Is Your Timing Off?

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“Hi honey. What did the doctor say?”

Innocent question, unless you are asking it at a fast food restaurant, of a man getting ready to serve customers, in front of said customers. Then it is poorly timed and inconsiderate.

This is a true story. I observed it some time ago when I was getting a meal at a a fast food shop evidently owned or managed by these two people. Before you judge this person though, think about the following points regarding your timing when interacting with your coworkers.

Do you allow people to settle in before hitting them with questions? Maybe you don’t mind “hitting the ground running” when you get to work, but many people prefer to have time to take off their coats, get their computer booted up, use the restroom, get coffee, insert routine here______ before tackling their tasks. If you’ve waited this long to get an answer, a few more minutes won’t matter.

Do you make comments in front of others who are not involved? In the case mentioned above, none of us at the restaurant (customers or other coworkers) needed to know what Dr. ________ said. My guess is that the woman was worried (I’m guessing the coworker was her husband or a relative) and as soon as she saw him she wanted to ease her mind. However, she made it awkward for him as he had to turn and say, “I will tell you about it later.”  Be careful to have important conversations out of earshot of other employees who aren’t part of the problem, solution, or project.

Do you interrupt coworkers who are working on a project? Interruptions occur all day long, and your culture may be accustomed to it. But when you can allow workers extended uninterrupted time to get their work done, you’ll help productivity all the way around.

Do you announce information too soon–or worse yet–too late? Workplace communication is a tricky thing. When in doubt, err on the side of giving employees too much info rather than creating a vacuum. Vacuums fill with something…usually rumors.

Consider the ways your approach to conversation, communication, and questions may be just a little off when it comes to timing. Refine your approach, and you will probably see a jump in productivity and effective teamwork.

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Engage: What type of interruption throws you off course the most?

Benefit from: This blog post by leadership expert Karin Hurt will help you deal with moody people–and includes a tip about timing. 

Revisit:  Another way to injure relationships at work is by gossiping. Here are three posts from a series I did on Gossip in the Workplace.  Post 1  Post 2  Post 3

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