Peers or near-peers who talk compulsively comprise the bulk of the problem cases of compulsive talking, perhaps because they're more willing to engage with their peers. Continuing our convention from last time, we refer to the compulsive talker by the name "Sydney." And let's assume that you're Sydney's target, that your own attempts to deal with Sydney openly and directly have been futile, and that your supervisor has been unable or unwilling to intervene effectively.
Dealing with peers, by necessity, cannot involve invoking organizational power. Instead, the strategies below work by limiting Sydney's access to you, while maintaining civility whenever possible.
Many of these suggestions involve dissembling, which can be ethically difficult for some, especially Sydney's friends. To deal with compunctions about dissembling, begin by accepting that there are no good options. Tolerating Sydney's intrusions affects both your ability to work and Sydney's; confronting Sydney even more directly could be hurtful and permanently so; dissembling would be an ethical breach that could lead to your being caught in a lie. The choice is yours, but careful dissembling usually presents the least risk.
Some tactics and strategies:
- Reframe feelings of guilt
- Some of these tactics might seem harsh. Concerns for Sydney are real, but usually overblown, because Sydney is probably accustomed to having others terminate conversations; he or she might actually expect it and understand it. The situation doesn't justify rudeness, but it does give you some additional space to maneuver.
- Set limits
- If Sydney Begin by accepting that
there are no good optionshas phoned you, or found you despite your best evasive efforts, begin the conversation by setting a time limit: "I can talk for only two minutes." And when you reach that time, end it.
- Don't let it start
- If Sydney is more likely to accost you at particular times of day, be unavailable: out of the office, in a meeting, or on the phone. If alone in your office, wear your headset even though you aren't actually engaged. When Sydney appears, point to the earpiece.
- Call my phone
- If you have an assistant, have him or her call you or interrupt you. If not, numerous apps for smartphones and tablets enable you to simulate incoming phone calls, or actually schedule real incoming phone calls. Use one to create incoming calls that you can use as excuses for terminating the "conversation" with Sydney.
- Use the washroom
- If you and Sydney are opposite in gender, duck into a one-gender (yours) washroom. Some Sydneys will wait in the hallway, but the longer you take in the washroom the more likely is Sydney to walk away.
- Walk away
- Outside your office, you always have the choice to walk away. If Sydney catches you in your office, and leaving is an option, immediately stand, grab your laptop, tablet, or a notepad, and leave, explaining that you're late and can't talk.
Are you fed up with tense, explosive meetings? Are you or a colleague the target of a bully? Destructive conflict can ruin organizations. But if we believe that all conflict is destructive, and that we can somehow eliminate conflict, or that conflict is an enemy of productivity, then we're in conflict with Conflict itself. Read 101 Tips for Managing Conflict to learn how to make peace with conflict and make it an organizational asset. Order Now!
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More articles on Conflict Management:
- Dismissive Gestures: II
- In the modern organization, since direct verbal insults are considered "over the line," we've
developed a variety of alternatives, including a class I call "dismissive gestures." They
hurt personally, and they harm the effectiveness of the organization. Here's Part II of a little catalog
of dismissive gestures.
- Responding to Threats: II
- When an exchange between individuals, or between an individual and a group, goes wrong, threats often
are either the cause or part of the results. If we know how to deal with threats — and how to
avoid and prevent them — we can help keep communications creative and constructive.
- Lateral Micromanagement
- Lateral micromanagement is the unwelcome intrusion by one co-worker into the responsibilities of another.
Far more than run-of-the-mill bossiness, it's often a concerted attempt to gain organizational power
and rank, and it is toxic to teams.
- Stalking the Elephant in the Room: I
- The expression "the elephant in the room" describes the thought that most of us are thinking,
and none of us dare discuss. Usually, we believe that in avoidance lies personal safety. But free-ranging
elephants present intolerable risks to both the organization and its people.
- So You Want the Bullying to End: I
- If you're the target of a workplace bully, you probably want the bullying to end. If you've ever been
the target of a workplace bully, you probably remember wanting it to end. But how it ends can be more
important than whether or when it ends.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming March 28: Four Overlooked Email Risks: II
- Email exchanges are notorious for exposing groups to battles that would never occur in face-to-face conversation. But email has other limitations, less-often discussed, that make managing dialog very difficult. Here's Part II of an exploration of some of those risks. Available here and by RSS on March 28.
- And on April 4: Narcissistic Behavior at Work: III
- People who behave narcissistically tend to regard themselves as special. They systematically place their own interests and welfare ahead of anyone or anything else. In this part of the series we consider how this claimed specialness affects the organization and its people. Available here and by RSS on April 4.
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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.