Most complaints about bosses' communication styles are about those who communicate too little. There are a few, though, who just want to gab. They don't have anything to say, they just gab. It's a serious problem for your boss, but you don't have to let it become a problem for you.
Here are some insights and tips to limit the impact of this problem on your own performance.
- Direct or indirect requests probably won't work
- Since your boss is out of bounds, direct requests that the gabbing stop will likely be experienced as criticism or attack. A defensive response or even retribution are probable outcomes. Hinting is dangerous for the same reason, but since hints are less clear, the message is also less likely to arrive.
- Your boss hasn't asked for your help
- Refrain from providing "feedback" or "advice" unless you're asked. Not only is it risky when your boss is involved, but it rarely works unless the person in question asks for it.
- The problem might be only temporary
- If, in your workplace, actual job performance and performance evaluation are correlated, your boss is probably in trouble. Habitually spending so much time so unproductively can't help. If you can wait long enough, the problem will go away, because you'll have a new boss.
- Notice patterns
- Offering feedback rarely works,
because your boss hasn't
asked you for help
- Is there a time of day when you're more likely to be targeted? If so, be sure to be somewhere else if you can. If you can't see a pattern, keep a log — you'll know for sure after a few weeks.
- Exploit meeting scheduling software
- Look up your boss's schedule, and plan to be somewhere else when he or she is free. Schedule meetings for those times, or work in a conference room if you can.
- Exploit flextime and telecommuting
- Consider time-shifting your hours. If your boss is a morning person, arrive later. If you can telecommute on some days, do. If asked why you suddenly changed your schedule, say something about "so many interruptions." Keep it impersonal.
- Sign a mutual assistance treaty
- If others are also affected by your boss's chat habit, make a pact with someone else: if you see your boss chatting with your pal, put in a phone call to break up the conversation. Have your pal do the same for you.
If all else fails, pick up your coffee cup and say, "I need some more coffee." Stand, take a step, turn back, and say, "Join me?" Most people will leave your office with you — few will accompany you to the coffee station. If he or she does tag along, continue the conversation, lingering in a public place — don't return to your office. That will usually force a quick end, and you can get back to work.
Is every other day a tense, anxious, angry misery as you watch people around you, who couldn't even think their way through a game of Jacks, win at workplace politics and steal the credit and glory for just about everyone's best work including yours? Read 303 Secrets of Workplace Politics, filled with tips and techniques for succeeding in workplace politics. More info
For more about feedback, see "Feedback Fumbles," Point Lookout for April 2, 2003.
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More articles on Workplace Politics:
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- If your boss is truly incompetent, or maybe even evil, organizing a coup d'etat might have
crossed your mind. In most cases, it's wise to let it cross on through, all the way. Think of alternative
- Staying in Abilene
- A "Trip to Abilene," identified by Jerry Harvey, is a group decision to undertake an effort
that no group members believe in. Extending the concept slightly, "Staying in Abilene" happens
when groups fail even to consider changing something that everyone would agree needs changing.
- When the Answer Isn't the Point: II
- Sometimes, when we ask questions, we're more interested in eliciting behavior from the person questioned,
rather than answers. Here's Part II of a set of techniques questioners use when the answer to the question
wasn't the point of asking.
- That Was a Yes-or-No Question: II
- When, in the presence of others, someone asks you "a simple yes or no" question, beware. Chances
are that you're confronting a trap. Here's Part II of a set of suggestions for dealing with the yes-or-no
- Narcissistic Behavior at Work: VII
- Narcissistic behavior at work prevents trusting relationships from developing. It also disrupts existing
relationships, and generates toxic conflict. One class of behaviors that's especially threatening to
relationships is disregard for the feelings of others. In this part of our series we examine the effects
of that disregard.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming February 28: Checklists: Conventional or Auditable
- Checklists help us remember the steps of complex procedures, and the order in which we must execute them. The simplest form is the conventional checklist. But when we need a record of what we've done, we need an auditable checklist. Available here and by RSS on February 28.
- And on March 6: Six More Insights About Workplace Bullying
- Some of the lore about dealing with bullies at work isn't just wrong — it's harmful. It's harmful in the sense that applying it intensifies the bullying. Here are six insights that might help when devising strategies for dealing with bullies at work. Example: Letting yourself be bullied is not a thing. Available here and by RSS on March 6.
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Beware any resource that speaks of "winning" at workplace politics or "defeating" it. You can benefit or not, but there is no score-keeping, and it isn't a game.