I work in a sales office of about 15 people. My question is, how do I sit back and ignore the office manager who is always chit chatting with a couple of the ladies in the office. They go out to lunch all of the time, taking an hour or longer, when they are only supposed to have a 1/2 hour lunch. They invite me to come along, but I feel guilty, because none of us should be taking these long lunches.
The owner of the company trusts the office manager completely and he would not want to hear about this issue from me. My question is, how do I ignore this behavior?
OFFICE-POLITICS REPLY BY FRANKE JAMES
That little voice inside you that says, “None of us should be taking these long lunches.” is exactly the voice that you should be listening to, not those chatty ladies that are currently getting under your skin. It will take you far in your career. Your simple statement reflecting concern about long lunches tells me volumes about your work ethic. That honest work ethic will be appreciated — if not at your current company, then by other companies in the future. With that ‘good common sense’ you have the makings of an executive or owner. I can say that because you are keeping the company’s best interests in mind — and that is so important in understanding what is the right thing to do in many office politics situations.
I understand where you are coming from because I was on the other side at one point in a similar situation. I was the ‘Boss’ who hired a subcontractor programming team to do some complex work for our company. Trouble was, they spent a lot of time chatting, going out for coffee and taking long lunches. It totally irked me, and I started to question their productivity. I asked myself, ‘Are we getting value for the dollar?’ With programming, a lot can be hidden behind IT mumbo-jumbo. But when my employees came up to me, asking what was up… ‘Why can the subcontractor goof off and we have to work hard?’ Well, that was it for me. I fired the programmers. And looking back it was absolutely the right decision. I suspected that they were taking advantage of us financially, but I knew for sure they were undermining the good work ethic of our employees. (The next programmer we hired got the work done in 5 days that the subcontractor team said would take months.)
So, let’s return to your situation. You are not the Boss. You don’t have the power to fire these chatty ladies. Your best strategy is threefold.
#1. Ignore them
You do not have the power to change their behavior. One of my fundamental beliefs is that I cannot change other people, only they can change themselves. To lessen their annoyance, a good technique is to mentally step back and observe your reaction to them. Acknowledge that you are irritated. Accept that no one, and no job, is perfect. Then take a deep breath and go to # 2.
#2. Shift your Focus
Try shifting your focus to positive goals. It’s amazing what we can ignore if we have a strong enough reason to…
#3. Goal Setting
Make a list of 10 ways that your work or office could function more smoothly. (To fuel some ideas you could pick up a book on it, or Google ‘maximizing productivity’ tips.)
Then sit down with the owner and tell him that you are very interested in maximizing productivity, and would he be interested in having a ‘brainstorming workshop’ or ‘study’ on how to improve it? You don’t need to dazzle him with your Top Ten List, yet. Keep it in your back pocket in case he says, “Well, give me an example…” That is your cue to tell him a few of your ideas.
But what you really want is to have his go ahead on the ‘brainstorming workshop’ or ‘study’ done in conjunction with other employees. That should produce a long list of items that would bring your chatty coworkers behavior to light — and put you in a strong position for improving company growth and profit. And the bottom-line is that with most owners, profit is key. And employees who contribute to the bottom-line are very valuable.
Thanks for writing to Office-Politics. Let me know if this helps.
Franke James, MFA
Editor & Founder, Office-Politics.com
Franke James, MFA is the Editor & Founder of Office-Politics.com. She is also the Inventor of The Office-Politics® Game a dilemma-based social game that teaches you how to play, and laugh, at office politics. It’s used by HR departments, and corporate trainers worldwide. The Office-Politics Dilemmas have been inspired by the hundreds of letters submitted to Office-Politics.com.