Q. I don’t understand why my boss is annoyed with me. As his administrative assistant, I try to be as efficient as possible, but he doesn’t always seem to appreciate this.
Last week, when someone called in sick, I sent my boss an email saying this employee would not be coming in. He responded that he would like me to tell him these things in person. I emailed back and said, “Do you want me to come into your office now?” He replied, “Yes!”
When I went into his office, he said my frequent emails were driving him crazy. He also said that sending an email to ask if I should come in was ridiculous. He apparently wants me to talk to him instead of putting my questions in writing.
This makes no sense, because a short email is much less distracting than someone walking into your office. When I do go talk to him, we waste a lot of time discussing his personal life. Why is he being so unreasonable?
A. Although your manager wasn’t very diplomatic, he is really just trying to express a communication preference. While some people want written information, others like to talk. For you, zipping off a quick email is the logical way to convey a short message. But to your boss, writing someone from a few feet away just seems silly.
These conflicting communication styles could reflect a common personality difference. The fact that your boss enjoys personal conversation may indicate that he is a “people person” who relishes face-to-face interaction. You, on the other hand, may be a more task-oriented type who hates spending time on irrelevant chatter.
If your manager is significantly older, there may also be a generational gap. Younger folks tend to view electronic communication as the default option and use talking as a last resort. Some of their elders find this frustrating and ineffective. This is simply a difference of opinion, with arguments to be made on both sides.
The key consideration for you, however, is that this guy is your boss. Given the strength of his reaction, he has probably been stewing about this issue for quite some time. So if you want to be smart about “managing up,” you will respect his wishes and communicate as requested.
Q. I commute to work every day with five coworkers. Two of them are always late, so the rest of us have to wait for them. This means that no one gets to work on time. How do we solve this problem?
A. The punctual people in your group are being much too nice. Your thoughtless colleagues will never change as long as their rude behavior is being tolerated. If you want them to shape up, you will need to adopt a different strategy.
Give the slackers a clear warning that they are now expected to comply with the schedule. When they continue to be late, as they undoubtedly will, the group must drive away without them. If you keep this up, they will either learn to be on time or find some other suckers to wait for them.
Marie G. McIntyre is a workplace coach and the author of “Secrets to Winning at Office Politics.” www.yourofficecoach.com