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Chew upon this: Gum gets readers' opinions flowing

Coach's Corner--October 5, 2009

Nothing gets readers going like gum-chewing at work.

People who dislike it are particularly vehement. If you’re a chewer, you might want to take this reader’s perspective into account: “I interface daily with the management and leadership of a large corporation. Expectations for demeanor in meetings and personal communications are very clear. An employee who chooses to chew gum in a meeting or conversation with a customer, client or regulatory representative would find their progress in the company halted summarily. Aside from the fact that chewing gum while in the presence of others, and especially while talking, is annoying, it is a disgusting habit that should be reserved for the privacy of one’s home or office.” Point taken.

It’s also the first topic to elicit a limerick:

A gum-chewing person and a cud-chewing cow
Are very alike, yet different somehow
What is the difference? Ah, I see it now
The intelligent look
On the face of the cow.

On the other side, a reader encouraged compassion, noting that, in her case, chewing gum is the only thing she has found to alleviate discomfort in her mouth. Others have commented that chewing gum helps them concentrate and stay focused.

Bottom line, if you choose to chew, be aware of how and when you chew. While your company may not have a policy, common sense and good manners will be a good guide. No chomping, no bubbles, and no leftovers. Keep it out of meetings unless you’ve established that gum-chewing is OK with your team. Never chew when in conversation with people outside your organization, and practice getting gum out of your mouth discreetly.

One last bit of rhyme sums it up nicely: 

A wad of gum is very dumb
But when it comes down to it
Dumber still are those who chew
And know not when or where to do it. 

And now for a few other items from the mailbag.

When it comes to a boss who doesn’t make time for you (June 22), think about what is making him so busy. You may be able to help your career by taking some of the heat off him.

From a recovered drama queen boss (Aug. 2): “What’s the boss’ motivation? If she’s afraid that things are out of control, then maybe the drama queen will settle down if she’s given more detailed updates. I’d be inclined to help her out by giving detailed updates to help her know that you’ve got things under control. She’ll learn to trust you after a while and require less detail. I’ve been there and was lucky to have staff who humored me — or at least tolerated me!” Another reader echoed this point, commenting that many managers are promoted because of their technical skills, not their leadership skills. These people are more prone to overreacting and pressuring their teams.

Thanks to everyone who writes or calls. Keep your comments coming — poems and all.

Liz Reyer, President RCC - Posted October 4, 2009
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