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Do you have the attention span of a squirrel?

July 30, 2020 Barrie- An unusually lush summer in central Ontario has brought out all kinds of woodsy creatures, like this red squirrel who is visiting my back yard. He takes control of any peanut snacks we put out, giving the bum's rush to the other black and grey rodents. Red squirrels are rare in urban settings, but this guy seems to be taking over. BILL SANDFORD PHOTO

Bill Sandford/The Globe and Mail

Ottawa consultant Jim Taggart worries that our organizations are being led by squirrels.

"How many times have you been talking to your boss when their wireless rings and they grab for it wildly, have a short chat then back to you, only then to be diverted by another call or a co-worker walking in on the conversation to ask a non-related question. The boss obliges, then back to you. But only to suddenly blurt out something non-related such as, 'Oh, yeah, would you mind doing up a PowerPoint presentation on project XYZ,'" Mr. Taggart writes on his ChangingWinds blog.

Squirrels can be fun to watch in your backyard. But Manager Squirrel, as Mr. Taggart calls the workplace version, is a pain. Squirrel-like behaviour kills productivity, contributes to the erosion of depth in knowledge work, and hurts personal creativity. (And it's not only the boss – staff can also exhibit squirrel-like behaviour.)

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"So the next time one of your staff comes up to you to initiate a conversation, ignore your phone when it rings," he advises managers. "Look away from your laptop. Close the lid if you have to. When a rude co-worker tries to butt in, tell her you'll get back to her. Focus on the person in front of you."

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About the Author
Management columnist

Harvey Schachter is a Kingston, Ont.-based writer specializing in management issues. He writes Monday Morning Manager and management book reviews for the print edition of Report on Business and an online column, Power Points. More


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