How to Deal With the Lurking Co-Worker

Career advice from Marie Claire's cubicle coach — everything you wanted to know about getting ahead, staying ahead, and making the big bucks.

Dear Cubicle Coach

I have this annoying colleague who simply won't leave my office. I've tried the usual tricks, like not making eye contact, glancing at my computer, not offering her a seat, or shuffling papers, but she doesn't get the hint. Other than calling security, what can I do?

Dear Annoyed

Ah, yes, beware The Lurker, who yearns to tell you the latest on her potato-salad recipe, her children's backyard

Pirates of Penzance, her herbal remedy for IBS—who delights most in spending 30 minutes explaining how busy she is. If you have an assistant, warn her that after the predetermined allotment (four minutes!), she is to interrupt you regarding a pressing appointment. If you have no assistant, you'll have to enlist a sympathetic colleague down the hall. Once your space is violated, immediately send a Code Red e-mail to your friend, which she knows means to phone in precisely four minutes with something "urgent." CC would love to tell you that The Lurker will catch on and immediately shorten her stays. She won't. Steel yourself for a siege.