News and advice on business etiquette — April 2015

A few tips on how to tune out colleagues who over-share. Plus, a new study shows alcohol can help most people reach a creative peak — but always within limits.


Q: My over-sharing coworker is killing my productivity. Any tips to help stop the constant chatter?

A: Ah, the classic over-sharer: the guy who arrives Monday morning touting his weekend exploits, or the gal who describes the gross particulars of her recent sick day. Whatever their story, we’ve all witnessed these creatures of disruption. Karen Cleveland, a Toronto etiquette expert, wants these talkers to know this simple rule of thumb: "If you’re having a conversation in a shared space, the odds are that it is immensely distracting for someone. Take your must-discuss-now chat elsewhere with someone who wants to hear it." You don’t have to stop all friendly banter; just remember that quick recaps are good but 20-minute-long whiny rants about that inconsiderate teenager on the subway during your crazy commute are, well, not so good.

For those afflicted with an over-sharing colleague, it’s usually pretty easy to stop the endless babble. "If your objective is to end idle chitchat, keep a stack of files on your guest chair to dissuade perching," Cleveland says. "You can also say you’re on a deadline and ask to catch up later." If they still don’t get the hint, never underestimate the power of headphones to casually show that you are focusing on your work and would rather not be disturbed by office chatter.

— Stephanie Tarling


A drink to help you think?

SWING INTO HIGH BEER article image 

Danish beer maker Rocket Brewing is set to cash in on the findings of a 2012 University of Illinois study that revealed that most people hit their "creative peak" with a slight buzz — or, more accurately, when they reach a blood alcohol level of 0.075. Its new India Pale Ale, aptly called The Problem Solver, comes in a bottle etched with a weight-based measure to show precisely how much of the 7.1% alcohol beverage each person would need to guzzle to achieve ultimate creativity — and not a drop more. The drink, not yet available in North America, has no special properties aside from its vessel’s "cheat sheet" — so any kind of liquor should arguably do the job for anyone willing to calculate their blood alcohol level themselves. Of course, unlike those ’60s-style office tipplers on TV’s Mad Men, today’s ingenuity seekers should probably limit their problem-solving experiments to after-hours endeavours.

— Tamar Satov


Weariness wake-up call

And yet another reason why it would be unwise to resurrect on-the-job drinking: worker fatigue. Nearly two-thirds of employees say they’ve made mistakes at work because they were tired, and another 38% admit they were so sleepy they actually dozed off on the job, according to a US survey for energy-drink maker Red Bull. Among the types of errors respondents attribute to sleepiness: forgetting items they need to complete their work (41%), missing a meeting (21%), addressing a colleague or client by the wrong name (24%), walking around the office with an unbuttoned top or mismatched shoes and missing a deadline (16%).

— TS