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I'm on a project. One of the senior managers that are working on it is constantly interrupting me. It doesn't matter if we are talking 1:1 or in a group of people, she's constantly doing that. She does interrupt other people too but not as much as me. She even frequently asks me a question and then answers it herself without giving me an opportunity to say as much as one sentence.

(Recently, when in 1:1s with her I stopped trying to answer her questions altogether to check if she will realize that I'm not saying anything. She didn't. She answers herself and goes on to the next topic with 0 input from me).

She invites me to meetings and then doesn't let me tell a word.

To give some context:

  • I don't normally talk much. I don't dominate conversations, but I do participate actively if I feel I can contribute. I'm a straightforward talker, don't monologize for minutes.
  • I've always received very positive feedback about my performance too - I know what I'm doing.
  • I'm a woman and she's a woman. 95% of IT people engaged on the project are men.
  • Officially, she is a bit higher than me in the hierarchy but I'm not reporting to her.

How can I address this with her so that she'll stop interrupting me? I write a lot of emails to her to communicate things, but I would prefer to just discuss them.

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    Does she interrupt you when you're talking to someone else or does she only interrupt when you're talking to her (or responding to something she said even if you're saying it to the group)?
    – BSMP
    Nov 15 '21 at 20:41
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    Are you comfortable being direct with her? Are you comfortable with asking another colleague to gently confront her? Nov 15 '21 at 21:08
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Call her out (politely). In a 1:1 situation, bring it up.

"Hey Alice, I wanted to talk with you about that situation in the meeting yesterday. You asked me a question about Foo, and as I wanted to answer, you interrupted and answered the question yourself. I'm not sure how to take this. Could you tell me what your intention was?"

Don't go about "you do that always" or "I don't like that". First of all, ask her why she does it. as neutral as possible. If she doesn't know that it bothers you, you can give her polite feedback about it. Maybe she has other reasons and you learn something new. Next action can be planned from there.

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Have you tried saying (mildly in a matter-of-fact way) "Please don't interrupt me when I'm speaking." when she interrupts you? I had to practice a bit to make that my reflexive interaction when someone interrupts me, but I've found saying that every time a habitual interrupter interrupts can help them adjust their communication style.

The other issue might be that you're misinterpreting a quirk of her communication style. Maybe she doesn't want an answer to her questions; that's just how she tells you what's on her mind: she states a question she asked, then immediately presents the answer she came up with. Your coworkers don't get interrupted as much because they've adapted their communication style to match her quirk.

As a woman who has spent most of her 30 year career working on male dominated teams, I sometimes felt I had to be more aggressive in my communication style than was natural to me to make sure I wasn't getting steamrolled in technical discussions. That lead to some bad habits that were hard to break. I can see how barreling forward without letting someone stop your train of thought could be something she found works in that environment.

You might try looking at the situation from the perspective of what you can do to make sure that the two of you are communicating effectively, instead of assuming that her interruptions are a sign of disrespect. What will work is going to depend on your relationship with her, so I don't know if there is any more specific advice I can give than that.

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First thing is, move yourself away from being offended.

This manager (not your manager) is doing something odd; getting you into a meeting, ask you a question, then answers it herself. Some people have odd interpersonal quirks like that, and it's beset not to attribute malice. At the end of the day, being offended doesn't help you.

Second, ask her why you even need to be there in a positive way.

This works only if you're longer being offended by her behavior, and you can genuinely marvel and find it funny that you're even there. I've had meetings like this, and I would laugh, comment on how they figured it all out, and let them know I didn't need to be there. People seem to take this better when I compliment on their proficiency than complain about them wasting my time.

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Document, Document, Document.

Every time you get interrupted, make a note of who, when and what they wanted and optionally how long.

It does depend on your job type, but interruptions can absolutely kill productivity. Some job types (management) are positively interrupt driven, in which case it's part of your job. But others, for example coding, will be negatively impacted by this.

You need to tell your line manager (assuming this interrupter is not she, or the company practices "matrix management") - "Hey - I'm only getting 60% of my work done due to interruptions. Please can you fix this".

If this lady is your manager, you need to have a conversation about the impact.

And this is where the documentation is crucial. You need to be able to objectively demonstrate the problem.

Don't forget, the time lost is not just the 60 seconds being asked something. If you're doing any kind of knowledge work, it will take you x minutes to remember what you were doing before the interruption..

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    I don't think OP is saying "I was working at my desk and this person interrupted my work to talk to me, which killed my productivity." I think OP is saying "I was talking in a meeting and this person just talked right over me while I was talking." Different kind of interrupting. Nov 15 '21 at 19:57

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