I have a co-worker that comes to me everyday and asks what I an doing and what have I completed. He comes in about once every hour and distracts me for 5 minutes. He isn't in my department and also not my boss. By the time I am concentrated again it's about 10 minutes lost every hour.
It is quite embarrassing sometimes when he asks me what I have completed in front of my boss and then he reply's that'S all you've done, then states that I haven't gotten very far. I have tried to tell him to leave me alone in a non rude way. (Since my boss is there) The problem is i do not want to make it seem like i am not sociable, and don't want my boss to get mad since he comes in and talks.
Things I have tried

  • I told him I am in the zone please don't bother me.
  • Also just ignoring him. I sit there with my headphone in he comes in, says something and i keep on working and he stands behind me for 2 or three minutes before moving on.

EDIT We do not have the same boss. And he does bother me because he is bored, relatively small company.

  • 9
    "then he reply's that'S all you've done, then states that I haven't gotten very far" -> you could reply with something like "shouldn't you be working instead of bothering me?". Could come across quite rude though. But then again, he is bothering you frequently.. way too frequently. Apr 26, 2017 at 10:32
  • If you don't tell him to stop this behaviour, he's not going to stop. Hints don't work with such people. And don't try to be polite -- you tried that, and it didn't work.
    – TonyK
    Apr 26, 2017 at 12:50
  • 6
    "Sorry, not now." (with headphones on). Apr 26, 2017 at 18:50
  • 9
    "then he reply's that'S all you've done, then states that I haven't gotten very far" -> "Yeah, there's this guy who keeps bothering me every hour that's really distracting me from my work"
    – Erik
    May 5, 2017 at 8:47
  • There's a time and place for everything, including being just plain rude. Tell him it's none of his business, then pick up your phone and make a call to somebody else while he's still standing there. If he's still there after 5 minutes, ask him if he hasn't got a desk of his own to work from, then start another phone call.
    – alephzero
    Jun 1, 2017 at 18:16

3 Answers 3


How to deal with co-worker that asks what i'm doing and talks idly?

By feeling compelled to reply to him you are enabling his activities.

The next time he comes by (presumably in an hour or less)

  • Keep your headphones on
  • Keep paying attention to your work
  • Hold up one hand in his direction in a stopping motion and shake your head "no"
  • Continue to do that until he goes away

Repeat this action hourly (or whenever he comes in for his next chat).

When you are no longer in the zone and have free time where you actually want to chat, wander over to his space and chat. If you don't want to chat during work hours, then don't.

In short, make him chat on your terms, not his. And stop enabling.

Eventually, he'll turn his attentions elsewhere or else it won't be a problem for you.

  • 3
    ... wander over to chat ... Good subject would be what he has done lately, and why he is doing so little.
    – gnasher729
    Feb 6, 2020 at 19:48

I think you have to talk about your boss about that. According to what you said, the guy is doing it just in front of your boss. So, the next time it happens, talk directly to your boss (or take him in a meeting room for a concise 1:1 meeting):

The guy who just went to asking me what I am doing is bothering me every hour and I just can't deal with it anymore. Plus, this affects my concentration and thus my productivity. Can you do something?

Or, there is always the headphones solution. I admit it may be very hard to ignore someone standing just behind you, but what I do in such situations is:

  1. remove headphones from one ear
  2. say "I am busy right now, please come back later"
  3. before any answer, put again the headphones one both ears.

I do not encourage to behave like this with normal coworkers because you will be seen as a really rude guy, but in this situation this may works. Maybe this guy is just bored, but being firmly postponed several times will make him go away (or find another coworker to bother).

Ultimately, and at your risk, you can play his game:

Since you look like having a strong interest in my activities, maybe we can set up a meeting with you, my boss and I and talk about my workload, schedule, etc?

Talking to your boss Boss, what do you think about that?

This is almost agressive, but maybe he will realise he has nothing to do with your activities. Including your boss may reinforce your position.

  • Already have the headphones on. It's hard to ignore someone when they are standing behind you. Still a good answer.
    – OmamArmy
    Apr 26, 2017 at 9:00
  • @OmamArmy Edited.
    – le_daim
    Apr 26, 2017 at 9:09
  • 2
    The boss will almost certainly loathe having to deal with such a problem and resent the OP for bringing it to him. Moreover, involving a third party can only lead to more misunderstanding. Much better to focus on the offending person who likely still doesn't realize the level of disruption they are causing. The best solution is direct discussion, saying the same thing that op says in their question.
    – teego1967
    Apr 26, 2017 at 9:40
  • @teego1967 this is why I put "at your own risk". Only OP can consider including his boss into this situation. Anyway, if this impacts his work in such a proportion (10 minutes for one workhour), his boss may want to stop the coworker to bother.
    – le_daim
    Apr 26, 2017 at 9:54
  • The boss will also loathe one employee being distracted all the time, and another employee doing the distracting.
    – gnasher729
    May 5, 2017 at 15:24

This still needs some more clarification. So you are saying that you've implicitly asked this person not to bother you but he/she just keep ignoring it. How exactly this looks like? You are saying: "Please, leave me alone" and this is just ignored or you receive something like "Hm, no!" as response?

Also you claim that even just ignoring this person does not help. Once again - how exactly this looks like? Like, this person approaching you, you don't answer and he don't give a flying F and keeps asking you till he finally gets an answer?

Understanding this is crucial for providing you any kind of advise. Because from what you are telling it looks like that this person is inadequate to the extent that there's nothing can be done other than firing him. From your description he looks almost cartoonishly inadequate, just like, by the way, does your boss.

With information provided the only advise would be to cease any attempts to interact with this person and to inform your supervisor, loud and clearly, that there's a situation you cannot handle by yourself, that this situation affects your work and needs immediate intervention.

  • 1
    Generally you'll want to put requests for clarification in comments to the question and keep the answers self-contained. It's fine to answer with a caveat like that in your last paragraph but the first two paragraphs don't really belong in an answer.
    – Lilienthal
    May 5, 2017 at 10:47

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