Merge's Blog

“Being present” (or not) sends a powerful message to those around you

Young businessman sitting on sofa at office listening to talkingAre you “present” in your conversations with others?  I asked this question back in December 2009 after an unpleasant experience with a professional colleague.  If the mail I get on this subject is any indication, this apparently continues to be an issue of epic proportions.  Evidently, being present is not something that managers and supervisors do well!  So what exactly is “being present”?  If you repeatedly glance down at your watch while a co-worker is talking to you, you’re guilty of not being present.  If you supposedly “listen” to what a staff member is saying while pecking away at your keyboard, phone or instant message, then you’re at fault for not being present.  If you are the supervisor or manager who gets easily distracted away from the person in front of you by other pressing issues or people around you, then you are probably one of the people that I hear repeatedly about.

You might ask “So what?”  Why should I care that people complain about this behaviour to you Merge?  The answer is because your actions are a huge indicator of the respect you give (or don’t give) to your staff and co-workers.  When you can’t be bothered to be fully present in your conversations and interactions, you devalue and demoralize people, essentially telling them that they are not important.  And you may well say to me “Merge, of course I respect my work colleagues.  This is multi-tasking, it’s not being disrespectful.” Let me be clear, very clear: it is disrespectful.  It’s disrespectful because that’s how it’s perceived by those at the receiving end.  Let me offer an alternate perspective.  What if you were to turn away from the computer or put down the report and turn to face your staff member or co-worker to give them your full attention?  What powerful message do you think that would send if you set aside, for a few minutes, the email, phone calls, crises and other people to focus completely and fully on the person directly in front of you?  Yeah, thought so.

Well, you know my opinion on this subject, but what do you think?  Do you agree with me? Or not?  Please share your perspective.

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