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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- Active Deceptions at Work
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Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming December 18: The Trap of Beautiful Language
- As we assess the validity of others' statements, we risk making a characteristically human error — we confuse the beauty of their language with the reliability of its meaning. We're easily thrown off by alliteration, anaphora, epistrophe, and chiasmus. Available here and by RSS on December 18.
- And on December 25: Disjoint Awareness
- In collaborations, awareness of how our own work might interfere with the work of others is essential. Unless our awareness of others' work — and their awareness of ours — matches reality, the collaboration's objective is at risk. Available here and by RSS on December 25.
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- The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
Many people who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.
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.