Dealing with a scatterbrained boss

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in Workplace Communication

Question: “I work for a manager who thinks I can read her mind. She rushes up to my desk and says something like, 'Did he come pick it up?' Because I have no idea what she’s talking about, I ask what she means. Then she looks at me like I’m an idiot for not understanding. This happens all the time, and I’m starting to get really irritated. How do I deal with her weird communication pattern?”— Not a Mind Reader

Marie’s Answer: Although your boss might seem like a complete space cadet, she may simply have a nonlinear thinking style. These freewheeling communicators often drive more structured people crazy.  Here are some suggestions for coping:

  • Recognize that your manager’s brain works differently than yours. Because nonlinear thinkers rapidly jump from one idea to another, they sometimes make remarks that seem completely off-the-wall. However, they also tend to be creative people who can quickly grasp new concepts. 
  • When your manager asks a puzzling question like, “Did he come pick it up?” don’t say, “I have no idea what you’re talking about.” Instead, calmly reply, “No one has picked anything up today” or “John picked up the budget report.”  Then wait to see if her next comment clarifies the situation.
  • If your boss has other redeeming qualities, try to view her mental gymnastics as a personality quirk. This shift in perspective will simultaneously decrease your blood pressure and increase your job security.

Since you work for this woman, you need to control your irritation. Otherwise, your relationship and your career will deteriorate.

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