Make us your home page
Career Q&A | By Marie G. McIntyre, McClatchy-Tribune Newspapers

Evading boss' family stories requires grace, timing

Q: My manager has an annoying habit of talking nonstop about her family. She goes into great detail about her daughter's clothes, her son's sports activities or her mother's latest trip. Although I try to listen courteously, I have absolutely no interest in their activities. I obviously don't want to alienate my boss or hurt her feelings, but this is really getting on my nerves. What should I do?

A: Most people who get trapped by compulsive talkers are simply being too polite. Because they see no way to escape without being rude, they suffer in silence while the speaker drones on and on. Sadly, this only serves to reward the very behavior they would like to discourage.

To extract yourself from your manager's monologues, you must find a way to disengage without being offensive. Fortunately, at work, the need to be productive always provides a valid excuse. For example, if your boss is extolling her son's soccer prowess, just wait for an appropriate moment, then say, "That's impressive. Ryan must be quite an athlete. Well, I suppose I'd better start making those customer calls."

On occasions when you find yourself cornered in her office, the "gradual exit" maneuver may come in handy. Start by sitting up straight and leaning forward in your chair. Then, while you continue chatting, slowly stand up and begin working your way toward the door. By the time you have one hand on the doorknob, the conversation should be winding down.

Another trick is to take control of the discussion by telling a story of your own. When you finish this anecdote, quickly excuse yourself and return to work. Ending a conversation is much easier if you're the one doing the talking. Of course, these strategies only work if they are executed with a friendly attitude and a smile. But if you can pull it off, you may be able to shorten the family saga without insulting your boss.

Boss' inexperience requires teamwork

Q: I work in the marketing department of a community bank. My new manager was given the title of marketing director, even though her entire background is in accounting. She seems to realize that she has a lot to learn, but I still have trouble communicating with her. Having worked in marketing for many years, I'm not sure how to relate to a manager who has no professional qualifications.

A: Being more experienced than your boss puts you in the tough position of having to lead and follow at the same time. To manage this balancing act, try to view this as a partnership in which the two of you share the goal of helping the bank succeed. You contribute your marketing know-how, while your boss contributes managerial skills and the greater influence of her position.

If your manager is reasonably mature, she will value your expertise and use it strategically. And if you are reasonably mature, you will be careful not to flaunt your knowledge or embarrass her in front of others. Remember that making your boss look good is usually a wise career move.

Evading boss' family stories requires grace, timing 05/19/12 [Last modified: Saturday, May 19, 2012 4:30am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Tribune News Service.

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Pinellas licensing board asks Sen. Jack Latvala for $500,000 loan

    Local Government

    The troubled Pinellas County agency that regulates contractors wants Sen. Jack Latvala to help it get a $500,000 lifeline from the state to stay afloat.

    State Sen . Jack Latvala, R- Clearwater, is being asked to help the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board get $500,000 from the state so it can stay open beyond February.  [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]
  2. In advertising, marketing diversity needs a boost in Tampa Bay, nationally


    TAMPA — Trimeka Benjamin was focused on a career in broadcast journalism when she entered Bethune-Cookman University.

    From left, Swim Digital marketing owner Trimeka Benjamin discusses the broad lack of diversity in advertising and marketing with 22 Squared copywriter Luke Sokolewicz, University of Tampa advertising/PR professor Jennifer Whelihan, Rumbo creative director George Zwierko and Nancy Vaughn of the White Book Agency. The group recently met at The Bunker in Ybor City.
  3. Tampa Club president seeks assessment fee from members


    TAMPA — The president of the Tampa Club said he asked members last month to pay an additional assessment fee to provide "additional revenue." However, Ron Licata said Friday that the downtown business group is not in a dire financial situation.

    Ron Licata, president of the Tampa Club in downtown Tampa. [Tampa Club]
  4. Under Republican health care bill, Florida must make up $7.5 billion


    If a Senate bill called the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017 becomes law, Florida's government would need to make up about $7.5 billion to maintain its current health care system. The bill, which is one of the Republican Party's long-promised answers to the Affordable Care Act imposes a cap on funding per enrollee …

    Florida would need to cover $7.5 billion to keep its health care program under the Republican-proposed Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017.  [Times file photo]
  5. Amid U.S. real estate buying binge by foreign investors, Florida remains first choice

    Real Estate

    Foreign investment in U.S. residential real estate recently skyrocketed to a new high with nearly half of all foreign sales happening in Florida, California and Texas.

    A National Association of Realtors annual survey found record volume and activity by foreign buyers of U.S. real estate. Florida had the highest foreign investment activity, followed by California and Texas. [National Association of Realtors]