Have a Colleague Who Consistently Interrupts You? Here’s What to Do About It
May 30, 2022 | Mark Altman
A colleague interrupts and speaks over you.
The Root Cause:
Your colleague may:
- Not value your role/feedback.
- Not respect you.
- Feel what they have to say is most important.
- Have a blind spot: they don’t know they’re doing it; no one has ever given them the feedback.
You will need to have a managing across conversation with your colleague. These conversations can be challenging as you don’t have authority over someone when managing across. To set yourself up for success, use the following conversation template.
Determine a Realistic Goal for the Conversation
Ideally, the first time we give feedback to someone, they immediately and permanently change their behavior, but that rarely happens. Set a goal and a realistic ask prior to the conversation.
Start the conversation by asking permission to give your colleague feedback: “Would it be okay if I give you feedback about something that’s been on my mind?”
Share your feedback and then ensure you are on the same page: “It’s been my experience in meetings that you sometimes interrupt and talk over me. I’m wondering if it surprises you to hear that?”
Share Observation (if appropriate)
If your colleague responds that they are surprised or didn’t realize they were doing that, provide one or two concrete examples.
Make the Ask
If your colleague responds with agreement – “I do tend to do that, I’m sorry” – then share your ask. Remember, this person may have had this habit for a long time; if your goal is for them to stop interrupting you entirely, that may not be realistic.
Practice Proactive Accountability
To help your colleague build self-awareness and ultimately shift their behavior, ask, “If I become aware of you doing that again, do I have permission to hold you accountable?”
- Follow the template for a Managing Across Conversation: Determine Realistic Goal, Ask Permission, Get Alignment, Share Observation, Make the Ask, and Practice Proactive Accountability.
- Remember, habits take a long time to build but aren’t easy to break. Even if your colleague has good intentions, they likely will not change their behavior overnight. Ask permission to hold them accountable to support them in the change.
Content derived from MindsetGo Training Programs: Speak Up to Keep Up Assertiveness Training; Courageous Conversations
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