With All Due Respect…STFU!

“The way to get started is to quit talking and get doing.”  ~ Walt Disney

Throughout my career I’ve encountered a common and widespread problem in business.  Regardless of the company size, industry, or geography; this is a prevalent issue.  It affects morale, productivity, and engagement.  Moreover, it affects sanity…it’s maddening.   This crucible that we have all dealt with in our professional lives?   Some people just don’t know when to shut-up.  

This isn’t me being cynical or venting about an annoying behavior (well, maybe a little).  Like many other diseases or disorders, sometimes simple recognition of the issue starts the path to recovery.  (For the medical professional reading, this condition does have a clinical diagnosis: diarrhea of the mouth.)

I’m not quite sure why this occurs.  My experience and observation has shown that some folks like to play the role of devil’s advocate…all the time; even when they have no idea what the counter argument actually is.  Others just ramble to show everyone how smart they are.

Outside of lectures or presentations, I’m sure at some point you have participated in a meeting where one person clearly dominates the discussion. That person may have even been you.  While folks who tend to dominate meetings are usually smart and passionate, their dominion often negatively impacts the group.  It squelches other perspectives and stifles debate.  What is our normal behavior when this happens?

We sit there politely hoping this never-ending diatribe has a conclusion.

We nod our heads in agreement just so they stop talking.

We look around to see who else wants to run upstairs and jump off the roof.

We start checking our phones to see if any recruiters have reached out lately. 

We contemplate excusing ourselves to use the restroom, but instead envision pulling the fire alarm.

Even if you do nothing, you check out.  There’s nothing more frustrating than being held hostage by a non-stop talker.  It’s distracting and irritating. Unfortunately, people can’t wait to leave even if there is more work to be done.

It’s obviously frustrating and leads to negative feelings, so what can we do about it?

As a leader you need to step up and take control of the meeting.  Respectfully end the soapbox diatribe.  If you let it continue, then you are partly enabling the behavior of someone who won’t shut up.

Stay engaged in the debate and ask for others opinions.  

Set ground rules for every meeting before they begin.  This sets up an expectation that you want to balance participation. Occasionally enforce this ground rule during your meeting.

Park it.   Sometimes known as the “Parking Lot” rule, this is a place you can put items that come up that you don’t have time to discuss at your meeting.

Address the behavior directly.   Approach the person privately and give them feedback in a way that encourages them to listen more during the meeting.

I attempted to provide a little humor to address a real behavior that absolutely has a negative impact on the workplace.   Please feel free to share with the windbag in your office.

Dave Kipe
About the author: 

Based in New York, NY, Dave Kipe is the SVP – Global Operations at Scholastic.  Previously, he was the Chief Operating Officer at ABCO, a nationally-recognized distributor of HVAC and refrigeration systems and supplies.  Mr. Kipe has held executive and management roles with national B2B and B2C brands such as IKON Office Solutions, Gap, Inc. and Walmart.  He currently serves as a Board Member with Sunnyside Community Services, and as a Transitioning Military Veteran Mentor with Veterati.