how do I interrupt a senior colleague’s monologue during my meeting?

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A reader writes:

I would love some feedback/advice for how to deal with a particularly annoying colleague in a different department. We work with this department to handle legal stuff for our group, so we have to liaise with him occasionally (and for important things).

However, he is a terrible communicator. Every time we meet (which we do monthly), he will go on long, irrelevant tangents that honestly are the same or similar ones each time. We usually have a lot to cover in these meetings, and I *hate* wasting time when things need to get done.

At our most recent meeting, he had rescheduled a number of times and then last minute decided to call in rather than show up in person (so I was already annoyed). Again, after being asked direct, straightforward questions, he started going on and on (and on) about something that wasn’t relevant. In the middle of his monologue, I interrupted him and said, “Thank you, but I’d like to keep this moving, we have a lot to cover.”

We moved on, but we could tell he was frustrated, and my two colleagues in the room told me afterwards that as I’m learning to be in a new leadership role, something like this is better to be avoided. He is senior to me and his role is really important, and I definitely don’t want to be rude. But I also don’t want to continue sitting in countless meetings where things don’t get done because this person can’t do his job effectively.

Help! Scripts, ways to keep my mouth shut, or any other strategies to mitigate these kinds of things would be *super* useful. I love being in my new leadership role, and want to continue growing, and I know these kinds of interactions will inevitably continue coming up.

The fact that he’s senior to you is really relevant. If he weren’t, you’d have a lot more leeway to just lay down the law — your meeting, your decision about how to spend time in it. If he were a peer or junior to you, you could be very direct — just as you attempted.

Frankly, in many situations and with reasonable people, the way you did it would’ve been fine with someone senior to you too. And I’m not sure how much weight to put on your colleagues’ feedback about this — some people are excessively deferential when it’s unneeded, in ways that hold them back professionally. That could be the case with those coworkers— or they could be absolutely right, especially if your manner revealed your impatience or frustration. Read more here…

Source: Ask A Manager

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