I'm working in the small company (up to 20 people) and I have a problem with a co-worker, who keeps humming/adding "mhm" phrases when talking to him.

Normally it is not a problem for me when somebody does that, even after every sentence, but this particular co-worker keeps doing this in such a manner that he says "mhm" a couple of times during the sentence and by that gives me the impression that he is not listening at all.

This behaviour seems to me like that person wants me to say what I have to say but he does not care (tells it to me non-verbally before I even finish my statement). It is usually followed by his instructions on what and how I should do something that was the topic of my statement.

Additionally I must add that it is a German company and the colleague was on the same position level as me but moved on to more managing position (Product Manager).

How should I proceed with this?

Should I say that I find this kind of "humming" rude and would like him not to do that anymore?

EDIT: I need to add that it happens also when he is talking with other co-workers and some of them also find that annoying.

It is worth notice that it does not happen when the conversation topic is not related to work.

  • 3
    I actually hum/nod to indicate that I am actually listening.
    – Jeroen
    Sep 15 '17 at 9:43
  • 1
    So... such sounds are normally not a problem, but it's a problem that he makes them a bit more than normally? I can't imagine that trying to address that would go well at all. Sep 15 '17 at 9:50
  • The thing is that it happens not only to me but to all of the co-workers and that does not happen when the conversation topic is not related to work. I'll add it to the question Sep 15 '17 at 9:58
  • and by that gives me the impression that he is not listening at all and This behaviour seems to me like shows that you are asking a question about your own interpretation of his behaviour rather than the behavior itself. That's why Pete's answer is correct.
    – user8036
    Sep 15 '17 at 10:29
  • That's UK and US spelling in one sentence together ;-)
    – user8036
    Sep 15 '17 at 10:30

Ignore it.

Carry on speaking as normal and ask for a confirmation of understanding when you normally would do.

Or you can pause in a meaningful manner and allow him to finish his humming.

  • 5
    toughen up cupcake....
    – Neo
    Sep 15 '17 at 11:21

I think you're overthinking this entirely. Everyone has their own individual quirks when it comes to conversation and language. There's nothing to say that this isn't simply something that he does unconciously.

If he ONLY did this to you, then it would merit some more thought, but from the sounds of it, it just seems as though that's how this individual is. If it comes down to the fact that you believe he is not listening to what you have to say, then perhaps end your phrases/sentences with a question, such as:

So what do you think, does that make sense to you?

I think this is a good idea, what are your thoughts?

This person is also now in a more managerial role to you, I would suggest avoiding confrontation with anyone above you in terms of your companies leadership hierachy unless it is absolutely necessary. Otherwise you may just come accross as petty.


Does your coworker do the same with others? If so it's probably just a quirk of how they speak and not intended to cause offense.

If it is just you that they do this with then perhaps it might be worth politely approaching them to enquire whether they are happy with your work and how you communicate with them but to be honest if everything else seems normal with your working relationship I wouldn't bother. It might be that they have a minor problem with you or with your communication style but if it's not something serious enough to warrant them giving you proper feedback about it then it's probably not serious enough for you to worry about.

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