Q: During my last performance review, my manager told me that I need to improve my interpersonal relationships. Some of my co-workers apparently said that I don't talk to them enough. I actually am a friendly person, but at work my only goal is to get my tasks completed. In my opinion, we're here to do a job, not waste a lot of time chatting and joking.
My manager recently assigned me to a new team, so I now have a chance to change his opinion of my communication skills. I'm hoping this will result in a better review next time. How can I get off to a good start with this group?
A: You and your former colleagues provide a perfect illustration of a common personality difference. Some people naturally gravitate toward tasks, while others are drawn to social interaction. Task-oriented folks, like yourself, are often more successful when they invest some time in building relationships.
If your new teammates also tend to be worker bees, then you should have no trouble being accepted. But if this is another bunch of social butterflies, you may need to make a special effort to fit in. For example, when you see co-workers chatting, take a few minutes to join the conversation. If they regularly eat lunch together, don't have a solitary meal at your desk.
To determine whether you have succeeded in changing your boss's perceptions, ask him for feedback at regular intervals. This will allow you to make appropriate course corrections and avoid unpleasant surprises at review time.
Thoughts on that snoozing colleague
Q: In your recent response to the woman whose colleague falls asleep in meetings, you failed to mention the possibility that this gentleman might have sleep apnea. Many people with sleep disorders are tired during the day because they don't get enough quality sleep at night. The co-worker should suggest that he consult his physician, because there could be a simple medical solution to this problem.
A: Several readers wrote to say that sleep apnea could be causing the drowsy colleague to nod off during staff meetings. Anyone who experiences excessive daytime sleepiness should certainly find out if there might be a medical cause. Thanks to everyone who took the time to share this valuable information.
What do I chat with the big boss about?
Q: I was recently invited to have lunch with the president of our company. I would like to make a positive impression, but I'm not sure what to talk about. Can you suggest some good questions to ask?
A: Because top executives always like to discuss what's happening in their industry, the best questions are those that involve business trends and conditions. If you are not currently up to speed on the latest developments, take time to do some online research prior to your luncheon engagement.
On the other hand, questions about pay, benefits, and working conditions may not be advisable, because they can sound critical and self-serving. Executives tend to be impressed by employees who are interested in helping the company, not those who care only about what the company can do for them.