By Karla Miller, The Washington Post
Q: Please tell me and my co-workers how to deal with a colleague who stops by our offices to chat – and won’t stop talking. It’s not a real problem for me, since I don’t give any signals to indicate interest: I don’t look up from my computer, I barely respond to her overtures, and if that doesn’t work, I say that I’m very busy. However, the rest of my colleagues can’t stomach what, to them, feels like rudeness. The result is that people avoid her. This is affecting her success, and she doesn’t even know it. The sad part is that she’s actually good at what she does. What’s a person to do?
A: Whom do you mean by “a person”? You, for one, seem to be doing just fine. Far from being rude, your last resort is actually the best response. “I’m sorry, but I’m very busy right now” pays her the respect of treating her as a professional who, even if she can’t take a hint, can comprehend a direct statement (even if it needs to be repeated a few times).
If by “a person” you mean your colleagues, they should consider whether dodging someone is really more polite than your approach, especially since it might give your colleague the impression that they just don’t like her.
If she’s otherwise likable, your group might take turns falling on the garrulous grenade by occasionally engaging her in a chat: “Oh, hi! I was just on my way to Starbucks for a quick break. Why don’t you walk with me?” Then, on return: “OK, back to it – talk to you later!”
This removes the distraction from others and conditions your colleague to understand that breaks are for chatting, desks are for business.
And if one of you is in a position to make recommendations to her boss about her performance, it might be a kindness to constructively suggest that she be counseled on how to improve her chances of promotion through greater social awareness.
Q: I accepted a position six months ago. The company has since been purchased and intends to downgrade my position to essentially an entry-level job. I am considering leaving when this happens and am wondering how I should handle this on my résumé.
A: This sounds like worrying how to keep your shirt wrinkle-free when you’re about to be stuffed in a barrel and dumped over a waterfall. The smarter move is to jump out before you get farther downriver: Start job hunting now. On your résumé, list the job you originally accepted – not the one they’re about to demote you to. In your cover letter and interviews, preempt questions about your short tenure by explaining that your employer is being bought out and your position will no longer be available.
PRO TIP: For more official guidance on avoiding rudeness toward colleagues, check out “Miss Manners Minds Your Business” (W.W. Norton & Co., 2013).