QUESTION: One of my employees claims to be suffering from “pregnancy brain.“ “Kate“ was always a little spacey, but in recent weeks she has become extremely forgetful. Tasks which she routinely performed for years are now being overlooked, and I’m beginning to get complaints from other departments.
I don’t want to seem unsympathetic or be accused of discrimination, but I need to solve this problem. When I asked Kate how I could help, she suggested that I just keep reminding her about things that need to be done. That’s obviously not realistic, so how do I handle this?
ANSWER: Although opinions vary about the cause, medical experts generally agree that pregnancy can affect cognitive processes, so Kate’s explanation is probably valid. When discussing these concerns with her, the best approach is not to criticize, but to demonstrate understanding while requesting help in solving the most crucial problems.
For example: “Kate, I’m sure these memory issues are frustrating for you, so let’s discuss some strategies for managing them. I’m particularly concerned about budget reports and data needed by other departments. Do you have any ideas for creating reminders in those areas?“
Regardless of whether she prefers computer-generated prompts or strategically placed sticky notes, the objective is simply to trigger Kate’s memory at appropriate times. But before having any pregnancy-related discussion, be sure to avoid legal pitfalls by consulting your labor attorney or human resources manager.
Q: The guy who sits behind me never stops talking. In addition to chatting with anyone who comes by, “Austin“ constantly asks me questions about his work. This makes it hard to concentrate, since I have to stop whatever I’m doing to address his issues.
Once, when I had an important deadline, I asked Austin to write down his questions so that we could discuss them at the end of the day. He completely ignored my request and continued to interrupt. My supervisor says that Austin has always been a talker and is not likely to change. Is there any way to solve this?
A: While you can’t muzzle Austin, you can certainly reduce his incessant questioning. Although you may not realize it, you are actually encouraging these interruptions by providing immediate answers. You were on the right track with the “keep a list“ strategy, so it’s time to reinstate that plan.
For example: “Austin, I’m always glad to answer your questions, but we need to take a different approach. To complete my projects, I have to work without interruption for extended periods. If you will list the questions that come up during the day, we can discuss them at 4:00 every afternoon. I know this will be an adjustment, but it’s the only way I can get my work done.“
When Austin continues to pester you, as he undoubtedly will, remind him that you will answer all non-urgent questions at the appointed time. He won’t like this, but if you stick to your guns, he will eventually learn to wait.
Marie G. McIntyre is a workplace coach and the author of “Secrets to Winning at Office Politics.“ Send in questions and get free coaching tips at http://www.yourofficecoach.com, or follow her on Twitter officecoach.