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I am working an office job under a manager who I like and trust. He's very competent, a good person, a hard worker and generally open to feedback. This is his first leadership role (about 2 years in now). I consider myself lucky to have a boss like him. We have a good work relationship and personally get along fine.

However, he has a lot of what I would describe as "nervous tendencies":

  • Continuously shaking legs (and upper body)
  • Continuously pacing 1 to 2 meters back and forth during stand-up meetings
  • Finger-pointing at people
  • Finger-snapping at people to get their attention
  • Speaking way too loud in many situations
  • Stuttering/Stammering, "tumbling" over own words, frequent and long pauses with "eeeehhm", extremely nasal speaking under any amount of stress
  • Interrupting conversations of others

I fully trust that he is not careless or purposefully disrespectful toward anybody. However, since my desk is right next to his for about 4 months now, his constant (I mean, 100% of the time) leg/body shaking is becoming more and more irritating, to a point where I avoid my desk for hours at a time, working from somewhere else, so that I may focus on my work. This needs to change.

Also, one on one conversations with him tend to exhaust me within 5 minutes or less, because he sits back in his chair, with both legs shaking, upper body shaking and there is not a single sentence without "tumbling" over words or expressions such as "wait, let me rephrase".

I feel generally comfortable talking with people about similar irritations. A few months ago I asked him respectfully not to point and snap fingers at me, which he since only did once or twice. He immediately apologised for it and I always thanked him for being self-aware. All in all, I believe that this was a good development for both of us.

I am genuinely not sure if he is aware regarding his other behaviours. I am now looking to speak with him again, maybe this time in a more general way, however with him I feel like I would like to be extra respectful. I'm afraid addressing only specific behaviours (e.g. continuous leg shaking) can come across as nagging ("There's always something") and won't be seen as respectful.

How to talk about ongoing nervous behaviours with boss without being offensive?

  • This question interpersonal.stackexchange.com/questions/5900/… has some good answers on addressing “unconscious” behaviour, which most of this sounds like. It is known that stress can aggravate these kind of tics. – AsheraH Feb 14 at 9:54
  • Hey Curious! I've given your question a pretty big edit for two reasons: Questions asking 'what should I do' are off-topic, so asking us for the better of two choices isn't really a great question. I've rephrased that to leave the worry you had with one of the approaches you thought about. – Tinkeringbell Feb 14 at 10:25
  • The second reason for editing out all the stuff about anxiety/stress/working hours is that we're not fond of armchair diagnoses. Unless your boss has an anxiety order diagnosed by a professional, we better just focus on the behaviour he's exhibiting and avoid labels like anxiety, stressed, overworked, etcetera. You did a great job of describing the problematic behaviours, try to avoid putting labels on them and you'll get better answers that aren't distracted by those. – Tinkeringbell Feb 14 at 10:25
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I have had colleagues with (partially) similar behavior. The "help" they received from the rest of us was feedback. Sometimes it was public, as in:

Please stop moving so much, I cannot listen to you because I watch your movement.

(provided maybe with some smiling, so the colleague would understand it is not an attack)

Other times, it was as a 1-to-1 feedback. Somebody took the colleague for a private chat, and told them what the team noticed.


The behavior presented by your boss is studies and taught under the discipline of "Presentation skills". You might want to have a chat with this guy in private (you say that he is quite a great person, so he would not mind getting some feedback) and tell him what you told us.

Do not forget to add some statement about "presentation skills". I will not provide provide a list of DO's and DONT's here, as the list is quite long, and some of them require extensive explanations.

A proper training will present the common (and not so common) mistakes, and ways to get rid of them (or at least to keep them under control).

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