I am often working one on one with a teammate who is more experienced than me and higher up in the company hierarchy. He is really nice and we get on really well.

I totally understand having non work conversations off the clock, like at lunch, but this guy often will continue these conversations while we are working too. Sometimes they are sort of related (new technologies in our industry) and sometimes completely unrelated (hobbies we have in common).

He is much more experienced than me and is someone I respect a lot and is not my manager but on manager level in the company. I do try to move the conversation back to work but (1) I don't want to be very rude and (2) he is easy to talk to and sometimes I forget.

If it were just 5 minutes I wouldn't be this worried but on Friday we debugged together for 2 hours and about 1/3 of the talking wasn't directly task related. I am starting to feel like this is making us progress slower with work.

I don't know if this is a big deal. Am I worried about nothing and it's normal for people working together to get distracted by conversation like this? I don't want to make a big deal about this if it's nothing and just normal.

I did do a search and found a question "how to get someone to get to the point" but this is different, my coworker isn't verbose he just talks off topic a lot.


3 Answers 3


Just pull him back to the task at hand. "Hey John, that article you read sounds really cool and I want to hear more about it, but I actually have a bunch of stuff to do after we wrap up this project. Do you mind if we focus on this and we can continue our conversation once I have a little more free time?" Then go have a good lunch or happy hour once you have finished the work and chat all you want.

The other thing to keep in mind is how you are being perceived by the company. If you worked for 2 hours and 40 minutes of it was non-work related chatting, chances are someone noticed that you were not working and instead just gabbing or someone is noticing that your work is taking an unacceptable amount of time. Colleagues can start to get feelings of resentment and feel that you are not a good/hard worker if you get a reputation for chatting more than working.


Be honest about your feelings with yourself. It's very easy for a lower ranked worker, or one who's been around less long to become intrigued by someone with a lot more experience and knowledge. But feel, don't think. If your co-worker has something to teach it might be more complex than just work knowledge. Perhaps when you are conversing personally you are learning something about the workplace you barely realise.

So trust in yourself and your own instincts. At least that would be my advice and it seems to have served me well.


There's a couple ways to proceed with your career.

a) Befriend some folks that may help you with that. They'll remember you when something comes up. Or perhaps not, because they'll also remember you get distracted a lot.

b) Put all your efforts in the task you were given. People always like to work with people like this. Some tasks (you mentioned debbuging) usually require mindfulness anyways.

Another thing to consider is, your attitude at work is a good use of money you're paid to perform your job? Try to get yourself into the paying person shooes.

To sum up, it is up to you to decide and you even could try to do both (it is ok), but 1/3 of time on non-work activies, there's something wrong with that.

  • 1
    This question wasn't about proceeding with career, money, or mindfulness.
    – Xavier J
    Nov 28, 2016 at 14:46
  • @codenoir career and money are consequences of attitude at work, and I've linked that with OP. You say mindfulness doesn't have to do with getting distracted? That's interesting point of view. Nov 28, 2016 at 16:45