5

I have been at my company as a project manager/ analyst for around a year now. I have a colleague (Bob) of the same rank (though with much more experience, having spent considerably longer than me at this particular) with whom I'm having an issue.

We are collaborating on a project which is more tricky than usual. There is a lot more ad hoc analysis for the client than would usually be required. I am working as PM dealing with client communications, whilst Bob is focusing on analytics. As the project is more complicated than usual, there is a lot more communication needed between both myself and the client, and particularly myself and Bob.

Bob talks in great detail to me regarding the project. The content of what he's saying is sometimes pertinent (Bob is a knowledgeable guy). This in its self would not be a problem but for the following facts:

  1. The volume of information that I already know (and Bob knows that I already know) is huge, repetition is common in our conversations
  2. There is no structure to what is being said (Bob can flit between subjects instead of focusing on clarifying one thing at a time)
  3. Bob doesn't notice heavy hints that I need to wrap our conversation up (to the point where a discussion lasted so long after the end of the working day that I slowly started to shut down my PC, picked up my bag and walked to the door and continued to listen for some time before eventually saying 'Bob I have to go').
  4. Bob interrupts. Not in an agressive way, but more insistant that he has something important to say, which I find hard to overcome.
  5. Due to the amount of additional analysis the profit margin is smaller than usual (management is aware of this, but have made the decision to pursue the project and supply reporting to a normal standard, Bob keeps talking about this, although we are both acutely aware of the situation).

To give some context, I could have a thorough, in depth conversation about a detail of the project with a colleague in 5-10 mins, Bob would happily talk for 20+ mins about it.

Our manager is aware of the problem, but as Bob is part of the furniture, he is seen as set in his ways, and no major changes will be made by management to address this issue.

So far I have tried:

  1. Writing bullet points and sticking to them to structure conversation (but this is hard when bob finds something else he wants to discuss)
  2. Assertively saying things like "lets finish with this subject first..."

Asside for these steps, which I will continue to implement, what can I do to limit our encounters to a normal time frame?

I notice that there is another question on an employee talking, this one focuses on non profession conversations, mine are necessary, thus I feel the situations are different

  • 2
    Not sure if it's a duplicate, but the advice given here might also be usable in your situation - How to politely tell someone to stop explaining? – Dukeling Jul 20 '17 at 21:53
  • 4
    The alternative is worse. Just live with it - we all have our foibles. – Ed Heal Jul 20 '17 at 21:55
  • @EdHeal I don't understand what you mean by the alternative, could you elaborate? – User632716 Jul 21 '17 at 12:21
  • The alternative is when the person does not talk/share information at all – Ed Heal Jul 21 '17 at 14:51
5

This is tough one. There are some things you can do, but in the end it might not be possible to resolve to your satisfaction. Things to try:

  1. Talk to your boss and see if there is some way you can get a private office. I totally understand there are many reason this might not be possible, and not applicable to your situation. However, if there is a corner with a door available somewhere, and your boss understands the problem, maybe he can arrange for you to have your own private space.

  2. Ask the boss to at least talk to Bob about this. This is unlikely to have any direct effect, but it will make it easier for you to interrupt Bob when he starts repeating himself and try to move on to the next point.

  3. Be more assertive with Bob. He probably won't like it and may get offended, no matter how reasonable the request and politely you do it. You'll probably have to choose between a good relationship with Bob (in his view) and efficient communication. Only you can decide the relative merits of this tradeoff.

  4. Sit down yourself with Bob just to discuss this issue. Tell him how much it bothers you, and that from now on you're going to cut the conversation short if you find it's going in circles or not productive.

    Bob may be on good behavior for a few days, but soon he'll probably fall back into his long-established patterns. He probably can't help himself, and it would be too much trouble for him, even if he could actually recognize the issue as it occurs.

In the end, you probably can't fix Bob, and you probably can't get the company to do anything about Bob, even with the boss being sympathetic. Unfortunately that's life sometimes. You'll have to evaluate how much this really bothers you, and how much you want to do this particular job versus other possibilities.

2

Bob probably just likes you as a person and has a personality that attaches to the people he likes. It's highly plausible that you are the only individual he gets to talk to in his daily routine. I work with an individual like this and to be honest, I enjoyed his company. He only does this to 5 people in his life and I am one of them. He was incredibly funny, insightful and full of life when I listen.

I think apart from you just disconnecting from him, what you can do is simply talk to him about it over a casual lunch about cutting things short. IE: Repetition isn't necessary If I acknowledge or agreed with you. And "Please be more direct and focus of our discussions".

It will take him time, but at least he is heading on the right direction.

Also OP, I know it sucks but you will need to have more patience with people like him.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.