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I am tech lead of a project and I have one senior member, a smart guy. He does not sit immediately next to my desk, but it is an open office, so he is a couple of meters away.

I am not very fast in processing but I aways answer accurately, I don't give immediate answers, I need to think first. Every time a colleague comes to ask me a question, this colleague stands up, comes to my desk, and starts answering the question. I find it annoying and disruptive. How can I address this?

The same programmer has the tendency to only take domain related tasks which very often overlaps with my job. So I can of have two issues at stake here:

  • his style.
  • worrying he is overlapping with my activities.
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    Other than "you don't like it", what problem is this causing for the team? Commented Apr 27 at 10:51
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    A few weeks ago, you asked another question about a coworker, who is a native English speaker, and always repeats your answers in a meeting with many more words. So, is he the same coworker you mentioned in this current post above ? Commented Apr 27 at 23:24
  • @Job_September_2020 yes very observant Of you.
    – Pesho
    Commented Apr 28 at 11:14
  • @Job_September_2020 with the only detail that we Are not talking about english but another language :) I know 3 languages - English, the language Of the country i have imigrated in and my own language :)
    – Pesho
    Commented Apr 28 at 11:16
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    Country or other cultural elements would help here as it has a big impact on how correct you should be.
    – Adam Burke
    Commented Apr 29 at 0:43

2 Answers 2

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In many teams, team leads are tasked with making decisions for the team. They can also be repositories of simple facts. Your reactions to what your team member does depend on which of these cases is happening.

First, you must give a signal to askers that you need some time to think. This can be as simple as "um..." or "let me see..." but can also be "good question, I need to think about that for a moment" or "that's not a simple decision, let's discuss it a bit". Something that makes it clear you are processing.

Second, when Mr Helpful comes over to say "the original drawings are in the top drawer of the cabinet" or "it's a simple git -rebase --force -t-x-v /yq /123" you have some choices about how to react to that. The worst is to kind of go silent and do nothing and feel angry. For a purely factual answer, you can thank them:

Yes, I was about to say that myself, there was no need to interrupt, but thanks for sharing what you know

This is not an expression of genuine gratitude. If you want that, try:

Yes, that's right, thanks for jumping in

I don't think you feel grateful, though. You probably don't want to thank them for jumping in. Try to avoid things like

Yes, that's right, thanks for jumping in to save 5 seconds

It just makes you look petty.

However you word it, on the matter of simple facts, you should confirm the answer is right and thank the person -- whether sarcastically and unpleasantly (I don't recommend), formally and not very warmly, or genuinely.

But for decisions this person is taking your role by making them. You need to reply more like

That's one of the options I'm considering.

And then ask a salient and good question like

Do you think it might slow the retrieval process?

Or whatever it is you're turning over in your mind. This could be a problem with the suggestion Mr Helpful just made, it could be an alternative you're considering, or whatever. Or perhaps you have another question for the team member who brought the problem to you:

How many users are affected by this?

You assert your team leader status by leading the team. That does include answering questions but it also includes reassuring people the answer they got from their peer is fine, or correcting it if it's not. It includes making decisions, not sitting by while someone else leaps up and appears to make the decision. Even if the suggestion from Mr Helpful is exactly what you were going to say, if the decision is yours to make then you are the one to say

Yes, I think that will work, good suggestion Mr Helpful, let's go with that.

He gets credit for his butting in, but everyone gets reminded you are the one who decides.


All that said, if you don't in fact have a role of "making decisions" then this is a little different, and your issue is just politeness. You might well decide that all this rude butting in and taking over is that person's personal style and you're going to put up with it. Or you might say something like

Give me a break Mr Helpful, I'm quite capable of answering myself and I didn't ask you to speed up the process.

Doing this in front of the team member who is asking will be seen as rude, so tread carefully. Waiting until the two of you are alone will be seen as saving up petty complaints and not being a team player, so also tread carefully.

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    "Waiting until the two of you are alone will be seen as saving up petty complaints and not being a team player" Praise in public, criticise in private.
    – nick012000
    Commented Apr 27 at 12:58
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    "praise in public criticize in private" is why you don't do it in front of the other team member. But that doesn't mean any and all criticism delivered in private will be ok. If it's a minor thing (in the mind of the receiver) then "saving it up" will be seen as petty and over reacting. There is no obvious winning way to do it. Commented Apr 27 at 13:08
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    My reaction to the problem description was that it sounded like a case of trying too hard to be helpful and forgetting to respect space, which women are subjected too more than men, so having a woman's perspective on how to manage it seems especially helpful to me. Thanks, Kate
    – keshlam
    Commented Apr 27 at 13:56
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To follow up futher on Kate Gregory's answer.

Consider taking this person aside right after the next time. Thank them for the help and their skillset. Remind them that office etiquette is part of career growth and interupting is considered rude and less mature.

Give them some guardrails, examples: like speak up if they see a problem about to occur, or perhaps addressing the person being asked the question if they would like help?

The hard part is not quashing enthusiasm while not sowing chaos.

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  • OP said Mr Helpful is a senior colleague. Offering a senior colleague unsolicited advice about career growth would likely be perceived as rude.
    – stannius
    Commented Apr 30 at 18:56
  • @stannius The person might be a senior, but they are not acting correctly. The team lead must lead the team or get out the way. It is the OP's choice if they intend to lead or fail.
    – DogBoy37
    Commented May 1 at 1:36

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