Everyone thinks they can multitask, which is why we have people texting on their phones when they're supposed to be engaged in a conversation with someone else at work.
Lots of people don't mind, because they see this as permission to do the same. (It's also sort of like yawning -- you see someone on a smartphone and you automatically start doing the same.) Pretty soon, everyone that is supposed to be talking to one another is instead staring avidly at their smartphone screens and doing a half-hearted job of communicating.
But there are a lot of people -- me included -- who think it's rude and disrespectful to turn your attention to your phone when you're holding a conversation with me. But unless you're a relative, I'm unlikely to say anything to you about it. If you're my boss, I'm definitely not going to say anything.
Because really, who calls out the boss when he or she is rude?
A boss who checks email or texts while you're having a conversation is rude. Period. But there's something more concerning: A boss who doesn't give you full time and attention is more likely to make a bad decision or fail to give you credit -- or attention -- when you propose a good idea.
So how do you get the boss's full attention without without doing a full body block of a computer or phone screen? You can try:
- Sending up a flare. Bosses are hit with dozens of requests every day and they often feel they do nothing but deal with petty problems such solving parking space squabbles. When you want the boss's attention, you've got to break through to him by showing how an issue affects him. "I'm concerned that if we don't rework this schedule, you're going to be faced with that customer leaving -- and I don't want you to have to explain that to your boss," puts the issue right in his lap. Then, you say, "I've got a couple of options -- you tell me the one that works best for you." This moves into solving the problem -- or at least having the boss's full attention so it can be solved as quickly as possible.
- Being more inquisitive. People love to hear themselves talk. If you've got questions prepared for the boss, then you can use them to drag her attention back to the issues you need to discuss. Don't let the conversation lag or she'll be tempted to check her phone. Keep you answers focused and your questions specific so the conversation doesn't wander -- along with your's boss's attention.
- Leaving. If you can't get your boss's attention, you might as well leave. This is a waste of her time and of yours. "This clearly isn't a good time for you, so I'll come back later," you say. If the boss realizes she's being rude and needs to pay attention, she will. If not, then you weren't going to get anywhere while she checked Instagram or sent a couple of emails. It's better to not get upset at the way she's behaving and go do something else.
Don't deal with rudeness by being rude in return. Whether there's impolite behavior from a colleague or a boss, the best way to deal with it is to stick to behavior that you know will reveal the best in you. Such a tactic will not only let you maintain your self respect, but perhaps even teach others how to do the same.
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