Magazine article Management Today

Problems?: What's Your Problem?

Magazine article Management Today

Problems?: What's Your Problem?

Article excerpt

Q: My co-founder keeps making inappropriate remarks to our gay marketing director. The comments are made in jest and appear to be taken in good humour - but they make me uncomfortable, not least because we could end up at an employment tribunal. I don't want to make things worse by causing a fuss. What's your advice?

A: The real problem with your co-founder is not that he's a homophobe but that he's a bore. It would be just as tiresome if he persistently teased your marketing director for being a Millwall supporter.

This is helpful, since suggesting that a colleague is boring is a lot less likely to endanger relationships than accusing him of sexual discrimination; and it's certainly not going to risk an employment tribunal.

Your marketing director appears to be reasonably relaxed about all this - though I bet he finds it tedious. So I suggest you and he agree a strategy. You should each choose a favourite topic: real ale, perhaps, or roses, or Millwall. When you're all three having a drink together one evening, tell your co-founder that you and your marketing director have made a pact. His allusions to the marketing director being gay were once reasonably funny but they've now become so predictable that they're boring. So next time he embarks on one, you'll both simultaneously launch into interminable rambles about real ale or roses or Millwall. (I suspect that the more ludicrous the subjects you choose, the lighter the atmosphere will be.)

Done with a pint in the hand, this shouldn't cause serious offence. But it should certainly work; in fact, I doubt if you'll ever have to put your plan into practice.

Q: I've been asked to give a 25-minute presentation at a conference next month. I'm keen to do it but I find it very irritating when I spot members of the audience tapping away on their laptops or staring at their phones. Can I ask the audience to put their electronic devices away, or will I look like an old fuddy-duddy?

A: I'd strongly advise you not to put such a request to your audience You'd have to do it at the very beginning of your presentation, which would immediately suggest that you had little confidence in your ability to hold their attention. You would have lost their goodwill before you'd started. And, secondly, many of those tapping away may be taking notes of the points you're making; you may find it distracting but it's an increasingly common habit and you'd lose marks for seeming to be unaware of it. …

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