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Part I: Manager and her friends waste time chatting

Dear Office-Politics,

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?


dr. gregory ketchum

Dear Annoyed,

My question is, why is your first question, “How do I ignore this behavior?”

When there are a plethora of questions one could ask about this situation such as:

~ How do I talk to these three knuckleheads about their behavior?
~ Should I lock the office door after half an hour when they’re still not back from lunch?
~ If I ignore it will it just go away?
~ How might I deal with this other than by ignoring it?
~ What about this bothers me so much?
~ Why is my first impulse to ignore it?
~ Why do I feel guilty over the idea of going to lunch and taking a bit too much time than I’m supposed to?
~ If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it does it make a sound?

You get the picture. As always, to find the best solution to this workplace situation let’s start with you. What concerns me most is that your first impulse is to ignore the situation rather than expand your thinking to focus on finding a positive problem solving approach.

So let’s get back to basics. As a starting point I’d like you to put a few questions to yourself. Once you’ve answered these, I’m convinced you’ll not only know what to do, but you’ll also know more about yourself and will be better able to handle the next workplace challenge.

1. What about this bother me so much? Is it causing a disruption to my work? Can I not concentrate when they’re talking? Does it offend my sense of ethical standards and fairness? Just what is it?
2. Why did I go to ignoring it as a first option? Is this my first impulse to any problem?
3. Why don’t I just sit down and discuss my concerns with the office manager? Am I afraid to talk to her?
4. Why am I convinced that the boss wouldn’t want to hear from me? Am I afraid of him/her?
5. How would it impact my standing in the office if I “told on” the office manager to the boss? Is that the best course of action?

The best place to start in resolving a situation like this is to look in the mirror first. Let’s exercise our critical thinking skills and come up with what we believe to be the best solution, and only then run that by others to get their opinion. Your impulse to seek an outside perspective from Office Politics was a good one. You just need to take that first step.

This presents a great opportunity for you to practice one of the primary workplace skills required today: when identifying a problem or an issue at work also come up a couple of solutions. It doesn’t matter where you work these days, knowing how to do this is a key skill that will help you in your career.

Thanks for writing to Office-Politics.com,

Dr. Greg

Dr. Greg Ketchum, dubbed the “Frasier of the Cubicles” by the San Francisco Chronicle, is a former clinical psychologist-turned CEO and media career coach. He presides over an executive talent firm, providing coaching and recruiting for executives and Fortune 500 companies. A unique mix of psychology and coaching expertise gives Dr. Greg a great understanding of people and what it takes for career success. Combined with his keen insight into today’s job market, and infused with his trademark quick wit, Dr. Greg challenges Office-Politics readers to reach for career success on their own terms — and to have a good time doing it.

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