Do you have a coworker who dominates practically every discussion in a meeting? He or she inevitably unleashes a monologue with no end in sight, causing other “participants” in meetings to slip into silence.
It doesn’t matter whether this conversation hog just loves hearing himself talk, rambles out of nervousness or is just so excited she loses track of time. This type of dominance can waste everyone’s time, stifle important idea sharing and erode morale.
But not all hope is not lost when this person’s lips start flapping. You can do more than roll your eyes — you can stop the steamrolling.
1. Use polite “stop interrupting me” phrases.
You don’t have to adopt your annoying coworker’s aggressiveness to assert yourself. The Muse suggests using phrases such as “I have something to add” and “Let’s stop for a minute.” But do not ask for permission to interrupt. Find phrases that politely stop your coworker, and announce your purposeful contribution.
2. Set time limits.
If you’re running a meeting, structure it so that the conversationalist cannot go beyond a set time. For example, at the beginning of the meeting, announce which topics you’ll be covering and how much time you’ll be dedicating to each topic, or ask for a “one-minute rundown.” These explicit boundaries may keep the conversation on track and allow others a chance to weigh in.
3. Ask for others’ input.
When your coworker is blabbering on, interject by asking for others’ feedback or thoughts. For example, saying something like, “Suzy, what do you think?”, shifts the spotlight to another person in the meeting, empowering her to speak. If you’re worried about putting coworkers on the spot, try a less direct interjection, such as, “I’d like to hear what others think.”
When your coworker is blabbering on, interject by asking for others’ feedback or thoughts.
4. Schedule a chat.
If speaking up in the moment hasn’t worked, schedule time to talk it out with your coworker. People who take charge or simply talk too much might not be aware that they’re bothering you, so expressing your desire to speak up might open their eyes to their domineering habit. During your chat, start by expressing appreciation for their efforts and avoid “you” statements, such as “You really annoy everyone by talking so much.”
5. Ask your boss for help.
Mike Figliuolo explains in his book, Lead Inside the Box: How Smart Leaders Guide Their Teams to Exceptional Results, that managers must not ignore “steamroller personalities,” even if the team member is an excellent worker. Their steamrolling can seem unfair to others on the team, and a manager who is oblivious or fixes the problems created by the steamroller is perpetuating the problem. If you’ve failed at keeping the conversation hog from taking over every discussion, ask your boss for suggestions. Maybe bringing it up to the boss will yield some useful tips and also bring the problem to his or her attention so something might be done.
If you feel someone else’s steamrolling is taking your team off track or preventing you from getting heard, do something. Avoiding the problem can lead to workplace stress you don’t need. Stand up for yourself if interrupted. Check out these five tips for getting heard at work.
Tell Us What You Think
How do you handle a coworker who won’t stop talking at meetings? We want to hear your stories and suggestions for how to deal with a chatty Cathy. Tell us your experience in the comments or on Twitter.