Q: My manager asks many questions regarding every project he assigns me. The problem is that with every question I answer, he cuts me off and begins another question. He never listens to the full answer. I'm afraid he will miss critical information and I will be blamed for leaving out necessary facts. I don't want to be equally rude and interrupt him the way he interrupts me, but I don't know how to get him to listen.
A: Interrupting or loudly talking over a person is generally thought to be rude and ill-mannered. But communication rules and courtesies do not consist of absolutes. You both may have different communication styles and interpretations of what needs to be said. For example, a group of co-workers complained of an employee who was known to overexplain everything. When asked any question, she provided the complete history rather than answering the precise question. Her co-workers dreaded any conversation with her because her answers turned into unwanted lectures. If they tried to say anything, the woman would continue to expound on the topic without a pause or acknowledgement that she was monopolizing the conversation. Eventually, her co-workers changed directions when they saw her walking their way.
The first question to ask is whether you are providing the requested information or including every aspect of the project, thinking you are protecting yourself from your manager misunderstanding. Or perhaps you are not prioritizing the information by stating the critical facts first. The same communication rules apply to both writing and speaking. Provide needed information only once, and do not include the obvious. For example, a common error is to begin a written communication with, "I am writing to ... " The reader knows you have written, so delete that opening and get to the point.
Although your projects may differ, you are familiar with the types of questions your manager asks. Plan your answers in advance. Make sure all pertinent information is reported in the beginning. Explain all qualifiers immediately. If information is not critical, omit it.
If he continues interrupting you when you know you have verbally edited your responses, his questions may be to see if you are on the right course. When he is satisfied, he moves on to a different question. Plus, your manager may be intellectually sharper than you think. He may seem abrupt, but he may see unnecessary conversation as a waste of time. You and your manager may also have different communication styles, and you cannot change his. Speaking to him about the issue will only alienate him.
Regardless of your styles, you still have choices: Practice editing your verbal responses to him to ensure brevity and concise language; accept his interruptions as part of his personality; or look for another position in or outside of your company. Negative judgments hurt the person who thinks and feels them. If you continue thinking your manager is rude, your irritation will grow, and you will not be happy remaining in the job. Sensitivity is a positive character trait to a point; it can help a person understand where another person is emotionally. Beyond that level, make sure your sensitivity doesn't affect your satisfaction level and job performance.
Email career and life coach: [email protected] with your workplace problems and issues. Ms. Novak responds to all emails. For more information, visit www.lindseynovak.com, and for past columns, see https://www.creators.com/features/at-work-lindsey-novak.
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