The Manager Who Paused Too Much

Recently someone asked me, “The head of my department pauses a very long time between words when he’s talking informally with us.  I find it very distracting and other people have told me that they find it annoying.  When he’s presenting formally to clients, he is very well-prepared and presents fluidly, with no long pauses.  Should I tell him?”

First of all, let’s be frank.  Giving unsolicited negative feedback to someone two levels above in the organization could be a “career-limiting move.”  So before she makes that move, she has to be very clear about the situation and what she hopes to achieve:

·         Will he be open to the feedback?  It depends on many factors, including how well she knows him and their professional relationship with her manager/his subordinate.

·         Is the “Long Pause” having a serious adverse impact on his performance and the department’s perception of him? 

·         Will he really change his behavior?

Since it doesn’t happen in other situations, he is capable of speaking without the long pause.  But the first step in change is admitting that there is a problem. 

I suspect from what she told me that this manager thinks the long pause is a virtue, not a problem. He may think that it shows he is being thoughtful and thinking carefully about his words. 

What also helps someone change behavior is an incentive or the threat of negative consequences for not changing – neither seems happening in this situation. 

So, it’s up to her to decide whether to tell him directly, share the feedback with someone who has a better relationship with him and can tell him directly, or just keep the feedback to herself and outwardly view the behavior as one of those personal quirks that requires tolerance in the workplace.

This case of the manager who paused too much is very rare.  Most presenters can pause more, whether presenting formally or informally, with a prepared speech or extemporaneous remarks.

Pausing can allow you to catch your breath, demonstrate your confidence, reduce and replace “ums” and “ahs,” and give the audience a chance to digest what you just said.   

The next time you’re presenting, record yourself or ask for honest feedback from people that you trust. Being mindful of how much you pause will help you get just the right amount of pausing for the situation.

Gilda Bonanno's blog