Recently I had a manager ask what they should do about a boss who talks through the entire staff meeting and doesn’t let anyone else express their opinions or concerns.  This is the kind of boss that takes 20 minutes to tell you that he wants ideas and suggestions.  That he wants to hear from everyone.  And then you realize it is only a 30 minute meeting. 

Quite some time ago, I read an article about the characteristics of a leader.  One of the several listed was loquaciousness  – “the quality of being wordy and talkative.”  For many managers, talking a lot and talking over their subordinates comes naturally.  Not only that, but because many managers feel they need to have all the answers any problem you bring up is often just an opportunity for your boss to tell you how to fix it, now to listen to how you were going to suggest it be fixed. 

So how do you get your concerns expressed to a boss who monopolizes the conversation?

1.     When you do get a word in, match the manager’s speaking pace when you talk.  If he/she speaks quickly and their sentences are always cut-to-the-chase, do similarly without being obvious about it.  You’re not mimicking, you’re pacing.  To hold his attention, match his pace. 

2.     During the meeting if you have more to say, it is reasonable to politely say, “John, there’s something else I’d like to add…”  I’ve rarely seen a manager cut off a polite request to add something to the conversation.  Generally this is because the manager may not realize he’s talking over everyone.  He might actually be relieved that someone else has something to add.  I have a sneaking suspicion that managers that talk a lot just aren’t comfortable with silence, especially in a group.

3.     “The hand slightly raised with elbow still on the table index finger pointing slightly to the ceiling” signal often works.  This is the classroom “raise your hand to ask a question” but with a more professional air about it.  This gentle signal will often require the boss to turn to you and ask, “What is it?”  That’s your opening to make your point. 

4.     Drop by the boss’s office after the meeting or send an email.  Say (or type), “you know, John, I had a thought during our meeting today, do you think we could try (fill in your point here)?”   This is always a good solution whether your boss doesn’t allow people to speak or if the meeting never got around to your topic.  Don’t let good ideas drift away.  Capture them later.

The worst thing to do is to do nothing.  Doing nothing builds resentment in you and may cause you to “blow” inappropriately over something inconsequential at a later time.   

Boss: Gee, Mary!  I never hear any ideas from you.  Why are you so quiet in our staff meetings?

Mary: Well if you’d stop talking once in a while maybe I could get an idea expressed!

No, maybe not. 

The more a manager learns that his/her people have good ideas and concerns the more they will slow down to hear them.  The first challenge is to get your ideas and concerns expressed.  If you can’t get them in during the meeting, express them outside the meeting.  That may train your boss that you have ideas worth listening to and you might encourage him to be a little more 

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