DEAR MISS MANNERS: My boss and I recently discovered that we have similar religious and political views. Normally this would not be a problem, but he has now taken to coming by my office several times a day to talk about religion and politics, and it’s affecting my productivity.
And when I say “talk about,” what I really mean is that I listen for five minutes while he delivers a speech about what “idiots” the people on the other side are.
Today was the last straw; I came by my office on a Saturday to try to get some work done, only to find him there, wanting to talk politics.
If it were just another co-worker, I would have no problem telling them that I have work to do, but this is my boss. I don’t want to poison my relationship with him, and he does sign my reviews.
Is there some polite way to convey to a superior that I have actual work that requires my attention, without creating hurt feelings? I’m quite certain H.R. would back me up if I went to them, but I would like to avoid that. Any advice?
GENTLE READER: Are you willing to see him outside of work?
This is not a practice Miss Manners generally condones, but the request itself might be enough to alert your boss that these conversations should not be had at the office.
“I enjoy exchanging political views with you,” you may say, “but I am afraid that my pleasure in our conversations is getting in the way of my work. Would you want to discuss this over coffee? Or … oh, no. Would that be an H.R. violation? I’d better check with them, just in case.” (c) MISS MANNERS
Oh dear, this is a tough situation. I can understand not wanting to hurt my boss’s feelings or wanting to be overly assertive, like when you say something clear and straightforward that couldn’t be called aggressive, but that humiliates the recipient of your words, or that sort of thing. I’m against that level of assertion, and oftentimes there are ways around it.
But I don’t like Miss Manners’ advice. It would be disastrous to add to the problem by pretending to ask him out! Holy flip. No, no, no.
I’d do this. “I totally agree, and I hear ya. Too bad we can’t talk about this all day, ya know? Ugh. I’ve got to go through this mess on my desk and find the Peterson report, or I might not get it done today. And you’re probably busy trying to placate the Andersons.” And then I’d give a frazzled sigh.
I’m not sure her boorish boss would take the hint, but he’d probably at least go along with her redirection. Redirection–that’s the key. We were taught that when I worked at the reading center with ADHD-ridden kids. Like, the kid says, “I want to climb the walls,” and you reply, “That sounds fun! But first, let’s read this paragraph,” while putting your finger on the start of the paragraph. And you just keep doing that.
We also had goal sheets to refer to in times of greater need, like if a kid really was climbing the walls, and we’d say, “Jason, do you remember when we set this goal for you to remain focused on and on track?” Wait for an affirmative response. “Well, climbing the walls means you’re not focused on our studies. I don’t want to have to put a mark on this goal for today, because then you won’t get the whole point. Can we refocus?” It’s a nonthreatening way of getting someone to do something without being like, “Don’t you dare climb the walls, you naughty kid!” or whatever. I think that approach (to a certain extent) would work well here, too. Just redirect! There are so many ways to avoid being overly assertive.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I live in an apartment building and whenever I see someone (especially when waiting for the elevator), I say hello, good morning, good evening, etc. My parents were adamant about manners, and I was raised to greet people and acknowledge them. I do this automatically, even when I’m not aware of it.
I recently had an episode where a neighbor, who has made it apparent that he and his girlfriend don’t care for me, has asked me to stop greeting either of them whenever I see them. When I asked why, he said that I was pushing the boundaries of being a good neighbor. I’d never heard of this, and have no idea if I should respond as requested or just laugh it off (which I did when I thought of it).
As I run into them a few times a week, do you have any suggestions?
GENTLE READER: Swyize. This is Miss Manners’ alternative to the ever-popular “smize.” While the latter means to “smile with your eyes,” Miss Manners’ version means to smile without them.
You may greet your neighbors thus whenever you see them, signifying that you have heard their unneighborly request and will abide by it — but not ungrudgingly so.
It’s weird how everyone’s so different. I can understand and relate to things that were instilled in me from a young age, and how I can’t seem to break the hold. And this guy feels this way about greeting people. Then you have me, the paranoiac. It’s likely that I’d ignore his entreaties and just keep walking. I don’t really like Miss Manners’ advice here, either. People should be allowed to be unapproachable without getting the stinkeye. Geez. And Miss Manners appears to be making up words. I hope she didn’t hit the holiday nog too hard.
I had a weird experience at McDonald’s today, where I engaged in some dieting sabotage to start the new year. They handed me my food, and I checked it, and there was no sauce for the nuggets. But then the employee’s attention had been taken by the woman who’d been behind me, so I waited. And that woman who’d been in line behind me started misbehaving. She was saying, “That much money for two of them? Gee, I hope I can afford it.” And I was staring at her like, lady, don’t be nasty to the employees just because you disapprove of their prices. Not cool.
And anyway, prior to that, when I was still waiting for my food, she approached me and said something like, “I wonder how long you’ve been waiting.” It gave me a bad feeling, like she was being a snot; and I shrugged and stepped farther away from her. That bad feeling was vindicated when she started acting up later. I got the sense she was an entitled emotional vampire, and she’d targeted me; but being paranoid, I was having none of it, and I was just like, Go bother someone else and leave me alone.
So anyway, my point, assuming I have one, is that people should have the right to ignore or put up boundaries around strangers, including but not limited to neighbors. It’s a bad day for Miss Manners!