-5

When I'm in a meeting with several people and I start to ask a question, my boss usually interrupts me when I'm about 70% done asking my question/providing context. When she interrupts, she typically dismisses what I'm saying and then responds to the part that I've said, not the actual question that I have at the end. She then continues talking for several minutes and then apologizes to everyone for her talking too much and then changes the course of the conversation leaving my question unanswered or leaving the impression that I meant what she responded to.

Typically, my questions are about things like the length of a test to increase sales of our product and I ask questions like "How are we going to monitor this test at shorter intervals to see if we need to pivot?". Unless the "decision" that's being made is highly dependent on technical issues that I raise, I usually save all detailed technical questions for separate meetings.

There are other small patterns that I've noticed such as she typically only does this when marketing/sales people are on the meeting.

I've tried making the questions/providing context as short as possible, asked "Excuse me, can I finish my question?", and tried also explaining that the point I was trying to make has been missed. I'm a (remote) VP in a technical role at this company, she's the CEO. From what I've seen, she doesn't do this to other people.

What can I do so that my boss allows me to finish my point before responding and I stop feeling like I'm going crazy?

  • 1
    What happens afterward? Are you getting your question answered from other people or sources later or are you having to do work with information missing? – BSMP Oct 10 '18 at 13:49
  • 5
    Two things: 1) There's no actual question. What is it you're looking for? 2) This is definitely not gaslighting. I suggest removing that part of your post. – Jim Clay Oct 10 '18 at 13:58
  • 10
    Well - is it possible that you're taking too long to get to your point? If you've been talking for ~30 seconds and you still haven't asked your question, I expect your CEO wants to move on - so she tries to answer what she perceives your question to be based on what she's heard in the last half-minute... – brhans Oct 10 '18 at 14:22
  • 3
    I didn't downvote this post but perhaps the main reason this is being downvoted is because you considered this to be 'Gaslighting'. Perhaps removing that part would help. – Isaiah3015 Oct 10 '18 at 14:31
  • 3
    @ThrowAway123 With all due respect, "hostile" seems pretty intense for a net 4 downvotes, 5 answers, and people pointing out that you appear to be misusing a word which really changes the tone of your question. Of course people are focusing on the elements you wrote in your question-- it's all the information we have to go on! It's possible that most people are misinterpreting your question, but it's also possible that your question isn't expressing quite what you want. There's a seed of an answer to your question in that, too. – Upper_Case Oct 10 '18 at 18:36
5

She might be trying to "gaslight" you, it's true. But she might also be trying to signal that your questions are too technical and will only confuse the matter for other people in the meeting. The fact that she only does this when marketing/sales people are around suggests the possibility of the latter motive, to me.

I would do two things:

  1. Sit down and take stock of what the purpose of each meeting is when she does this. If the purpose of the meeting is to introduce a new feature for the sales people to start promoting, maybe they only need a "broad strokes" description anyway, for example. I've certainly noticed a divide between what I understand a program to do (as a technical person) versus what the sales people understand that program to do.

  2. You might want to speak to your boss privately to ask why she keeps doing this, and specifically why she only does it when certain people are around. I know you said you're remote, but that only means you'll have to book a conference room or make a phone call instead of stepping into her office. I would approach this private conversation from a "what am I doing wrong?" perspective rather than a "why do you keep interrupting me?" one. Try to gather information on her motives and intentions, to understand why she does it, rather than throwing accusations around, and maybe you can both work together to find a solution where you feel your voice is heard and she's satisfied with how the meetings flow.

  • I appreciate that it may seem like I'm going overly technical in my questions given the description of my post/role, but that's entirely the opposite of what's happening. Typically, my questions are about things like the length of a test to increase sales of our product and I ask questions like "how are we going to monitor this test at shorter intervals to see if we need to pivot?". Unless the "decision" that's being made is highly dependent on technical issues that I raise, I usually save all detailed technical questions for separate meetings. – ThrowAway123 Oct 10 '18 at 14:16
  • 2
    @ThrowAway123 This would be useful to add to the question, particularly the example question. If you could also note the point in the question where the CEO interrupts, that would be useful. – BSMP Oct 10 '18 at 15:45
  • 1
    @ThrowAway123 Why is it taking you more than 30 seconds to ask a question like that? What would happen if you asked the question first and then provided details as needed? – thursdaysgeek Oct 10 '18 at 16:58
3

"Gaslighting" is too strong of a term to use for that conduct, I think.

It's hard to say what is causing the boss to act this way, but if you are bringing up a concern in a meeting you're still getting through "front matter" after 30 seconds, I think it's clear the question is perhaps not right for the context of that meeting.

Sometimes it's useful to just state the main point first or the most important key-issues and then offer to "take offline" the background and other details with the boss and whoever else has a stake in the particular concern. As long as you can back-up your claims, this is a good way to proceed.

2

You are a VP. In theory, you were hired because you were respected. In fact, basically your whole job title revolves around the premise that you are respected; as the boss of your department, if your subordinates see that they shouldn't respect you for any reason, they may go against your wishes and hurt the business. You should first ask the CEO why she is doing this sort of thing to you (mention that you notice it being specifically done to you, but try not to come across as whining), and see how she responds. You may want to further clarify that you feel like this is undermining your feeling of respect and responsibility at the company and ask her nicely to stop. It's possible she simply doesn't realize she is doing it.

If that fails, then it's obvious one of two things:

1) Your CEO has lost confidence in you and is treating you like a child. In which case, time to find someone else who will respect you.

2) Your company uses technology in their product (I don't know what kind of company you work for) but is obviously not interested in the technical implications of using such technology. This is a recipe for disaster.

Either way, if your boss doesn't stop these sorts of actions after you explain to her the problem, you should probably get out. Having the job title "Vice President" on your resume is probably likely to get you some good hits quickly.

  • Thanks for your answer. Do you have any tips on having a conversation with her about this and not coming across as whining? – ThrowAway123 Oct 10 '18 at 14:13
  • 2
    Try to stay level-headed. Explain what you've been feeling and what you've been noticing. Try not to be accusatory or presumptuous. Stick to the facts. For example, rather than "You have been disrespecting me because of X", say "I feel like I have been disrespected". The latter opens the door to the CEO saying "oh, I didn't realize, I'm sorry, I'll stop", where the first one is aggressive. Things like that. – Ertai87 Oct 10 '18 at 14:17
2

You said others don't get interrupted.

It sounds to me you are using a question and answer period to make a point and pose it as a question and she does not like that. You should be able to ask a direct question in 30 seconds.

For example "how are we going to monitor this test at shorter intervals to see if we need to pivot?". That puts out the premise the test period needs to be shorter. It is not up to a technical VP to decide the test period needs to be shorter. That is for marketing. If marketing wants a shorter test period and they need your assistance in doing so they will come to you.

1

You could try switching the order around - open with the question and then provide the context (you could throw in a "What I mean is..." if people are looking puzzled). 30 seconds is quite a long time to be leading up to the important information you require, and since this mainly happens when sales and marketing people are present it's possible that your CEO thinks you're covering details that she doesn't believe they need to know.

It sounds like she is being openly impatient, but I don't see anything in the question that suggests she's trying to push you into questioning your sanity. Possibly rude, probably inconsiderate, but I'm going to agree with other comments and answers that characterising this as "gaslighting" is a bit strong.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.