Dear J.T. & Dale: My boss is obsessed with texting. She texts all day long. It is impossible to maintain eye contact with her because she is always glancing at her phone. I have my annual review coming up, and I’d like to ask her to put away her phone during our conversation because I find it rude and distracting. What do you think about me politely asking for her undivided attention? – Phoebe
J.T.: I wouldn’t suggest that you request a “text-free” meeting. Pointing out a boss’s weakness is the fastest way to get on her bad side – the last thing you want to do at the time of your performance review. Apparently, the texting isn’t hurting her career – yet. So, until it does, you need to accept it.
DALE: It is rude and distracting – it’s vexting. Worse yet, it’s inefficient. People tell themselves that they are multitasking, but the truth is that your mind is simply skipping sequentially from one task to the next, so it’s really inefficient task-flitting or divi-tasking. And while J.T. probably is right that you’re stuck with it, one approach might work.
Do a little research on ways to make meetings more effective. One suggestion will be to reduce interruptions. Put together a proposal to improve your departmental meetings, and suggest an experiment in which calls and texts are not allowed. Your boss just might agree to try it, and if so, you could suggest that your performance review be one of those experimental sessions.
J.T.: Given the way people have become addicted to texting, I doubt that this experiment will happen. Your next approach might be to pull together for your annual review a presentation that would require concentration, a meeting experience that will hold your boss’s attention.
DALE: One other thought, to put this in perspective: It would be good to lower your expectations for annual reviews. Effective managers give advice and direction throughout the year, making an annual review all but superfluous. If you aren’t getting these, seek out advice instead of saving up issues for the review, and, who knows, perhaps you’ll even get some great feedback via texts.
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