Are your employees focused on their tasks or are they socializing? It’s Monday morning and you are trying to get back into the work groove. With a major contract due soon, you are distracted by laughter coming from around the corner.   It’s only 9:30, no one should be on break, so you look around the corner and you see three of your employees chatting about the weekend rather than working on their already late projects. What should you do?

This is a common dilemma for managers. Where do you draw the line between allowing socializing and ensuring work is done? A certain amount of socialization in the workplace is expected, and even necessary, among employees, but how much is too much. As a manager you need remember that while you don’t have to always be hard-nosed about situations, you are also not your employee’s friend. Before reacting and sending them back to work, consider all of the information you have.

  • How Long have your employees been socializing (5, 10, 30 minutes)?
  • Will it hurt the workload or timeline if they talk for a few minutes?
  • Is there a critical issue that has to be fixed right now?
  • Are other employee’s being sucked in by one known socializing employee?
  • Is this a common occurrence (several times a day, once a week, etc.)?

Realizing that these employees have been chatting about their weekend for twenty minutes, you pull yourself away from your work to go speak to the employees. Once the employees see you coming they start to scatter back to their work as if you are carrying an ax. Obviously the employees have caught on they have socialized a bit too much. At this point, I would recommend gently reminding the employees about keeping socializing to a minimum and longer conversations should take place at a more appropriate time and location. While talking to them, check in on their work progress and verify they are on track and have all the resources they need.

If you find that one or more employees is consistently avoiding actual work through socialization, consider disciplinary measures. For example, start with a causal conversation about the effects the disruptions have on the company and his/her performance. If you have already gone down that route with little to no effect, don’t be afraid to move on to formal measures (e.g. documented Verbal Warning).

Finally, as a manager make sure that you are demonstrating leadership by not joining in or starting long conversations.