My new colleague creates convenient distractions, what should I do?


I’m unconvinced about a relatively new colleague’s work ethic. Not long ago, our boss came into our pod and asked how the colleague in question was going with a particular task. The new colleague looked out the window and shouted “Oh look! There’s…” and then mentioned the name of a very famous actor.

Naturally, we all crowded around the window to see.

Illustration by John Shakespeare
Illustration by John ShakespeareCredit:

“Oh,” said the colleague, “He’s gone behind a tree.”

I don’t think this megastar celebrity was ever there. Is this colleague creating distractions to divert our attention from their lack of productivity?


In a word, yes. Yes, they are.

This reminds of a time long ago when a colleague, confronted with a challenging question during a meeting, informed those gathered that it would be impossible to answer because, only moments ago, they had been accosted outside by the “Paddle Pop Lion” and were now flustered and breathless.

This was in the early 2000s, so people actually knew who the Paddle Pop Lion was. The excuse itself, of course, was pure absurdity. At first, the person replied to incredulous questions with, “it was a man in a suit”.


After further examination they said, “it was a man who just looked like the character” (at which point someone mentioned Nickelback). Then, when another colleague asked why a man who looked a bit like a cartoon character would cause such anxiety, the person pretended to answer their phone, despite the fact it clearly hadn’t rung.

Very distracting: The ‘Paddle Pop Lion’ entertaining children in 2004.
Very distracting: The ‘Paddle Pop Lion’ entertaining children in 2004.Credit: Ben MacMahon

Anyway, based on this experience, I feel I’m qualified to tell you that this was a ruse and your colleague is making a mockery of you, your co-workers and your boss.

It might be tempting to laugh off such flagrant “look over there” behaviour. I’m ashamed to admit that I guffawed upon first reading your email – but that’s mainly because the movie star your colleague mentioned (but which we’ve removed from your published question) was so unlikely to be walking around in public in Australia in winter. But I doubt it’s really that funny for you and the others in your team if you have to take on more work.

I assume from your letter that the distractions so far have worked and your boss is letting this inactivity slide.

When an attempt at misdirection occurs again, my advice would be to ever-so-tactfully bring the conversation back to your colleague’s work. The trick will be not to come across as a dobber or a work nerd – just as someone casually interested in how the new person is going with a particular project.

That may sound a little underhanded, but it pales in comparison to their chicanery.

Need some Work Therapy? Email your office dilemma, question or celebrity sighting story to [email protected]

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