Coping with Wafflers


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.” In a previous post, I focused on the Staller. In this post, I’ll focus on the Waffler. In Coping with Difficult Bosses, Robert Brahmson writes about how to cope with Wafflers.

Wafflers are like Stallers in that they are supportive, but fail to stand up. The key difference is that while Stallers would like to be forthright, but are averse to distressing anyone, Wafflers simply want to be liked, approved of, and accepted by everyone, all the time. So when their managerial role pushes them to do things that are likely to make them unpopular – assigning employees to tasks they dislike, allocating resources unevenly, or recommending greater rewards for some than for others – they panic.

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

  • Be personal. Wafflers will waffle less if they feel personally accepted. For that reason, be personal with them. Personal does not mean intimate or close, but courteous and cordial aren’t exactly on target either. Being personal means doing a little extra to show your Wafflers that you regard them as likable human beings. Ask them about weekend activities, chat about a favorite book or film, or suggest having lunch or coffee together.
  • Don’t fight, compromise. A Waffler’s obsession with good relationships has a positive side – a passion for positive compromise in which all parties to a conflict come away with something they value. The Waffler’s prefer win-win because nobody ends up sore at anybody else. For that reason, accepting, or better yet, proposing a compromise even when you’re certain you have a right to fully receive what you’ve requested, you can turn a potential disaster into a partial win.

Key Take Aways
Here’s my key take aways:

  • Wafflers are people-pleasers so understanding that is a first step to understanding their dilemma — since you can’t be all things to everyone.
  • Going for a win-lose with a Waffler boss is like biting off your nose to spite your face. A little compromise goes a long way.

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