A colleague from a different team often spends hours discussing his personal projects with us during work hours. These projects, which are somewhat related to our field, become a frequent topic of conversation, especially when he seeks advice. Unfortunately, once we engage, he regularly updates us on his progress the next days/weeks.

The issue is, he doesn't grasp that I'm not the least bit interested in what he's sharing, despite my hints—I've cut conversations short, looked away, went on with my tasks while he talks etc... He always starts speaking and even after I express my busyness, he generally switches to another colleague, then leaves the room and eventually comes back to me asking if now's a better time, starting his talk before I even answer.

I don't know how to deal with this situation: I want to express my disinterest in his projects, but I hesitate because while I have no business with him, we never know what the future will be made of.

I'm also reluctant to involve his manager, as I don't wish to cause him trouble, especially if his manager is either approving or oblivious to his focus on personal endeavors during work hours.

  • That is one of the reasons why remote work should be forced where possible :-)
    – puck
    Commented Apr 9 at 7:44

4 Answers 4


Consider a silent "Countdown".

When they start talking, count down ten or fifteen seconds. For example: I slightly tap each of fingers one at time.

If what they are saying / babbling about isn't pertinent to you, then say to them the "hold on a second , I don't mean to sound rude, but I am under a deadline. I will follow up with you." Or something similar.

Key takeaways: Make sure that they aren't bringing you something important. Clean shutdown

After all, if they had the sense to know what they were doing they wouldn't be doing it.

  • This. Make sure the conversation doesn't happen to be an important one before shutting it down! Commented Apr 7 at 11:46
  • 2
    Doesn't "I will follow up with you" imply that you would listen to it, if you had the time, even though that isn't the case here?
    – kirbby
    Commented Apr 8 at 8:55
  • @kirbby IMHO being polite is important. There is little or no value in being rude. Just ghost the person. After enough times they'll get the message, hopefully. From Roadhouse - 'Be nice until it is time to not be be nice."
    – DogBoy37
    Commented Apr 8 at 14:22
  • @DogBoy37 I agree that being polite is the correct way, but you can be polite and firm and not imply that you would do something if you had the time, if you would not (want to) do that ever. It might fuel their hopes coming back to you when you are obviously not busy, eg. while on break, which I would try to avoid as hard as I can.
    – kirbby
    Commented Apr 9 at 8:57
  • 2
    I don't think "I will follow up with you" should be part of the response. OP has made clear that he doesn't want to discuss that stuff not now nor ever, so inciting the colleague to essentially come back later will not achieve the desired goal.
    – mrodo
    Commented Apr 9 at 13:34

Show him "his people"

He has a genuine enthusiasm for his craft. This makes him a good employee in several ways. He wants to do good work, he cares about his creations. Money is (probably) less of a drive, which can make him harder to be poached.

However, he has a need that is not being fulfilled: he has almost no one to talk to about his projects. This is best done outside of work so that during work you and him can focus on work. He keeps trying for "hours every day" because he is "drinking seawater to quench his thirst" by reaching out to people who are not interested at all.

The issue is, he doesn't grasp that I'm not the least bit interested in what he's sharing.

He is looking for the right place and time to talk. He understands that people are busy most of the time, and he is trying to find those moments where others are free. However, there is no right time because he is reaching out to the wrong people.

I want to express my disinterest in his projects, but I hesitate

Try to point him toward a specific group of people who fulfill his need. This should quickly quench his thirst. It will probably not be a big time-sink for him, a couple hours a week with such a group may well be enough! This does him a big favor. Combine it with an explanation that "sharing project ideas" is a niche interest that most people do not have and you have safely expressed your disinterest.

Unfortunately, I cannot think of such a group off the top of my head. The "standard" online programming communities (assuming the OP's question is about a programming job) focus more on learning and job-hunting than they do on "sharing ideas". GitHub and other code-sharing sites do not have an "instant message" feature. Meetup.com is another possibility, but it's very hit-or-miss.


First, you mention that he sometimes asks for advice. In the future when he does this, simply tell him you are not the right person to ask. Even if you feel you are, his request is bait. Don't fall for it.

Second, get a "Do Not Disturb" sign or something equally obvious and place it prominently where he can see it. If he "interrupts" you when it is visible, explain to him that you have it in sight when you need to focus on work tasks. He is welcome to ignore it only for urgent work related topics. If he ignores this sign, you can remind him of your rules once or twice. Beyond that, involve his manager. That's what managers are for.

Last, feel free to always have your "Do Not Disturb" sign out. If he stops by and you are chatting with someone else about non-work topics, he may feel he can join in. If he does, give him a few moments before you "suddenly" realize you lost focus and urgently need to get back to work. Point at the sign as if it reminded you to stay focused. Make sure he sees it also, and acknowledges your time boundary. Then promptly return to work tasks as necessary.

Hallway interactions can usually be handled by continuing to walk and mentioning urgent work. Lunch and other breaks - use the sign! Bring it with you and place it on your table if you feel you need to. This can be a way of helping you "relax" or recharge, and help him to keep his mouth running elsewhere if you don't want to be bothered.

Good luck!

  • First is very good. Second is not. The issue is not the disturbance but that OP is not at all interested. Even more so, it creates awkward moments as you correctly noted, when talking with other colleagues and might even come off as passive aggressive. Commented Apr 9 at 19:42

Not now, friend; I really need to focus. We can chat over lunch, or I can come find you when I come up for air.

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