Conceited Co-worker

10 Jul

Letterbalm MussoliniDear LetterBalm: One of my co-workers is full of himself and a loudmouthed bore. At first, people enjoy listening to him because he’s very funny and makes spot-on jokes. But he monopolizes the conversation, never lets anyone talk about anything else, and never knows when to quit. Unfortunately, he’s the boss of our department, and everybody is held captive as long as he holds court. He corners people in their offices, sits down and goes on and on. It’s gotten to the point where we try to avoid him so we can get our work done. Help!

–Our Ears Hurt

Please forgive Ms. L.B. She couldn’t resist the photo of Benito Mussolini (pictured), the epitome of bombastic pomposity before a captive audience. The operative words for your supervisor are “deflect and avoid.” (Think Cesar Millan, the Dog Whisperer, his snapping fingers and his “shush” command that breaks a dog’s fixation at that moment. Your boss isn’t a dog, but you can train him.) You won’t be able to dodge him every time, but if you project busy-ness and have good excuses at the ready you can break your supervisor’s concentration. When you see him, get busy – you’re not lying, you really are busy – and look exasperated. Try these lines, politely:

  • Jack, I’m simply swamped. This report is due tomorrow, as you know, and Sue [his boss] was just on the floor.
  • Jack, I can’t talk right now. This needs to get out today, and I’ll barely make the deadline. Another time, O.K.?
  • Jack, this is the joint project you authorized. I need to concentrate to get my portion done by the deadline. Let’s talk another time.
  • Jack, Sue’s been on the floor all day, and I’ve got to get this done.
  • Jack, I can’t wait for Bill in Marketing to see this. I’ve got to take it to him now.
  • Jack, excuse me, but I have to take this down the hall right away.
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