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I supervise a very small team of 5 guys. One of my employees seems to constantly talk over me or cut me off and it certainly gets annoying. This especially happens when I want to deliver a speech about a new or upcoming feature. For instance, I might say we've got X task to do and its going to require A, B, and...and immediately he begins talking. Sometimes, he will grab a marker and begin white boarding his ideas and thoughts while I haven't even finished explaining the new "concept".

Its almost like he loves to hear himself talk. And his ideas are generally okay but it's almost like I don't really need the disruption as I want my team to understand some critical points. Sometimes I let him continue, other times I will just talk right back over him (which I know is not professional, but it's almost like he doesn't want to give others a chance).

Now one other time I mentioned this to him and it seemed like he didn't want to talk to me for a few weeks..to me that's not a healthy work environment. What other options do I have to let him know that it's not so nice to do that?

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  • Have you tried written agendas for your meetings?
    – Myles
    Commented May 5, 2015 at 17:08
  • Well I could do a written agenda, but we are such a small group that we usually have these types of meetings directly in our work area.
    – JonH
    Commented May 5, 2015 at 17:09
  • recommended reading: That's Not What I Meant, by Deborah Tannen. Some of this may be conversational styles. New Yorkers for example have a much shorter time-out before concluding the other person has stopped talking, and consider interrupting less rude, than many others. You may be confusing him as much by not speaking when he expects you to as he confuses you by talking when you don't expect it.
    – keshlam
    Commented May 5, 2015 at 19:16

5 Answers 5

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You have got a "Paul" in your group. I managed a "Paul" for 5 years. Greatest way to deal with a "Paul" is to make "Paul" feel important and most importantly give "Paul" something to do.

So next time he speaks up at your meeting, give him something to do that is on topic. In your example it would be really easy. "Paul, we have to stay on task here. But I can already see that you have some ideas. Can you please schedule a meeting with your peers to go over your ideas and then we can meet about it in [x number] days? Thanks Paul for taking the lead on this conversation."

So you did two things here. You made Paul do extra work. He feels like he is the lead but he is just a meeting organizer. He will have to schedule something and take notes (you don't have to tell Paul to take notes, just make it matter of fact that they would be done later). If Paul likes to do extra work then great. You have an assistant to the manager for free.

The second thing is you are showing Paul that he is part of a team and not management. You are not included in the first meeting. His peers will be in there and Paul will clearly see where he is.

Paul will quickly learn that opening his mouth equals more work or he will relish that work and keep talking. Just make sure if he likes the extra work that the team understands that Paul is an equal and not their supervisor or lead. Make his extra work seem completely administrative.

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  • I also like this answer +1.
    – JonH
    Commented May 5, 2015 at 18:54
  • Thanks Paul for taking the lead on this conversation. doesn't align well with Just make sure if he likes the extra work that the team understands that Paul is an equal and not their supervisor or lead. If you don't want your team to think Paul's taking a lead role it may be a bad idea to suggest in front of the team that he take the lead in a conversation with peers.
    – Myles
    Commented Dec 12, 2017 at 14:51
  • And depending on the qualification distribution in the team you may just have alienated the one qualified developer.
    – TomTom
    Commented Dec 12, 2017 at 18:35
  • terrible, terrible advice. Surely it's better to be honest with "Paul", explain the problem, and see that he stops interrupting?
    – user428517
    Commented Dec 12, 2017 at 20:14
  • 1
    @sgroves - Paul just told me "telling me I am annoying sounds like you want to demotivate a productive employee".
    – blankip
    Commented Dec 12, 2017 at 20:54
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I suspect this is an alpha challenge.

It probably frustrates other workers also.

You need to take control of the meeting. If he starts a design on the white board tell him "I am not done going over the concept. When I am done introducing the concept I like to get design input from everyone."

I don't know if you watch Survivor but Jeff Probst is great at taking control. I remember one episode where a player said let's get on with the challenge and he said we will get on with the challenge when I am ready bro.

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    I don't think it is an alpha challenge but an engineer who compulsively wants to solve problems (It's what they do.). If this was a sales person, I'd be more likely to agree with you.
    – user8365
    Commented May 5, 2015 at 17:58
  • @JeffO I have seen this dynamic in design teams also. Even if it is just an aggressive designer I would take the same approach. He did go silent after it was discussed one on one with him
    – paparazzo
    Commented May 5, 2015 at 18:03
  • I like this answer +1.
    – JonH
    Commented May 5, 2015 at 18:53
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I'm basing this a little bit on your comment,

Well I could do a written agenda, but we are such a small group that we usually have these types of meetings directly in our work area

Be a little more formal.

  • Have an agenda that everyone gets a copy in advance.
  • Ask everyone to not interrupt.
  • Include time for questions
  • Determine when and who will work on potential solutions. i.e. We're not going to solve the problems at this time. Maybe you can take volunteers at this time.

Take the markers away if you must.

This person needs to know that you will more likely to consider his recommendations once you feel comfortable he has all of the information. Assume he wants to come up with the "right" answer and not just an answer for the sake of hearing himself talk.

Most programmers don't like to hear themselves talk as much as they like solving problems. They don't leave the Sudoku puzzle half completed. They think about coding in the shower. It's a driving force for getting things done. Your job is to make sure this behavior doesn't affect the others and that his is as productive as he can.

Have a private meeting. Not everyone picks up on social cues as well as we hope. Treat him alike an adult and let him know the consequences will get worse if he doesn't comply. He may not be able to do it immediately. Put in a reasonable time frame. Give him a "Get out of jail free" card or two. The goal is to keep getting his valuable input (if it's not valuable, you have a bigger issue) in a more appropriate manner.

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As you are the manager of this guy(I understood), that behaviour should not be a problem. Just ask him for short talk in private.

Even if you aren't the boss of that colleague, I would recommend this. Keep the talk in a very friendly tone, but stress the fact that you feel bad about being cut off.

Bonus points if you find out WHY he always cuts you off. Ask him about it! You may learn something new about how he perceives you in your speeches.

If it happens again, you may just politely remind him of your discussion. Or invite him to another private talk. with a more strict tone this time.

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I'm Paul (see most voted answer).

I talk when people havent finished speaking. Most of the times it's because I think they are wrong and don't know it yet. And I'm not willing to waste an entire meeting listening to stuff that's so fundamentally broken it takes me less than a few seconds to poke more holes in it than swiss cheese.

The thing that ticks Paul (me) the most is when people assume I'm disrespecting them instead of trying to correct them. When Paul starts speaking, it's because he wants to help you, not because he thinks you're unworthy of his attention.

If you stop Paul from talking by giving him administrative tasks, you are a bad manager. And should stop leading people. Start listening to Paul. If he makes no sense, tell Paul he makes no sense and get on with your meeting, you probably lost 2 minutes. If Paul is right, you just saved yourself a shitton of trouble. If you task Paul with managing your paper stocks, Paul will resign and look for a leader that's not afraid of being challenged.

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    Without listening to the whole message how would you know if your concerns are already addressed as per requirements E, D, or F? I remember doing some training in a group on how to use a ticketing system where I was interrupted by a Paul who wanted to brainstorm how to attach documents, I let him go on for a few seconds and then advised him that that had already been resolved and we'd cover that feature in about a minute and a half. Paul's are extremely unhelpful as employees/co-workers as they not only don't get the big picture themselves, they also prevent their teammates from getting it.
    – Myles
    Commented Dec 12, 2017 at 15:02
  • Did you ever stop to wonder why Paul suddenly decided to turn your training into a brainstorming about how to attach a document to an issue? Was the fact that you would communicate the previously agreed upon manner to go about Paul's concern made available at the start of the meeting? Did Paul have a chance to think about this or was your training just an exercise in "Follow the leader"? What's the point of a meeting, just send an email and discard all feedback as you did with Paul in the meeting.
    – BoboDarph
    Commented Dec 12, 2017 at 15:10
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    What feedback do you think my Paul gave? "Hey guys we should have a feature that does X?" "Paul we already have a feature that does X, if you'd just hold your questions until the end..." The communicated purpose of the meeting was demonstration of a tool with questions at the end, interrupting a presentation to request something that's already been provided is a huge waste of everyone's time. So far as sending an email and expecting your users to understand how to use a system, that has proven to be less than effective in my experience but maybe you write better emails than I do.
    – Myles
    Commented Dec 12, 2017 at 17:34
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    Just wanted to update everyone that I had to fire my "Paul". He could not help himself from distractions and cutting people off. Eventually people just dreaded seeing the guy. He held back so many people from so many ideas and productivity. Sorry no more "Pauls" for me as I am very careful with these type of characteristics in people.
    – JonH
    Commented Dec 12, 2017 at 21:28
  • Hope your perfect world never needs "Paul" to challenge it's stone-solid assertions. Good luck to you. You'll need it.
    – BoboDarph
    Commented Dec 13, 2017 at 11:00

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