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Manage Your Conversations

Updated: Oct 4, 2019

Last week we talked about managers and companies throwing ineffective rewards and recognition at people in hopes of improving morale, while the quickest way to improve morale is simply by connecting with your people. The manager I referred to who didn’t want to connect with people for fear of opening a can of worms, and felt it would take up too much time, initiated a valuable class discussion of how to handle such situations.

We have to manage our conversations, just as we’d manage our people, or anything in life for that matter. Yes, there are going to be times when you ask someone how they’re doing and you get hit with an uncomfortable situation, or just a very chatty person, and you can tell it is going to take way too much time. Let’s take a look at what you can do.

For that person who has a history of being chatty, you can address it by saying “ok, let’s spend a couple minutes chatting and then I’m going to have to stop and get xyz finished.” Set the expectation, and then make a physical move to indicate it’s the end of the 2 minutes. If that doesn’t work, interrupt with reminding them of the expectation, “Hey Bob, I’ve got to hold to that 2 minutes…”

I had a friend who was hired to take my past position, and I was promoted to supervisor. To learn the job, she had to ask work questions but soon I noticed we were into all kinds of conversation (we were both intense “i” styles in the DiSC Model). I had to manage the situation because I had so much work to get done that I simply could not afford so much idle chat. “Hey Sue, you know I’d much rather sit and talk with you but I have to get back to this project.” Later, we went and had a drink together and I went on to tell her that I needed to curb the time I spend chatting with her. I suggested we stop and say hi for a couple minutes each day and go to lunch once a week. Taking it off site to a relaxed setting prevented her from perhaps perceiving me as too busy to chat with her or that I didn’t care.

What do you do when you have someone that gets into too personal of information, or is so emotional about something they start crying? If this is a one-time thing, spend a little time to show the person you care and see if there’s anything they want you to help them with. If it’s a pattern of behavior, initiate a conversation to coach the person. If you sense it’s a bigger issue, ask HR to help you determine the best way to help.

Avoiding connecting with the person is not going to make the issue disappear. In fact, it can fester into something much bigger and more damaging so it’s better to open the can of worms, and get it aired out, and taken care of. While it might feel like it’s taking extra time, it’s going to save you time and stress in the long run.


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