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I've just come from a standup meeting where I started to speak, and had my boss interrupt and talk over the points I wanted to make. I waited until they'd finished then said what I originally intended to say.

It's left me feeling un-listened to and unvalued. I want to ask my boss to let me finish what I'm saying and not talk over me, but I don't know how to bring this up without making an awkward situation.

More generally, I feel micromanaged. I want to try and stop this as it's crushing my motivation.

  • 1
    From the description I may have the wrong impression of how often this is occurring, it sounds like this was a one time event at the meeting. Could this just have been two people with good points to make at the same time or are you sure this was a malevolent talking over? – Dopeybob435 Jan 28 '14 at 13:38
  • I have a history of this boss behaving like this. – blazerr Jan 28 '14 at 14:46
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    I think you should do some reading on Introverts vice Extroverts and how each behaves. This is ordinary Extrovert behavior and is not insulting or meant personally most of the time. And as far as him micromanaging you, are you sure or are you just perceiving that because you don't like to be managed at all? Perhaps you should describe some of what you perceive as micromanagement. – HLGEM Jan 28 '14 at 21:40
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In the traditional scrum style stand-up meeting there really are no points to be made. They are generally intended to communicate to the team what you completed, are working on now, what roadblocks or hurdles you are facing. Any extended discussion about the tasks, or the project in general should happen outside of the stand-up. So if the problem is limited to stand up meetings, then I would try to avoid sharing anything other than what has been asked of you in the stand up. If you have other things to discuss you can mention that you have an issue you need to address and move on unless probed for more.

If this problem extends to other project meetings then I would consider addressing the issue with your boss. I would ask him if he has an issue with the way you communicate in meetings? I know I have a bad habit of interjecting while others are talking. It is not something I am doing intentionally as an act of disrespect, but I realize it is often perceived as such so when I realize I have done so I apologize. I find it works fine when I work with other people like me who also have no problem interjecting, but with people who are not as assertive it can be off-putting. I suspect it is the same with your manager. If you identify this issue to your manager, he should try to adjust his behavior with you, or at least correct your expectations from him. It may be something that you will have to learn to live with or move on. But either way a discussion with your boss about it should help you to deal with the situation in the future.

3

Since this left you feeling bad, you should probably do something about it, and not just ascribe it to a personality or style of your boss. It probably is (for example different people use different pause lengths as a sign that it is your turn to talk now) but if it's upsetting you, do something. You have lots of choices about what to do:

  • reassure yourself as your boss talks "It's not that [boss] doesn't care what I think. [He/She] just thought I was done." Wait until the boss is done, then add your points to the meeting. The aim of the meeting will still be met, and you will minimize your hurt by surfacing the facts to yourself. Also make a point of noticing how the boss reacts when you continue your point. Is the boss interested? Seem pleased with you? This can also add to your reassurance.
  • don't yield the floor. When the boss starts to speak, say "Hang on, I wasn't finished" or "just a minute". Hand gestures like "stop" also work here. This may momentarily upset your boss, but a person who interprets short pauses as turn-ending markers is probably used to being told they jumped in too soon. A self centered bully who doesn't care if you were done or not also won't care that you didn't yield the floor. It's all water off a duck's back.
  • arrange with the meeting runner for more explicit turn taking. This might mean asking each person to turn to the next one for their daily report, or the meeting runner doing that, or a "talking stick" to be passed around.
  • ask one person you trust whether the boss is specifically talking over you more than other people, and if so whether it's perhaps because your pauses are longer or something. This person might remind the boss at times to let you finish.

I don't recommend going and having a meeting with the boss about this. It's not that big a thing, don't make it a big thing. Save that for if the boss is constantly talking over you and nothing anybody else does helps.

(I have a pair of people in my life where one talks over the other when the three of us are talking, and I know he really respects her but he just jumps in all the time and she's saying "hang on hang on" while he interrupts but he still does, and I tell him "let her finish" and it does help. He just doesn't notice because he's really engaged in the conversation. He does, however, back off when reminded, and if your boss doesn't then you might need a one on one about it eventually. I have another person in my life who has ENORMOUS pauses without yielding his turn. I am always a little off balance in conversations with him, because I am never sure if it's ok to talk. Since neither of us is good at eye contact we give and get less cues than some people, too. To his credit, he takes being interrupted very well, and will explicitly cue me to talk with prods like "right?" or "what do you think?" but I am always tamping down a pressure to jump in when he pauses for so long, even though the content of the conversation makes it clear it is not my turn.)

Do you get interrupted in any other contexts? If so, consider adopting a habit that lets people know you're not done. The "filled pauses" of English (er, ah, um) are apparently a way to say "I'm thinking, don't interrupt", for example. You can rearrange sentences so you say "for example" [long pause] and then provide the example ... that intro phrase leaves people knowing there is more coming. You can also use explicit body language like leaning back, stepping back, putting down the whiteboard marker, or sitting down to signal being finished. If you don't signal you're done, you're not done. Now, don't get into all of this if this is one person who interrupts you in one context. (Or did it once, in one meeting.) Rub some dirt on it and walk it off. But if it's a pattern, learn about it.

2

Without knowing your boss's personality, it's a difficult one to answer

If he is someone who takes comments OK then I would have a quiet two minute chat with him and explain that his approach is troubling you. You could phrase it as something that is making you all appear to not be a team to the others in the meeting "If we keep talking over each other, we are not presenting a united front" - this will focus on the fact that "you both do it" (even though you don't) and to others outside his team/reports, it is coming across that you are not all in synch

If he doesn't take comments or suggestions to change very well, then this approach will not work and will just cause more problems for you going forward. There are far wiser people here to can suggest what to do in that situation.

  • Thanks, that's a good way to start thinking about it. I'd say my boss was avoidant. I've just asked for a five minute chat and been told "no". – blazerr Jan 28 '14 at 11:01
  • Oh dear, that doesn't bode well. You could always stay quiet in the meetings and then convey your points to the people outside of it/in another forum. If your boss then mentions your reluctance/quietness in a performance review/chat, you could then bring up "well, you always talk over me". A little bit aggressive I think but sometimes it's the only way to get the point over. – Mike Jan 28 '14 at 13:44
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You should sit down with your boss privately and discuss what happened. Here's how I would do it,

"Hey [boss], do you have a minute for a quick chat?"

"Sure." (never had a boss ever say no to this.)

(Having the discussion away from the rest of the group as a matter of professionalism.)

"I just wanted to let you know that at the meeting the other day, I felt a little talked over by you. I know that isn't your intention, but it actually affects me a lot. I would really prefer it if I not be interrupted."

At this point, no one can guess your boss' response because all people are unique and random systems. But it's a fairly simple A, B scenario

A) Your boss coalesces, and tries not to interrupt you. Things are great, just like they were before.

B) Your boss does not affect any change. You are still unhappy but now at least you have made an effort to resolve the situation. You can now be recruited away guilt-free.

At the end of the day, all players in a workplace are just human beings. No one's perfect, and sometimes we need to help people work through their flaws, even (and especially) our superiors.

  • You judgement of the boss is irrelavent to the question of how should the OP deal with it and is not appropriate in an answer on this SE. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Jan 28 '14 at 18:51

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