Handling Toxic Time Wasters

Joe Weinlick
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Toxic time wasters do more than reduce productivity at the office. These kinds of people can create a toxic work environment, make it hard for you to get along and suck the mental energy out of those around them. Learn to recognize the three types of people who love to waste your time, and then discover strategies to overcome these productivity killers.


Monopolizers are toxic time wasters who are long-winded and cannot get to the point. You ask these types of people a simple yes or no question, and they go into a 30-minute monologue about how it's a gray area and the answer depends on several factors. You don't want details, you want a straight answer about whether something can be done. These people are the reason you have caller ID.

Monopolizers often interrupt your agenda, deplete your energy and make it so you can't get a word in while they speak. Solve the problem of monopolizers by saying you have only five minutes or less to hear the explanation to an answer. Interrupt the person yourself and say, "I’m sorry, I can't talk right now. How about we talk again sometime later?" You can always tell the person to email you an answer so you can read the detailed explanation at your leisure.


Blindsiders represent toxic time wasters who use situations to their advantage. You don't expect people to bring up a certain topic, but they talk about it anyway because they have your attention. For example, you invite a blindsider into your office to talk about a current project, but the person discusses a totally unrelated topic because you're a captive audience. A blindsider wants to talk about setting up a networking meeting with an important contact rather than the corporate training session on your agenda.

These types of toxic time wasters surprise you with their conversation, belittle you and gossip about other people. You may find you don't trust them. When you're caught off-guard by a blindsider, take a few deep breaths and then get the conversation back on topic. Before you even meet with this person, lay out an agenda or ask about the topic of discussion so you can get the person back on task.

Negative Normans

Negative Normans never have anything positive say. Toxic time wasters who discuss nothing but negative things drag down your positivity and make it hard to get through your day. Negative Normans want you to fix their problems.

Rather than listen to this person's complaints all of the time, empathize and say, "I'm sorry." Then say the situation is frustrating and you're sure he can figure it out. Do not listen to a negative Norman for more than five minutes, otherwise you enable the person and he keeps coming back for more.

Take the Initiative

Time wasters decrease productivity and employee engagement. As many as 82 percent of workers are motivated by recognition, and 66 percent find their passions through the company culture. Tap into these two tenets to try to make your teammates happier so they focus on work rather than wasting your time.

These three types of toxic time wasters can lower everyone's game. The sooner you solve these problems, the better your office becomes.

Photo courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


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  • Johnnie P.
    Johnnie P.

    Very good advice, now I can put a name to these different types of people in these situations.

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