Every office has one. Sometimes there are two or more, depending on the size of the office. Normally they are departmental because it’s unlikely that boors travel from department to department. But my years of work within the corporate environment indicate that it’s inevitable that you’ll have to deal with at least one on a daily basis. I’d like to offer several observations.
There are several flavors of office boor. One is the mega-voice. He makes his presence known thirty or forty seconds before the physical presence, just by virtue of the decibel level. This verbal presentation is generally punctuated by obscenity; it appears that if you’re loud you need to be obscene at the same time. I believe that the reason for the decibel level is rarely a function of hearing deficiencies as much as the delusion that all in the vicinity are vitally interested in the words of wisdom emanating from this source. Unfortunately, if your experience is similar to mine, the content is rarely of any importance whatsoever to anyone.
Another flavor of office boor is the egomaniac. She is able to discuss any subject with fluency, as long as the subject is herself. You’ll listen to her car, her vacation, her clothing, her hair style, her family and her philosophy on virtually everything. Several concepts must be kept in mind. If you’ve done something, she’s either done it or you’ll be receiving a convoluted explanation as to why it is not a desirable pursuit. If you’ve bought something, she’s already bought it, bought something better, bought something cheaper or decided many years ago that it’s overpriced, out of style, inappropriate or entirely useless. Please remember that these opinions are always unsolicited.
The third form of office boor is the email vigilante. This person is normally someone who is located at another location, frequently the farther the better. Very often, this is the employee who is never wrong. You can rely on him to remind you of the fact that you are usually wrong, an attribute I associate with being human, a characteristic not shared with the vigilante. It makes life simple. Any errors between the two of us are mine. And more interesting is the fact that the error is never without reprimand and repercussion.
It goes like this: “I noticed your action on client so-and-so that you completed on such-and-such date. If you had looked at the notes in the file you would have noticed that it has been assigned to our colleague, name, and she has been working on it for weeks. In the future, I would expect that you would do a better job of researching before you forward anything to me.”
My look at it often suggests that if it had been previously handled by anyone, I wouldn’t have seen the problem in the first place. Beyond that, for the sake of economy of space and time, “Thank you, I’ll take care of it” would be much more efficient and courteous. But perhaps solving a problem with this form of boor is simply insufficient – it’s much more productive to hold someone else liable.
And now for the solutions. I have found some peace in sending out messages that clearly indicate, “I am not only disinterested, everything I have to do is intrinsically more important than listening to your ranting.” This message is easily conveyed. Don’t stop at her desk and if she stops at yours, indicate, “I’m sorry, I have some issues that need to be resolved as soon as possible.” If you do this fifty or sixty times, she may get the message. If not, more direct methods may be advisable, such as, “I really don’t need to or want to listen to this.” That approach doesn’t make friends but friends traditionally occur outside the workplace and not with an office egomaniac.
As for the mega-voice boor, avoidance is the answer. If he gets in your verbal space, standing up and shhhhhhhing him may be required. Depending on how your face is constructed, a single distinct look may be sufficient. If neither of these succeeds, a sweet apology requesting that the conversation be conducted elsewhere or in smaller voices constitute extreme measures.
The email vigilante solution is the most difficult. Most of the correction needs to be preventive – making certain that all other approaches and remedies have been exhausted before contacting him. In order to prevent the attack, mellow the request by apologizing for everything. This includes taking his time, not being able to find any information, hoping that you can assist with the resolution, being unworthy of his attention, etc. Once you’ve salved the ego, a response will likely be less salty and abrupt. If not, find another resource.
Based on my old-fashioned ideas of the workplace being a place to do work, there is seldom (if ever) time for boorage in the office. Regrettably, most people spend more time there than anywhere else other than sleeping and in virtually every case, the boor operates with very little regard for the needs and priorities of others.
With that as a given, it shouldn’t be necessary to maintain a status of one who truly wants to do business without the distraction of nonsense. Your alternative, it seems, is to do what is still done by many – simply nod and smile. Perhaps because I’m proprietary about my space (verbal and otherwise) and because I always see the opportunity for a learning event, I am resolute that the nod and smile does no good for anyone, be it the boor or the boored.