Office Cowboy

Feb 21st, 2010 | By | Category: Career advice, career challenges, office problems, personality

Every office could use an office cowboy (See the video on the welcome page) to take care of the office loudmouth. I am not sure why, but no matter the make up of the group someone always emerges to fill the role of the office loudmouth.  Perhaps it is an unwritten law of human nature that every office spontaneously sprouts a pseudo extrovert who wants to share too much and talks too loud.  This is an equal opportunity position with no requirements except an inexhaustible ability to talk endlessly in a voice that carries.  There seems to be no escape.  If they are of a different gender, you can seek refuge in the restroom, but this is only a stopgap measure.  The same goes for rushing off to imaginary meetings and taking fake phone calls.  Even if you mange to avoid engaging in a conversation, you get the overflow of them talking to someone else within earshot.  Most of us try to tune them out, and treat them as part of the background noise. But like loud TV commercials, that loud annoying voice seems to penetrate all barriers.  Not even a turned up IPod can keep them out.

There are several suggested methods to discourage the office loudmouth.  Some are just too rude for most us to employ.  Like trying to talk louder than the loudmouth.  That strategy seems like a cure is worse then the aliment.  Now you have two loudmouths competing for time, and you are one of them.  One suggestion was to cover your ears when the loudmouth starting talking.  Another suggestion was to have everyone in the office sign a card asking the loudmouth to shut up.  These rude remedies probably won’t work and will put you in a very bad light if you try them.  Being rude is seldom the answer.

Some analysis and observation may give a hint to what is driving the loudmouth to be so obnoxious.  This is not a psychology course, but usually a person will let you know what it they want if you listen.  My observations are usually the loudmouth is attempting to exhibit leadership or domination.  Some people feel the louder you are the more people will listen.  Others use being loud as a defense strategy figuring if they are loud enough no one will challenge them.  There is also a group who seek attention by being a loudmouth.  Most loudmouths are hard to deal with, as being loud is part of their strategy.  They know they are loud and will continue to be loud as long as it gets them what they want.  In most cases what they all want is attention.

As a manager, one of the most effective methods I found to deal with loud and disruptive employees is to isolate them from the group.  One way to do this is to give the loudmouth assignments where he works on projects like doing research in the library, or assisting with a project in the manager’s office.  Usually after a couple weeks and a few blunt conversations the person got the message. It is important not to stress the effect the loudmouth has on the office because that is giving power to their actions.  Since most are craving attention, the best tactic is not to react to their loud behavior and reward them when they are quiet.  Always have one on one conversations in private to take away the audience factor.

As a group, one way to deal with the loudmouth is by exclusion.  Since their objective is to get attention, denying them attention puts them on the outside.  Without being rude, a group can steer clear of the loudmouth by aligning themselves against unwanted behavior.  By not reacting to the loudmouth’s antics the group will cut off the incentive, attention, to be loud.  Putting up strong front is important.  Evidence of cohesive group actions can be seen in many situations.  Some of the reality TV shows demonstrate the power of the group to deal with an objectionable member of the group.  Once the group bands together and isolates the loudmouth, his days as a disruptive force are numbered.  You don’ t have to be rude; just don’t react to the loud and disruptive behavior.

Often the loudmouth will target individuals to pick on.  Although a difficult position there are things you can do. Like limiting your exposure.  Don’t engage the loudmouth or try shouting them down. That would be playing into their hands.  Instead smile and make a gesture like you would if it were a two year old.   My favorite is to smile shake my head as if witnessing a child throwing a tantrum.   There are tactics and techniques to deal with loudmouths.  Like denying them recognition, steering them to talk to someone else, or making an excuse to leave.   A tactic I found by accident is always steering the conversation to a sensitive topic that the loudmouth does not want to discuss.  Another tactic is to find a friend that to act a buffer.  When the loudmouth start picking on you, have your friend join into the conversation.  I used to have the secretary call me when the office loudmouth paid me a visit.

Usually loudmouths are harmless and just annoying, but sometime they do become abusive and step out bounds.  If you are being bullied at work you should talk with your supervisor.  Do some research and learn your company’s policies.  If the supervisor does not resolve the situation report it to the your personnel department.

Too bad everyone doesn’t have an office cowboy button like in the Welcome page video or at  http://fr.video.yahoo.com/watch/315806/2109791

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The PracticaL Mentor

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