on the same document, even though it should not have taken them more than an hour. 

The Party-maker Tom Haverford

Sociable, extroverted workers are often the heart of the team but not when socialization is everything they do at work. Whether because of low motivation, sloppy scheduling, or simple laziness they seem to always have plenty of time to chat and goof around. 

People who treat the workplace as their personal party space do more harm than good. They distract everyone with infinite chats and often fail to do their own work in time, placing this burden on other members of the team.

It’s always possible to avoid chatting with party-makers by pointing out that you have a lot of work to do or moving your social activities to lunch time. 

Since party-makers are always circulating around the office and are just never at their computers, their productivity levels displayed in the DeskTime app is quite low.

The Hot Mess – Mona-Lisa

There is no other way to describe these people other than incompetent, unreliable, and lazy. Only god knows how they got their position but now the whole team has to suffer the consequences. 

Unlike other types of difficult coworkers, hot mess is often aware of their harmful behavior but justifies it with their personal life problems. They are always late to work, often disorganized and quite passive when it comes to actually completing their work. Hot messes ask for help way more than they should. At the same time, hot mess is always eager to receive credit for other people’s work. 

They aren’t inclined to do their job so this burden is put on other workers’ shoulders who risk ending up with burnout and other mental and physical problems from carrying not just their own, but also others’ work responsibilities. 

Remember that you don’t have to be friends with everyone, especially with such a persona. Avoid any close relationship with your office’s hot mess to ensure that this person’s life crisis doesn’t transform into your work life crisis. Keep it strictly professional, put your own needs first, and you should be safe. 

Managers can identify hot messes by the fact that they usually arrive late and spend most of their working day on online chats (complaining). 

Now let’s talk about how you can guard your time working with such difficult people. 

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How to protect your time at work?

As you can see, coworkers can be difficult to deal with for various reasons. While some are incompetent or lazy, others are just bored or lack the necessary instructions. Whatever the situation might be, here is how to defend your time at work. 

Talk to them in private

The first step to finding a solution to the problem is to talk about it. Have a one-on-one (that’s important!) conversation with a coworker where you tell them what exactly isn’t working out for you two. For example, if they insist on having regular meetings or calls with you when it isn’t really useful, you can communicate with them that you prefer to have everything sorted out by email. 

Let them know about problems that you’re experiencing. Say it clearly that by spending too much time on meetings, you aren’t left with enough time to actually get things done. Sometimes people don’t even realize that they’re doing something wrong. Discuss the causes and what could be done to change the situation. 

Don’t be afraid to say no

If your colleague always wants you to cover for their shifts or makes requests that end up in you doing all the work, be firm and assertive and tell them that next time – or even this time – you won’t be able to help them. 

For many of us, it’s hard to say ”no” out of the fear of being viewed as bad people. But the truth is that you have already tried to help them. There is a line when it’s time to put things straight, otherwise it starts impacting your own performance and the performance of your team as a whole. 

Set boundaries

If the person has problems with establishing boundaries, be it regularly stopping by your desk or constantly requesting help from you, it’s time for you to set them up. 

If the colleague’s request is not something urgent (and with difficult coworkers it usually isn’t), then you can implement the good old abstinence strategy – don’t hurry to reply to every email or call you receive from your difficult colleagues and give them time to try them solve the issue themselves. In most cases, they’ll manage without your help. 

Last resort

If conversations don’t work and the coworker keeps bothering you, it’s worth it to have a conversation with your manager or human resources person. 

You can explain how you feel and where you see the problem is, then ask for something to be changed. For example, you could be transferred to another department, the person who’s bothering you could have a workplace mentor assigned, or you can be isolated from that coworker so that you could calmly do your job. Most employees are interested in keeping their workers productive and satisfied and will try to come up with the solution that works for all of you.

Summing up: principles to remember

Coworkers may steal your time for different reasons, but it doesn’t mean you have to tolerate that. If you end up in a situation where you have to protect your time at work, follow these steps:

  • Have a conversation with your colleague and explain that the situation doesn’t work for you. Important: the conversation must be private!
  • Don’t be afraid to say no. You aren’t going to do their work for them anymore. Period.
  • Set up clear boundaries. If the person has problems with boundaries, it’s your responsibility to let them know what is okay and not okay for you.
  • If nothing works, speak to your supervisor. Explain that you can’t give your fullest attention to work when you are in these conditions and ask to resolve the situation.

Now you know how to neutralize the difficult coworker! 

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