Ex-Boss's feedback in open plan office

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Post by kath on Thu Mar 19, 2015 7:02 pm

About 4 months ago, my boss changed, along with the rest of my team. It was due to a departmental restructuring, so my Ex-Boss still holds a vp-level position at my organization, and my boss changed because his department was split. my team is currently not on his branch of the Org chart. But, he's used to working with us and still had opinions on our work. His opinions are varying degrees of news and not always 100% helpful, but eh, no one's perfect.

However, he had a bit of a habit of providing feedback on one person's work just by popping by their desk. While everyone else in our workspace is also working away. And we don't have desk dividers in our pare of the office, and he speaks fairly loud, so it's write uncomfortable and disturbing for all of us - whether we're the recipient or not.

He will also use the names of other coworkers as the names of example participants in some of the work he is criticizing - so sort of oddly acknowledging we can hear the discussion, but not providing an appropriate opportunity to join in or interrupt.

Open, all office conversations (especially in our work area) are totally part for the course. Sometimes they are about difficult topics, but they generally don't have the character of someone higher up in the org criticizing the choices of someone lower down. And the added weirdness of it not being your boss, who you may have discussed your decision with.

It really depends on the advice recipient. Some of us hate that, some of us can deal with it quite gracefully, but having to witness it makes the rest of us uncomfortable.

Also, sometimes you get that feedback and its really hard not to knee-jerk change your whole plan because this vp said he thought the interaction was dumb. He is also not super tactful so he will say that kind of thing.

I can deal with this OK when he provides random feedback in not-my - workspace (hallways are OK because it's not a performance). But I need advice for what to do when I'm the advice recipient in my workspace, and when someone else draws the sorry straw. Should I try to intervene? When I'm the recipient, is there a good thing to do?
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Post by Enail on Thu Mar 19, 2015 7:23 pm

I had similar things in my former workplace, where there was one small open office and only 5 people, and a very 'pop by the desk' casual way of doing things, so I sympathize with that awkwardness!

Is there an empty meeting or break room or anything nearby? Maybe when he starts (and you're the recipient), you could fairly casually say "oh, hey, why don't we take this into the meeting room, there's a lot going on out here," without making a big deal of it since it seems like a pretty off-the-cuff thing.

I'm not sure that you could really intervene when it's someone else, except maybe in a "I've got to take a call in a few minutes, would you two mind taking it into the meeting room?" way.
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Post by kath on Fri Mar 20, 2015 1:24 am

Thank you! I'll try those things, and try either leaving or saying I need to have quiet if I can't, and leave the dealing with the feelings around having to deal with it in the capable hands of whoever is actually getting the feedback.

Asking for this additional layer of advice might not be a thing that is possible, but ... any ideas for a way I could try to get this behavior pointed out to this guy? Really, this is his weird behavior, and he's senior enough that I feel like basic ability to manage others respectfully* is not a particularly wild-and-crazy ask. Ask my manager if there's a way to run this up the chain of command? Even simple stuff like "if you are going to provide feedback to someone about their work, ask that person to go somewhere private" should not be super difficult, and it must be possible to leave out the feelings part since he doesn't seem to care much about that. I don't feel super comfortable just going "Dude, please take whoever you want to talk to aside next time!" to this person, but especially as he's not my boss anymore, maybe I could just take the risk.

*This is not something he's great at, and I think he may consider the sort of feelings-care  / actively displaying respect for others aspects of interacting with others to be not very important.

The other thing is, the "let's have a walking meeting" / "let's go grab coffee" is how everyone else in the organization manages to deal with this, actually quite elegantly. At the end of the day today, my current actual boss was talking to the advice-recipient colleague about this (he started the conversation), and "let's have a walking meeting" was her immediate suggestion because I was still at my desk.
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