I have a colleague at work. He is autistic. He likes to talk but have trouble expressing his emotions. He doesn’t sit next to me. He works with me sometimes. He leaves his cubicle to talk to me even though I’m busy. How do I deal with this?

  • 2
    Does either of them cause any issue to you ? Do they interrupt your workflow to talk about things that are not related to the company business or your daily tasks ? Oct 30, 2022 at 22:29
  • One of them does. Yes, They interrupt my workflow.
    – Tony Byrd
    Oct 30, 2022 at 22:31
  • What have you tried so far? Oct 30, 2022 at 22:33
  • I asked them to leave politely. I also told them that I’m busy.
    – Tony Byrd
    Oct 30, 2022 at 22:44
  • 2
    Have you tried wearing headphones? They are a signal that you don't want to be disturbed. Oct 30, 2022 at 23:08

4 Answers 4


I've learned if you don't like someone's conversation they will eventually get the hint if you excuse yourself repeatedly from the interaction this will in turn cause them to confront you instead of you having to confront them

They will ask why you are avoiding them and you can politely say I like my job and frankly it's way more important so let's keep it professional and maybe go have a drink after work or message through email Drink is leading them to believe you want to have a social friendship tell them to email you will send them. Clear messaging that you're not really wanting to be socially connected to them. This in turn will save face as you can't be the bad guy of they confront you works for me ... Goodluck

  • "Men" and "getting hints" often doesn't work. On the positive side, "men" and "being told directly what you don't like" works well and without problems for most who don't get hints.
    – gnasher729
    Oct 31, 2022 at 12:06

Are these colleagues discussing work matters with you, or just chatting about social things? (Or perhaps a bit of both?)

You generally can't avoid talking to work colleagues about work. However, what you can do is channel how and when they talk to you. Set specific times in your calendar where you have time for catch-ups, and let your coworkers know when that is (alternatively you can block out specific chunks of 'focus time' where you don't want to be disturbed, and again, tell your coworkers). Then, and this is the hard part, don't discuss non-urgent work matters outside the times you've said you're available. Ask them politely to leave and come back at a specific later time, as you're busy.

With regards to non-work chat, you can take a similar approach where you ask them to discuss the topic with you during your break/lunch time instead. You can be apologetic about it and tell them that you do want to discuss whatever topic is at hand, but you can't give them your undivided attention at the moment. You can, for example, offer to grab them when you're next getting a cup of coffee.

Both of the above assume that your problem is with the timing of the conversation, and not the fact that they're talking to you at all. If you don't want to have any sorts of discussions with them, this is likely to be tricky. Being antisocial at work will tend to lead to other problems down the line. You should aim to maintain an effective working relationship if these are people you work with at all, and sometimes that means listening to an occasional boring story or pretending to laugh at a dull joke. You can try to minimise the time spent with them using the above strategy, but ignoring them completely is unlikely to work out well in the long run.

If this is seriously impacting your work: Escalating to your manager/HR is likely to have social and perhaps professional repercussions for you, if it's seen as an overreaction. Try to resolve things with them directly first. However, if you've tried to be polite and professional and it's not working, then you can get your manager involved (inform them of the steps you've already taken and how much it's affecting your productivity, to make it clear that it's a serious problem for you).


There's multiple ways to do this:

1: The Passive approach - you get a big pair of over-the-ear Headphones - and you let your colleagues know that if you have them on, you are busy on important issues and would like not to be disturbed.

2: The Direct approach - Sit down with them (and potentially their manager) and say something like this:

"Hey guys, I find it very difficult to stop what I'm currently working on, have a conversation, and then resume what it is I was doing before you needed to talk to me - Can I ask that you consider sending me a message in Teams/Slack/whatever or put it in an Email so that I can respond and assist when I've reached a convenient break point in my current tasks?"

3: The HR approach - raise this with Mangement/HR - outline much the above - that you are finding the regular interruptions to be really hampering your efforts to complete your work and ask that they have a chat with the individuals to limit the interactions

Also - don't feel bad about asking - I work in IT and this is fairly common that people are very particular about when they can be asked a question as it really does break a flow of concentration.


It doesn't sound like there is a problem!

But if you really have someone talking to much, just wrapping up the conversation after a short hearing by saying "I'm sorry, Jane, I've got so much on my plate that I'll have to crack on."

A certain amount of chat between colleagues is normal and expected.

If two people with very different roles are colocated, you might end up with different norms and personalities conflicting, but in that case it might be appropriate to approach your manager and ask for a more private area to work, or even move on to another company.

If it isn't a personality or role issue, but just somebody who really won't stop rabbiting on, after a few times of being polite about wanting to crack on with work, it might be appropriate to be more direct, or even approach your manager.

It would seem unusual to have two such people with this problem, man and woman, in one place though.

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