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If a supervisor, another teams' manager or a different team member comes to my desk/area and asks questions or wants to discuss an issue, some of my more enthusiastic team members jump in and start going into useless details, talking about minor issues and sometimes also alarming external people about things that only my team should worry about.

I have always encouraged and supported an open communication, feedback-oriented and participative culture within my team, but this may not work when it comes to other teams or managers in the company, as there are so many conflicting interests and "agendas" I need to deal with.

For example, I may want to keep a discussion short and simple, just to be able to carry on with our teams' work. Instead my subordinates will get into the discussion and auto-commit themselves to new tasks.

Another example is that I am trying to negotiate some help or approval by another team manager or my own supervisor, but to do that I need to present the information in a very specific order and way. If my subordinates come and share the whole discussion, that will be difficult to achieve.

What can I do to keep my team happy and participative within the team, but stay low profile externally - and most importantly, to stop interfering when I am leading a discussion?

  • If you need privacy, go to a meeting room. Only have conversations around your team that they are expected to be part in. – Thorbjørn Ravn Andersen Nov 1 '14 at 10:39
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Two scenarios:

  1. You can walk away from your area: Have the other party and you walk away from your area and continue your discussion there. Your final destination could be their desk, the coffee machine, the restroom, the hallway, an empty conference room nearby - whatever you can think of. Ideally, choose an area that's permanently available and that you can easily walk to and have your discussion there. Make it a habit of walking from your desk if you can.

  2. You are nailed to your desk and your desk is in the middle of your staff. Tell the subordinate "Not now!" and wave them off before they have a chance to open their mouth. Be firm. Be authoritative. Like a parent shooing away their child who is tugging at their pants in the middle of a conversation. After the discussion with the other party is over and they have left, call in the subordinate who interrupted and ask them what's on their mind.

  3. (cont) 90% of the time, you can thank them for their input and tell them that the team can deal internally with the issues that the subordinate raised. And that the rule is that we,as a team, don't trouble others with those issues we can deal with by ourselves. Just as we, as a team, don't expect and don't want other teams to raise issues with us that they can deal with on their own.

The two approaches are not mutually exclusive and you may end up using both approaches, as circumstances dictate.

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    2 is plain unprofessional and I would not react well to being treated in such a way, or seeing others treated like that. – Dan Nov 1 '14 at 8:51
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I've been that guy, so so many times.

Mostly, as you're probably aware, it comes from ambition - a drive to push into higher levels. Also, in me, it indicated a desire to be more "client facing" and integrating with the company as a whole.

So, uh, you might use that info to help the developers under you hit some personal career goals.

As to dissuading - just ask them not to. My old boss would throw a small fit, or pull me aside (or, eventually, give up. But i toned down too) and explain the situation. Because of an excellent working relationship, that got the message across.

The fact that you're asking this then indicates you're unsure about the working relationship you have with the devs under you. Maybe a few beers after work, milestone drinks and the like would resolve that? Don't do "lunch time pizzas", that just insults everyone.

When you talk to them, well, you could indicate you're assuming it is a desire for promotion/client facing roles, and how the developer could best go about that (by giving you free reign), but how you will also endeavour to include the devs in question in discussions going forward. For visibility! No need to include them all at once - just one or two every so often (rotating amongst them).

Actually, another thought - why didn't you escalate this with your manager? They'd probably like to give advice, and then see you execute it. Hell, you could even take this advice, and present it to your manager as a solution, and then they'll see you as proactive, and executing solutions, and then solving problems. That's the kind of go-getting attitude that gets a feller promoted, don't you think?

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Make clear to your developers that to get certain things done you have to act in certain ways, like for example lying to the client/manager.

Sounds nasty, but if it is part of the game "office politics", it is perfectly fine. Developers love to cheat to solve a puzzle/game. You also might be surprised with which solutions analytically trained minds will come up to help you.

Don't treat them as kids that annoy while the parents are talking, treat them as adults who you work together with to achieve a common goal.

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    and with lying i mean presenting data in a certain way that encourages participation of the client/manager, not real lying, ofc .. – user29164 Nov 1 '14 at 3:29

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