Lots of people in my office seem to like giving me advice but sometimes not on productive matters. For example, someone spent 30 minutes telling me about why I need to be more general when it comes to programming and learn a particular package.

  1. How do you get someone like this off your case? I try to say as little as possible and agree but sometimes I'm stuck in a conversation for 30+ minutes.
  2. How do you convey the topic isn't productive? In this case the person focused on a detail instead of looking at the broader picture. Plus, it's unlikely that my employer is going to give me time off work to learn the suggested skill.
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    Whether a person can be a good developer without learning topic X depends on whether the programs relate to X and whether the job requires communication with people who think and talk in X terminology. – Patricia Shanahan Aug 29 '15 at 0:38
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    If the person was asking a prior question workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/52421/… stating that they're developing applications for an organization that uses GIS heavily and having difficulty communicating effectively with GIS users because of gaps in terminology, I'd think that the advice was quite practical. If you're going to write GIS applications, you should learn GIS. If you're going to write investment banking applications, you should learn investment banking. Logistics apps? Learn logistics. – Justin Cave Aug 29 '15 at 4:23
  • I've been a software developer for 20 years and I don't know GIS. It hasn't affected my career in the slightest. This is just one person giving their opinion. Something I have realised over the years is that opinions are like belly buttons - everybody has one :) Just nod, smile and tell him you have to get some work done. – Jane S Aug 29 '15 at 4:56
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    Does your job have a relation to GIS? Would knowing about GIS make you a more valuable part of your team? – Brandin Aug 29 '15 at 13:03
  • 99.9% of all software development jobs will gladly consider you even if you don't have the slightest clue about GIS. This is such a specialised field, I would consider any deep knowledge to be worth nothing for your future career. – gnasher729 Aug 29 '15 at 13:46

I need to be more general when it comes to programming and learn GIS

I find this advise from your co-worker to be a bit contradictory, if not confusing. GIS is kind of a pretty specific branch of Information Systems. It requires some pretty specific technical knowledge and terminology.

Unless your company is a GIS company, or related to it, I don't understand why he would suggest this to you. Or is this just a hobby or passion of his, that he's trying to "evangelize" others onto?

Depending on your niche in the software industry and the type of company that you work for, GIS can be pretty important or completely irrelevant. I know very smart and experienced senior devs who have probably never had to learn anything about GIS, not because it's not an interesting field but because it just hasn't been a skill they've needed to do their jobs or projects (whether personal or not).

If you're ever stuck on a long conversation with this person about GIS, just say that "You have X thing you have to get back to work for." Just be polite but firm about it.


Them: You should do X because A, B, C...

You: OK, well right now I need to do Y, so I'm going to get back to that, but good to know you're the person to talk to about X.

Or, if you haven't got something quite as urgent,

Them: You should do X because A, B, C...

You: Thanks for your advice on X, I'll make a note of it. Do you mind if I look that up / try that out and get back to you?

Them: OK, but what you need to know is...

You: I think I'll need to a look for myself, then I'll be able to follow what you're saying. [Go back you your desk, and write down X, then resume work.]

Or, if you can't look it up on your own,

Them: You should do X because A, B, C...

You: Thanks for your advice on X, if we ever get more time, we might look into it.

Them: X will save you time because...

You: OK, well, I'd still need to run that past my boss, but I'll write that down.

Or, if you already know enough

Them: You should do X because A, B, C...

You: Thanks for the tip, in our case though, we've already concluded that X isn't an option.

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    Some of these are a little passive aggressive, and I'd save them for at least the second attempt. There certainly comes a time when bluntly, but politely, shutting a conversation down becomes the only reasonable way to manage your time - but it shouldn't be your first approach. – Jon Story Sep 1 '15 at 12:17

To end a conversation that has grown unproductive, it is best to make sure the person(s) know that you've heard what they have to say and will consider it. Assuming you've let them know your initial thoughts on the subject, it is completely reasonable to say, "I hear you John, and I'll give it some thought. For now, I've got to get back to work on Project X."

Then, most importantly, actually think about it/do some research. It is always possible that you'll learn something new. At worse, you will be able to tell the person that you did the research, but don't think their idea will work in your situation. In my experience, people will respect that you took their input seriously (even if you decided to not use it), and once in a while you'll find your own views changing based on suggestions which initially appeared unproductive.


There are several methods for cutting unwanted conversations short. Here is one i find quite effective:

First off, if you have an extra chair in your office, remove it. This invites anyone to get comfortable and talk at length about whatever their heart desires.

Second, stand up when someone starts one of these conversations. This is a cue to the other person and they often won't realize that you are cutting them short.

Lastly, walk out of your office to go get some coffee/water. Usually if you do this then they will be done talking by the time you get back. If they stick around don't sit down until they leave. I go as far as standing in the doorway to my office so they can't come in and get comfortable.

This method works and the person talking is usually oblivious to your motive. I like it because it is completely nonconfrontational


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