Q: I have an especially chatty colleague who is determined to start Monday mornings with a rundown of what she did over the weekend, and she expects the same from me. I would rather just get my head down and tackle my in-box. How do I get out of this without offending her?
A: Get hold of, or copy, one of those ubiquitous No Smoking signs that all offices now have to display. Replace the word Smoking with the word Talking. Replace the graphic of a cigarette with a graphic of an androgynous face with hands across the mouth - as in the three monkeys.
Tell all your colleagues - not just the garrulous one - that the only way you can cope with the horror of Monday mornings is to observe a period of total silence until your in-box is empty and your e-mails have been answered. Erect the sign on your desk or monitor, and keep it there until the risk recedes.
You're bound to get the gossip sooner or later - but in your case, later will be greatly preferable to sooner.
- Jeremy Bullmore is a former creative director and chairman of J Walter Thompson London. His book Another Bad Day at the Office is published by Penguin at £6.99. Address your problem to Jeremy Bullmore at: email@example.com. Regrettably, no correspondence can be entered into.