My boss at Office Job, who we’ll call Little Mole Boss for her previously explained propensity to close her eyes for long periods of time while talking, is, by and large, a good boss. Most of the time she is considerate of others, generous with her time, and a hard worker. She takes time every morning when she comes in to say hello to everyone, ask us how our weekends were, etc. If someone calls in sick, she seems genuinely concerned, and never complains about their absence. Overall, an excellent boss who makes my experience at work pretty stress-free, especially compared to other bosses I’ve had.
I’ve noticed, however, that she feels free to interrupt us, her subordinates, while we speak, even if one of us is answering a question she asked. One of my bosses at Karate Job (we’ll call him Frantic Boss) has a similar problem: He’s so high-energy that when the person he’s talking to finds a spot during his frantic monologue to put her two cents in, he won’t look her in the face while she talks, and once she’s finished talking, he’ll say something like, “That’s an excellent point. So what I was saying was…” It’s like he’s just waiting for his turn to talk instead of listening. He interrupts people mid-sentence with phrases like, “I totally understand where you’re coming from,” as if his commiseration is enough reason to stop talking. I’ve seen him do this to several people including his boss, the owner of the karate school.
I really dislike when people interrupt each other. Interrupting someone is a socially semi-acceptable way to say, “Stop talking. Whatever you’re about to say, it’s not as interesting/important/pertinent as when I’m about to say, so just save yourself the trouble and shut up.”
Or, somewhat more absurdly, “I feel clairvoyant around you. Your predictability so bores me that I can’t help but attempt to force you to shush by verbally bulldozing you.”
It’s so rude! People who do this drive me nuts. Since I’ve noticed this in my bosses, I’ve been keeping an eye on myself, and I realize I do this sometimes at home while chatting with the roomies. If we’re talking about something funny or whatever, the conversation goes more quickly and talking over each other is only slightly more acceptable. Still, I’m going to be more vigilant about this. I like hearing them talk, they’re fun and smart.
So now I get to hop up on my high horse and point out how I think my bosses could improve:
1. Be willing to conduct an uncomfortable/negative discussion in a professional manner.
Karate bosses are actually really good at this, which is great. Little Mole Boss cannot do this at all. She got so uncomfortable once when we were talking about some nasty emails flying around within an organization we assist in running, that she put her head down on the table we were sitting at, and left it there for a solid minute or so while my two coworkers attempted to sound comforting while hiding the amusement in their voices. She just wanted to disappear, which made me want to disappear. Not a good leadership technique.
2. Listen to your subordinates.
Naturally, there is an implied “without interrupting” at the end of that sentence, but I’ve already gone over that. Really, the point is that my karate bosses do not take criticism or suggestions from their subordinates well at all. In fact, our opinions get out-right ignored, even though our bosses spend almost no time talking to our clients and students. They sit in their ivory tower and make sweeping changes to the curriculum and policies on a monthly basis, regardless of what their subordinates say. It’s a shame because we would be an excellent resource for them, and because it demoralizes us.
3. Acknowledge your short-comings. Learn to depend upon your subordinates for their strengths.
This must be a tough one. As a boss, I would imagine I would feel like I was the best at most things. How else would I have gotten where I was? Little Mole Boss is technologically somewhat inept, considering that she’s in her 70’s, and her generation lacks the constant exposure to computers, etc. So when the prospect of online interaction with our clientele came up, she was against it. When I suggested an iPhone app for a huge event we host with several thousand people, she shot it down. When it was time to send out holiday cards, she asked me to find something affordable and religiously neutral. When I sent her a dozen cards with price points, she responded with one card twice as expensive, and ignored my suggestions to use something more cost-effective, thereby rendering my efforts pointless.
Being a boss can’t be easy, I understand that. I’m not sure what kind of boss I’d be. It sounds lonely.