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  • Writer's pictureMike Bensi

Stop Interruptions on Your Team

"Knock,  knock."

"Who's there?" 

"Interrupting cow." 

"Interrupt- . . . "


That joke gets me every time.

If you watched either the presidential debate or the vice-presidential debate over the past month, you may have noticed a few examples of interruptions. And by a few, I mean there were over 90 interruptions within the presidential debate alone - within a 90 minute time span. 

You'd assume this kind of behavior wouldn't be tolerated at work, but these last two debates have been a harsh reminder that interruptions happen more than we would like at work. And that men are more likely to interrupt women than they are to interrupt  other men. 

To avoid your workplace or next team meeting running like these recent debates:

Create self-awareness. Ask yourself if you are you the problem? Better yet, ask others - especially women and POC on your team. With various biases at play, you might not even pick up on the fact if you tend to interrupt others. And if you have a tendency to speak first, ask "what do you all think?" to your team on a consistent basis before you share your thoughts. 

Remind others of the shared goal. Unlike the debates, there should not be winners and losers on your team. If the team wins, everyone wins. Right? If team members have tendencies to speak first, or to wait their turn to speak rather than listening, it is prime opportunity to revisit - frequently - how you are all in this together.

Create equal opportunities for everyone to share ideas. My first grader gets to share one thought at the beginning of each day in the classroom. Similarly, establish meeting norms that everyone will get a turn to speak. As a leader, your role is to create a space  where everyone feels listened to and has equal chance to share ideas and feedback. 

Value opinions. When trying to solve a problem, the job titles, gender, etc. of team members should not be a factor in how opinions are valued. All opinions should matter within the team, even when the opinion may not lead to the direction that you choose to follow.

You won't get points for how long you speak at work - and given the Zoom fatigue you are feeling, speaking less might even get you more points. Even more importantly, giving the floor to others boosts the opportunity for better ideas, problem solving, as well as overall team engagement. 

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