The return of The Economist’s agony uncle


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Dear Max, I'm a 23 year old social media marketer who just recently returned to the office. I was told the office would be ideal for having water cooler conversations. My office doesn't seem to have a water fountain. What should I do?

Now you ask, I'm not even sure what a water fountain is. But the basic idea is to find a place where you know your colleagues will come regularly and where you can engage in light conversation to see if they've seen anything good on the Internet. TV last night. My advice is to hang out at all times and meet colleagues fairly regularly.

I have just been promoted to a management position. I've noticed that many of my new peers like to open meetings with little personal anecdotes about something that happened to them that day – a minor cycling accident, for example, or a chance encounter with an old acquaintance. It seems like a way to get people to relax a little. The problem is, nothing interesting ever seems to happen to me. What should I do?

I wouldn't worry too much. These stories are mostly made up and deliberately boring. No leader ever opens a meeting by telling the story of how they woke up in their own clothes but in a complete stranger's apartment. The goal is only to put people at ease by making the speaker appear slightly human. Just say exactly what you put in your message above, then make your face a little vulnerable. This should do the trick.

The meeting rooms in our offices have just received new and quirky names. These are all different types of dips. I type this in Baba Ghanoush; my next appointment is in Taramasalata. Am I alone in wanting to scream?

This is a truly revolting trend. There are people walking around offices right now and saying things like, “The Focaccia looks like it's set.” Is Ciabatta free? », “I am in Ulaanbaatar. Where are you?” and “Let's put a spotlight on Nelson Mandela.” Either you look like a complete idiot or you're suggesting something terrible. Just describe the room you're referring to: the one where Mandy did this terrible presentation, for example, or one where absolutely nothing works.

I recently had a very disturbing thought. I don't feel like an imposter. Does that mean I really am one?

I'm afraid you've developed non-imposter syndrome. Impostor syndrome, the most common condition, is the fear of not being good enough to take on certain roles. If you recognize this feeling, you will almost certainly be told that you are much better than the people who are blithely occupying these roles currently. If you suffer from non-imposter syndrome, you begin to wonder if you are one of the people they point to and therefore deeply incompetent. The only known cure for non-impostor syndrome is imposter syndrome.

Every time I go to the bathroom, there's a new staff member loitering by the sinks. As I wash my hands, she asks me if I've seen anything good on TV recently. I've seen her do the same thing with other people. Should I report it to HOUR?

I think I know what happened here. Leave this one to me.

I often do Zoom calls from home. I recently tried a new AI tool that promises to automatically adjust my environment to make my home office look more professional. In all the demos, he does things like remove dirty clothes and straighten books on shelves. But when I try it, it doesn't do any of that. All it does is remove me from view and fill in the background to make it look like the room is completely empty. What does that mean?

I called the people who created this tool and they have never heard of this kind of behavior before. We looked at your photo on LinkedIn and we all agree that AI seems to be making exactly the right choice. On the other hand, we also seem closer to the Singularity.

I can never time my interjections correctly. If I'm trying to judge when a speaker is about to stop speaking, I either jump in too soon and end up apologizing for interrupting, or I speak a little too slowly and someone d the other speaks. Do you have any advice?

There are only three ways to resolve this common problem. The first is to start so hard that everyone gives in immediately. You might come across another crier and it's just a battle of nerves: who's going to give in? The second is to raise your hand and wait: you will eventually get your turn and be listened to. The third is to be promoted. If you are experienced enough, it doesn't matter how ridiculous your argument is; everyone gives in. Keep sending me your problems and enjoy the break!

Read more from Bartleby, our management and work columnist:
How to Master the Art of Delegation (December 14)
Why Monday is the most misunderstood day (December 7)
Generative AI generates difficult choices for managers (November 27)

Also: How Bartleby Column got its name



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