my coworker monologues for 20-30 minutes every time a work issue comes up

A reader writes:

I have a colleague who is verbose. In any conversation where someone raises a work-related issue, he uses this in order to bludgeon the other party into submission. He leaves no space whatsoever for the other person to talk; he monologues. It is as if he has taken the traditional concept of a filibuster and attempted to apply it to working life. (Not kidding – he has gone on for 20-30 minutes.) And if the other party tries to get a word in edgewise, he shouts at them that he’s not done talking, and then continues.

For example, we had a conference call about a specific work program, which was supposed to incorporate my work group’s input. He gave us an update, and my boss (who is above him in the hierarchy although not currently in his line) began pointing out issues and asking questions. He interrupted her and monologued on the topic for 20 minutes, leaving no space for her to speak (and snapping at her “let me finish” when she tried). When he finally paused and she began asking another question, he told us time was up and he had to go on another call. It really does feel like a deliberate filibuster rather than a guy who tends to run on long.

In chit chat he is slightly more verbose than others but only slightly, and he leaves plenty of room for banter. The more likelihood of conflict, the more verbose he gets. And when someone does raise an issue, they are in for a twenty-minute torrent of words.

He works in another office, so it hasn’t been a huge problem for me to date; I only deal with it once every few months (although I do hear about it from my colleagues in that office). But I just found out that we will shortly be working in the same office – on the same team, no less! I like my manager, but I don’t see any likelihood that she’ll control him. How can I manage my confrontations with him? I can be a talker myself when put to the test, but frankly I have way too much to do to give him a taste of his own medicine!

Your colleague sounds like a delight!

Are you willing to address it head-on? Ideally, a manager would step in and deal with this but since apparently no one will, your best bet might be simply to call him out on it yourself and ask him to stop. I’m sure you’re not eager to initiate a conversation with this guy, lest you be lectured at for half an hour, but there’s potentially real value in clearly telling him to cut it out at a time when he’s not mid-soliloquy.

You noted that he’s okay with social chitchat, so you might even take him to coffee when he first joins your office and talk to him about it in that setting. If you can establish the vibe as a friendly one, it might — might — make him more willing to hear what you say. Or he might steamroll right over you, but we won’t know until you try.

I’d say this: “Hey, now that we’re going to be working together more closely, I wanted to ask you something. I’ve noticed that when we’re talking about work, you tend to talk for a long time and don’t really let me respond. It’s made it tough in the past when what I need isn’t a long delivery of information, but a back-and-forth and exchange of ideas. I’ve tried to cut in sometimes, and you’ve snapped at me and even yelled. We’re going to need to have back-and-forth to move projects forward, so I want to ask you to be aware of it and make more of a point to let me and others have time to respond and share our own thinking.”

It almost certainly won’t be the first time he’s heard that he’s a domineering conversationalist and so there’s at least some chance that he’ll acknowledge that it’s an issue and maybe even be reasonably decent about saying he’ll pull back the sea of words. Of course, he also sounds like a conversational bully, so it’s also possible that he’ll just be an ass about it. If he is, just say, “Well, I hope you’ll think about it” and end the conversation. And keep in mind that even if it goes that way, you haven’t necessarily failed; he still may rein himself in in the future — at least with you — because bullies often respect people who stay firm and unruffled by them.

From there, regardless of what he does, I’d be very deliberate about how you structure future conversations. For example, at the start of meetings, you could announce that you need to get through topics A, B, and C, will be devoting ten minutes to each, and will wrap up promptly in 30 minutes, and that you want to give everyone a chance to talk so you’re asking people to limit their remarks. If you need an answer from him on something, give him a time limit up-front by saying something like, “James, can you give us a one-minute rundown on X, and then Larissa will tell us about Y?” or “Can I get your quick thoughts on X and then use our remaining time to tell you what I’m grappling with?” In other words, give him explicit boundaries about the time you’ve allotted him and see what he does with that.

And importantly, don’t be shy about interrupting him. If he snaps at you to let him finish, calmly say, “We’re running short on time so I need to cut in.” If he keeps going or shouts at you and you have enough standing to take control and loudly say “No, I need to stop you there,” that’s ideal. But if you don’t have the standing to do that (and realistically you may not), then you’re stuck where everyone with awful, work-impeding co-workers are stuck: working around him or asking your manager to intervene. You noted that you don’t think your manager will assert herself, but his behavior is egregious enough that you might at least be able to get her blessing for you and others to simply leave meetings when he’s at his worst.

And for the record, your manager really should step in. It’s not okay for someone to regularly filibuster his co-workers, and your manager is doing all of you a disservice — including him — by staying out of it.

Originally published at New York Magazine.

{ 108 comments… read them below }

  1. Katie F*

    … yikes. I agree with the OP – it really does seem like a deliberate tactic, since the OP stated he doesn’t do this in interpersonal communications that pose no threat of conflict. It looks like he hopes if he just keeps talking, he’ll get his way – and so far he’s right.

    But still… yikes.

    1. Amber T*

      Yeah, my dad has a case of that. It’s a combination of “look at me and how smart I am” and, when there’s conflict like the OP described, “look at how wrong you were and how right I am.” I’ve gotten into the habit of just changing the topic, either with him if he’s the only one around, or I’ll pointedly turn the conversation to someone else (usually my mom) and just ignore him. You could attempt to do something similar. Yes, it’s ‘rude’ (you generally just don’t interrupt someone when they’re speaking) but he’s being rude by monologue-ing and snapping his fingers (that detail is just astounding to me).

        1. Amber T*

          Whoops. I visualized someone snapping their fingers while interrupting someone (I once had a coworker who did this and it was awful). My bad – thanks for pointing that out!

      1. Isabel C.*

        Ex-boyfriend here. My sister, on a recent vacation: “The thing I didn’t like about Renly was how, if you asked him a question, you’d get like half an hour of lecture in response.”

        Me: “GEE, YOU DON’T SAY.”

        Also one of my former friends. I associate it with Guys Who Have Ph.D’s, though I know it’s neither all of them nor exclusive to them.

        1. Temperance*

          In my experience, it’s the people who have dropped out of college/grad school and are all ~I WENT TO THE SCHOOL OF HARD KNOCKS/LIFE or I DROPPED OUT OF COLLEGE TO GET AN ~EDUCATION who never.stop.talking.

      2. Katie F*

        My uncle is really bad at just talking over anyone he thinks might disagree with him so he can be ‘right’ and get the last word. It’s essentially the reason I barely talk to him and haven’t really talked to him in years. It’s an impossible way to attempt to communicate and I just don’t have the patience for it.

    2. Ccccccc...*

      I don’t know if anyone has mentioned this downthread, but I’m inclined to name this behaviour very clearly: it’s bullying. Really – it’s verbal bullying. Ranting on and not letting anyone else speak, *shouting* at them when they try to speak, being confrontational and aggressive: this is a deliberate pattern of asserting dominance over someone, not least by bludgeoning them into submission, as the OP so well states. Someone who acts that way can’t stand to be challenged or contradicted and must always be right (ask me how I know), and his tactics are pretty much intimidation 101.

      I realise this is easier said than done, but it’s important to be very explicit about what’s happening, since this isn’t a guy who will back down nicely or at all. Next time it happens, I’d say: “this feels like badgering, and it’s not at all appropriate for a collaborative work discussion.” Next time: “you’re bullying me into silence. Stop.” There’s little point asking him to stop – my guess is he absolutely won’t, and he’ll provide a long list of perfectly specious reasons why he just HAS to speak. Naming it short-circuits that.

      Finally, if he does it over and again, and if it’s possible to get your manager to agree, you should just end the conversation (not easy, I know). Something like: “We’re not communicating here. You’re shouting and preventing [me, boss] from speaking. We’ll continue when you calm down and we’re able to dialogue.” Then he knows he’s getting nowhere and his behaviour yields no rewards.

      I hat to say it, but this isn’t a guy who can be appealed to. It doesn’t matter that he’s nice socially. An ex of mine had a pleasant, mild exterior covering a bullying, abusive, manipulative center, which he pleasantly asserted through constant shouting and silencing of me. This guy isn’t just getting carried away. This is who he is.

      1. eplawyer*

        Yep. It is about control and dominance.

        I literally used this in a protective order hearing yesterday. The Defendant was self-represented and was cross-examining my client. He would ask a question and then just. keep. talking. I had to object several times. When I got to question him, I called him on his behavior. He was shocked I called him out. I got the protective order.

      2. Listener*

        Thank you for saying this! There’s that old maxim about how naming the demon takes away its power. I would not have thought of it as bullying until you named it that. Now that you have I’ve got a completely different perspective on it and it will make me much better at dealing with it. (OP, if that wasn’t clear.)

    3. stevenz*

      I think it’s deliberate, too. But in order to go on like that he has to have a knack for it. We all know people who can talk so much that it appears there is something wrong with their social skills or emotional development. I think he has a problem there, too. Once he gets going he can’t stop, and is unaware of the inappropriateness of his behaviour. His aggressive pushback suggests that to me.

      Is it possible to not invite him to meetings? He might get the message.

      A line that I have always admired as a way to shut someone up is “yes, I think we’re saying the same thing, so let’s move on.” Even if you’re not. Then call on someone else right away.

      In anticipation of the problem you could plant someone at the table to be the “next” to speak, and recognise them when the guy goes on too long, and have that person start talking right away. Awkward, I know.

      (This one’s naive.) Howabout letting him chair the meeting, and therefore being responsible for getting everything done on time. (… Didn’t think so.)

      Or once he goes on for more than five minutes, everyone gets out their phones and starts messing with them, totally ignoring him.

      Unfortunately, I can’t think of any nice way to deal with it…

      1. Ccccccc...*

        “But in order to go on like that he has to have a knack for it.”

        Stevenz, that’s an interesting point, since my thought is that to be this much of a blowhard, there’s no knack needed (alliteration intended). To draw on a personal example, the guy I was seeing was hardly eloquent in these moments; he simply repeated himself again and again, brought up old, tired, and irrelevant issues; and outlined at length how He Was Right and I Was Wrong. Rinse and repeat.

        I certainly can concede someone being eloquent and long-winded (former academic here!), but the shouting and silencing tell me he isn’t just getting carried away. I also agree that there’s no nice way to deal with it, but nice has little chance of getting through to him.

        Good luck OP – growing up in a family of shouters, I know how unpleasant and upsetting it is to be the target of someone’s insecurities-magnified-as-high-volume-bullshit. I hope you’re faring okay.

        1. Listener*

          OP here. Dude in question is exceptionally eloquent, actually, which makes it way more frustrating.

      2. Listener*

        OP here. I just found out he was on the debate team in college. Explains a lot.

        Thanks, “yes, I think we’re saying the same thing, so let’s move on” is a great way to address this!

  2. Nunya*

    I’d be tempted to freeze him out, as in a coordinated walk-out, and reconvene the meeting without him. And keep doing it until he plays nice or his boss intervenes.

    1. fposte*

      Or just keep going while he’s talking. These are tactics that are at risk of manager annoyance, though, so it’s worth either clearing them with the manager or knowing what the tolerance would be before deploying something this explosive in response.

      1. snuck*

        Or having the agenda and list of questions circulated before the meeting, with who is going to answer them and how many minutes they have (3mins should be plenty even for major technical issues)… And then old school the meeting “We need a time keeper, and a minute taker, Steve and Rob? Great! Ok… let’s start”.

        If that doesn’t work have meetings without him, circulate the questions raised in the meeting via email with a clear deadline for when there will be an answer, and that the answers are expected via email. Then a further meeting to discuss can be called with the necessary parties. If necessary have a one on one meeting with this person – effectively remove him from the loop with the customer (manager) interface – if he’s a technical person and he can’t explain his technical in a way that’s appropriate then you need an interpreter… and he doesn’t get cornered into a defensive position, he doesn’t get to bully (there’s not a lot of fun bullying someone and long winded excuse laying when they are sitting there alone, with no audience) and his lack of ability to communicate is corralled to someone who can put up with him… leaving management’s valuable time to do other things.

        Oh. And if he continues to be a jerk you put him on a PIP. You say “Fergus, I need you to come to meetings with succinct responses to questions, if you are unable to do this then please circulate the response to the question with enough time before the meeting for people to read it around their duties. If you are unable to restrain yourself in meetings to normal business ettiquette then I will have to look at your role in the project team in future and how it might work” and follow through. If he can’t play nice don’t annoy teh rest of the team just for him.

    2. Jaguar*

      My brother is one of the worst culprits of this. There’s really no winning solution. Their insecurity / arrogance / whatever it is fueling the behaviour is going to outlast any energy you have to fight against it. The only way to address it, if you’re going to address it at all, is to immediately make the topic now about the behaviour instead of whatever was being talked about.

      You: “We need someone to get some milk for coffee.”
      Them: *begins epic rant*
      You: “Can you please…”
      Them: “I wasn’t finished! Like I was saying…”
      You: “No, I’m not interested in talking to you about the milk any more. If you’re going to drone on, I have no interest in talking to you.”
      Then, if they start in again, just leave. You have to make it clear that the behaviour is just going to alienate everyone from them.

      1. Joie de Viver*

        My mom is like this. She seems to believe that shutting down people who disagree with her means she is right.

        Really looking forward to hearing more suggestions about how to deal with people like this.

        1. Jaguar*

          Don’t let her continue after she tries to shut you down. When she tries that, make it clear that the conversation on the original topic is over until she either understands that she can’t do that if she wants to have a conversation or that doing it won’t get her back on the topic she wants to talk about. Just absolutely refuse to listen to any more of the topic. Don’t give her what she wants. If she does something you can’t stand and gets what she wants as a result, why would she ever change the behaviour?

        2. Marisol*

          I haven’t tried this, but here’s an idea: look at your watch when she starts talking. Will yourself to ride out five minutes of her talking, and at the five minute mark, say, “mother, you have been going on about this for five full minutes now. Are you aware of that?” So basically you’re pointing out the bad behavior in a factual way, with no insults or bad behavior on your part. Usually, whoever asks the questions has the power in the conversation. If you can get her on the defensive, you might gain a little leverage–sometimes just calling a bully out will get them to back down. Best case scenario, she is open to seeing how her behavior affects you and you two can have a productive dialogue about it. Second best case scenario, she argues with you, and you set a boundary with her, “it’s not appropriate to expect me to sit and listen to you without giving me a chance to speak. I won’t be putting up with this any more.” And then leave. Then keep doing that–point out what she’s doing and disengage if she won’t stop. She may or may not change the behavior, but at least you’ll save yourself some time and mental energy, by refusing to engage.

        3. BuildMeUp*

          Do you read Captain Awkward at all? She has really good advice for people who have family/friends with boundary issues, etc.

        4. Joie De Vivre*

          Thanks for the suggestions everyone. Some I won’t be able to try for a while – I don’t see my mom very often due to living halfway across the country from her.

      2. Spooky*

        I’ve actually done this. When a guy in my office kept talking over me without listening at all, I just said “well, this has been a fun and productive conversation” and literally turned around and left the room. That certainly shocked him into silence, and I got an apology when I came back. I’d be careful who you do this too, though.

  3. Gene*

    We had one of those, his nickname was “The Bloviator”. He was a bully in many ways, that was just one of them; he would even talk over our manager. It finally came down to manager saying what we were all thinking, “Shut the frack up, Bubba!” to stop him. And that had to be repeated at several meetings.

    Good luck.

    1. many bells down*

      I’ve got a friend like that; but he’s not a bully or a jerk, he’s just oblivious. He’ll go on for an hour without pause if no one stops him. Fortunately, he doesn’t get upset by “Stop talking, Scott, it’s someone else’s turn now.”

  4. Gandalf the Nude*

    Mr. Smith Goes to the Cubicle Farm. Yikes!

    If OP does talk with him when he joins the office, would it later be appropriate to use the “This is what I was talking about the other day” approach Alison has advised before? Or is that really only appropriate for managers?

    1. Kyrielle*

      Not his boss – OP’s boss, who isn’t directly above him in the chain of command (but is above him, just not in his reporting structure).

      I’m still amazed he got away with it. It’s also possible he has someone somewhere above in the hierarchy defending him. (If it’s his current boss, who won’t be his boss after the shift, that might help, actually – but if it’s a VP or the like…).

      1. "Computer Science"*

        Or this is why the shift in reporting took place: an ineffectual manager who didn’t want to address this is happy to give the problem away.

        1. Kyrielle*

          …or had the problem taken away. Oh, I hope that’s it, then it might get addressed.

  5. Hermione*

    “When he finally paused and she began asking another question, he told us time was up and he had to go on another call.”

    Such arrogance! I wish someone had pulled him aside after that meeting to tell him to cut the baloney. I’m a fan of bringing it up with Alison’s wording but after it happens on your team. I think preemptively saying it when he arrives may cause additional problems and is unlikely to solve them.

    LW, I know you haven’t yet been exposed to him that often, but I’m curious if you can pinpoint triggers? Is it when he feels attacked/wants to avoid a topic, or when anything is brought up in his area? Does he do this with his superiors, or just those on his level and below? I’m not getting a sense of who he’s interacting with aside from your female boss, but do you get the sense that there may be a gendered aspect to this?

    1. Listener*

      OP here. It’s when he thinks anyone is going to disagree with him in any manner. It’s not gendered so far as I can tell; he’s shouted at both his boss and his boss’s boss – they’re both guys – in his office.

  6. TheSoundkeeper*

    My boss once hung up on a remote co-worker who would not stop talking – co-worker had done it several times during the call and this was in the olden days with a speakerphone that was not “two-way.” This was also an 11 AM meeting on Friday and always tended to run over an hour…

  7. Ann O'Nemity*

    “It is as if he has taken the traditional concept of a filibuster and attempted to apply it to working life.” This is hilarious. I can almost imagine a Seinfeld episode with a plot like this.

    Alison’s advice is great. In order to combat this, you’re all going to have to get over the initial discomfort that comes along with interrupting someone. Come up with some canned interjections. “We’re running out of time.” or “I need to cut in here.” or “I’d like a chance to respond.” If he pushes back (and I bet he will!), don’t be steamrolled. If necessary you may have to bluntly say something like, “Bob, you’ve been taking for 10 minutes straight and no one else can get a word in. This isn’t a productive use of our time.”

    1. KR*

      Yeah. Someone is going to have to say something to him at some point. Everyone will thank you for ripping the bandaid off.

    2. Leatherwings*

      Yes! Someone has to interrupt this guy (ideally a manager, but anyone will do) and when he snaps, the interrupter needs to remain totally calm in responding.

      OP can say “Bob, I’d like to make a quick point” Bob snaps “Let me finish” and OP can respond with your last sentence as dryly as possible.

    3. AMT*

      “He’s a filibusterer, Jerry!”

      “Did you try the interrupt?”

      “He blew past my interrupt like Strom Thurmond! He would not yield!”

    4. Sketchee*

      Ann, I love your wording. Especially “This isn’t a productive use of our time.” Not only that, after the pattern happens continue to bring up the pattern with your manager and who ever is leading each meeting. “I’m concerned about how productive these meetings are… I’m not getting the information I need in a concise way.”

    1. Dynamic Beige*

      Chess clock.

      Because sadly wiring up a chair to something electrical is against OSHA and probably the Geneva Convention.

      1. Elsajeni*

        I know this is a mostly-joking suggestion, but: nooooo, not for deliberate conversation-tramplers! They will just say “Excuse me, I STILL HAVE THE TALKING STICK” and keep going all day unless you seize it by force.

  8. H.C.*

    I’m also fond of the “Let’s take this offline / follow-up on this later so we can move forward/conclude this meeting” to defuse the situation.

  9. My 2 Cents*

    This guy is a bully and talking to him isn’t going to work, calling him out is the only way to change him. Stopping him dead in his tracks and holding firm on the calls is the only way to stop this. I think you’ll be surprised to find that you’ll get backup from people, they all want it to stop but they don’t want to be the first one to do it. Kill him with kindness but don’t back down. “Sorry, we have to move on and let others talk” and repeat as many times as necessary until he shuts up. Keep doing this meeting after meeting until some decorum returns.

    We have one of these in our meetings and I have to do the same, I have to pull out the “we’re way over time so let’s move on, we can discuss that further after the meeting if necessary” line.

    1. Joseph*

      I agree that it’s not going to work, but OP needs to at least attempt the diplomatic solution of “talking to him” first and seeing what happens.

      The purpose of starting with a polite-but-direct conversation is *not* because he’s going to magically change, it’s to build support among colleagues and management for going with a much firmer option (e.g., limiting his allotted talking time, interrupting him in meetings, even walking away if necessary).

    2. Muriel Heslop*

      This is absolutely a bullying tactic. I get a parent like this every few years who does this in conferences. Unfortunately for them, I will keep calling them in for a meeting until I get a chance to talk. “Since we were unable to come to a resolution today, I’ll need you to come back tomorrow so I can share what I need to.” They HATE it (so do I), but I control the paperwork. This probably wouldn’t work in a typical work environment. I’m actually not sure it works so great in mine, but it’s the only tactic I’ve found that works.

      1. Jaguar*

        I don’t think it’s necessarily a bullying tactic. I think it often comes out of ego, narcissism, and/or insecurity, which would point to either a control issue or just a general lack of respect for others.

        1. Muriel Heslop*

          The things you named are frequently causes of bullying. Desire to control, lack of respect and/or feeling for others, along with dysfuctional families (bullied at home), compensation for insecurity and/or low self-esteem. Some kids do just have aggressive personalities but in experience that is something that can be redirected with the proper support and home and school.

          (We get professional development on this every year.)

        2. OhNo*

          I think the distinction is in the way they talker responds to interruptions. Snapping “Let me finish!”, getting cranky, and refusing to let anyone interject? Sounds like a bully to me.

          FWIW, I have several talkers like this in my family. One just likes to chat – if you interrupt him, he’s happy to listen, maybe go back to the topic he was talking about later, or move to a new topic if his conversation partner indicates they’d like to. Another is almost exactly as described in the letter, and it definitely comes across as a bullying move.

  10. Pwyll*

    Favorite heated moment ever was bloviator saying “I’m not finished yet.” in a meeting and having Big Boss respond, “Yes you are.”

    I suppose my question is where HIS boss is in this scenario. But perhaps this is worth a discussion with your boss (who will soon be his boss?) to explain that you’ve observed his behavior and to ask how boss would like you to handle this, at least as a way to get buy-in should a complaint come down the line about OP being “rude” to him or somesuch?

    1. LibraryChick*

      Yes, yes, a thousand times yes! Whoever is running the meeting needs to say that to him when it happens! Once he gets the idea that he won’t be able to drone on and on he will learn to make his point more quickly.

    2. fposte*

      Yeah, he’s using “I’m not finished” as an assertion of a right he doesn’t possess. Nobody is obligated to listen to him until he doesn’t feel like talking any more. A more co-worker-usable version could be “It doesn’t matter–we have to move on.”

      I also think it’s really useful to establish the “share the air” concept so you can use it as a callback. It’s really helpful in classrooms to change a diversion from “Shut up, Bob,” to “We have a principle to honor here,” and I think it could work the same way in meetings.

      1. OhNo*

        I wonder if “put it in an email” would work here? Especially if he’s horribly insistent on finishing his monologue, you might be able to redirect him by telling him to write it down and send to everyone later.

        Of course then you have to deal with an email the length of the Nile, but at least you can just skim or delete those.

        1. fposte*

          I think it’s certainly worth a try. “We have to move on anyway, Bob, but you can send your concluding thoughts as a followup email.”

  11. AMG*

    Or, stop inviting him meetings. If he starts talking, leave the room and/or walk away. You won’t miss anything.

  12. justsomeone*

    “I’m not done yet, let me finish!”
    “No. You’ve made your point five times in the last ten minutes. It’s time for someone else to talk”

    Someone needs to just cut in and start talking over him. Too bad there doesn’t seem to be a meeting mechanism where you can mute someone so the rest of the team can talk .

    1. Jaguar*

      Honestly, I’m a little uncomfortable with that. Introducing bureaucracy for everyone because of one person’s bad behaviour is a lousy solution. I try to address things as they come up in meetings but also engage other people and solicit their feedback on the spot. If I had to wait for the damn toy to be wound up every time I was about to speak, it would be infuriating, and I would probably grow to resent the person that’s forcing us to do it even more.

  13. JMegan*

    I just learned this a few weeks ago: the formal structure for interrupting people.

    1. INTERJECT, using their name and an apology. (Blowhard, I’m sorry to interrupt.)
    2. CONNECT, using paraphrasing and empathy (I can see this issue is very important to you/ I know you have a lot of experience in this area)
    3. REDIRECT (We need to move on to the next item on the agenda/ We need to make sure everyone gets a chance to speak)

    I mean, it sounds like this guy is well past any sort of polite boundary-setting, so I don’t know how well this would actually work with him. I think your next practical step would be to address it with your boss (and/or his boss) and either get someone to lay down the law, or to give yourself an escape strategy. The benefit of doing something like the above is that you have a concrete strategy, that works for most reasonable people – so you can tell your boss (or his) that you tried something specific, and it didn’t work, so now you need direction from higher up the org chart.

    1. LadyKelvin*

      I like this, except I would cut out the apology. You don’t need to be sorry here, he’s droning on relentlessly. I’d just say “Blowhard, I can see this issue is very important to you, etc” and then don’t back down. Just keep going as if he actually listened and stopped talking.

      1. JMegan*

        Totally agree that he doesn’t deserve an apology, and in fact should be *providing* one! This is part of the OP’s strategy of being able to say to her boss “I was polite as I could possibly be, and politeness isn’t working – what’s next?”

        But yeah, I’d probably have to cut out the apology part as well. I don’t know if I’d be able to make it sound sincere through the grinding of my teeth!

  14. INTP*

    It doesn’t work as well for the meeting setting, but outside that, maybe try “It sounds like you have a lot of great points. Unfortunately I’m/we’re kind of in a hurry right now, but do you mind putting this in an email for me/us to go through when we can be more focused?” When he argues, insist that you just want to be able to fully consider all of his points. He’ll probably know what you’re doing, but he can’t loudly refuse to write an email without looking like an ass.

  15. Meeeeeeeee*

    If you were continuing to have conference calls with him I’d love to see you set up the meeting (so you’re the organizer with its associated perks) and then just mute him. I imagine 5 people on the call, the guy just droning on, you muting him and saying “Since Angus isn’t listening to us we’ll continue this conversation without his input” and everyone else bursting into applause. Dude would be SO frustrated.

    But, lacking that as an option… I wish you the best of luck!

    1. zora.dee*

      Ha, this was my first thought, too. It’s almost too bad he’s coming into your office, because as long as he’s on conference calls, you could use the system to mute him it would be AMAZING. I used to have to moderate a lot of conference calls and only used the “muting a caller’s line” tool to deal with technical problems. And was able to use facilitation to stop people from going on way too long, but if I had ever had to deal with someone who really wouldn’t stop, muting them would feel So. Good. ;o)

    2. Hlyssande*

      That was my thought! I should’ve read all the comments before adding my own, haha.

      It would feel very good to click the mute button on him mid-rant.

  16. CM*

    If I were the OP, I’d talk to my boss about my concerns, and ask her about strategies for handling it, which I think would be a gentle way of telling boss she needs to handle this.

  17. Mimmy*

    Oh don’t I know that feeling of sitting through a meeting where someone just talks and talks and talks…. though I can’t say that I’ve encountered anyone like this guy!

    It’s tough – where do you draw the line between letting someone have their say and allowing people to also have a fair chance to speak. People dominating a meeting / discussion is a huge pet peeve, particularly when time runs short and there are still other agenda items ahead.

    It does sound like this guy crosses the line, though, particularly in snapping at others to let him finish, so the advice is right on here.

    1. Bob Barker*

      Effectively, it’s up to the moderator/meeting caller to police that nonsense. I’ve stepped in, when it’s all peers and the moderator turns into pudding and can’t do it, but somebody has to do it.

      Meetings are only useful inasmuch as they’re useful to everyone there. It’s not actually that tough, is it? “Bob, is this information we all need to achieve the goals of this specific meeting? No?” This means, of course, that the meeting needs to be held for a good reason, with clear goals in mind, every time. (I find a lot of meetings are held out of habit, and those are the ones that devolve into Sally Jesse Raphael.) “Bob, you’re wasting your coworkers’ time” is pretty blunt, but it’s an accurate assessment of what’s happening. I mean, I generally kill people with my laser eyes when they’re wasting my time, so I don’t often have to say it out loud (truly I have the bitchest of bitch faces, no ragrets), but if Bob doesn’t have the social skills to recognize that nobody wants to hear what he’s saying, then he needs to be Told. Kindly or bluntly, but Told.

  18. Former Retail Manager*

    I have worked with some real doozies over the years and I have to say I’ve never encountered anyone who does this, but from the comments it looks like there are plenty of these people. I am simply in shock. What is wrong with these people? Seriously….does their brain work differently or are they so full of themselves that they think this is okay? I simply would not and could not put up with this.

    1. OhNo*

      It varies, I’m sure. I mentioned above that I have several people like this in my family. Some are just not great at reading social cues – they might interpret blank staring in their general direction as genuine interest in their monologue, for example. Other are just bullies who think no one has as much of a right to speak as they do (you can often spot these ones because they will get angry when interrupted but have no problem interrupting others).

      I’ve only met one person so far who was just so full of herself that she thought every passing thought was worthy of everyone’s attention, but luckily I wasn’t related to her. And she was okay with changing the conversation if you openly stated how little you cared about what her new diet let her eat for breakfast.

  19. Chaordic One*

    I had a boss who would always say that she was “thinking out loud” and it drove everyone nuts.

    I kind of think that people like this sometimes have problems processing ideas and thoughts. Repeating them and saying them out loud might help them get a better understanding of things and its probably a coping method that allows them to self-sooth. OTOH, sometimes it is probably because they are unprepared and it also kind of comes off as being a stalling tactic and a way to slow things down.

  20. Mephyle*

    Alison, you commented that OP’s manager is “staying out of it” but I think that by OP’s description it’s more accurate to say that she tried to handle him but backed down when he rode over her. She apparently didn’t have sufficient strength to handle it and let herself be intimidated by him.
    It’s possible that if you, OP, demonstrate effective strategies for combating his filibusters, it will help your manager see that it’s possible to handle him, and she might start to do so, to. This isn’t the ideal sequence of things, but if it plays out this way, it will be to the good.

  21. Camellia*

    My first husband loved to pontificate. I will always cherish two particular moments:

    1) When our daughter was four and an avid watcher of Disney’s Cinderella (the original animated version) he came home from an outing with her and said, “She called me a pompous windbag!” I thought I would choke I laughed so hard.

    2) Two years later, in the car, she leaned forward from the back seat and said quite loudly and firmly, “WHAT’S YOUR POINT, DAD?”

    As the saying goes, out of the mouth of babes…

    1. Anon's Coffee Mug*

      I love the “What’s your point???” line. I use this is the business world too, usually in 1-on-1s with co-workers I am already pretty friendly with, though, typically preceded by a blank-stare, an eye-brow raise, and a few blinks (in jest). It’s gotten people who converse, or more like assault me with stream-of-conscience, on business topics, that it’s better for them to pause for a few moments (because I’ll allow them, and even prefer the silence of a collected pause), then deliver a succinct collected response. Because otherwise they might get the blank-stare blinkyface smile as their reply as I attempt to make sense of their mash-up.

      I agree that some people who talk incessantly may be just really nervous in social situations and so they try to occupy every split second with….something, anything.

    2. Sarahnova*

      A six-year-old skewering him with “WHAT’S YOUR POINT, DAD?” That is glorious.

  22. Here Is My Spout*

    I worked with someone like this guy. I tried many approaches, he blew by them all. My managers’ response was that it was my job to run the meeting. So this is what I did. The next meeting Joe Blow goes past his reasonable time and I interrupt with:

    Me: “Joe, we need to move on”.
    Joe: “I’m NOT DONE TALKING”.
    Me: “We are done listening”.
    Me: “Jane, can you address the teapot handle issue”.. Over Joes talking.

    We must have talked over him for five minutes.

    I just kept working the meeting around him. He got up and left in a huff. He showed up later in my office to tell me how unprofessional I was. I gave him my perspective on his professionalism and courtesy and reminded him it was my meeting to run. He missed a couple of meetings and then came back like everything was normal. He was much better about my cutting him off. I still had to cut him short though. Eventually he moved on to another company.

  23. Hlyssande*

    If it’s a conference like WebEx and he’s not the host, the host could mute him… :D

    But seriously, this guy is a grade A jerk.

  24. Turanga Leela*

    NY Mag is killing it with the stock photos. I feel like I say this every week. I’m in love with that yellow jacket with the power shoulders.

  25. justcourt*

    I’m not sure this would work in an office space, but in my personal life when people have told me they aren’t finished speaking, I’ve told them I’m finished listening.

  26. Feo Takahari*

    We had one of these at my job. Worst coworker I’ve ever had in my life. Not only would he bloviate, he would refuse to shut up until the other person agreed that he was right. His favorite tactic was to ask rhetorical questions and insist the other person answer them with his opinion, but if need be, he would use his bulk to physically block smaller coworkers from walking away from the conversation. I got the impression he thought of other people as simple input-output machines, giving people whatever input would lead to the output he wanted, then being surprised when they learned from his actions and recognized that he was trying to manipulate them.

    He was fired for stealing deposit bags. He stalked and harassed the manager for a couple weeks afterwards until we notified the cops.

  27. nofelix*

    The question that comes to mind is how does he have time for all this? Presumably he has things he needs from the meetings too, otherwise why is he there? Perhaps it would be useful to look big picture at what his responsibilities are, what you need from him, and go from there. If he wants to be verbose why not ask him to prepare written reports of his views instead of using meeting time to explain them.

    I’m a pretty verbose person too but rarely at work, because it would just mean less time to get things done. It is possible to control – it’s just a mindset thing.

  28. boop*

    Oh. I know someone who goes on and on like a broken record, but never actually goes anywhere, ESPECIALLY when she feels insecure about her own argument. Never considered that it may be a power move. Hmm.

  29. Shishimai*

    “When he finally paused and she began asking another question, he told us time was up and he had to go on another call.”

    …do we work in the same place?!*

    I’m loving all the replies to this. My version occurred just this last Monday, and we had a conversation – very carefully not naming names – about better time-boxing and leaving a subject alone once it’s finished (instead of ‘splaining it to the team three, four more times before moving on to the next issue).

    Will be carefully reading this thread looking for ways to help tame our local Bloviator.

    *probably not

  30. Dumped on*

    This is similar to what I deal with except the attention demanding/blowhard/let-me-finish/last word bully… is my boss. Any advise?

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