Three most annoying workplace communications habit

Business Communications ROI

Yvonne Grinam-Nicholson

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

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The workplace and more specifically, our little cubicle, office, desk or workspace is where we spend most of our lives. Whether we like it or not, it is here that we are lumped together with people whose company, perhaps, given the choice, we would not have readily chosen. But such is life and so we find that we have to rub shoulders with the Cheshire-grinning idiot from Accounts and make small talk with the self-absorbed twit in the Operations Department. Under these circumstances then, it is easy to spot the annoying communications habit of our colleagues, because they do it repeatedly - on command like trained monkeys.

The loud telephone talkers: Don't you just want to clobber them? The office is their stage and the company's telephone or their personal mobile phone is their mega-phone. As if training for the loud-talkers marathon (there isn't one, to the best of my knowledge), these egg-heads are oblivious to the fact that they are in an enclosed space, shared by others who are trying to complete their own work on company time. Some of these loud talkers are blissfully unaware of their jarring voice or how much like a jack-ass' bray their guffaw sounds. They are quick to take offense if you offer them what you think is a stony glare, a piercing 'cut-eye' or a loud shush. They might even oblige you by temporarily lowering their voice an octave, only to add more gusto to it, when they think you have been lulled into a false sense of security. The most fearful of the lot of loud-talkers is your office Lothario - who fancies himself somewhat of a lady killer. His lyrics are painful to listen to, so you can imagine the distressed damsel at the other end of the line. Then there is the aspiring show-man (usually in the Sales department) who savagely mangles the Queen's English, inventing new words to wow his phone audience and you, his uninvited and unwilling listener. How should we describe the antics of quarrelsome Karen from Accounts? Although she tries very hard to keep the 'sketel' quotient low on the Richter scale when she is on the phone, she is betrayed by her naturally loud and boisterous ways. She just cannot 'talk softly'. How do you deal with these types, especially in an open office space, which is increasingly becoming the fashion for office lay-outs. There are not enough signs that you could place on the notice boards or e-mails that you can send out to quell these loud-iots. My suggestion: wear earphones - if they are allowed.

The rumour mongerer: S/he is like one of the most dangerous and deadly animals in the jungle that you can imagine. Think of a stealthy poisonous spider that crawls and hides in the darkest places or a snake that slithers waiting to strike at just the right time: when your guard is down. Such is the nature and style of this office pariah. To the office gossip, good news is no news at all because as long as it is not bringing someone to their knees it is not worth broadcasting. Let them overhear part of a negative sentence and they will not hesitate to 'run wid it', weaving a garbage-truck load of their fanciful invention, unaware of the destruction they have wrought. They could easily get a job with one of those tabloids that pries into the private lives of celebrities, pandering to the lowest denominator, but no. They have chosen to invade our space. They are usually mean-, unhappy individuals whose personal cupboards are probably choking with so much garbage, the only way to hide is to deflect. What to do with this employee skilled in the malicious art of feeding the grape vine? Make the sign of the cross and don't walk - run when you see him or her approaching. Your work-life longevity might be prolonged if you watch all of Usain Bolt's Olympic tapes and try to imitate his running style. Only that will help you.

The e-mail 'tracer'. This employee/manager has missed his true calling. A very profitable life awaits him at the newly reconstructed 'Curry', Coronation market in downtown Kingston. You would not be able to differentiate him from anyone of the vendors engaged in a tirade, except that he does it via the computer and would put all market women to great shame. This the staff member who takes perverse pleasure in conducting fast and furious battles via e-mail. S/he wastes the company's time by formatting e-mails designed to discourage and berate their colleagues. They are relentless in their pursuit of a response and the minute you touch the 'send' key, they are up in arms against you. They have their Oxford dictionary or Encarta locked and loaded and if they cannot find the meaning of a word, they will just invent a new word or office terminology. It does not matter if it does not exist on this side of planet earth's sanity, in their domain, it makes great sense.

Instead of picking up the telephone and having a sensible conversation with the 'victim' of the e-mail trail, they roll up their sleeves and go to battle e-mail style. Not trusting their social skills in the area of face-to-face communication, they are a real pain and by now you have come to realize that they are not about finding solutions to work-place problems. They are into building barriers and widening rifts. Shun them. Shock them by picking up the phone after you have read one of their most verbose missives. Ask them to explain what they mean to say. They will be dumb-struck. Try it.

Yvonne Grinam-Nicholson, (MBA, ABC) is a Business Communications Consultant with ROCommunications Jamaica, specialising in business communications and financial publications. She can be contacted at: Visit her website at and post your comments.




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