My Coworkers Won’t Focus — Does That Make Me Look Bad?

I share an office with three colleagues at my same level. While they're lovely and exciting to be around, I don't think we have the same goals when it comes to moving up. They tend to get distracted for hours on end by YouTube videos or social media, and they loudly laugh or make jokes. While I can put in headphones and tune them out, I'm afraid my boss hears the constant laughter and thinks I'm not taking my work seriously. I would hope that my work speaks for itself, but how can I explicitly convey to her that I'm not goofing off without throwing them under the bus?

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Trust that good bosses know what’s going on. They either observe and intuit themselves, or they rely on cultivated channels of information within the organization. The best ones know who’s working hard, who’s working smart, who solves problems in creative ways, who’s looking for more responsibility, who’s a natural leader, and where their future talent lies. They also understand who is just doing a job versus trying to build a career.

Focus your energy on how you can achieve results for your company instead of on what your office mates are doing — or exactly when you might throw them under the proverbial bus. Direct your attention toward being the kind of employee you would value if you were in charge.

For instance: Do you take your assignments seriously? Complete work thoroughly (maybe even adding a bit more than was expected)? Deliver on time? Consistently have a positive attitude? Work well as part of a team? If you see an opportunity, will you step up and assume a leadership role? Do you ask for additional work or responsibility?

At some point, you may have to differentiate yourself from your colleagues if you’re going to accomplish your goals. Focus on work while you’re in the office and suggest taking the merriment to a local bar after hours. That way, you’re not rejecting your office mates, you’re just shifting your own attention to working during business hours and socializing afterward.

To make sure you’re on the right track, meet with your boss for feedback on your job performance. (Many companies do scheduled employee reviews.) Make sure you leave the meeting with concrete things you can do to improve, a timeline by which to complete them, and an agreement to maintain an open dialogue. Set expectations, then exceed them. If you’re trying to build a career, go on and build one — and don’t get distracted. Good bosses and great organizations reward employees who get results.

Christine Tardio is a trusted advisor and business coach to a dynamic range of women business leaders. She can be reached at

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