Skillset New Zealand Blog

Ideas to help your team develop personally and professionally.

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?


It’s a cold grey day and it’s time for your lunch break. You have the option of eating your lunch outside in the cold, or sitting in a warm cafeteria to eat—which would you choose?

Like me, you would probably choose the comfort of a warm cafeteria. Why? Because sitting outside in the cold would be uncomfortable and it is a natural human tendency to avoid discomfort.

Sitting in the cold may give you no rewards, but in learning, enduring a bit of discomfort as you try out new skills will - if you think of it in the right way.

About Roydon Gibbs

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Roydon Gibbs is a Senior Trainer at Skillset.

Roydon specialises in engagement - how to ensure that your staff enjoy coming to work, are at their most productive, speak well of your organisation after hours - and stay.

He has been involved with learning and development since 1998. His knowledge of engagement comes from the research and his experience working with a wide range of organisations.

Roydon holds qualifications in adult teaching and learning. He is a professional member of the New Zealand Association for Training and Development and an accredited member of the Professional Speakers' Association of New Zealand.

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