Seem familiar

I want to talk about a project, You want to focus on writing your report. I have an animated phone conversation. You need to think in silence. I like to eat apples while I work, You get annoyed by the sound of my chewing.

We are promised that open plan offices will help us to communicate and collaborate with colleagues. The reality can often be very different. 

 It’s not surprising really. Put any group of people together in close quarters with limited privacy day-after-day for hours at a time and what happens? There is the possibility of distraction and disruption resulting in irritation and frustration.

You might not be able to avoid the distraction and disruptions. What is possible is avoiding (or at least limiting) the irritation and frustration. But, to do that you need some skills.

One important skill to learn is how to let others know clearly and calmly what you do or do not want.

Try the STAR technique

STAR has its origins in behavioural job interviewing, but you can adapt it to everyday work situations.

STAR stands for Situation Task Action Result.

You can use the STAR technique to let colleagues know how their behaviour is affecting you and what you need. It helps you to do that without getting personal or emotive.

Use STAR to organise your thoughts

First, identify the effect of the person’s behaviour.

When I am working at my desk (Situation)

Trying to meet a report deadline (Task)

And you keep talking to me about your project (Action)

I find it hard to focus on my report writing (Result)

Now, use STAR to identify what you need.

When I am working at my desk (Situation)

Trying to meet a report deadline (Task)

I would appreciate not being interrupted (Action)

So that I can focus and meet my deadline. (Result)

Keep it real

It's time to talk to your colleague. To keep it real you won't  use the exact words you prepared. But as part of a natural conversation you will be more able to clearly and calmly state what you need.

It’s not the only tool you need to handle the challenges of open plan workspaces, but it will make a big difference. Practise using it and you’ll find that things will often run a lot smoother.


Interested in a workshop on achieving more in your open plan office for your team?