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How can I get my chatty employee to quiet down?


The question

I manage a team of about 10. One member of the team likes to dominate the conversation during meetings to the point that I can't hear what others have to say. I suspect this person is insecure in some way.

Do you have any tips on how I can get them to quiet down but not discourage them in the process?

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The answer

Being a manager or a leader can be a challenging role in the best of times.

Concurrently managing team/group dynamics can be even more difficult, particularly when there is an individual who demonstrates behaviour that is disruptive to the rest of the team.

It is important to identify and curb this behaviour early on, to avoid having other members of the team get frustrated, discouraged or disengaged.

Although it may be tempting to wait to see if this person's behaviour naturally changes over time, chances are it won't - and it is important for you to have the conversation sooner rather than later.

Here are some tips on how to approach the conversation with this team member:

  • Schedule a one-on-one meeting in a private area (e.g., not in an open cubicle) with ample time to discuss the issues.
  • Avoid taking other calls or non-urgent interruptions during the meeting.
  • Provide some positive feedback: let the team member know that you value them as a member of the team, and provide some specific feedback on positive performance he/she has demonstrated.
  • Express that you wanted to speak about some concerns you had about how the team meetings were going. You may first ask the employee for their perspective on the meetings from their perspective.
  • Clearly articulate the concerns you have.
  • Be specific and objective in your language (e.g., "you spoke for 30 minutes during last week's 45 minute meeting" is better than "you always dominate the team meetings"). If you think the employee is insecure, you may want to directly state something like "I wonder if you get nervous during the can be really normal to have the urge to talk more if you are nervous?"
  • Provide an opportunity for the employee to respond and explain things from their perspective. Keep in mind that he/she may not be aware of the problematic behaviour.
  • Describe the impact of the behaviour and why you would like a change ("I'm concerned that others in the team that are quieter may not feel comfortable offering their opinions").
  • Make a plan for behaviour moving forward.
  • Schedule a follow-up meeting after the next 1-2 team meetings to re-evaluate how things are going.
  • If you have concerns that the employee may respond in a negative/inappropriate way to your meeting, you may want to consult with Human Resources in your organization.

Also, it is important to always keep some notes documenting any performance meeting.

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