I love the image of Frankenstein: a big, slow moving uncommunicative monster that lumbers along in the world. More often than not, he’s gentle and non-threatening, stopping to pet the occasional kitten. The big theme with Frankenstein is “misunderstood.” You can’t really understand him and as a result he is easy to misinterpret. When misunderstanding does occur, Frank loses his mind. He flails about, yells unintelligibly and breaks stuff. Do you work with a Frank? My guess is that you do. Perhaps one of the most common dysfunctions at work is the overall inability to clearly articulate to others what one expects. It’s messy when a coworker fails to communicate, even messier when a customer is guilty of poor communication and downright horrific when the boss is the culprit. So what can you do?
How to Work with Frankenstein
If you work with a workplace Frankenstein (aka “Frank”), you have a few options:
- Be gentle – Franks are spooked easily. Firing off question after question is a great way to elevate their blood pressure. Slow and gentle is the key. Ask simple basic questions. Questions like: “what would you like to see happen?”, “What would please you most?”, etc… Pause between each question and allow time for a response.
- Get comfortable with silence – Franks need time to process questions. What does that mean for you? You need to get comfortable sitting in silence for long periods of time. Don’t fill the space with words or chatter. Don’t try to restate your question. Don’t do anything. Just sit. Franks will come around when they are ready.
- Give him stuff to react to – Franks do not do well if you ask them to clarify what they mean. Franks also don’t do well if you ask them to tell you what they want or want of you. They don’t author. They don’t articulate. They react. If you want to work with a Frank effectively, you have to be prepared to give them things to react to. Come in with options and present them. “Frank, do you like A or B better?”, “Frank, do you mean X or Y?”, “Frank, who does things the way you prefer? Drac or Wolfie?”
- Don’t surprise him with bad news – Franks are very wary of villagers with fire and pitchforks. If bad stuff cometh, give him as much notice as possible. Don’t wait until the problem has reached Frank’s doorstep. Then it’s too late. The the arms will start flailing and stuff gets broken.
Workplace Frankenstein’s aren’t all that bad. With a little patience and effort, they are easily managed. Just don’t expect too much from them. For better or worse, working with a Frank means you are in the driver’s seat. They won’t be able to tell you much. So, if you are looking for compliments, clarity and collaboration, you need to look somewhere else. I heard Dracula has some openings, but as I’ve covered, emotional vampires have their hang-ups too.