I have a coworker who would often ask me questions relating to his work. But what I find annoying is him constantly interrupting me to finish my sentences only to get it wrong all the time.

One instance, I purposely frowned my face and told him "please listen" after about a 3-second pause. This still didn't give him any idea to just shut up and learn.

I ignored him for a particular period of time and would say "I don't know...but try this", or "how does the boss think this is possible?" while knowing fully well the task is possible.

This approach affected his performance as he got a lot of bad reviews from our boss. And in some cases, I would be asked by our boss to assist him, then telling him there isn't solution for the problem to avoid enduring the frustration would reflect poorly on my performance too.

How do I handle this coworker as ignoring him clearly does not help as I will be officially asked to help him?

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    What is your goal, to help him or let him hang himself? – Old_Lamplighter Mar 15 '18 at 17:21
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    For how long has this been going? Is he a new hire? Are you a senior? – Sandra K Mar 15 '18 at 17:22
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    @SandraK Yes, I am a senior by almost 2 year. This has been going on for the past one year, at least. – BoltzBooz Mar 15 '18 at 17:28
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    @Boltzmann So, is your goal to help him, make him go away, or expose his ignorance to management? Pick one, and we can answer it. – Old_Lamplighter Mar 15 '18 at 18:25
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    @RichardU It seems clear from context to me that OP wants this coworker to no longer be his (or her) problem. I think OP is indifferent between this coworker being fired or simply being told that OP isn't the go-to for questions anymore. – Dean MacGregor Mar 15 '18 at 18:36

The fact that he tries to finish your sentences means he's interested and engaged in what you're teaching him. Assuming your goal is to turn him into a successful team member, instead of getting annoyed when he interrupts you, listen to what he's saying and try to figure out where his reasoning is coming from. Ask questions like, "What makes you think that?" and "Aren't you forgetting about...?" Try to get a sense of how his mind works and the logic he’s using to come up with these incorrect responses. It will allow you to cater your lessons accordingly.

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  • I've actually tried those approaches. The problem here is someone who needs help but is yet to come to the reality that he needs it. It's about him convincing himself that he's smart that he always cut me short in an attempt to arrive at the answer. I don't have problem with people trying to finish up things when they get clues they need. But what I don't understand is him failing on first attempt, second one, and third one, until I manage to finish my point. Sometimes he changes the question half way into the discussion. – BoltzBooz Mar 15 '18 at 20:02
  • @BoltzBooz As I was saying earlier I think going to your boss to explain your difficulties will be the best approach. Don't give him bad advice or tell him that you don't know as that may reflect badly on you because he would say you told him so and he wouldn't be lying. – Dan Mar 16 '18 at 12:49

No Sell his (possibly unintentional) attempts to fluster you. Every time he interrupts you, tell him this:

"Hang on, let's finish the current topic. We will come back to that topic later. Why don't you note it down?"

and pretend to wait until he "notes it down". Then continue talking.

If he doesn't "note it down" and instead continues talking, repeat your instruction with a stoic expression:

"We will come back to it. Note it down."

When you are done talking, be sure to actually come back to the noted topics:

"Alright, I think you have noted down a few points. Let's go over them now."

I have mentored quite a few know-it-alls myself. After a few rounds of frustration, I figured out the above trick and found it extremely effective. Since "noting down" is a lot more effort than interrupting verbally with irrelevant comments, they eventually realised that listening to me was actually a good idea!

I also observed that when "coming back", they would not actually bother asking all the questions that I thought they had noted down, perhaps because the original purpose of those "questions" had become irrelevant.

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It's difficult to answer this question without knowing more.

How closely related are your jobs? How connected are your work products? Do you have other coworkers who could help this coworker?

The generic advice for any workplace problem is to tell the boss about the problem and have some ideas for how to fix the problem.

Potential fixes could be (depending on overall work situation):

Schedule a time when you're available and establish a guideline that outside of that time coworker should do something else when they have a problem. This is highly dependent on the type of work. If your coworkers inability to do a task puts them in a situation where there is nothing else they can do, your boss is unlikely to go for this.

Incorporate other coworkers into helping the problem coworker so that you're not shouldering 100% of the burden. Obviously, this is dependent on their being other people who can help. If it's just the two of you that do your "type" of work then this isn't going to apply.

Have more work assigned directly to you if it is beyond the scope of what coworker can reasonably do. If helping the coworker takes more time than it would take to just do the work then tell your boss that.

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