"I See Spam People"
By | Mitch Thrower
You’re email has a spam blocker, so why can’t we block “spam” in the office?
IN THE SPINE-TINGLING movie, The Sixth Sense, Haley Joel Osment plays a small, frightened boy who, with bold and teary eyes, whispers to Bruce Willis, "I see dead people." Blessed (or cursed) with supernatural powers, he was capable of seeing and communicating with dead people who wanted him to solve their problems, so they made themselves visible to him.
I almost felt like that child actor one afternoon at the office. I had ducked into the rest room to avoid someone who consistently wasted my time at work. I leaned towards the mirror, shut my eyes, and breathed heavily against it, causing it to fog up. I then opened my eyes wide, and said in a joking fashion, "I see spam people."
You can set up junk filters on your e-mail, but spam still muscles its way into your in-box. And it's the same with certain kinds of undesirables in the workplace. You want to delete these people from your work life without resorting to rudeness or cruelty. You want these spammers to vanish. You know who they are.
Circling the conference room like a bird of prey is the High-Maintenance Investor who wants to be involved in every part of your business because he invested $3,000 in the firm's very first round of financing. This is probably his first investment, but he considers himself as financially astute as Bill Gates.
In the company kitchen you find the Billiard Shot who is a college fraternity pal of the CEO, but never gets anything done, and ricochets from project to project in a futile attempt to prove himself to the organization. In the hallway outside your door or cubicle, The Talker gabs endlessly because he or she grew up with nine siblings. This person will chatter nonstop, from nine to five. Plug your ears or invest in headphones if you don’t like hearing about wedding and birth announcements, baby showers, weekend ski trips, or holidays in Cabo.
Lurking throughout the building or office is The Stalker who is convinced that a solid personal relationship with you in the workplace will advance his or her career, and is always presenting you with a “hot new idea” that has probably been cribbed from the Bottom Line newsletter.
What should you do about that particularly annoying creature know as The Buzzword? Find the nearest flyswatter. Almost every sentence he or she utters is packed tightly with tech talk or consultant speak. They love using words like bandwidth, paradigm, robust, synergy. Ask The Buzzword if a project is done, and instead of receiving a simple yes or no answer, you get this jargon-murky reply: “I didn’t have the required bandwidth today to find a scalable solution so I will repurpose…”
Nor can we hope to sidestep The Complainer who wanders around the office like a sheriff without a badge, horse, gun, or posse. He is always complaining about others at work or how HR has unjustly allocated his paid time-off. He complains when the coffee pot runs dry, but don’t ever expect him to replenish it with fresh brew.
The Tempest likes to hover near your desk, just waiting to create a conflict between you and someone else in the company, or to spread gossip because it makes him or her feel important.
When you are about to call it a day, you’ll need to find a way to somehow sneak past The Hallway Monitor who likes to stand in the middle of the hallway, saying to you at 6 P.M, as you are rushing to get to the gym, “Can I talk to you for a sec before you leave?”
These are the spam people. You want to avoid them. It’s like a game of dodge ball. You need to dodge, duck, dip, and dive from their unwanted presence. They rob you of your time. They want your attention. They have little sense of boundaries. All you want to do is tell them to scram.
LESSON: The best way to manage these unwanted spam people is to set firm guidelines on your time. You might even have to employ advanced strategies to avoid them so you can be productive. For example, you may want to work at your computer wearing headphones (this is called "going under") or use a phone headset. When someone tries to talk with you, just hold up one finger and point to your ear, as you randomly say, "Yes, yes" into the headset. As an emergency back-up plan, you may want to have a code that you can instant message to a friend, which will immediately trigger a phone call so you can really say, "I have to take this call." And don't forget to always build an exit plan into the start of any conversation at work, something like, "I've only got fifteen minutes, so let's try to accomplish everything you need to in that time frame."
Mitch Thrower is an author, financier, triathlete, entrepreneur and philanthropist living in La Jolla, California and New York City, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.