My Boss Talks Too Much

Question: My problem is that my boss likes to hear the sound of his own voice. When I have to ask him a question, he’ll answer it but then keeps on talking. Sometimes he’ll get off topic and I forget the answer he gave. It’s gotten so bad that many of my coworkers won’t even ask questions because they don’t want to have 30 minutes of their day wasted by his monologue.  

Whenever I try ending the conversation, he gets very offended and then talks even longer. If he asks you a question and doesn’t like your answer, he’ll keep asking questions until you tell him what he wants to hear. It’s so frustrating! What can I do?

Answer: Conversation tends to be used for a lot of different reasons. Of course, one of the primary reasons is to elicit information or an exchange of ideas but there is often a lot more to it than that. Consequently, one way of dealing with your boss may be to figure out what he is trying to accomplish with his droning speech.

Linguistics professor Deborah Tannen has done a great deal of research on conversation and has hypothesized that women and men use conversation for varying purposes. Her research has shown that women are inclined to use talking to connect with other people while men seem predisposed to use conversation to establish dominance. Does that sound familiar?

Given that he is your boss, there isn’t a lot you can do to avoid lengthy conversations with him but there are a few things you can try. As you mentioned, you can try to avoid asking him questions but I’m guessing that there are times when you need answers from him. When dealing with someone who wants to seem powerful and dominant, one way to manage them is to make them believe that they have achieved their aims. You could take a notebook so you can write down his answers (this will have the added effect of being able to remember the answer to your original question) and find other statements worthy of recording. You could employ good listening skills so that he knows you’re finding what he has to say of great worth. These include nodding, making listening noises (e.g., “um hum,” “that’s a good point”) and giving appropriate facial expressions. You can also paraphrase what he’s saying. For example, “So what you’re saying is…”

These strategies may or may not work, so you also need a plan for how to end the conversation without upsetting him. People have various biological imperatives that one cannot ignore, so perhaps you could go to the bathroom. You can always phrase your leaving in such a way to indicate that you’d love to stay but really have to go or things will get messy. Another way would be to tell him that he’s given you a lot to think about and ask if he would be willing to talk with you further should other issues arise. Once your boss feels heard and validated, perhaps he will no longer feel the need to be a drone.

Comments 2

  1. Instead of getting in, getting my answer, and getting my work done, I get stuck in a roundabout conversation that ends up covering everything from what my boss did over the weekend to his never-ending to-do list (which, frankly, would be much shorter if he didn’t talk so much).

  2. Pingback: my boss constantly talks over me - konkeng & konkeng

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