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Escape Hatches at Work


Robby

If you’ve ever watched a sci-fi movie or a thriller that takes place at sea, you know about an essential plot device called “the escape hatch.”  It’s what the hero uses to get out of the burning wreck in the nick of time. Wouldn’t it be great to have an escape hatch at work?

It turns out that you can find a way to sneak out of sticky situations at the office, but only if you’re prepared to do so and have thought through the consequences. For example, consider the following situation:

You’re stuck in a conversation with a coworker that you really don’t want to have about a non-work topic.

The Usual Route: You bear it out until they run out of team.

An Escape hatch: “I can tell this is important to you. Can we schedule a time to talk about it tomorrow? I unfortunately have a deadline.”

This way, you can get back to work without offending the other person. After all, work (usually) takes precedence.

What about an even tougher problem?

You are in a meeting with several people, and the presenter is reading a document out loud word-for-word.

The Usual Route: You zone out and silently grimace, since you too know how to read and can probably do so faster.

An Escape hatch: “What you’re reviewing is complex and I have to admit I’m having trouble keeping up. Would it be possible for us to get a printed copy so we can review it and then circle back for another meeting to ask questions?”

This escape hatch demonstrates that you want to get the information, but lets you do so in a more efficient way. It also praises the reader for sharing something which is “complicated.”

Another work problem that we’ve all seen can also benefit from an escape hatch:

Your boss comes by and asks you if you can work late.

The Usual Route: Fearful of losing your job, you say yes and grumble.

An Escape Hatch: “I understand. Unfortunately, I have a personal commitment I’ve already made for today that I cannot cancel. Is it possible for me to work late a different day or come in early?”

Your “personal commitment” might be just the chance to watch your favorite TV show, but the point is that you’re drawing a boundary while still embracing the suggestion of working late. Escape hatch!

What do you think of these ideas?

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About the Blogger: Robby Slaughter is a productivity speaker and expert. He is a principal with a AccelaWork, an Indianapolis consulting firm.

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Wed, August 3 2011 » Corporate Culture, Stress and Mindfullness

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