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Once a week we have group meetings for all the members of my department to give project updates and it's become standard for everyone to interrupt each other all the time. Like I'll start saying "I'm working on a function to..." and get cut off by three people with "Why?" "What's a function?" "Why aren't you doing XYZ?" Everyone does this to each other, not just me, so these meetings last about an hour and there's about 10 minutes of information exchanged. People usually just talk over each other and start yelling back and forth.

I've always thought interrupting someone is one of the rudest things you could do, so I don't participate in this. I nearly always have questions for someone or want to give updates but I'm never able to get a full sentence out.

What are some ways to deal with this that aren't "find a new job"? Should I just start interrupting and yelling? Should I try staying silent or not showing up?

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    Who schedules the meetings? Who "owns" the meetings? Who is the "leader" of these meetings? They should be setting the tone, scope, and "rules of engagement" for these meetings. – joeqwerty Feb 15 at 16:22
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    You seem to ask "how can I get information from this disastrous meeting". IMHO, the correct question should be "What can we do to avoid this mess and do proper meeting". This is not just your problem, it's your company problem. And having good meeting will not be only benefic to you but your whole team – Kepotx Feb 15 at 16:34
  • if you are talking about functions, and there are people in the meeting that ask "what's a function" - that meeting is entirely over-populated by people that don't need to be there (management's problem) or the technical details need to be brought waaay down (your problem) – NKCampbell Feb 15 at 21:06
  • to my point, it sounds like they are interrupting (in that albeit oversimplified case) to get understanding so they can understand the context and meaning of your update - which is actually respectful because it means they want to be invested in what you have to say, but your concepts are beyond their understanding. If they just sat silently not knowing what you were talking about, you are wasting your time, and they are wasting theirs. To the simplified point - maybe your update could be better targeted to the audience. Or - it's a chaotic madhouse in which I don't know how anything gets done – NKCampbell Feb 15 at 22:37
  • Is there anything you need to get done in this meeting, or any information to get out of the meeting? Is there an obligation (explicit or implicit) for you to attend? What is the reason for the meeting to be there in the first place, are they still fulfilling its purpose? – Helena Feb 16 at 14:55
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How can I participate in a meeting where everyone interrupts each other? Should I just start interrupting and yelling?

Nope, raising your voice won't help at all. If and when you bring up a point or respond to a question during the meeting, and you are interrupted, simply say "Excuse me, I am not finished". Do this politely, but firmly. (do not raise your voice)

Should I try staying silent or not showing up?

If you are a required attendee, not showing up will look bad on you, so this is not a viable option either.

My suggestion: Have a conversation with whomever is chairing the meeting and bring up your concerns as to the value of the meeting due to its current chaotic nature.

If you are not comfortable doing this, then I suggest you bring this up to your manager, as they certainly will have an opinion in terms of valuable use of your time. Currently these meeting are a big waste time.

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This isn't your problem.

This problem belongs to the person chairing these meetings. If they're unable to control and guide the meetings effectively, then the meetings are effectively useless.

Don't rise to the bait, gain whatever value you can from the meetings, and just email in your updates afterward instead. If you get interrupted during your slot, just say that you'll email instead. Or just email your update before the meeting and beat the bell.

If your manager/team lead/whoever asks why you're emailing instead of participating in the meeting, just point out you're not joining in a shouting match and that you don't feel that the meetings in their current format are conducive to effective communication between team members.

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    This is not your problem to fix. From what I understand of the question, OP seems to work in Computer Science and reviews are a good way to improve, know what everyone is doing and anticipate/get to speed with other project-member. So not being able to benefit from it is a problem. – Nyakouai Feb 15 at 16:44
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Two words: Talking Pillow

It became a bit of a meme, but the TV show Breaking Bad had a famous scene where during an intervention of the main character, the family passed around a pillow to indicate who was allowed to speak at a given moment.

It seems a little silly, but in stressful or argumentative moments, using a mechanism like this can help remind people to be respectful to each other and offer a degree of control around social interaction. Based on the situation you are describing it sounds like your team could benefit from a similar method.

That's all well and good but it's not my meeting...

This is where I would challenge you to be assertive and address the entire team before the meeting starts to describe your observations and the dilemma it puts you in. Use buzzwords like "mutual respect" and "time efficiency" to help push the idea that there exists a need to bring order to the chaos. This should hopefully kick off a constructive conversation where the entire team can introduce ideas for improvement.

To address something mentioned in another answer, I wouldn't get hung up on who booked the meeting. Personally, if my attendance is required for a meeting, I am now a stakeholder of that meeting and feel not only permitted but obligated to help drive that meeting towards its end goal. If I see a problem which makes that meeting ineffective, I am either going to work to address the problem or I will stop attending altogether.

Just about everyone on this site works in a professional environment. We are all extremely busy and (hopefully) we are all paid well for the work that we do. Any meeting which is inefficient or a time-suck is not only inconvenient but is also a waste of the company's money. IMO, not addressing an issue like this would show lack of accountability.. I would argue that by bringing something like this up you are showing your professionalism.

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When you are interrupted, don't address the actual question or comment. Your response should be calm and you should say something along the lines of "I will address questions when my update is complete." People are smart; it should only take a few meetings before people realize you wan't address the interruptions.

Depending on the tone of the meeting and the people involved, you might want to use different phrasing ...

  • "Good question John, I will address it when I have gone through my list."
  • "Dude, how about I deal with questions and comments at the end?"
  • "My little brain isn't good with interruptions ... I will do better if we do questions after I am done with my topics. Is that OK?"

Note - this may not be OK with the manager or the team .. it may very well be that the "verbal combat" is viewed as a positive not a negative, forcing you to demonstrate the value of your work and your ideas. It's nonsense, but some folks think that way. If that is the case, you either learn to deal with it or find someplace else to work.

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