Coping with Stallers


To do a good job in any organization, you need to know where you’re going, how much authority you have, and how well you’re doing. Your boss is supposed to supply this information. Unfortunately, some bosses are “Artful Dodgers.” One such type is the Staller. In Coping with Difficult Bosses, Robert Brahmson writes about how to cope with Stallers.

Stallers have high standards and concern for the wellfare of others. They are immobilized by conflict. They seldom breach a topic that will provoke a strong negative reaction. They often turn this into a virtue, by pointing out “You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar” or, by blaming their lack of action on loyalty or the wisdom of “causing no ripples.” They are reluctant to set specific objectives, confront questions of priority, impose tight timetables, or be personally responsible for anything that makes life difficult for anyone. Stallers can exemplify codependence or codependency.

Coping with Stallers
Bramson writes about how to cope with Stallers:

  • Avoid appearling to your boss’s boss or moving straight out on your own, until other coping mechanisms have failed. Otherwise, you might turn your Staller into a Fire Eater.
  • Make it easy to be honest. Couch your need for direct and unambiguous information as a request for help. You might say, “What would help me the most, Kate, are some thoughts about how I might improve, even if I’m already going pretty well.” This makes it easier for the Staller to soften possibly harsh truths. Respond to any bad news using reinforcing statements, such as “That’s great,” “Just the kind of thing I needed to hear,” “I appreciate that,” or, “Tell me more.” Expect not to feel that way. You may feel exposed and worthless or a low sense of self-esteem. Use self-directed humor and stay focused on your mature wish to see things as they are.
  • Watch your tendency toward dependency. While it’s nice to feel protected and cared for, be careful not to fall into the dependent role. The Staller can become protective even when it’s against your long-term interest.
  • Bring out any conflict. Stallers are usually facing pushes and pulls. Help your Staller move into action by asking them to make their conflict explicit. For example, “Kate, you seem to be having some doubts about which way to go, what’s the conflict?”
  • Take a consulting role. Act as a problem-solving consultant. Ask problem-solving questions, suggest alternatives, and in other ways help your boss do what they are being paid to do – solve problems and make decisions. Helping your Staller boss out of their emotional stew will help you avoid being the brunt of their feeling-fogged mentalities.
  • Provide verbal support. Extend your personal support when your boss needs to make important decisions. Important decisions are tough and tiring for the Staller. Agreement with a fellow human being steps up the odds that action will follow from a Staller’s verbal commitment and good intentions.
  • Emphasize quality and service, not your own advancement. Staller’s high standards and concern for the wellfare of others incline them toward projects and people with similar values. As far you legitimately can, point out that you share those values, and present yourself as a person with a mature, community-oriented outlook.
  • When possible, keep stallers out of the decision loop. Because making unpopular decisions troubles them, Stallers are often relieved when others decide for them, and those “others” might as well be you.
  • Watch for signs that you are pushing too hard. Your Staller boss will first work hard for a peaceful solution. Then, if the fight continues, they will suddenly overload, lose control and escape. The result is often an emotional, impulsive decision, made by someone whose only concern is relief, always an unfortunate outcome for all concerned.

Key Take Aways
Here’s my key take aways:

  • Stallers have the burden of caring too much. A Staller is really a people-person struggling with the sometimes harshness of business.
  • Helping your Staller boss as a consultant is an effective way to both participate in decisions and help your boss deal with emotional conflicts.
  • Rapport comes before influence, so focusing on the people-side goes a long way with a Staller who’s focused on the people-side.

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