Managing Distractions: Worrying About What Others Think

by Denny Strigl

I received a telephone call this week from someone who worked for me for many years.  She told me she had just finished reading an e-Book version of Managers, Can You Hear Me Now? and kiddingly asked me why I hadn’t included in Chapter 8, “Managing Distractions,” a discussion of a big distraction she once faced which was worrying about what her boss thought of her.  When I pressed her to be more specific she reminded me of a stressful situation involving herself which she had brought to my attention years ago.  Many managers have undoubtedly found themselves in a similar circumstance.

At the time she was the director of our purchasing department.  While attending one of her bosses weekly results meetings her boss said in a joking manner to everyone in the meeting that she was “too outspoken” and wished she would “calm down a little.”  She said she worried for weeks about what he had meant by his comment and how her career might be affected.

After letting the comment trouble her for weeks, she decided she had to talk to someone about it.  She remembered I told employees my door was always open, so she decided ask me what she should do.  After explaining what had happened in the results meeting weeks earlier, she told me she worked hard, loved her work and had high regard for her boss, but felt, based on his recent comments, he didn’t have high regard for her.  I told her I thought the only way to “clear the air” was to  tell her boss exactly what she had just told me.

A few days later I received an email from her letting me she took my advice and met one on one with her boss.  She also told me  the issue had been completely resolved in a very positive way.  She said her boss told her she was the best manager who worked for him, and he wished others who worked for him would be as “outspoken” as she was.  He said he thought it was very important for people to speak their minds rather than let things fester.  He also thought others in the meeting would have interpreted his comments about her in a humorous way.  He said he now realized what he said didn’t come across as he had intended and promised to “correct the record” at his next results meeting…which is exactly what he did.

Worrying about what others, especially your boss, think about you can be a time consuming distraction that prevents you from giving everything you can to reach your goals.

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