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My boss (who is also the owner of the company - so there's an unequal power dynamic there) is great but they have a tendency to massively over-explain things. A simple question to expand out an acronym can turn into a several minute monologue involving its background, motivation, and where the "acronymised" thing fits into the project. Or an introduction to a meeting can turn into essentially a pitch of why this project is noteworthy etc.

I appreciate that their intention is to make sure that there is full visibility of what's happening in the company, but being told things I already know is not exactly the most productive thing. Not to mention it feels a bit patronising at times.

I feel it would be rude to interrupt when they have already launched into their explanation, especially that those would take place on a meeting with more than just the two of us. That being said, I'm not sure if this issue is not too small to warrant taking them aside for a conversation. I mean, at what point am I just being, you know, nitpicky and petty? Have you had a similar issue in one of your workplaces? Is it worth addressing or just dropping / learning how to deal with it?

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  • Do you have any kind of regular 1-to-1 with your manager? If you do, then this is where to bring it up. May 15 '20 at 10:41
  • 2
    You could consider asking in Interpersonal Skills as while this is happening in the workplace, this problem is certainly not constrained to the workplace. May 15 '20 at 10:53
  • Or just let him talk. As long as you're on the clock who cares how long his speech is?
    – red-shield
    May 17 '20 at 5:21
  • 1
    @red-shield Well, the thing is I'm not on the clock as I work on a per-task basis, not a per-hour basis.
    – anon
    May 17 '20 at 14:35
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Yeah, it can be frustrating. Also the opposite is frustrating, which is when there is assumed knowledge, and the answer is very terse.

What you could try is book-ending the question. For example:

Instead of:

What does XYZ stand for?

Ask:

It looks like data flows from Foo in XML format, then into XYZ, which then seems to convert it into JSON, before giving it too Bar. Can you please explain what XYZ is?

You are more likely to get the exact information you always need. Doesn't always work, though.

Being able to interrupt someone talking in a non-abrupt way is a skill you will have to develop. Use body language to your advantage. Nod as they explain things. You can even finish sentences, but you must make it look like the information they gave you has caused everything to fall into place.

And get used to the feeling, because there will always be a disjoint between what you understand and what other people think you understand.

1

Regardless of the power dynamic, there is absolutely nothing wrong with putting your hand up slightly and saying "Thanks, that's exactly what I needed." Often monologuers (apparently not a word) are going on because they think you don't know the full story and need it. If this is a common behavior, it is probably likely they've been "cut short" a number of times in their life and as long as you do it politely and respectfully there shouldn't be any hurt feelings.

Just don't over use it. If you do it all the time, they'll come to think you're not interested in what they have to say. It doesn't matter if that's true or not, it's certainly not an impression you want to give.

Just be polite, and if it comes up in conversation just say you wanted to be respectful of everyone's time.

0

Is it worth addressing or just dropping / learning how to deal with it?

Learn how to deal with it.

He is your boss and the owner of the company. If he feels that your time is best spent listening to his answers to a question that you asked him then you need to accept that. Let him determine what the most productive use of his employees' time is. He is, after all, the one who is signing your paychecks.

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  • Yes but I'm working not on a per-hour basis but rather on a per-task accomplished basis. So any waste of time is the waste of my time.
    – anon
    May 15 '20 at 13:28
  • Is it a significant waste of your time? May 18 '20 at 6:28
0

I have encountered such people in my workplace a few times. They are good people and its actually their personality trait to go in the over explaining mode.

I think sometimes you can avoid such lengthy discussion by finding the answers yourselves but other times you have to still ask the questions from same people.

I think you can just wait for the moment the info needed is uttered. Right after that you can try to shorten the conversation by giving your input that you have got the perfect answer to your query.

You can say this in a polite way. Like I would not shy to say

"Sir, this was the exact answer I was looking for. Thank you. I will come back if anything else needed."

-1

Such people are more common than one might think, though the amount of talking they do varies.

For some, it's an escape from work they don't want to do by spending time talking to you instead. That way they can feel like they are doing something productive, while not actually doing something.

Others like to hear themselves talk, possibly so they can feel like the smartest person in the room.

Some don't have enough social contact in their office and you're an opportune target for chatting and if it's not the full history of abbreviations, they'll talk about the tomatoes they are growing in their garden or things like that, if you give them the tiniest amount of reason to do so.

For yet others over-explaining is just the way they tick, possibly because they spent so much time around people that didn't understand things that it became a hard to break habit.

There are numerous reasons why people do it, and most don't have anything to do with you specifically.

Nod along, smile and wait until they are done is my usual solution. It costs some time of the workday, but in the end being social and having a good rapport with colleagues is usually part of the job.

-1

You should change the question to get a different answer

My day job actually offered BEST Instruments seminars around different communication styles to address this kind of friction. Your boss’ communication style is “technical” while yours seems to be “bold.”

While ideally both parties will “flex” to meet the other’s style, as the one initiating the Q&A session it is in your best interest to “flex” further to ask a question that a Technical will hear in the way you Boldly intended it.

What has worked for Bolds talking to Technicals at my shop:

Name the elephant in the room as you ask and Boldly define the answer in the context you understand during the question

You might think “I just need a short answer” is clear enough but it’s not—our Technical view of “short” is as different as our view of “answer.”

Instead, name the question, the impact, and provide framing. “Sorry Boss, can you remind me what the acronym XYZ expands to? [then keep talking!] It was great to get confirmation last week that we’re aligned about how ABC interops with XYZ to help us FOO the BAR, but one of my deliverables this week is to expand out the XYZ acronym for sales’ slide deck. The team seems well situated to give sales the context but we still need to agree on how to expand the acronym.”

The above is more likely to get your boss to provide the acronym expansion then dive into talking about why sales is talking about XYZ and to whom. This puts the conversation squarely on track to talk about how the structure and meta-details of your upcoming deliverables fit into the business need, which is the point of meetings.

If the answer goes off the rails into territory you know, interrupt with excitement not impatience

Management by definition has a different perspective on business priorities and projects than you do. It’s a good sign when you get no new information from your boss’ context-giving! Beware: You must ensure this is because you were already on the same page, not because you stopped listening.

The Technical giving context usually doesn’t think you weren’t aware—they are making sure all parties in the meeting are aligned on the goal and the method. Football teams don’t tell the coach to stop pep-talking before the game, they join the hype!

Suppose the boss dives into why sales needs a new slide deck then goes off about how COVID-19 has impacted trade conferences and the company’s bottom line from reduced sales. You’ve heard of this, it’s not new, blah blah blah.

This is the time to remind yourself why you’re in this meeting and what the goal of the meeting is.

If it’s a half hour weekly dev team meeting that got through 5 minutes of agenda in 20 minutes, the boss has wandered off topic and there’s a business impact and you may be helping if you redirect back to the agenda.

“Ooh that’s a good way to put it! Businesses across the country still need to FOO the BAR and are looking to cut costs. If sales can show them how ABC and XYZ are innovative drop-in solutions, we can keep the money flowing!

Last week we found ABC would cause database corruption if the client didn’t already have universal keys across every table, which is a HUGE barrier to adoption with nobody’s DBA having time to refactor their data. (the boss already knows this, you are “flexing” to give technical framing.)

Mikey and I have a plan for an adapter that will translate keyless table formats into views that our product can work with. Do you plan to have the client team run the adapter against the client DB or is that something our deployment folks will do? If our deployment team will be doing it we’d like to save the time to market by not creating a GUI, not trying to autodetect data format, and our docs will read differently. How do we best fit what sales is pitching?”

Wordy, but a lot shorter than an unguided Technical seminar.

If it’s a cross-department project re-alignment, the meeting is now on topic and you need to:

  1. Listen for the boss, teammates, and especially other departments giving feedback that depends on an understanding contrary to your understanding or work.
  2. Give a description of how your work fits into the picture the boss painted when it’s your turn.
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  • Would the downvoter like to provide feedback?
    – newcoder
    May 18 '20 at 1:46
  • They won't. For them it is an easy way to make other answers appear after theirs. These are just opinions. So, don't worry much about some id!ot downvoting your opinion/suggestion. There is no right or wrong here.
    – tigeronk2
    Jun 19 '20 at 7:27
  • @tigeronk2 sad but true. I suppose it’s also to be expected in a question about how to avoid sitting through answers to questions
    – newcoder
    Jun 19 '20 at 10:39

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