I work with a mansplainer

A reader writes:

I’ve been at my company for five years, in various roles with increasing responsibility. A few months ago, I was promoted to train the rest of a team that I was formerly a member of, with responsibility for both onboarding and continuing education (we’re in a medical field where there is a steady stream of new information we need to be well-versed in). I’m a woman in my mid-30’s and my team has been fantastic about supporting me as I enter this new managerial role (I do not have direct reports, but I manage the function).

The person who was hired to replace me, Fergus, is in his late 60’s and has never worked in this area of medicine before. He’s done the equivalent job at other companies, so there are obvious parallels that qualify him for the job, assuming he completes his training at my direction. He is extremely bright and eager, and reports to Jane, who is my peer. During the interview process, I expressed concern that I hadn’t been able to get a word in edgewise with Fergus when I interviewed him, and that I felt he might not be a good fit with the customers I used to work with. But we needed to backfill the position and so he was hired.

At a recent training meeting, Fergus began instructing other team members on aspects of the disease we specialize in. He repeated the last few words of my sentences to appear as though he was agreeing with me, and offered his opinions frequently – including many that were simply not accurate. Jane gave Fergus frequent indications that he needed to back off, including putting up her hand to signal “stop.” Towards the middle of the day, I was raising a point about my company’s experience with a particular aspect of treatment, and Fergus began to talk over me. I put up my hand and asked him to hold on, and he began to speak louder. I finally said, “Fergus, I’m in the middle of a sentence and I intend to get to the end of it — you need to wait.” Fergus talked even more loudly and then finally blurted out in exasperation that he was “just trying to learn!” He spent the rest of the afternoon sulking.

After the meeting, I spoke to Jane and she said that she was very happy with how I handled Fergus, but I’ve been troubled by the situation ever since. Several members of the team have commented to me that they find his behavior to be inappropriate and irritating.

I’m at a loss. Fergus cannot continue to talk over me and others and give misinformation. In the weeks leading up to this meeting, Jane had several conversations with him about the importance of listening and learning during on-boarding, given that he’s tried to jump ahead in the program several times. I’m troubled to think that my age and gender could underlie his disrespect for me and his manager, and I’m sick that he’s going to be handling my old customers. I’m concerned about how to handle him given that I’m not his manager, I’m concerned about his impact on team dynamics, and I’m concerned that he might implicate me as the cause for his turbulent onboarding process. How should I proceed?

Oh, Fergus.

It’s always interesting to see someone do this in an effort to seem important to others without realizing that they end up looking bad instead — there’s a bizarre lack of self-awareness about how other people see them.

And Fergus sounds like a pretty extreme offender, if he’s able to keep going in the face of his boss telling him directly to stop. The sulking after finally being successfully shut down is a nice touch too.

But the good news here is that Fergus’s manager sounds like she’s seeing things exactly as you’re seeing them. And more good news is that she doesn’t sound shy about addressing it. Putting up her hand to signal “stop” and frequently nudging him to back off are excellent signs that she’s comfortable being assertive and that she’s not going to roll over and let Fergus steamroll over people.

Given that, I would focus on doing three things.

First, continue asserting yourself with Fergus exactly as you’ve been doing. Telling him to wait, refusing to let him talk over you, and telling him that he can’t interrupt you are all exactly what you should be doing. Keep doing those things. And keep in mind that because dealing with a Fergus can be exhausting, at times it may feel tempting to give him more leeway, just so you’re not constantly having to battle with him. Try not to give into that temptation, because if you don’t hold the line, you risk reinforcing his worst tendencies.

Second, consider addressing the big picture with him, especially in the context of explaining what you need from him as part of his training. For example, you could say, “Fergus, I’ve noticed that you frequently interrupt or try to talk over me when I’m speaking. I need you to let me finish before interjecting. I also hope you’ll take advantage of the knowledge that I and others here have about this program, since it’s going to be essential to you performing well in your role.” And if that sounds a little heavy-handed to say to someone you don’t manage, know that it’s not. You’re senior to him, you’re training him for the job you used to hold, and he’s being obnoxious.

Third, at some point it might make sense for you to nudge Jane to take more action. It’s really good that she’s dealing with Fergus in the moment and that she’s talked with him about the importance of listening, but there’s a point where more action than that will be needed. If this goes on for much longer, your role may be to say to Jane, “Hey, I have grave concerns about Fergus at this point. He’s not been receptive to coaching, he doesn’t listen, he’s coming across as arrogant, and he’s irritating people. I’m concerned about how he’s going to interact with my old clients. Are you sure that he’s the right fit for the role?” (If you feel awkward about that, keep in mind that as the person training him to fill your old role, you have standing to raise that question.)

One last thing, too. You wrote that you’re troubled to think that your age and gender could underlie Fergus’s disrespect for you. And they very well could! In fact, I’m curious to know whether he works with any men close to his age and, if so, whether he behaves any differently with them. But that’s more of a point of interest than something that should change how you approach the situation. The beauty of being in a position of seniority to Fergus (and with some power over him too, since you’re training him and thus well-positioned to relay concerns to his boss) is that you can decide that you don’t give a crap what he thinks about your gender or your age. Regardless of how he might feel and regardless of his level of respect for younger women at work, you can require him to stop interrupting and talking over you, you can tell him to stop and/or correct him when he’s talking about something he doesn’t know anything about, and you can assert your expertise and knowledge over his when you need to. (Of course, to some extent this relies on being in a workplace that supports you in doing those things and that doesn’t coddle Fergus types, but it sounds like you’re probably in one of those.) Having to do those things repeatedly can be exhausting — which is why you should be prepared to call the question with Jane about whether Fergus should stay on — but it can also be pretty gratifying when you’re confident in your authority to enforce and act on those boundaries.

Originally published at New York Magazine.

{ 418 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Since I’ve realized in the past when it’s come up here that not everyone is familiar with the term “mansplaining”: it’s a term coined to describe a specific type of sexism. It refers specifically to a man explaining to a woman something the woman knows better than he does. Here’s the origin of the term (devised by an author who encountered a man who tried to explain her own book to her):

    A ground rule for comments on this letter: We aren’t going to debate the term itself here, as that’s not the point of the letter. Thank you.

    1. Myrin*

      Aah, thanks for this, Alison! I remember all too well the last time this term came up here and I’m glad to see a handy first comment one can point others to on this thread (which hopefully won’t be necessary).

      1. Nadina Cole*

        I think the response missed the point. Given the consistent lack of boundaries (even awareness of boundaries) and missed verbal directives and nonverbal cues, I think the gentleman has some kind of a learning or behavioral disability. He is probably relative high functioning in many areas but not in group situations and, perhaps, not with women.. He seems to be using inappropriate inner directives to try to prove his worth. There are people who have great difficulty with tracking behavioral and social cues in the here and how and seem to be applying some other set of internal social or communication conventions inappropriately –such as, in this case, “show them how much you know and how good you really are.” In which case, such a directive is missing the other cues: 1. Do it through performance, rather than blabbing inappropriately in an instructional meeting; 2. Do not talk while the instructor is speaking; 3. If someone in authority requests that you wait to make a contribution, do so; and 4. be sure that what you are saying is correct — just any old contribution might make you look ignorant rather than competent. Some children have this disability and need early coaching, feedback, and guidance to consciously develop the ability to “read the room”. This guy has learned to manipulate with guilt, etc. in order to get people to back off. The Manager’s advice to persist is spot-on. You might get worn out because it is obvious that this gentleman needs to be in a job where very little group and team interaction is required (if that job exists).

        1. Evan Þ*

          If Fergus was doing this to everyone or just about everyone, that’d be one likely explanation. But, OP comments downthread that he isn’t: “He’s not doing it to older male managers- and doing it only mildly to younger men on the team.” So, with a lot of people, he is noticing those cues perfectly well – he’s just not bothering to follow them with OP. Given that, I think Alison’s response is very much on point.

        2. D.A.R.N.*

          Can we please stop asserting that every badly behaved man has autism? I’m autistic and I had to learn how to behave properly around other people, and when I screw up, I’m held accountable for it. And I don’t talk over people and sulk about it.

          1. Nadina Cole*

            Did anyone mention the A-word? Not being a behavioral professional, I am not qualified to diagnose. Being an observant person with 70+ years experience in group learning and group working situations, I can describe behavior and perhaps frame what we are seeing differently.

            Perhaps sexism, sex stereotyping, dual standards toward women, discounting women, mansplaining (especially continuing when ordered to stop), etc. is a disability of choice. Like an unexercised limb becomes weak. Like these guys have a tin ear, arrogance, need to dominate, and inflated sense of entitlement.

            1. Caleb*

              I really don’t understand diagnosing people over the internet. “Clearly, relying on this third-person account of somebody else’s behavior, he has X. All 500 words of the letter point to X.”

              This is a troubling trend. I’ve seen multiple commenters now, in multiple posts, ascribe bad behavior to mental illness. Not only is it erroneous, but it perpetuates a really bad stigma.

              Please stop? :)

              1. Caleb*

                Also, “high-functioning” is a term very much linked to autism. I’m unfamiliar with the context in which Nadina was using it. But, no. How about we don’t call moral failings “disabilities,” of choice or otherwise?

    2. Retail HR Guy*

      I’m on board with you pre-emptively shutting down derailing topics of conversation, but in this case aren’t you the one adding fuel to the fire by your choice of a title? OP never uses “mansplaining” in her quoted letter, and in fact ageism is given equal weight to sexism in the OP’s analysis.

      1. Kristine*

        Alison is using an accurate term to describe the behavior OP is dealing with. And the ageism OP mentions is likely compounded by the sexism, not separate from it (likely Fergus would have no issue with young male coworkers).

        We need to stop tip-toeing around any mentions of sexism like it’s Voldemort. Sexism in the workplace real, it’s happening to OP, and we need to call it what it is.

        1. sstabeler*

          It could be, or it’s possible the hierarchy does:
          1) male co-workers his age
          2)female co-workers his age
          3)young male co-workers
          4)young female co-workers.

          Of course, depending on hsi exact beliefs, it’s possible #2 and #3 are swapped around.

            1. Natalie*

              Yeah, IMO there’s two aspects of mansplaining, both sexist but in different ways – the obvious one is a belief (conscious or not) that women don’t have expertise in [topic] and thus don’t need to be listened to. And the other part is a belief (again, conscious or not) that as a man one does generally have expertise and should always have space to talk. Both parts work together to create the mainsplainer, like the world’s worst yin yang.

              But that latter aspect can definitely come out regardless of the audience.

            2. Evan Þ*

              Yep, he could, which is why I’m glad that Alison was able to give advice that applies just as well either way, whatever Fergus’s motives are here.

            3. BWooster*

              We really have no reason to believe that the OP is assessing this situation incorrectly as it seems she’d be in the best position to judge.

  2. Temperance*

    LW, it sounds like you are doing an excellent job handling Captain Mansplainer. I really like Alison’s approach and framing here. I’m personally a fan of the dead-eyed stare while continuing to speak. Depending on whether this would work for the training that you’re doing, you could also enforce a policy where all questions are held to the end.

    I think you’re handling the situation well, too. Captain Mansplainer is undermining you – whether consciously or not, it doesn’t matter – and you’re showing your team that it’s not okay and that you deserve respect. I wrote the letter about the mansplainy intern, and I handled him by correcting him, publicly, when he said things that were flat-out wrong. (Letter is linked in the comments).

    1. Myrin*

      Oh wow, Temperance, that was your letter? I’m always so excited to find out that a regular commenter wrote a letter, and a popular one at that!

      1. Temperance*

        This is so kind of you to say! I spend so much time here (and Alison’s advice was SO helpful when I was really out of my depth) that I feel like it makes sense to just come clean, you know?

    2. Mira*

      The link’s gone now – I can’t find it anywhere in the comments. Could you link it again here, please? I’ve been in such situations before, and I’d love to read it!

      1. Morning Glory*

        It’s the top ‘you may also like’ link above the comments, about wanting to fire a horrible intern

    3. introvert*

      I also employ the dead eye stare. I use it on my brother a lot, he’s a mega mansplainer. (For him, it’s not rooted in sexism because he’ll do it to anyone he’s engaged in a conversation with regardless of gender, and I know him well enough to know that he’s just a giant know-it-all who can’t stand to not be the expert on every freaking topic under the sun.) I used to get so ANGRY, now i just don’t engage and we get along much better. i’ll never change him, so i figured out how to deal with him. he’s got plenty of redeeming qualities, but ugh.

      1. PrincessCoPilot*

        My boyfriend is like that. I tend to fain exaggerated not understanding. “Really? I always thought the best way to eat a banana was with a spoon? My whole world view is blown. How can I ever go on.” He finds it funny, so it is a good way to avoid a fight while still telling him he’s being condescending.

      2. roflmouse*

        I have to shamefully admit I was once a know-it-all myself. The problem started correcting itself when I worked to fix myself esteem issues, thankfully. We had a running joke in the family, if you heard the phrase “well, actually” leave the conversation immediately. Now when I have the urge to say it, I just don’t.

        1. Natasha*

          Oh no I’m glad I ran into this comment. My sister says, “you have something to say about everything.” I’m going to stop myself when I try to start a sentence with those words. I can see this is a major flaw of mine.

  3. Dee*

    The thing where Fergus repeats the end of your sentences — he may not be able to trying to appear to agree with you. I mention this because my manager does that too, and it’s just a weird verbal tic she has, and she’s the introvertiest of introverts.

    The steamrolling and the sulking, on the other hand, is ridiculous.

    1. Dee*

      Ack, rephrased that first sentence too many times. “He may not be trying to appear to agree with you.”

      1. Edith*

        This explanation would make sense if Fergus did this with other people and in other contexts. But not if it was just to the OP and during a training session she was leading, which is what it sounds like.

    2. Anna*

      One of my very good friends does this. It’s weird and sometimes annoying, but I don’t think she even realizes she’s doing it.

      1. Amber T*

        I do that sometimes too… I have a tendency to forget things that are said to me. I usually keep a notepad with me to jot down notes, but sometimes I can’t write something down, so I repeat it. If I say it, then I have a better chance of remember it. Doesn’t necessarily sound like the case here, especially if he’s doing it in front of/to other people (I usually mutter it under my breath, or at least only say it loud enough for me to hear).

    3. shep*

      I had a coworker who did this to me too, although I think it was slightly more calculated. She would repeat what I was saying and then twist the wording a little to make it sound like HER idea, but BETTER, and like what I’d said had been wrong.

      Luckily I only encountered this in one meeting, since we didn’t work directly together, but I was baffled for a good ten minutes before I started putting my foot down and saying, “You’re saying exactly what I’m saying, so I think we’re in agreement and I’m going to go ahead with what we came up with.”

      So weird. I think she did this with everyone.

      1. Your Weird Uncle*

        I have an annoying coworker who will take what I am saying, and then proceed in front of everyone to ‘explain’ my own topic to me like she’s introducing it to me for the first time. Drives me nuts, and I have no idea how to shut it down!

        1. Em too*

          Probably wouldn’t actually fly but “Yes, that’s right, you understood me perfectly. Well done.” is nice to imagine.

        2. Kate*

          Actually I think what Em too wrote, said with a smile and minus the “Well done” part would work.

          The very first time she does it in the next meeting, maybe you could say “Coworker, I really appreciate how you repeat everything I say so we both know there are no misunderstandings.” If you want to go even further: “I think it is such a wonderful tool for preventing misunderstandings and promoting clarity that I am going to do it too from now on.”

          Be dead serious and earnest about this. Then repeat what Em said after every single time she does it.

    4. PK*

      I repeat what’s said to me if there’s a chance for misunderstanding. “So to reiterate…”

      It doesn’t sound like this is the case for the OP though. I’d be highly annoyed getting regularly interrupted in a meeting that I was running. Yikes!

      1. Dee*

        My manager doesn’t do this. It’s more like saying the last few words almost in unison with me (assuming she knows where the sentence is going) or just repeating, like, the last two or three words after I finish talking. I find it wildly annoying, but I try not to hold it against her.

        1. I used to be Murphy*

          I had a manager that did that. I took it as one of her many charming quirks (we’ve all got ’em). In fact, I found she tended to do it more when she did agree with me and I took it as an affirmation that I was on the right track when we were strategizing or brainstorming something.

        2. fishy*

          I have a direct coworker and a more distant colleague who both do the exact same thing. They say the same words I’m saying, either as I say them or like half a second later (and just the end of sentences). It’s great to know they’re engaged in the conversation, but it’s a bit distracting.

          1. No day but today*

            I talk on the phone as part of my job and I’ve encountered this…and yes it is distracting. It’s weird because I thought they were talking over me so I stopped talking and so did they. LOL!

    5. Squeeble*

      I left my last therapist in large part because she had this habit. It was wildly annoying.

      1. Edith*

        That hilarious. Maybe your therapist was a fan of 1990s B romcoms. In A Couch in New York Juliette Binoche’s character pretends to be a therapist (thus the titular couch) and her friend coaches her to do this to seem more authentic. And it works.

        1. Squeeble*

          Ha! I think it does work to an extent–it can make the other person feel like you really hear them. But when it’s every other line, or worse, they assume wrong about what you’re about to say and you have to keep correcting them, oh man.

          1. Kj*

            It is a technique taught in grad school, but like many basic techniques, it is annoying when over-done.

          2. Parenthetically*

            My counselor had an amazing knack for taking what I’d said and saying it back, but in summary in a way that really focused the issue and drew out new nuances or facets I hadn’t seen before (seriously it was mind-blowing; we got more unpacked and dealt with in 10 sessions than I had in a year with other people). I wonder if these folks are TRYING to do something like that, just ineptly?

            1. Dizzy Steinway*

              Charitable thought, but unlikely. To do that you have to really concentrate on listening and not butt in.

    6. Rachael*

      My ex did the same thing – WITH EVERYONE….man or women. He would “finish” sentences or say “uh, huh” really loud. It annoyed the heck out of everyone. I remember when he broke his wrist and he kept on interrupting the doctor to finish his sentences on the care that needed to be done to his wrist. I mentioned to him afterwards that I think the doctor was getting irritated because it seemed like he couldn’t get a whole sentence out. My ex’s response “Well, that guy was a jerk anyway and didn’t know what he was talking about”. I was, like, YOU don’t know what YOU are talking about.

      I came to realize that my ex had an obsession with making sure people thought he was the smartest person in the room. My theory is that he thought that if he repeated the last couple of words or said “uh huh” that people would think that he knew all about whatever subject was being discussed….when he actually didn’t know jack. It was sad, really. His need for people to think he is this insanely smart guy…..instead people just found him arrogant and annoying.

      1. TL -*

        I tend to finish sentences if I’m not paying attention, but it’s a bad habit from the years right after my mom’s head injury when she struggled with word recall and you had to fill in words for her until you got to the right ones.

        I’m much better about it now but if I’m half-listening or really tired and the person I’m listening to starts going, “um, er..”, it’ll pop out occasionally!

      2. LawBee*

        I had a pretty terrible meeting with a boss recently and his big thing was to cut all of us off with a loud “I GOT IT” in the middle of our sentences – about something he clearly did NOT get. So frustrating. I eventually gave up. Let him be wrong, it’s not my company.

        1. nhbillups*

          I had a remarkably similar situation at work once. This guy spent 29 years in the military, took a few months off, and came to work as my boss (he supervised six of us total). He knew nothing about the work ANY of us did, yet he would interrupt our explanations and say he understood. I quit explaining just as you say. It took less than 2 weeks for him to finally understand. We had a “Come To” meeting, and while he did have “slip-ups” after, he did do much better from then on!

    7. StartupLifeLisa*

      This verbal tic may actually be the speech disorder echolalia: http://www.healthline.com/health/echolalia

      Obviously there’s no point in trying to diagnose people without the proper qualifications, but as someone who manages a highly effective adult with Autism who experiences echolalia, it’s a useful bit of knowledge. Most people think echolalia is a little kid thing, but many adults still experience it, especially those on the autism spectrum.

        1. StartupLifeLisa*

          I wasn’t really referring to Fergus, more so to the top-level commenter here regarding her boss’s tic.

    8. Lora*

      Oh goodness, I do this – repeat the last bit I just heard. Not always, just once in a while. “Can you help me with discombobulating the whatchamajiggit?” Discombobulate the whatchamajiggit…hmmm…I can probably help tomorrow but not today. It’s more of a pause in thinking, or to make sure I heard it correctly. If I don’t do it then my go-to response is “let me check…” or “ummm” and an uncomfortably long pause.

      When I was a teenager and Valley Girl was a thing, I said Like all the time. At least I broke that habit. It really is like Um or Uh, just a pause in the train of thought.

      1. I prefer tea*

        I think I do the same as you’ve just described, but the big difference with this is that it’s in a conversation, in response to a direct query. Like you said, it gives you a second to formulate a response, and it’s when your response is expected. We’re not trying to dominate the conversation, just give a helpful reply.

        Fergus simply chiming in when he hasn’t been asked a question and when others are actively listening is a whole new level of “I need to be noticed; aren’t you glad I’m here” hostile takeover.

        1. Noobtastic*

          Don’t you just want to say, “Yes, Fergus. We all notice you, and we’re glad you’re here. Now, back to what I was saying…”

      2. Frozen Up North*

        I used to have this weird habit of moving my mouth in time with the other person towards the end of their sentences, but only if they were in story telling mode and if I was super caught up. I didn’t notice I did until I saw my dad doing it to me. Instant embarrassment for all the times I was suddenly sure I had done it.

    9. salad fingers*

      As a manager, I definitely do this. It isn’t an intentional thing, but I’m pretty sure that I do this to give myself time to think about what has just been said to me – sort of in place of “hmmmmm” – and to let the person know that i’m listening. For me I think this is a processing time before automatically saying or agreeing to something that I cannot be 100% sure of.

      Or, I could just be an ass?

    10. Elizabeth West*

      There was an older guy at my group coffee meetup on Saturday who kept constantly interrupting me in a loud voice. I was trying to talk and he would start talking over me–like he would NOT let me speak no matter what I was saying. It was super annoying. If he does it again, I’m going to say, “Just a second, Bob; I wasn’t finished yet,” and see what happens. If he sulks, I’m just going to let him sulk.

  4. anonynony*

    I can’t quite decide whether it would be helpful vs. condescending to outline in more detail what seems to be expected here–that he is there to be trained in a new role for him, not to train others. Thus it is more important for him to listen than to speak. That questions are of course welcome but there is an appropriate moment for them and learning to read the room and know when that moment occurs is important to his interactions with both his colleagues and his clients.

    1. Stanger than fiction*

      Not to mention, in addition to his annoying interrupting, he’s also giving out wrong info.

      1. DeskBird*

        I wonder is the LW calling Fergus out when he says something wrong? In my experience this will bring things to a head really fast. This kind of person does not like to be told they are wrong.

    2. Over Development*

      Early in my career, I had a boss say to me, “this isn’t school, you don’t have to spend every meeting or training trying to show off how smart you are” after I had been Hermoine in the early books during a database training.

      I was embarrassed, but it helped me refocus what the purpose of trainings were. It was much more important that the entire team came back to the office understanding the project than me showing off how quickly I could get things right.

  5. Cyril Figgis*

    I’ve seen many women do this too. It’s inherently rude, but not inherently sexist (i.e., it could be sexist, but may not be). In the end, it shouldn’t matter if it is sexist or not. The fact that it is very rude is enough to make it unacceptable behaviour.

    Labeling it as “mansplaining” is sexist though. I guess I’m done reading this blog. It’s very disappointing given the usually high-quality of discourse here.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Labeling sexist behavior (women disproportionately receive this behavior from men) as sexist is not itself a sexist act, but I said at the very top of this post that we aren’t going to debate this. (That means everyone else, please resist the urge to get into it here too.) Thanks.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Thanks for shutting this down, Alison (and for the disclaimer up top).

    2. animaniactoo*

      You can disagree – even strongly – with one aspect of something, and be vocal about it where appropriate, while still participating in and appreciating the rest if you find that much good stuff there.

      Just to say… leaving over this may be the right move for you and your beliefs, and only you can make that decision, but it’s worth considering whether that’s actually a detrimental move to/for you in the bigger picture.

    3. Retail HR Guy*

      In case you missed it (since it was posted later than your comment) and in case it matters to you, it was OP that initially labeled the behavior as mansplaining, not Alison. That part of the communication just didn’t make it into the published letter.

      To me that makes a difference because OP is the only one here who knows Fergus and is therefore in a position to judge whether his motivations for the rude behavior are sexist or not. Without that bit of info it could seem like Alison is jumping to that conclusion on her own; however, she was simply deferring to OP’s judgment and OP’s terminology (controversial as that term may be).

      1. Mookie*

        Likewise, Alison is the one receiving letters, reading through them, selecting them, writing back when necessary for clarification or additional information, publishing them, and then responding to them, so she has access to more contextual material than we do. The way she chooses to frame the issue(s) at hand is, usually without fail, the correct one. Automatically pooh-poohing a framing that doesn’t please us aesthetically or politically is equally ‘splainy and derailing.

    4. Trout 'Waver*

      I propose a new internet axiom:

      Whenever the term mansplain is used on the internet, someone must show up to mansplain mansplaining.

      1. AMPG*

        We can tack it on as a corollary to Lewis’s Law: “The comments on any article about feminism justify feminism.”

    5. Chriama*

      Every time this phrase is mentioned I see a similarly worded comment – so similar I’m experiencing déjà vu. Are you commenting under different names each time?

    6. really*

      So like too many people these days you have decided that one small thing (that in your opinion is “bad”) negates all the good. It’s like cutting your best friend out of your life because green is his favorite color and you yours is yellow.

    7. OP*

      OP here- I just wanted to add that on a recent management call my boss asked Jane and I to think through who Fergus was doing this to. He’s not doing it to older male managers- and doing it only mildly to younger men on the team.

      1. J-nonymous*

        First, I think you’re doing a great job of handling this in the moment as you’ve described it. Based on what you’re seeing, you could even bring this up in broader terms with Fergus – point out to him that the appearance he gives of talking over you, interrupting, and providing inaccurate information before you have a chance to give the actual correct information — and doing this predominantly with women rather than men — gives the appearance that gender plays a role in how he “just tries to learn.”

        If you don’t want to tackle that specific issue with him, that would also be understandable. I’d just be clear that the behavior he’s demonstrating does not leave you at all convinced that he’s absorbing the information and that it would be unacceptable to talk over customers in a similar manner. Then I’d say that you expect to see immediate improvement in his demonstrating listening skills by allowing all speakers to finish what they’re saying before he adds his opinion.

        I recognize from your letter that you’re not his supervisor / manager – so maybe clear that approach with Jane. But from my experience in prior roles, trainers had the authority to coach me and others on problematic behaviors that were affecting our training.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        He sounds like he is a bully who is picking who he deems to be the weaker victims.

        Stay strong, OP. You are doing a great job. This type of thing is tough-tough. Alison’s line about not slacking off is a bar of gold. It’s hard to keep fighting this day after day but this is exactly how to handle it.
        Think of it as he is relentless, so you have to match that same level of relentlessness.

      3. Old Admin*

        I’m wondering if this behavior could be something to base a PIP on?
        It needs to corrected quickly and thoroughly, or it could disrupt the OP’s work badly.

    8. Crazy Canuck*

      Yeah, I’ve stopped reading or participating in the comments section for similar reasons.

        1. Retail HR Guy*

          Maybe Crazy Canuck stopped for a time and then started again later? That would make the statement technically correct.

  6. k*

    It sounds like you’re handling the situation well in the moment, stand firm! I really agree that you need to bring your concerns to Jane. I’m assuming Jane isn’t always present when you’re training Fergus (correct me if I’m wrong) so your insight to his behavior is very valuable.

    1. Cobol*

      I just want to second this. OP from your comment above it seems like it’s sexism combined with some ageism, and your manager is already addressing.

      Keep doing what you are doing. It sounds like being firm is Jane’s approach, and you have the right to do what you’re doing.

      1. nhbillups*

        I do not at all wish to violate Alison’s ban on focusing on the wording, and I hope that my genuine confusion will suffice to allow this comment. But I thought ageism was only a thing if the individual is over 40…? Am I wrong about that?

          1. nhbillups*

            Alison, LBK, and Zahra, thank you all! I’m not used to using legal vs. common terminology yet but I’ll learn :) Writing contracts, it’s been drilled into my brain that legal definition is THE definition. Thanks for taking the time to entirely-appropriately-explain-as-requested!

            1. ageism uk*

              Here in the UK, the government complied with European Human Rights requirements through a new Equality Act. It made “age” a protected characteristic – but that isn’t limited to people over 40. It can be anyone at any age.

              One particular case was that kids in care would be classed as adults and chucked out of children’s care and children’s services at 16, but they weren’t entitled to adult support services and benefits until they hit 18. IIRC, they won that under anti-ageism laws because the age discrimination breached their human rights.

            2. Candi*

              @nhbillups: One legal vs common that crops up a bit in the comments is hostile-dictionary vs hostile-legal, and that the first occurring does not mean the second is.

        1. LBK*

          Legally-defined age discrimination only applies to people over 40, but ageism as a general concept and form of prejudice doesn’t.

        2. Zahra*

          If you’re talking legally, it’s only over 40.

          If you’re talking about -isms (racism, sexism, etc.) it’s about who’s got more institunional/societal privilege. In general, people with more experience in an industry (thus, usually older) have more privilege than younger people.

  7. Dizzy Steinway*

    A moment of appreciation for the stock photo. Is that the butt half of a lion I see on the filing cabinet?

    Anyway, this letter made me think about how some people think they have to know everything from day one in a new job. And demonstrate that by loudly telling people or criticising how it’s all done. I’d be tempted to suggest that Jane tells Fergus it’s great that he wants to learn but to learn you need to listen and not talk over people, can you do that? I’d suggest being really clear on what you do expect him to know about and where you expect him to be listening and learning at this point. And also you could all cut him off with something like: “Please let X finish. There will be time for questions at the end.” If he’s not asking a question, he’s going to struggle to explain that.

    1. Alucius*

      Yeah, I like your last two sentences in particular. Some presentations work fine with questions peppered throughout, but for others you really need to let the speaker get all the way through her material before addressing the topic as a whole. Fergus should be able to recognize and adhere to that. If he can’t…ugh

    2. Nea*

      Is that the butt half of a lion I see on the filing cabinet?

      It looks like a horse’s ass to me, which is remarkably appropriate to the topic.

      1. DeskBird*

        I re-opened the link just to check – I agree it looks like a horse butt. These are the things that compel me I guess?

          1. Zombii*

            I couldn’t fathom how anyone wouldn’t know the difference between a lion-butt and a horse-butt, so I clicked to check… and it kinda looks like it has a bunny tail? so now I totally get it. :)

            1. Gadfly*

              After zooming in, I am half convinced it is the back half of a saddle-wearing goat. But it could be a rabbit… hmmmm….

    3. Mephyle*

      As you mention, Jane needs to tell Fergus that it’s great that he wants to learn but to learn you need to listen and not talk over people.
      In reading the original letter, my attention was also caught by Fergus’s excuse to Jane that he was trying to learn. She needs to make clear to him that you don’t learn with your mouth open and your ears closed – in wording similar to that, if necessary.

  8. animaniactoo*

    When he sulks and says “I’m just trying to learn!”… that is your opening to say calmly to him “and that will happen if you let me finish telling you what you need to learn”.

    A couple of specific things you might discuss with him:
    • If he’s trying to talk over you because he’s trying to address a specific point and doesn’t want to lose his train of thought, ask him to take notes so that he can raise it after you’ve finished talking.
    • Ask him if he’s already composing what he wants to ask/say while you’re talking. If he says yes, talk to him about how counterproductive that is, because it means that he’s not focused on what you’re saying and may miss that the answer to his question is coming up next in your explanation and he actually doesn’t need to say anything – or that you’ve moved on to other valuable info that he’s missing in his impatience to get to “his turn” to speak. If he says no, talk to him about how that’s good because it’s so counterproductive when somebody does that, because it means they’re not…

    A point of disagreement with AAM’s advice: I would not refer to “my old customers” when talking about the concerns with Jane, because it sounds territorial. I think you want to be divorced from that and really, it isn’t about your particular old customers, but ANY customers – including new ones – being put off by him. So I would be more general about that. “I’m concerned about how he’ll interact with customers, particularly in our customer base where it would be a problem for [_____]”, etc.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I would not refer to “my old customers” when talking about the concerns with Jane, because it sounds territorial.

      Agreed with this point (and Alison’s advice). It’s something I’ve struggled with in the past and it’s difficult to accept that no matter how solid of a relationship you’ve built, someone else is responsible for taking care of their needs now.

      1. KarenD*

        You’re both spot on. I had this same problem when I moved from one assignment to another – they had assigned a rather horrible person (oddly, mansplaining was NOT among “Andre’s” faults but he had just about all of the rest of them) to follow me and he was burning “my” contacts right, left and sideways (and they were burning up my phone, calling to complain).

        I made the mistake of adopting a too-proprietary air when I relayed my concerns, which allowed the higher-ups to dismiss the whole thing as “Karen being territorial.” By the time they realized that yes, we had a pretty freaking giant problem on our hands, half the critical contacts were refusing to even acknowledge Andre’s existence and our Boss of All the Bosses had to step in personally and smooth things over. Even after that, the person they shifted over to replace Andre had problems for months.

    2. J.B.*

      I had an employee who mansplained to me, and told our boss it was my fault because I said too many things…who after years of screwups finally convinced said boss that he was not awesome in fact needed to be encouraged out!

      1. Czhorat*

        Fun fact: everyone thinks women talk more they do. After a meeting, participants will say that women dominated the conversation if they speak 30% of the time.

  9. Turanga Leela*

    OP, I can’t tell from your letter how long it’s been since the meeting where you had to tell Fergus to stop, but it sounds like you handled it really well. The fact that he sulked rather than apologized is not a good sign.

    Please send us an update on what happens to Fergus!

    1. kb*

      It’s not a good sign, but I’ll hold out hope! This isn’t a work-related story, but I think it applies. I recently mentioned to my uncle (who’s about the same age as Fergus) that the way he talked about women sometimes was actually pretty sexist and gross. He reacted how Fergus did and I thought it was a lost cause, but a few weeks later when I next saw him, he approached me and apologized. He said it was hard hearing that he’d been wrong and harmful for so long. It can be difficult to confront that you’ve been behaving problematically for years and never even thought twice about it. I hope Fergus processes and makes changes for the better, even if his initial reaction wasn’t great.

      1. TC*

        years ago, during an argument, my flustered husband once yelled at me, “well, nobody likes being told that they’re wrong!!” for the life of me I can’t remember what the argument was actually about, but that particular line stuck with me. I know that if I tell someone they’re wrong about something, their initial feelings might be hurt, but good people reflect on their behaviour and make changes. I know that I have felt the initial sting of being told that I was wrong about something, but I take the feedback with grace, reflect, and do whatever I need to from there (be it change or fight back).

        1. Astor*

          “I know that if I tell someone they’re wrong about something, their initial feelings might be hurt, but good people reflect on their behaviour and make changes.”

          YES. Same. I try to leave people room to reflect on their behaviour and make changes as much as possible, because that immediate reaction is hard to get right, and it’s hard to shake once it’s been observed.

  10. fposte*

    I also think that if it comes back again, or if you do talk to him about it, you can address the “I’m just trying to learn.” While that may not be a strictly accurate representation of his motivation, it’s a good way into the conversation that isn’t just STFU. So you could frame it as “Learning is important, but it has to be done non-disruptively, and I think you’ll get more out of it if you listen until others are finished, too.”

    1. DeskBird*

      I would want to reply with “You aren’t going to learn by listening to yourself talk” but that may be uncalled for.

      1. fposte*

        And it also could be untrue–I’m a big-time verbal processor, so I do learn by listening to myself talk (or reading myself write). I’m not convinced that that’s what’s going on here, but it’s reasonable to preserve the possibility or the polite fiction.

        1. animaniactoo*

          Sometimes it’s memory reinforcement, which could mean that there’s some adjustment that needs to happen on both their parts in order to train Fergus. At least give it the benefit of the doubt…

          1. Amber T*

            Mmm I’m a bit hesitant about that. I repeat things to myself to reinforce things (if I don’t write it down or say it out loud to myself I just won’t remember it). When you repeat something to reinforce it, you’re doing it for yourself, so it’s usually fairly quiet. I know other people have heard me do so, but there’s a vast difference between hearing someone mutter to themselves and ANNOUNCE it to the room because he’s so smart, just as smart as the OP, probably even smarter. A considerate employee/coworker would be a bit abashed at being called out like that too, not complain that he’s just trying to learn then sulk. Jane and OP can certainly recommend taking notes or being open for questions after meeting or the like, but it sounds like it’s a confidence & behavioral problem with Fergus, not a learning technique.

          2. A.*

            I agree, some people really don’t learn well in a classroom lecture type environment and more active methods of learning work better for them. But if this is the case for Fergus, he is making his point the wrong way. I think it would be helpful for the OP to set expectations up front for when to listen and when it is okay to ask questions/ make comments. And of course hold Fergus to that, with Jane’s support.

        2. Lily Rowan*

          Oh crap, that is totally why I take so many notes all the time! Because not everything can be a conversation, and just sitting there watching someone talk means I’m probably not actually paying close attention.

          1. sayevet*

            No crap, this is a great realization about yourself!

            Even though I prefer everything to be paperless, I find that taking pen-and-paper notes during meetings or lectures helps me stay engaged. If I use a phone/tablet/computer I get distracted by formatting those notes, so I take my handwritten notes home and type them up later.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              Me too, and it gives me something to refer back to later. I don’t trust myself to remember everything someone tells me when I’m training. I always tell whoever is doing the training, “Let me write this down and make sure I’ve got it right,” so I don’t have to ask them again. This might not be practical for Fergus in a classroom setting or if there are several learners, however.

              1. Wheezy Weasel*

                As a trainer, that’s important feedback to hear in real-time if you feel comfortable sharing it. I tend to get a little enthusiastic about my subject matter and want to rush ahead to the next cool thing…while the learners really want to write down the steps in a way that makes sense to them. I’m trying to build in ‘silent pauses’ to let people get caught up if I see them writing.

                1. Snazzy Hat*

                  I always tell whoever is doing the training, “Let me write this down and make sure I’ve got it right,” so I don’t have to ask them again.
                  As a trainer, that’s important feedback to hear in real-time

                  If I’m with a particularly easygoing trainer, I’ll quickly read back what I wrote to confirm I didn’t miss anything. Glad to hear from a random trainer that I should keep that habit.

          2. One of the Sarahs*

            Same – if I’ve written it down, or had a conversation about it, it’s gone in (took me going back to uni for art school to also recognise that doodling is a legit form of concentration-aid)

            1. Not Australian*

              “doodling is a legit form of concentration-aid”

              I wish my school had understood this. I lost count of the times I was punished for doodling…

        3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I’m a verbal processor, also (I learn best by talking out loud). Thankfully I’ve been socialized to understand that group trainings are not the right forum for exercising my personal learning style, and I certainly don’t interrupt someone mid-sentence and talk over them at ever-increasing decibels.

          But something that might be helpful if OP is willing is to sit down with Fergus one-on-one to discuss his learning style and what can/cannot be accommodated in these presentations. That’s a huge time-suck on OP’s part, but perhaps getting him to understand and articulate reasonable methods of learning/engaging will help reinforce boundaries re: communication style.

          1. seejay*

            Yup agreed with this. While his “learning style” might include having to repeat things out loud (which I doubt given his method of repeating things louder and louder to be heard over the OP), it’s bound to be disruptive and get in the way of other peoples’ learning styles, which is probably far more common. I have a slight hearing disability and extra talking going on in a classroom or lecture hall makes it really difficult for me to parse the main voice out. I deal with it by sitting as close as I can to the speaker or lecturer but if I had Fergus sitting near me and repeating stuff at the same time, my brain would just be getting two sets of mumbled words and I’d overload. And eventually I’d yell at someone out of frustration.

            Most people are going to need it to be relatively quiet, so he’d need to figure out a way do his learning where it’s not disrupting everyone else (if that’s a legitimate issue for him, which seems highly doubtful anyway based on other points in the letter)

        4. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          Yeah, I’m the same way — I don’t understand something until I’ve repeated it back in my own words. But that doesn’t really explain what he’s doing here, and he needs to stop talking over people.

          (I studied for my securities exams by explaining the stock market to my cat in the evenings. Sort of the financial equivalent of rubber-ducking code)

        5. Gene*

          I know you’re not, but are you my boss?

          He’s very much a verbal processor, and he needs to process at someone. As the most senior person and the one who knows the ins and outs of the field best, I’m usually the one he processes at. I’ve come to accept that’s how he works, and he’s good about letting me finish what I’m working on before processing; but it can be a huge drain on my time.

          But, this isn’t what Fergus is doing.

        6. So Very Anonymous*

          I’m a verbal processor too, and I have a tendency to sometimes repeat back something phrased somewhat differently to be sure I’m understanding something (“so in other words, it’s like XYZ?”). But that doesn’t necessarily sound like what Fergus is doing. And if I were rephrasing something in a way that was incorrect, I would definitely want someone to correct me so I knew I was getting it right.

        7. Mookie*

          I’m another one, as well, and regularly rehearse/revisit conversations verbatim from work and school, less so with personal acquaintances. It’s quite useful for memorizing information, processing new data and procedures, tinkering with old problems, discovering new ones, and examining intercourse for faux pas (on my side), in addition to practicing or dreaming up functional, helpful rejoinders for common verbal stumbling blocks.

      2. misspiggy*

        Ha – I’ve realised, slightly to my shame, that listening to myself talk is exactly how I learn. I’ve got some ADD/adult ADHD characteristics, and I have to fight all the time not to do a Fergus (I’m female, by the way). Sometimes I lose the battle, but at least I apologise in the moment.

        If I have something to type my thoughts on as others are speaking, I can learn effectively without having to speak. But if I haven’t got a laptop or at least a notepad handy, it’s a huge challenge to a) get anything out of a training session and b)not drive other people up the wall.

        Doesn’t mean Fergus is in the right, and by putting his own needs above everyone else’s he is clearly being an ass. But I can definitely empathise with characteristics that might lead someone towards being like this.

        1. Grits McGee*

          “Don’t do a Fergus” is a motto that should be embroidered on all soft furnishings.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            This makes me wish we had merch like My Favorite Murder does. Instead of “Stay Out of the Forest” we could have shirts/mugs/needlepoint that reads, “Don’t do a Fergus.”

      3. Eleanor Lavish*

        Yes! This brought to mind something a workplace coach said a long time ago has really stuck with me, and that is “When you’re talking, you’re not listening.” Might be a bit blunt to say in the moment, but it is very true.

      4. Charlie*

        No, I think it’s 100% called for. Or, slightly burnier, “Then you need to listen more and talk less,” or “Then you need to let me talk rather than interrupting me and speaking louder.”

    2. Zooey*

      “You need to find a way to learn that isn’t disrespectful to the people around you.”

      1. Midge*

        I like this! I also think that once the OP has done all the things that Alison suggested, it might be a good time to do some reflection on her teaching/training style. I’m not at all saying the way she teaches is to blame. But reflection and self-evaluation make you a better instructor. So is she using a variety of pedagogical techniques, or only using one mode, like lecturing with power point slides? Is she giving her trainees different opportunities to process information like turn and talks, discussions, reflection activities, or authentic learning experiences? Is she giving them “just in time” information they can use immediately, or is it mostly “just in case” information that they will need in the future? Ok, I’m done nerding out about education now. :)

        1. OP*

          OP here- totally agree! For what it’s worth I did a postdoctoral fellowship in teaching and training. I do zero straight lecturing and expect robust conversation, based on varied types of training activities.

    3. Liane*

      In first grade, when we would interrupt–or just start raising hands–before she was finished talking, my teacher would tell us, “Let me finish talking–I’ll probably have answered your questions. If not, *then* you can ask. When I am not speaking.”
      Maybe the OP should quote Mrs. R. at Fergus.

    1. ArtsNerd*

      I’m selfishly a bit disappointed that OP and Jane are so well equipped for this, because I was hoping to apply Alison’s advice to my own office!

  11. paul*

    Is he still in his probationary period? letting him go sounds like a reasonable solution to me, but maybe I’m testy today.

    It’s like, absolutely regardless of *why* he’s doing this, it’s an awful behavior, and hurts everyone around–you, him, customers, you name it.

    1. Temperance*

      FWIW, I totally agree with you. LW had reservations about him during the interview process, too, and it looks like her hunch was correct. I can’t tell from the letter, but it looks like LW might not have the ability to fire him.

      1. k*

        My interpretation is that Jane would be the one with the firing ability. I think that’s why Alison’s wording “I have grave concerns about Fergus at this point….Are you sure that he’s the right fit for the role?” is so important. Jane needs to know that these are serious concerns about his performance, and not OP just venting about something annoying he did.

    2. Blue_eyes*

      Agreed. If he’s still in training and he’s this obnoxious, just imagine how he will be when he gets “comfortable” and has a little experience under his belt. It sounds like OP, Jane, and other coworkers are all noticing the same unprofessional behaviors. I think Jane needs to have a serious talk with him about expectations that makes it clear that his job is on the line if he can’t get it together.

      1. Zombii*

        >I think Jane needs to have a serious talk with him about expectations that makes it clear that his job is on the line if he can’t get it together.

        Agree with this completely, but the letter makes it sound like Jane might not have firing authority either: OP was promoted, OP had concerns about one of the candidates (maybe the only candidate?) during interviews, but the company hired him because the position “needed to be filled.” Companies that hire a problematic candidate instead of continuing to search for the right candidate are often not functional enough to fire problematic employees.

    3. Sympathy For The Devil*

      If he is in fact in a probationary period, and they felt like giving him one more chance (or more rope, depending on your perspective) it might be useful for them to sit him down in a nice closed-door meeting and lay out their concerns about his performance to date, its impact on his potential future employment there, and steps they expect him to take to improve.

      And then watch his reaction.
      And then proceed accordingly.

      1. AD*

        Alison, I’d be curious to hear if you think Jane (his manager) is addressing this effectively. It sounds like she’s definitely aware of the issue (and has also spoken to Fergus more than once), but considering this is already developing into a kind of major issue already (for someone who is a pretty recent hire), should she do more?

        I know we’re not privy to Jane/Fergus conversations, but I’m questioning (a little) Jane’s ability to make inroads on the bad behavior, based on what we’re hearing.

        1. AD*

          I know you addressed this a bit in your response, but I’m just wondering if putting up a hand is enough (if Fergus is steamrolling over the person conducting a training). Shouldn’t she be more vocal to stop Fergus if he’s so clearly derailing?

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          She definitely should do more than just stop here — she should move pretty quickly from addressing it in the moment (done) to separate conversation about the issue (done) to “we’ve talked about this and it’s still happening; this is a serious concern and needs to stop immediately” to probably letting him go if that doesn’t stop it.

          1. Lynly*

            Yep. This is the correct escalation. Pretty textbook in this case, which makes it relatively easy and straightforward as far as the world of performance management goes.

      2. paul*

        My understanding from the letter was that she was roughly equal with the person’s manager and might be able to have a word with their manager about it at least (and that his manager wasn oticing some of the same problems). Or is that not considered appropriate in most workplaces (I really haven’t worked in very many organizations)?

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          No, that’s definitely appropriate — that’s what I was suggesting in my answer with the “Jane, I have grave concerns – do you think he’s the right fit?” bit of language.

          She just doesn’t have the authority to decide to fire him.

  12. DeskBird*

    As you have to remind him not to speak over you – maybe count how many times as you go. “Fergus – this is the second time you’ve interrupted me today” “Fergus for the third time – don’t interrupt me when I’m talking” “Fergus – this is four times now!” and keep going. It will bother and fluster him and make it look like he can’t follow instruction (he can’t). Then at the end of the meeting you can drive it home “Fergus – you interrupted me six times in the meeting today – we talked about this before, what is going on?”

    1. Another Lawyer*

      We had a chronic interrupter in a seminar class, and my teacher handed him 3 index cards at the beginning of every class. He had to give one up every time he spoke and once he was out of them he couldn’t talk for the rest of the class.

      1. Sorcha*

        I did something similar with a student who tended to dominate discussions/lessons with irrelevant questions. I used to put five dots on the classroom whiteboard at the start of each lesson, then wipe one out each time he asked a question. Once he was out of dots he had to write his questions down instead of asking them aloud. Being able to see his question opportunities decreasing soon put a stop to the behaviour – within 6 weeks he stopped running out of questions, and by midterm he stopped asking irrelevant questions entirely.

        1. paul*

          I feel like I need someone to do this on every conference call I’m on, for every attendee (including me). Can we hire that person on?

        2. Bonky*

          God – I was on an exec ed course for several weekends last year, and this would have been a PERFECT way for the poor trainers to handle That One Guy. It’s amazing how disruptive a single person can be.

      2. Roman Holiday*

        That is a brilliant and I wish I’d had that in college for a few particular individuals.

    2. OhNo*

      That’s a really good idea. Especially if his motivation is to make himself look good (IME, it usually is with these types), calling out his behavior with that language is going to make it self-defeating for him to keep it up. Sometimes, all you can do with chronic interrupters is to take away whatever benefit they get from interrupting.

    3. Clever Name*

      This is brilliant. This is the type of behavior I’d expect from my 10 year old who has ADHD. Not from a seasoned professional. He’s acting very childish, so calling him out in this manner is perfect.

  13. RebeccaNoraBunch*

    OP, I am in almost your exact position and right around your age, if not a year or two younger. I’ve been at my company 3.5 years and last year was promoted to be a full-time trainer, and while not a manager, I have exactly the same responsibilities you do.

    Also last year, I encountered several new hires like Fergus. Interestingly, the worst offender was an old(er) man in his mid-50s who would also talk over me, question me at every turn, and acted like he knew everything when he abjectly didn’t. I also went to my manager very frustrated about halfway through my time with him, and the manager told me to do very similar things that you’re doing now.

    If it makes you feel better, this person didn’t last long at our organization because the culture wasn’t a good fit. The experiences he had with me were not singular; he also acted that way with his manager and colleagues. If Fergus doesn’t change his approach or become more coachable, it’s very possible you won’t be stuck with him for very long.

    For what it’s worth, having been a trainer for more than a year now, I think everything you’re doing is great. It’s also great that you have support in his manager. However, what I found I had to do (I train salespeople, so they’re even more resistant to training sometimes!) is to show my own credibility as a trainer right upfront, like at the very beginning of our class time together. Sometimes that means just talking about my history with the company. Sometimes, with people more likely to push, it means throwing them into a customer role-play immediately and showing them I’m good at what they’re about to be doing. Sometimes it means playing them some of my former calls. I’m still working on the best combination to show my own credibility right at the beginning for students, but you may want to think about doing something like that in the future as well.

    It doesn’t excuse Fergus’ behavior at all, but honestly what I found was that some of the worst offenders for this type of behavior were men my age or younger. It isn’t even about age, though in your case that might be adding to it. Often, you have to show them that you do actually Know What You’re Doing and you got your job as a trainer because of that (you’d think that’d be obviously, but lol no it isn’t), and that’s what sets the tone for the rest of your time with them.

    Good luck and I hope this helps!

    1. animaniactoo*

      My youngest sister is a high school teacher, she 33 but looks like she’s maybe 20, and she’s short to boot (about 5’3″).

      She’s said that something another teacher told her is absolutely true for everyone, but even more true for her: You can’t crack a smile on the first day. For her, it’s the first week. No smiles, no jokes, or she’s lost them for pretty much the whole semester. She’s got to be scary first and then she can relax once they already take her seriously.

      Dealing with adults, I imagine you don’t need to be quite “scary” as much as “established knowledgeable/professional”, but I think what you’re talking about here is a similar dynamic in the category of being taken seriously in general.

      1. many bells down*

        I always heard “Don’t smile until Christmas” as a guide for new teachers. Although my last teaching position was a drama instructor so that would have been REALLY hard to manage!

        1. paul*

          Or, as my old typing teacher used to say “Smile while eviscerating an unruly student.”

          That woman terrified us all but she taught us to type and our class was quiet.

          1. Mookie*

            YES. Smile when you’re expressing (an appropriate, considerate, and healthy level of) dominance or when asserting yourself in an otherwise neutral, if not arch, tone (doesn’t pay dividens to undermine the message by softening it up too much, I find).

      2. the gold digger*

        That’s the advice I got when I was substitute teaching! To start out mean and, if necessary, send a kid to the principal’s office right away. My friend, who is a teacher, said, “You can always get nicer. You can’t get meaner.”

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I gave this advice to a family member who was a teacher in reference to dealing with my dog. I said, “At the beginning of the year teacher’s start out strict. The rules loosen once they find out about the group they are working with. The same concepts can be used with my bouncy puppy. You can loosen up later, set your expectations now.”
          It worked like a charm. Dog and relative had a wonderful relationship.

    2. Gyrfalcon*

      I took project management training at a shipbuilding company. (I didn’t work for the company, but they had opened up their training to other companies in town.). In the first hour, he found a way to include a story about his hobby: welding. It struck me as a good way for him, the trainer-who-doesn’t-wear-a-hardhat, to establish his credibility with shipbuilders.

  14. ZenJen*

    Ugh, Fergus really needs some lessons in respect. I’ve dealt with people interrupting me during meetings, and I politely but FIRMLY call them out on it–it’s so rude to talk over other people in meetings, especially when they’re interrupting the person running the meeting (me). It’s one of my biggest peeves, lately!

  15. AnonEMoose*

    One thing that jumped out at me in your letter, OP, is that several members of the team have commented negatively on Fergus’s behavior – and have been supportive of you. That Fergus chose to ignore Jane’s signals to stop and back off argues that, whatever is going on with him, it’s not exclusively directed at you. Is his lack of respect rooted in your age and gender? It sounds like it to me – but he also showed blatant disrespect to Jane.

    These are things from which you can draw strength, if you wish. YOU are not the one “making things awkward” – Fergus is. You are simply “returning the awkward to sender,” as Captain Awkward puts it. Keep right on shutting Fergus down when he acts inappropriately. The more firm, unruffled, and professional you can remain, the better. Think of the most “no nonsense” teachers you may have known, if that’s helpful to you.

    And I agree with Alison; don’t be afraid to bring up your concerns to Jane. If Fergus cannot treat those senior to him with respect, this may not be the best fit for him. And that is NOT YOUR FAULT. It’s his. Don’t let him deflect responsibility on to you. If he cannot accept the coaching that this behavior isn’t acceptable, maybe he would be better off finding employment elsewhere.

    1. Parenthetically*

      I LOVE that phrase about returning the awkward to sender. One of my favorites from CA.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      “If he cannot accept the coaching that this behavior isn’t acceptable, maybe he would be better off finding employment elsewhere.”

      For things like this I think back to the many times I have accepted coaching and I think forward to those times in the future where I will receive more coaching.

      This helps me to realize that coaching is just part of holding down a job. It makes it easier for me when talking to a person about coaching to say, “I have to accept coaching, everyone has to accept coaching and so. do. you.”

  16. justsomeone*

    If these are trainings other people attend, I wonder if it would be worth it to ask him to leave trainings when he does it more than three times in a training. “Fergus, as you continue to be disruptive despite my requests, please leave. We’ll reschedule your training for another time.”
    It’s a way of calling him out and reinforcing a negative consequence of his behavior.

    1. Grits McGee*

      It’s also a huge favor to everyone else in the meeting! Plus, it signals that staff aren’t expected to put up with getting steamrolled by Fergus themselves.

      1. AnonEMoose*

        So much this! I would be the person sitting there gritting my teeth and thinking longingly of Fergus and the meme about how duct tape can’t fix stupid – but can muffle the sound, and wondering “WHY isn’t Trainer shutting this down?! OMG, this guy is so obnoxious…!”

      2. Amber T*

        It’s awful being in a meeting/training session when there’s a Fergus in the room. You might get a standing ovation if you send him out of the room.

    2. MuseumChick*

      Yes this. I’m also a fan of allowing an awkward silence. So, Fergus interrupts you OP, once he’s done talking stare him down for 10 – 15 seconds without saying a word. The slowly and calmly you say some along the lines of justsomeone.

    3. This is my Spout*

      I too was thinking that if a hand out and request to be quiet doesn’t work, it’s time to send him out of the meeting. His next step will probably be to say it interferes with his training. I say you are training him out to behave in a meeting.

    4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I think this is a great idea, although I’d make sure someone spoke to him one-on-one about the problem, suggested concrete changes, and told him that if he continues to be disruptive you’ll have to ask him to leave. That way, if it happens in front of others, it won’t be this super public shaming that’s humiliating. I mean, it will be that, but in theory it won’t blindside him because you’ve already explicitly laid out the consequences and are just holding him accountable.

      1. LabHeather*

        Good point. That way you will have laid the expectations out in front of him. If he complains about it being unfair, you can just refer back to the previous conversation/information/paper/whatever you choose to use to make sure he cannot deny having been given that information.

  17. Murphy*

    “Fergus, I’m in the middle of a sentence and I intend to get to the end of it — you need to wait.”

    This is as far as I’ve read so far, and I just need to say right now good for you, OP! Way to not put up with that! *goes back to reading*

  18. Catalin*

    “Fergus, I’m in the middle of a sentence and I intend to get to the end of it — you need to wait.”

    Standing up and clapping for you, LW. This is a sentence I expect to say to a six year old, it is HORRIBLE that you (quite rightfully) had to say it to a coworker.

    1. Grayson*

      I’m right there with Murphy. I was impressed and proud of you for standing your ground when someone is unreasonable. That’s an excellent shut down, if ever I saw one.

    2. Aealias*

      Yep! Love it. Virtual bouquets, LW, for having the self-possession to say this in the moment. What a perfect and appropriate admonishment.

  19. Mike C.*

    I really, really like the direct approach the OP is taking hear and really agree with Alison in being consistent with it. You can still be professional without having to cloak everything you say in softening and diffuse language.

    1. LCL*

      Yes, direct is best. You wrote ‘but I’ve been troubled by the situation ever since’. Don’t give it any more thought. He isn’t.

      I have to say something about one thing in your letter. Alison asked us to stay away from the genderwar stuff, so here is a generationwar point instead. From my perspective, if I am trying to speak up and someone raises their hand at me, I go from calm to wanting to throw a chair at the handwaver instantly. I see the raising of hand as a claiming of authority, shut up small child gesture. I am even hacked off when I am driving and give peds the right of way as is the law and when they cross the street they raise their hand in a stop motion. Makes me want to run them right over, or at least throw my coffee cup at them. I am in my midfifties. I recognize that raised hand gesture is done by people 20+ years younger than I, and is considered a polite way to do things. But it isn’t a calming gesture to the older crowd, it is an invitation to throw down.

      1. Die Forelle*

        I used to be a teacher, so I feel you on the hand raising being a slightly more subtle way of interrupting someone, especially when it’s a presentation and not a Q&A session or when questions haven’t been explicitly invited by the presenter.

        I do want to say that when I’m a pedestrian crossing a street, my hand-wave to a driver is intended as a thank you gesture, not a stop motion. I’m usually attempting eye contact as well, to make sure we see each other. It never occurred to me that it would be interpreted as a stop gesture. I might try to make more of a waving motion to be clear about that. :) And thanks for stopping for pedestrians!

        1. Electric Hedgehog*

          Me too! I hadn’t even realized it could be misinterpreted that way so now I feel like I’ve been an unwitting jerk!

        2. hbc*

          I think I’ve seen the hand for stopping versus the hand up of acknowledgement for crossing the street. There’s kind of a timing difference between the two. Imagine a hand up for the length of time you would wave. Now imagine a hand being used by a police officer stopping traffic, except the officer is the one crossing.

          Though LCL, I wouldn’t say that’s generational. I’m the same age as the OP, and that pedestrian hand thing bugs me too. I’m already freaking stopped, do you think I’m an idiot who will drive right on over you while you’re crossing? And if I wasn’t going to obey the authority of the white lines, why would I obey a random citizen’s palm?

          1. One of the Sarahs*

            I’m with you – plus it’s also about the facial expression that goes with it, and body language. It would be hard to mistake my “hand raised in thanks” for my “hand raised in warning” in, eg, a road crossing scenario, because of everything else alongside it.

          2. Marisol*

            I just did the two waves and compared them. For me, the thank you wave is to the side of my body, and level with the head. The stop wave is directly in front of my body, halfway between head and chest. I have a feeling that the location of the hand is significant.

        3. SarahTheEntwife*

          Yeah, I do the same thing; it’s not a “stop” it’s a quick “hey, thanks!”. I’ll try to be wavier in the future :-)

        4. Elizabeth H.*

          LCL doesn’t mean like when you raise a hand in “thanks,” but like when you put your hand up like a crossing guard, “Stop, please see me here, stop.” They look kind of similar, one is like when you are driving that you give when someone lets you in, it’s like a wave but you just put your hand up a little bit half heartedly and don’t actually wave it from side to side. The other is like when you put your hand out flat with a serious expression and try to make and keep eye contact with the driver “HEY I AM HERE, DON’T DRIVE.” They are two different hand/eye contact/facial expression gestures. I agree this is really annoying when you are already stopped for the person to cross.

          1. chomps*

            “LCL doesn’t mean like when you raise a hand in “thanks,” but like when you put your hand up like a crossing guard, “Stop, please see me here, stop.””

            People do that???

            1. Elizabeth H.*

              Yeah, it’s not super rare. I have probably done it once or twice in my lifetime. Just a way of emphasizing “Hey you see me, right?”

        5. Elizabeth West*

          Oh gosh I just did that today. I hope the person I waved at realized it was a wave.

          I did a “shoo” gesture at some twerp who catcalled me out the window of a car a couple of weeks ago while I was taking my walk. They drove up to the corner and STOPPED THE CAR AND HE OPENED THE DOOR. Then he closed it and they turned–the driver must have talked him out of whatever he was going to do. I was a half block behind them, but boy, did my adrenaline kick in.

      2. Morning Glory*

        I don’t think ‘but I’ve been troubled by the situation ever since’ means the OP feels badly about how she handled it – I think it’s more that she is worried that this will be a continuing problem affecting the colleagues and clients she is leaving behind. So whether he’s still troubled or not isn’t very important.

        I appreciate your perspective on the hand issue though! I am younger and had never heard of this being a generational issue.

      3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Wow, that’s intense. I had no idea that older folks could take a raised hand that way (especially the part about pedestrians—I was taught a “stop” style raised hand in that context is usually a “thank you” gesture!). That said, in this context, it’s totally intended to signal “shut up, it’s not appropriate to talk right now.” Which might feel embarrassing or infantilizing, but it’s also entirely appropriate given that Fergus has no idea what he’s talking about, is being insanely rude, and isn’t responding to corrective efforts.

        That said, I have definitely been in meetings where I’m senior but the person receiving training is older than me but junior in the organization and then acts crazy. It’s extremely frustrating, in part because the craziness is a reaction to the older person’s perceptions/projections regarding social norms and deference. It’s not a great look.

        1. aebhel*

          Yeah, I doubt the problem is so much that a raised hand is an instant red flag to someone 50+, so much as the raised hand is a claiming of authority that an older person might find off-putting from someone much younger.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            Well this is sad.

            But you know I had an older family member say to me, “Stop treating me like a child!” So I said, “Then stop acting like one. Take your shower like you are supposed to do instead of giving people a hard time about showering.”

            Sorry, we have to respond to the behaviors we are seeing. He has been told repeatedly not to interrupt. He is lucky all he gets is a “stop sign”.

        2. Marty*

          Nothing infantilizing about or even rude about that gesture. Many of the rules of conversions care entirely arbitrary, and have been settled differently in different communities. When people from such different communities try to have a conversation, this kind of dysfunction is to be expected, and clearly signaling whose turn it is can really help.

          There really is nothing inherently rude about Fergus’s behavior, it’s the context that he is acting in that is the problem. Fergus is interrupting because the typical rules he uses for conversations are different, and have a different method for determining whose turn it is. According to his rules, everyone else in the room are crazy and rude. (In truth, this is just a kind of culture clash, and, if you want to solve it, that needs to be approached directly, preferably without any “you are so rude” baggage.)

          Some other thoughts how to deal with it: get comfortable talking over Fergus. When he interrupts you, act as if you didn’t hear him, and just keep talking (or use that gesture while looking directly at him). When you allow him to interrupt you too quickly, to him, it looks just like you had finished saying what you had to say. Now, when you get flustered, he thinks “but she said she was done, how crazy is she.”

          Second, when he is saying something that is wrong, consider interrupting him with a correction. After all, how is he going to learn when nobody tells him he is mistaken. (This is another place where a frank non-judgemental conversation can really help. Start with a ferret observation of his behavior, something like “in this last meeting you said [a couple things that are wrong]. Both these statements wetter incorrect. I found this annoying, because I need you to respect my expertise. How are we going to fix this problem, should I interrupt you, or would you prefer a hand signal?”)

          Remember, nobody is acting crazy, they just aren’t operating with the same rules, and that makes everyone appear crazy (and rude) to the other party.

          (For more information, you might wasn’t to look into Deborah Tannen’s work on conversation styles.)

          1. chomps*

            Based on the information in the letter, I don’t think this is accurate. Fergus ISN’T having a conversation, he’s listening to a trainer present information. He’s being rude.

          2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            I hear what you’re saying, but I’m going to push back. I don’t think you can extend Tannen’s research to excuse Fergus’ behavior. While Tannen offers a framework for understanding different modalities of conversation, I feel comfortable saying that in most American workplaces (i.e., not ones involving hard labor like construction and certain kinds of manufacturing) it is objectively rude to repeatedly interrupt and speak over the person facilitating a training session. When combined with raising your voice, that’s not a different conversation style with different rules and it’s not a culture clash—it’s a refusal to conform to prevailing norms. It’s true that depersonalizing the issue will make it easier to address, but I think it’s ok to view the behavior as inappropriate.

          3. neverjaunty*

            Fergus’s “rules” are that he knows more than everyone else and younger people, especially women, need to shut up and let him talk.

            Framing this as a simple cultural misunderstanding is a lot of effort to excuse Fergus being a jerk.

            1. Zombii*

              Wait, is Jerk Culture not a thing? I thought that was a thing. (I mean, it really seems like a thing.)

            2. Marty*

              What hind of behavior is construed as “jerk-like” is something that is largely culturally dependant, especially when it comes to conversations. What would be considered a normal conversational break in the rural south would be considered non-participation in New York. If these two held a conversation, the New Yorker would be thinking “how rude, that guy made me do all the work in that conversation”, while the Southerner would likewise thinking, “how rude, that guy didn’t let me get a word in edgewise, and interrupted me every chance he got”. Of course, neither person was being rude, just different. To a lesser degree, this kind of thing happens all the time, and is far more frequent than actual intentional rudeness.

              Worse, on this level, or culture tends to be different for the genders. This is one of the reasons that women get interrupted so frequently in meetings. (Of course, the sexism explanation also contributes, and it is difficult to figure out which contributes more. Perhaps, this should be described as one of the ways sexism operates in our society.)

              1. Gadfly*

                Or merely cultural variances in expressing sexism…. It is sexism, built into cultural expectations.

              2. Marty*

                I suppose that depends on how you define sexism. For instance is difference in how women and men dress sexist? In is certainly sexism adjacent, and back when they were hard an fast rules, it certainly contributed to the era’s general feel of sexism. But, do we have to eliminate all differences in dress to eliminate sexism, or, is this just an area of culture that heavily overlaps with sexism? This is not an easy question with clear answers.

          4. Marty*

            I’m not really trying to excuse his behavior, just trying to explain some of the more innocent reasons behind it. Hoping that, if you approach it from that direction, he might be more willing to change.

            Also, from personal experience, it can be really hard to see these behaviors from inside. By analyzing the linguistics of it, I have been able to gain some insight into the more overbearing aspects of my personality. I am hoping that he might benefit similarly.

          5. Marty*

            Also, it’s entirely possible that Fergus is an unrepentant misogynistic jerk, who thinks all women are weak fish things, but that doesn’t make the cultural explanation any less useful. After all, it would only serve to amplify his foul opinions. After all, every time he ends up holding the weight of a conversation because of these differences, he has a ready made excuse: “well women are stupid, what else should I expect?”

            Now when someone female exploits this explanation, and adapts toward his culture, they are breaking themselves out of his serotype. (Even a frank conversation around culture has this effect.) As a result, he is likely to behave less misogynisticly when they are around.

          6. Marty*

            Another critical benefit to this approach: because you are having a conversation about “how our cultures are different”, rather than “how Fergus need to stop being a jerk”, Fergus isn’t going to feel the need to defend himself (something that would typically ensure that Fergus won’t hear a thing that is being said). Instead, he can spend his efforts understanding how the local culture works, and how he can fit into it.

      4. Kathryn T.*

        It IS a claiming of authority, though. The OP has the authority to direct the training, and Fergus does not. It shouldn’t be infuriating for an authority to claim authority.

      5. seejay*

        I don’t know where you get the whole hand raised gesture as a throw down, but where I’m from, it’s meant as an acknowledged thank you, especially in places where drivers tend to be rude and less inclined to give pedestrians and cyclists the right of way when they should. I wave at a lot of cars as a thank you to acknowledge them for noticing me and being polite to me, since most cars tend to try to run me off the road (I ride a bike in the middle of traffic in a major city in the US so it’s nice when drivers actually give me respect and I like to acknowledge it in kind). And for the record, I’m not 20+ years younger, I’m in my early 40s. I grew up waving at people when they’d let us in while driving, etc. I’ve never ever heard of it as an invite to start a fight.

        1. Bonky*

          +1 from across the pond! I’m your age, and I also have never seen this in traffic as anything other than a gesture of thanks.

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          I wave (in the sense of a brief raised hand) to signal both “Thanks for stopping so I could walk across the street” and “Thanks for letting me merge my car in front of yours.” Oh, and am in my 40s.

          1. I used to be Murphy*

            I do the same. And have also taken to passive-aggressively waving “you’re welcome” to drivers I let in but don’t give me the “thanks!” wave. Most of the time it does nothing (expect make me feel superior), but every once in a while it will shame someone into giving me a belated wave. Then I feel super-duper superior.

            Sometimes I’m not a fully-grown adult despite being almost 40.

            1. Snazzy Hat*

              I wave goodbye at drivers who speed past me.

              I give a peace sign to drivers who grant me the right of way and allow me to walk in front of their stopped cars. And since this is a regular occurrence on my commute, I will also wave cars ahead if I’m waiting at a crosswalk that isn’t open yet (e.g., they’re turning right on red) or if I’m arriving at work and a driver from the opposite direction is going to turn left into the property’s entrance where I’m walking to the right; they don’t have to wait for me as I won’t even be in their path.

        3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Yes, same. There’s also an obvious difference between a pedestrian saying “stop!” with their hand vs. a courtesy wave. It’s possible that LCL is referring to the former, but given the frequency that’s implied, I wonder if it’s not the second gesture being misinterpreted.

      6. Beancounter Eric*

        Re. pedestrians – very likely they are giving you a courtesy wave.

        As someone who walks a great deal in a city where drivers think nothing of running down pedestrians, I like to acknowledge drivers taking the time to abide by the law….hope it lets them know someone did notice and appreciates the effort.

        Oh, and I’m in my fifties also.

      7. Taylor Swift*

        Unless a driver looks like they have no intention of stopping, I use that hand wave as a friendly acknowledgement gesture.

      8. TheLazyB*

        I always raise my hand to say thank you when crossing the road at a ped crossing. I’m 40.

      9. aebhel*

        I think that if you’re loudly interrupting your boss, you’ve forfeited your right to not be implicitly ordered to shut up. I don’t think that’s a generation thing; I’m in my early 30’s and would understand that gesture as ‘you’re behaving inappropriately right now, STFU’ in context (getting hacked off at pedestrians for waving acknowledgement at you as they cross is… bizarre, and not something I’m going to touch right now). Thing is, someone needs to tell him to STFU, apparently very bluntly, since he hasn’t otherwise got the hint.

        1. AMPG*

          This is true; it’s intended to be a forceful gesture because you’re not being respectful of the speaker.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          100% agreed. It’s as Kathryn T. noted—OP has the authority to tell Fergus to stop, and it’s entirely ok for her (and Jane) to make that gesture to Fergus. And Fergus has no moral authority or other authority to disregard it simply because it might make him feel childish or angry to have someone who is younger than him and in a position of authority assert that authority.

      10. Chomps*

        I just want to say that the odds crossing the street might be raising their hands as a thank you. I was taught to sort of wave thank you when cars stop for me but I don’t always actually wave. I sometimes just raise my hand.

        With regards to this situation though, Fergus is being completely disrespectful and he’s not going to respond to softer responses to his behavior.

      11. Mb13*

        I’m concerned that you want to run people over just because they raised their palm up (which I do as “hey thanks for stoping”). Have you considered talking to a professional why you feel so homicidal towards a seemingly meaningless gesture

        1. Zombii*

          Agreed. My parents taught me that if you don’t do the little “hey thanks” courtesy waive when crossing in front of cars, the drivers have the right to flip you the bird. Wanting to throw coffee or otherwise assault the pedestrians seems overboard.

          1. SandrineSmiles (France)*

            Funny enough, for me, when I cross the street I do a Japanese-style bow with a smile and I run off to the other side. I don’t know if people find me weird though, because the usual gesture I’ve seen is the hand up as well, but it feels too weird to me so I’m doing my own little thing xD

  20. Formica Dinette*

    Ugh, as Alison wrote in her response, dealing with people who behave like this is exhausting! WRT your concern about him blaming you for his difficult onboarding, it doesn’t sound like you have anything to worry about. You’ve been at the company for several years, you have earned increasing responsibility and a promotion, Jane agrees that his behavior is a problem, and other team members are bothered by him. Meanwhile, he’s the new guy who’s irritating everyone. The situation is heavily weighted in your favor. And hey, maybe the next time you express concern about a candidate, they’ll take it more seriously.

    Stay strong!

  21. Leatherwings*

    I managed someone who did this constantly, and boy did it get on my last nerve. I’m so sorry it’s something you have to deal with now, OP. I love the way you’re handling it so far. Calling my mansplainer out in the moment helped after I had a direct conversation with him. It was a big picture “Here’s a pattern I’ve noticed” type of thing and after that I would say “I’m not finished yet” or “I’m not done” constantly. After I pointed out the pattern it became awkward and noticeable for him whenever I pointed it out (because at first it was 10+ times in any given 30 minute meeting). It didn’t stop it completely, but it definitely slowed him down.

  22. Kimberly R*

    I agree with what you’re doing and what Fergus’ manager is doing, but I am particularly worried that he is in some sort of medical role and feels comfortable doing this to both of you. What if his customer/client/patient is a younger female? Will he let her speak about whatever the need for the service may be, or will he talk over her and try to tell her his opinion of it? He may not be a good fit at all if he cannot be kind and compassionate. (Obviously, not knowing specifics of what you do, your mileage may vary with this. But if you can twist and bend what I’m saying to fit your situation and you can picture Fergus acting in a manner that will reflect badly on you and your company, it may be time to pull him from the training and out of the program altogether. Filling a need with a crappy person is worse than not filling it.)

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Absolutely agreed, especially the last point: “Filling a need with a crappy person is worse than not filling it.”

    2. Merida May*

      Excellent observation. If Fergus is in a position where he will be administering services to people this might be cause to evaluate whether or not he should stay on. He’s already combative with his supervisor and people senior to him, how is that going to translate to people he might view himself as having authority over? I remember attempting to go to a math lab in college when I was struggling with a statistics course. The tutor I wound up with was rude, abrasive and not unlike Fergus in talking over me as I tried to explain where I needed help. Guess who wasn’t going back to math lab?

    3. Mephyle*

      Indeed, OP is concerned about this too; “I’m sick that he’s going to be handling my old [former] customers.”

    4. LabHeather*

      Yes. Especially combined with the fact that LW states that he has been saying outright erroneous things! That is quite a bad sign if he is going to be dealing with patients in any respect.

  23. whichsister*

    Once again, I am picturing Michael Scott…. in the Diversity Training episode…. But Mr. Brown (if that is his real name) used a good technique that the person who mentored me in facilitation taught me. He asks Michael for his permission to teach the class… It is disarming, and the interrupted has no choice but to either say Yes and be quiet or embarass him or herself by continuing to be disruptive.

    1. Observer*

      I think that this is an absolutely terrible idea. I get the jui jitsu you are trying for here. But with someone like this, you absolutely do NOT EVER want to give the slightest indication that you need their “permission” or acquiescence to do your job.

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        Yes, I thought of David Brent in the Training episode of the UK version of The Office when I read this.

        1. Sybil*

          I train teachers, and this is a tactic used by poor teachers. It backfires spectacularly quite often. Sarcastic remarks and efforts to embarrass students are hallmarks of weak teachers. Good teachers don’t behave like this.

          1. seejay*

            Sounds like the teacher that turned me from an A+ student who loved going to school to one that was terrified to get on the bus in the morning and barely scraping by when I was 10 years old.

            Never underestimate the power of an abusive tyrant to scare the bejesus out of a once straight A kid so bad that they’ll nearly fail school, only to have the school then wonder what’s wrong at home.

          2. Morning Glory*

            To be fair to whichsister, there is a huge difference between corporate training/facilitation, and students in terms of a power dynamic.

            I’m not sure how effective this technique would be in the OP’s situation, but I don’t think it would be abusive, or morally bad in the context of a rude 60+ year old man.

            1. Observer*

              Here is the thing. This tactic is generally a very bad idea. In a large set of circumstances it’s just abusive, as described. In another large set of circumstances – as with this type of willfully obtuse type of person, it tends to backfire in a big way.

              While you are trying to embarrass the person into behaving, they treat it as an admission that THEY get to call the shots. I’ve seen this happen many times.

        2. Observer*

          Effective with people like this? Not at all. I’ve watched the train wreck that this turns into way too many times.

  24. Mena*

    Please consider Alison’s last comment carefully since you may be assuming that age and gender are at issue here but you don’t provide evidence of that being the situation. Does he behave differently with men? How is he with men more senior to him? More junior?

    Is he a manplainer, or just rude?

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yep, doesn’t change the advice one bit, so there’s no reason not to just trust the OP’s sense of the situation. (And facing constant questioning of “are you sure??” — and it is constant — when reporting that your sense is that someone is being sexist or racist or whatever is frickin’ exhausting. We can just trust people’s first-hand accounts.)

            1. Mazzy*

              But doesn’t it mean something when a bunch of men are telling you “but we do this to each other as well?” Because the definition of sexism is treating the genders differently.

              1. Observer*

                If it’s really true that the guys really do that to each other. But most of the time that’s not what is happening.

              2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                I don’t want to derail on this point, but the whole idea behind the concept is that it happens far more often to women from men. Disproportionately more often. That may not have been your experience, but it’s been the experience of enough women that that’s why it’s a concept.

              3. seejay*

                Men can do it all they want to each other, but we women are right here saying “it’s a well-known problem in many industries that women are talked over and dismissed solely because of their gender”. Men are talked over by other men because they’re being rude or whatever else. They’re not doing it because of a gender disparity.

                You can argue that it’s “not because of gender” but unless you are on the receiving end, you don’t know what it’s like and cannot begin to even remotely understand it. Instead of arguing it, just believe us.

                1. dawbs*

                  heck, I saw it with a group of 5th graders today.
                  Class on a field trip, doing an activity. They divided themselves by gender (because, 5th grade, of course they did) and, without meaning to, the adults in charge responded to the boys who were talking over the girls…and the girls spent the first 10 minutes of the hour activity trying to break into the activity and be heard…and then gave up.

                  The boys, conscious or not, learned that if they keep talking over the girls, they will get a smile, nod, and ‘yes, EXACTLY’ from the adults. The girls, conscious or not, learned that if they shut up and listen, they can be passively involved and that’s the best they can hope for.

                  Here’s hoping the couple of girls who looked really put out by this are being encouraged to be heard elsewhere.

          1. Mike C.*

            Yeah, there’s maybe one time I can think of where it wasn’t really the case and bajillions of times where it was, so the choice is pretty obvious.

            /Even in that one case, there were related issues that were sexist, so there you go.

            1. Scottsdale Bubbe*

              5th Graders. Holy heck! It’s a time warp! There have been awareness courses for teachers about this very behavior (and mis-education on the part of the adults) since the 1980s! It should be part and parcel of diversity training. It seems to me that a private word with the teacher after the field trip about what you observed would have been appropriate. There is no way to count on the little girls themselves advocating for different behavior from their teacher. With that amount of adult blindness and educational malpractice, the teacher would probably accuse the girls of being unruly and misbehaving.
              If you get ignorance, denial, or excuses in any way from the teacher, then your next stop is the school principal. Yuck.

              1. dawbs*

                I know.
                I’m in training at this job (I’m experienced but new position in a new org). I plan on dealing with it, but I can’t on my 2nd full day–because that might be pushing my luck a bit.

    1. Apollo Warbucks*

      Does that even matter?

      He needs to stop no matter what the reason is and the responce from the OP will be the same whether he’s a manplainer, or just plain rude.

    2. anon for this one*

      Yeah, he might just be rude to everyone and not truly a mansplainer (although I agree we should take the OP at her word) but that doesn’t change the advice given. It only changes how often that advice will need to be applied.

    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I’m not sure how those questions help OP or change any of the advice provided.

    4. Katie the Fed*

      I for one am so grateful for the term “mansplaining” because it’s been a very useful shorthand to describe a very specific type of behavior I’ve seen throughout my career. We know it when we see it.

    5. Ultraviolet*

      Telling the OP that they’ve failed to “provide evidence” to back up their letter is probably a sign that you’re violating the commenting guidelines and should reconsider.

      1. Aveline*

        I’d also question why they need to believe that the OP is wrong in her assessment that it’s mansplaining.

        Truly, if men are as sexist as women say and white people are as racist, why does that personally insult you? Why can’t you accept that this is true?

        What skin do you have in the game?

        What have you lost of women, POCs, and non-heteronormative people are correct about the micro-agressions and macro-agressions they endure?

        Is it because you feel you will be judged if you are a white heterosexual man? If so, that’s pretty much the definition of irony + hypocrisy.

        Also, this whole “offer proof” canard is old. Look, I’ve never been to Israel or involved in an orgy, but I’m sure both exist so if someone told me they went to an orgy in Israel, I would not ask them to prove it. I would simply believe them.

        1. chomps*

          “Truly, if men are as sexist as women say and white people are as racist, why does that personally insult you? Why can’t you accept that this is true?

          What skin do you have in the game?”

          Because if the person is a man or white, it implies that *gasp!* they might be racist or sexist and to some people being called racist is worse than actually being racist.

        2. Mookie*

          Thank you for this, yes. I am always skeptical, and I encourage others to be, as well, of performative hyperskepticism.

          1. Gadfly*

            I am sooooo stealing that and reusing it until I have no idea who I stole it from and can only vaguely recall it was someone here maybe.

            1. Mookie*

              I’m in the same boat. I know I’ve heard it before (probably Anglo skeptic atheist circles where Vulcans and sealions run wild?) but I’ve long since forgotten where. Spread it far and wide, though; this is the age of the hyperskeptic.

  25. MommyMD*

    I doubt this airbag cares to whom he is speaking, male or female. He’s the know-it-all who can’t get enough of his own voice and would drone on to a potted plant if he thought it was listening. Bad hire.

    1. Aveline*

      Caring isn’t the problem. A lot of people have internalized misogyny and racism and are NOT doing it on purpose.

      A lot of older male know-it-alls who are rude do it more and more intensely if the person is female, a POC, or young. It’s not about “caring” to do it to them. It’s about not paying attention to one’s internal biases.

  26. Observer*

    You’re handling things well. The really good thing about this situation, as bad as it is, is that you really don’t need to care WY he is dong what he is doing.

    Keep doing what you are doing, escalate as needed and document your head off. If necessary loop your manager, as well as his manager although you don’t want to cc your boss on every email.

    Lots of luck with this!

  27. TheVet*

    I worked with someone like this. No amount of trying to take control of the conversation worked, so I made it awkward. I’d let him talk while I took a few sips of water or fiddled around with my notes until he stopped. Everyone would sit silently…waiting and staring.

    My tone mattered:
    “(feigned surprise that everyone was waiting) Ooh. (with a blank stare) Have you finished? (totally flat) Because I wasn’t. (to the group) Getting back to my original point/Getting back on track…”

      1. Nic*

        In my experience using this as a teacher, 9 times out of 10 the talker realizes the whole room is awkwardly staring and tend to peter out. The other times, you tend to cut them off after a bit.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      Interesting how many tactics are a variation on what upthread is called “Return the awkward to sender.”

      It takes real effort to override everything we’ve learned about lubricating social interactions by pouring oil on the awkward.

    2. CM*

      This backfired on me once in a group. I was fed up with the person who kept interrupting… but everybody else loved her and, as it turned out, thought I was very rude for pointedly saying things like, “I wasn’t done talking.”

  28. MWKate*

    LW, it sounds like you are handling this really well. I am particularly impressed with holding up the hand and letting him firmly, and publicly, know that he was interrupting you. That kind of confidence is something I really need to work on.

    The, “I’m just trying to learn!” comment is just odd given the context. If this is something he uses as an excuse regularly, maybe you could just respond that you appreciate that he wants to do well in this new role and you would talk to his manager to set up additional training if he feels he needs it?

    I would also agree with others to notice how he behaves with men his age (if there are any) or men in general and compare that to how he interacts with you. Either way, he is being inappropriate but if he’s doing it because of your age and gender that’s another thing to address.

  29. MassMatt*

    Mansplaining drives me NUTS–and I’m a man! I remember years ago Harry Reid once interrupted Nancy Pelosi at a joint press conference, putting his hand on her back and yes, explaining what she was saying. Um, how about we hear from her, she is the freaking SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE! Speaking is in her job title!

    OP, it sounds like you are handling this well, too bad your feedback in the interview process wasn’t heeded. As Allison has said, people are on their best behavior in a job interview, if they have problems then they are likely to be worse once they land the job.

    And on that note, you are right to be concerned about how he deals with patients/customers. If he doesn’t listen to his managers,what is the likelihood that he listens to them?

    1. Observer*

      Yes. As it is, even with medical professionals who do NOT have such bad manners, there is a ton of evidence that patients are not given enough of a hearing and it negatively affects their medical treatment. Add this level of misbehavior, and you have a major problem in the making.

      1. many bells down*

        I have to see several different specialists because I have a few unrelated medical conditions and I agree. If I don’t feel they’re listening to me, I’m out of there so fast. Especially as I also have idiosyncratic reactions to some medications; don’t keep trying to prescribe me one I’ve already said doesn’t work!

        1. A. Non*

          I dumped a doctor so fast once, but it was more like thinsplaining. Still, I sent a complaint to the hospital “chain” she was under because telling someone that abdominal pain that’s a 9 on a pain scale is from “eating too fast” because of someone’s weight is some crap right there.

          1. Gadfly*

            Yeah, I could have saved myself YEARS of issues had a lot of symptoms of my semi-brain tumor (on the pituitary–different definitions fight over if it counts or not, I’m bitter so I say it does) not been dismissed as being fat…

        2. Aveline*

          My favorite doctor once said “wow, I’ve never heard of this condition…..I’m sure I can research it and WE can come up with a plan.”

          He has my loyalty as a patient now.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            I diagnosed my own tennis elbow and my doctor at the time praised my research skills. He knew I knew how to look stuff up (not by going to omgimgonnadie.com) and was impressed with my discussion of the findings, instead of dismissing me because I’d googled my symptoms. I LOVED that doctor.

  30. LQ*

    I had a sort of similar situation. I was younger and newer but I understood the work so they moved someone senior to working with me (not in title, just in years in the job). The goal was that I would…”handle” him. What I did worked for me but I don’t know that it worked for others so ymmv. I was never “nice” to him. I was professional and I was polite but I was never nice. I never laughed or smiled. I never engaged him in pleasantries. I have an advantage of being tall and he was used to looming over people. But I’m tall, and I’m not afraid to wear heels, so I always stood when talking if he was standing, and often if he was sitting. I never had a conversation where he was “above” me.

    I said “That is not appropriate” so many times that someone suggested they make a cake for me with that phrase on it when I left. Also, “You can’t say that.” “You can’t do that.” “That’s not what we do.” “That’s not our job.” “It doesn’t matter, you can’t say that.” (So much you can’t say that.) The good thing is his behavior did improve. Weirdly he will tell anyone that I was the best coworker he ever had. He did get better both with me, and with his interactions with the clients, while I worked with him. The bad news is he fully backslid when I wasn’t there monitoring him all the time.

    I hope some of this helps, or at least gives a little perspective.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I cannot imagine the patience required to babysit someone so committed to being obnoxious.

        1. LQ*

          Unions/history/and I don’t know…

          I was very careful to never do anything he could reasonably bring a grievance against me on. He didn’t even try which was interesting. I still don’t get why they haven’t fired him. I’m not sure I will ever really understand that one. An attempt was made after I worked with him and he went back to his old ways but he filed a grievance for something and they backed off….

        1. BookishMiss*

          Utterly nothing. I think most people can understand being peeved enough to really dig in our heels on something, and this scenario is definitely one I’d fight out.

        2. tigerStripes*

          Good for you! That’s a great way to deal with anger – enforce the rules firmly and politely.

    2. oranges & lemons*

      This reminds me of when my fifth-grade teacher seated me next to the “problem” kid in our class because he wouldn’t listen to any teacher but he would listen to me. I didn’t really mind it at the time, but looking back … I was ten years old! Why was I doing the teacher’s job for her?

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Maybe because you did not say NO? Not snark, sometimes we have to push back and we don’t even know it. This is why I don’t miss being a kid, I hated not understanding things that were going on around me. There were other times when I did push back and I am still amazed that I did.

        Fast forward to more present times, as a supervisor I have shamelessly used peer pressure to keep some members of the group from going too far off track. What this looked like is Jane would correct Sally and I would not intervene because I had already told Sally the same thing ten times. I thought maybe she would actually be able to hear it when Jane said it. The goal was to get Sally to fall into line with expectations and not have to write her up or fire her.

      2. Anna*

        Did she explicitly say she did it because you can handle him and she can’t? If she did, that’s poor classroom management.

        As a teacher, I totally put problem kids next to good ones. Not because I want the good ones to do anything to help the naughty ones or because ‘they won’t listen to me’. Just because “I have to sit this problem child somewhere, and they can’t sit next to other children who are problems or just easily influenced into silliness. So I’ll put them next to my super-good children who will just get on being good and ignore the problem child’s attempts to lure them into disruption”.

        At the end of the day, problem children have to sit somewhere, and the education of the class as a whole is impacted if they’re sat somewhere they cause a problem. A good child being annoyed at having to sit next to a problem one is the lesser evil, when the alternative is every single person having their learning disrupted constantly.

  31. Brett*

    My first week on the job at old job, I accidentally corrected a huge mansplainer (or whatever the equivalent is when it is because of someone’s PhD instead of their gender or age) from the back of the room in a regional meeting of ~100 people. He was the only other person in the room in the same specialty as me, and had no idea I was there. He kept constantly interrupting scheduled speakers and talking over them. (But he was very very wrong in what he was saying, relying on his credentials in our field to back him.)

    He scanned the room with a “Who said that” look on his face, but for some reason being called out like that shut him down for the rest of the meeting. (And lots of other people expressed their gratitude for that to me later.) It only lasted for that one meeting though.

    1. Hrovitnir*

      Heh, you can use the word ‘splainer when the behaviour is the same but doesn’t easily lend itself to a prefix.

      It is meant to be a reasonably specific behaviour of being condescending to a group based on an apparent sense of superiority rather than just being condescending as a rule though.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I recently saw “fu splain” for people who know a smattering about martial arts explaining Iron Fist to people with more knowledge of martial arts.

    2. Bow Ties Are Cool*

      Ugh, we have one of those in our department. Has PhD, obviously thinks anyone who doesn’t (most of us) is one teensy step above a trained monkey. Talks to us like we’re particularly stupid children. “Intellectual snobbery” is a phrase that gets airtime fairly often when they’re not around to hear it…

      1. Bonky*

        Oh wow – we had one of those too. She told me (her boss) that it was terribly sad I didn’t have a PhD like her, because it robbed me of “the ability to see behind things”. She eventually got fired for being crap at her job.

  32. Nervous Accountant*

    Hmmmm, I’m wondering if that’s what I deal with as well. Not with my coworkers, but clients who constantly interrupt everything I say and don’t let me finish speaking.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Have you seen the recent HuffPo coverage of the coworkers who swapped signature lines? It’s an unsurprising read if you’re a woman who has ever experienced pushback, but it apparently was news to the male coworker in the story. The amount of time it requires to “convince” a client that yes, you are in fact qualified and competent, is an exhausting energy black-hole.

      1. seejay*

        Not gonna lie, I read that post and wasn’t excited or happy or could feel anything positive about it, other than “oh great, we had to get a man to go out and prove that we weren’t lying when we said that this happens. Again.” It’s just another repeat of the “man goes onto a dating site under a female profile to see if it’s really as bad as they say it is… yes it really is” trope.

        As a woman in tech and a gamer with predominantly male-dominated hobbies for 20+ years, I’m tired of reading these sudden “woke” articles about things we’ve been trying to say for years. :(

          1. seejay*

            One of my female friends posted it and tried to explain to me that sometimes people need to experience things in order to understand and that we shouldn’t be upset because the more people experience these things and come around to understanding, the better the world is. She started seeing it a bit differently when I pointed out that this “lack of experiencing certain traumas and being unable to understand the victim’s PoV” attitude is what was prevailing in the general population mindset and making it so hard for victims of assault to just be believed instead of going through “well what were you wearing/doing/drinking/etc” grilling first.

            Yes, we need proof and evidence for legal cases (I’m not advocating throwing that out willy nilly) but we also need to believe the loud voices when a certain percentage of a population says “hey, this is a problem and something needs to be done” instead of the other side poo-pooing it until they find a way to prove it definitively for themselves by pretending to be on the same side. :|

            1. Mike C.*

              You’re absolutely right about being believed.

              Yet, I do think there is some value in experiencing something that previously you had only been told about. One of the things that stood out to me about that story was that the woman had undersold the amount of crap she had been receiving because she thought it was normal and customary. You can’t find that out through just telling someone “Hey, this is sexist”.

              1. seejay*

                yeah, I can see how she undersold it. I’ve been guilty of similar things because I’d learned to not rock the boat or had just deal with things differently (in the case of playing competitive paintball, I had to take harder, worse hits than the guys without complaining about them, even if I had a valid complaint, because if I *did* complain, I was told “if you can’t take the heat, get off the field”). It’s a double-edged sword in some cases.

                And I agree that experiencing things definitely helps in empathy and understanding. I’m the type that *does* learn better by hands-on experience… but I’ve also learned over the years that I’m not going to live long enough to be able to make all the mistakes to learn everything I need to learn and there’s much smarter and wiser people than me out there, so sometimes it’s better to shut up and listen and learn from them. ^_^

        1. JokersandRogues*

          Yeah, that’s kinda how I felt. Oh look, a man doesn’t believe a woman experiences something just because she says she does because women are liars? Right.

          That’s probably a bit more hostile than usual for me, but I sit next to Mr. Overexplainer.

          1. AMPG*

            The Twitter thread gave better context, I thought – he believed her but was trying to convince their sexist boss. And even though he did believe her, he hadn’t experienced it for himself, which is always different.

            1. seejay*

              Oh I think he believed her, but only to a point. He still seemed to have a bit of that gobsmacked “I can’t believe they’re treating her like this” surprise in his article about it.

              I mean, I’m happy that there’s more allies on our side that support the whole idea of fighting against it, and annoyed that even with him backing her up their idiot boss still didn’t buy into it, but it’s still *tiring* that there were so many people thinking it was such a great article about “yay, look, we have more evidence backing up that women are biased against!” Great? Cause we needed a man-stamp of approval to validate it?

              Don’t mind me, I got grumpypants on today, someone asked me about one of the times that I got mansplained and I recalled an incident when I was reffing on the paintball field years ago and I threw a guy off the field who was arguing with me when I told him his marker was shooting hot. He kept telling me that it was the “sound of the barrel” and that it wasn’t shooting hot. Except I had experience with that particular gun, I knew it tended to shoot hot, and the balls *sounded* hot when they were screaming over my head. Him and his friend refused to listen to me until one of my other male friends backed me up and we got both of them off the field and measured the gun over the chronometer: it shot 450 psi, which is 150 over regulation. That’s enough to cause serious harm and crack eye protection. Yet neither of them ever apologized or admitted that I was right. :|

        2. Bonky*

          Oh, hearty agree. YEARS ago I had a guy refuse to believe I (young, but doing very well in my career) could possibly be doing so legitimately; he actually got in touch with my university to try to prove I didn’t really have the degrees I have! There were men of my age at my level, but I was a young-looking woman he found attractive, which clearly pushed some buttons.

          Women I tell this story to look sad and often have something equivalent to talk about. Men usually find it unaccountably weird, and completely alien to their professional experience.

      2. Nervous Accountant*

        Yes omg yes!!!!

        I don’t know, to be honest, I never actually kept track of WHO were the interrupters (male vs female) so I’m reluctant to say it’s due to sexism or anything gender related really. I do have a lot more male than female coworkers but I honestly never get the sense of “mansplaining” from them.

        1. Natalie*

          Worth keeping in mind that women are just as capable of internalized misogyny as men are, so the gender of the interrupters might be less relevant than you’re thinking.

          1. Gadfly*

            Women are much more likely to be interrupted by men and/or women (uncertain of any other genders having been studied) than men are.

  33. emma2*

    I HATE mansplaining so much. I have lost count of the number of times a guy who has never worked in my field always tries to one-up me in a conversation when I talk about it, specifically by countering anything I say based on something he read in passing on the Internet.

    This can be a trait of know-it-all people in general, but I mainly see men do this to women. Even women I have encountered who are know-it-alls don’t try to pretend they know everything about everything.

    1. JMegan*

      Seriously. What’s so wrong with just saying “I don’t know?” I recently sent an email to my male colleague, saying that I was having trouble with the Teapot Procedure. I had tried X, Y, and Z to resolve it, and concluded that the problem was with spout alignment, but I didn’t know what to do next and could he take a look.

      His response was a detailed set of screen caps of X, Y, and Z, and that the problem was with the spout alignment. *sigh*

      Keep going, OP! It sounds like you have the right idea, and that Jane has your back, so maybe this won’t be an issue for too much longer.

      1. nhbillups*

        That is incredibly annoying. Did you write back, or decide it wasn’t worth wasting your time over?

      2. Janice in Accounting*

        That would induce a rage-stroke in me. Did you reply to the email by saying, “Please read my first email below” and then highlighting the parts where you said you’d tried X, Y, and Z and what the problem must be?

    2. MWKate*

      Not 4 hours ago, I overheard an older male coworker explaining to a young woman to push a chair across the room. I had directed her to go sit with another manager a few desks down and suggested she take her chair.

      He stood up, proceeded to repeat what I said, pointed out said desk, and then said “Yep, just bring the chair, push it over there, yup just like that.”

      1. seejay*


        If someone at my office did that to me, I swear they’d hear my jaw hit the floor, followed by some very un-ladylike curse words where I’d be telling them where they could then stuff that chair. Sideways for added effectiveness. Holy mother o’ moses.

          1. Janice in Accounting*

            “Should I turn it upside down? How about sideways? What will happen if I throw it at you?”

  34. N.J.*

    Does the advice change any in a situation in which the colleague who speaks over you or interrupts is senior to you? I’ve not had it happen often, but once or twice I’ve struggled with how to address being interrupted by someone senior. I’ve just let them do what they are going to do. Not much of a response strategy, but not sure I have the clout, for lack of a better word, to stop someone from interrupting me.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yes, definitely. In that case, you’re expected to show some deference. If it’s a constant thing AND it’s someone you have to work with frequently AND you have good rapport with them, it can be possible to address it, but you have to be pretty diplomatic about it. If any of those conditions aren’t present, then yeah, you generally need to just let it go.

    2. Turanga Leela*

      Two strategies I’ve used, depending on the situation:

      1) If they interrupt you and finish your sentence for you, it is both satisfying and helpful to say, “No, that’s not where I was going with that. I was going to say that…” Tone matters, of course, so you have to say this in a friendly way, but it’s a clear enough correction that it sometimes keeps well-meaning interrupters from doing it again.

      2) If you’ve gotten cut off and the person has changed the subject, you can wait until they’ve finished talking (or later in the meeting) and then say something like, “We’ve moved to a different point, but I just want to flag that we didn’t get through all of the issues with strategy X. I want to make sure we leave time for that.” Exactly what you say and when depends on your relationship to the interrupter, but at least then you can make your point.

  35. Lora*

    You are handling it great. Fergus is being a douche, and it sounds like everyone else has cottoned on to his douchery. Keep on with what you are doing.

    It sounds like you are being blunt enough. I like the suggestions above for dealing with children. If he is going to behave like his folks didn’t teach him any manners, he’s going to have to learn them now.

    I’m sorry you’re dealing with this, it really is frustrating. I usually go around thanking people in my life who are not all ‘splain-y for being respectful and good listeners whenever I am exhausted from this sort of thing. Figured it’s nicer than venting.

    1. seejay*

      For some reason I misinterpreted that name as “Ron Jeremy”.

      I’m gonna go scrub my brain now, tyvm.

  36. memoryisram*

    As a very young looking 30yo lady who is 4′ 11”, you should hear the assumptions people make…

    “How do you get them to listen to you?” As if my size/gender means people won’t take me seriously.

    But I digress.

    I have a mansplainer that I have to work with on occasion who at a recent meeting called me out on being “aggressive” – don’t get me wrong, I’m fairly driven and assertive, I’m a person you have to get to know – and I successfully turned it on on it’s head by owning it and arguing that it’s not a bad thing. I suppose the lesson here is “Don’t worry about being nice all the time” – especially true for women.

    Best of luck to you, OP!

    1. RebeccaNoraBunch*

      I’m 4’10” and in my early 30s as well…and I’m in sales. I’ve experienced so much mansplaining and, even worse, heightism (from women too! mostly middle-aged and older, actually), that it’s depressing. I actually had a man mansplain to me today that heightism can’t possibly be worse for shorter women than men.

      I mean, I rarely tell people my age and the nice thing (I guess) is that they all assume I’m 27ish and they’re shocked – SHOCKED – when they find out my actual age, but yes. Heightism is so very definitely A Thing.

  37. Jennifer*

    Reading this makes me wish the OP could just slam her hand on a buzzer every time Fergus starts up again.

  38. Vaca*

    “Fergus, you are mansplaining. You have no idea what you’re talking about, which makes it worse. Please be quiet. You have nothing to contribute.”
    “But I’m trying to lea-”
    “I still see your lips moving. They need to stop or you will need to find another job. Thanks.”

  39. louyu*

    Oh, man, I have so many thoughts on this topic. I’m a woman in a male-dominated technical field, so I spend a lot of time on the receiving end of pretty egregious mansplaining. I am also a somewhat-reformed know-it-all, so I know how hard some of these same behaviors can be to curb in yourself.

    In terms of dealing with it from the LW’s end, I think Alison’s advice is dead-on, and it sounds like the LW is already doing a great job of shutting Fergus down when he interrupts. The sulking makes me doubt that Fergus is willing to be coached, but if he is, here are some of the specific things that have helped me. (I’m guessing most of the same tricks will help sexism-motivated mansplaining, since people probably aren’t consciously aware they’re doing that.)

    • It’s hard to train yourself to stop doing the echoing thing people are discussing above. It’s way easier to train yourself to add some acknowledgement of the other person. So if they say, “We could do X to achieve Y,” you can say, “X will achieve Y,” as long as you then add, “That’s a good point.”
    • You may assume that you can float an idea by saying, “X because of Y,” and that naturally gives other people the opening to counter with, “No, not X, because of Z.” Unfortunately, that’s just not how a lot of people operate. A lot of people will not bother to discuss your idea in that format; they’ll just think you’re a know-it-all with a bad idea. Instead say something like, “X could work, because of Y. What do you think?”
    • In a training scenario, remind yourself that your experience and perspective are valued, that is why you were hired, and you will share all those valuable thoughts — LATER. In the moment, write down your brilliant thoughts. (Later, a lot of your indispensable wisdom will seem embarrassingly self-evident. Fortunately, you kept your mouth shut, so no one will ever know how dumb you almost sounded.)
    • Sometimes you’ll be in a meeting with somebody who is definitely wrong. Watch what other people do. If nobody else is talking, save your input for later. If other people are chiming in, ask yourself whether you have input that is different from theirs. Do not talk just to prove that you also knew the speaker was wrong.
    • That last part is true more generally: Do not talk just to prove that you already knew something.
    • Sometimes you’ll be in a situation where you should probably be quiet, but the speaker will keep saying things that make it clear they’re desperately in need of your wisdom. It’s a trap! Pretend you’re a secret agent, and this is the enemy trying to trick you into revealing yourself. Keep your mouth shut. Congratulate yourself for being too clever to fall for their ploy.

    I see the irony of writing a zillion-word comment on how I’m not so much of a know-it-all anymore, so I’ll end it there. Good luck, LW!

    1. Tau*

      I worry that I have know-it-all tendencies (which means I probably do) and those tips are absolute gold. Especially this one:

      Sometimes you’ll be in a situation where you should probably be quiet, but the speaker will keep saying things that make it clear they’re desperately in need of your wisdom. It’s a trap! Pretend you’re a secret agent, and this is the enemy trying to trick you into revealing yourself. Keep your mouth shut. Congratulate yourself for being too clever to fall for their ploy.

      Definitely stealing all these, thank you!

  40. Carynz*

    And sounds like Fergus is also just, well, a bit of an ass LOL. That kind of thing makes training soooo difficult.

  41. Dizzy Steinway*

    During my therapy training we used to have to listen to feedback from classmates – as we practised on each other – without speaking. Sometimes we got a set time to respond e.g. listen solidly for five minutes and then you could ask questions. Sometimes we had to just listen and not respond. But we never ever got to interject during the feedback. I remember asking my tutor to let me just clarify one thing and he said nope, not today. He would shut you down. I found it impossible at first but it got easier to just listen and not need to rush in with a response. Part of my job now involves coaching telephone counsellors, and one thing people often need to work on is knowing when to interject and when to just listen.

    The above things are to do with self-control, self-containment and active listening. Is Fergus capable of those? Can he learn? I don’t know – but it doesn’t look good.

  42. Not So NewReader*

    With his sulking, I have a tiny quarter ounce of hope, OP, that you can get through to him. Definitely, now is not the time to let up in any manner. I hope you are able to find ways to reference previous corrections, “As I have said before, you need to let me finish speaking.” Highlight that you have to keep telling him this for some reason.

    Whether he will apply to other situations or just not bully you remains to be seen.

    Because of the extent of the problem, it really sounds like he is not a good fit for your company. Yeah, these people are a lot of work, just ONE of them is more work than a room full of polite people. On days where you know you will be spending a long time with him, please invest in good self-care to fortify your mind/body for his onslaught of words.

  43. Tabby Baltimore*

    I’m in my mid-50s, and reading this is just *so* gosh darn depressing. It makes me *so* angry when early-60s Fergus-types just give the rest of us older workers such a bad rep. From reading the comments, it appears many of you have had a Fergus in your life. (I haven’t … yet.) And I worry this episode will just reinforce the embryonic bias that some of you younger workers may be developing toward older workers. I am not like Fergus! I was swept in to federal service post-9/11 with many other young college graduates, which means that my cohort is generally anywhere from 15 to 25, even 30, years younger than I am. And I treat my young colleagues respectfully: I ask them for professional advice, and to review and comment on my work products. I enjoy learning, and laughing, along with them, and try to be the best supportive peer I can be. OP, I am so sorry you are dealing with this very self-absorbed guy who is clearly not self-reflective in any way. You are handling this really well. He will either learn that he has to conform to keep his job, or he won’t.

    1. CM*

      This doesn’t seem like primarily an age issue — although it does seem like women’s ages always work against them in terms of credibility unless they are exactly between 40 and 49, and are neither “young” nor “old.” In any case, people who think they know more than everybody else can be found at all ages.

  44. Me2*

    Super late to the party as I’ve been out of town but this situation is seems identical to one I experienced early in my career. I worked for a hospital doing medical staff credentialing (basically ensuring the physician was who they said they were and had the training they said they had before they were accorded privileges to practice at our hospital) which is a requirement of the JCAH. I was in my mid twenties, and I’m a fairly short, petite person. I had to spend a lot of time working with doctors who were much older. The job was a mostly clerical function but the physicians could not see patients, schedule surgeries, perform any medical procedures until I told them they could. I found it necessary to remind many different physicians that they were arguing with the ONE person who could help them to succeed in their mission. It didn’t matter that they had more education, experience, whatever, they simply could not proceed without my okay. I knew I had the backing of the hospital’s medical director, which helped immensely. This was also back in the “Listen to me, little girly” days so that was lots of fun. Good luck, OP, I sympathize!

    1. AnonEMoose*

      This reminds me of when I worked security on my college campus, which had a fair amount of medical stuff. Part of our job was that we could let people into offices and such if they were locked out…IF they showed us ID. Some people were really nasty about having to show us ID, and I always thought “So, you’d rather I let just anyone into your lab…that seems likely to end well!” But one of the supervisors put it best, I thought. He said that he always wanted to look at them and say “You may be a doctor making $100,000 a year…but right now, I’m a college kid WITH THE ONLY KEY TO YOUR OFFICE.”

      OP, in a similar vein, you are the one with the information Fergus needs right now. And you are the one with the established relationships with Jane and your manager. Keep those things firmly in mind when dealing with Fergus’s attempts to undermine you.

      1. dawbs*

        (momentary digression.
        I was one of those schmucks [staff, not faculty. no well paid] people who locked my keys in my office at least once a semester.
        I always worked under the assumption that apologizing, thanking, and sending over leftover cookies to the Pub. Safety office when we had some from events bought me faster responses the next time I had to call–which was bound to happen, because the moment you realize the key is on the desk is right AFTER you hear the door click)

        1. AnonEMoose*

          Apologizing, thanking, and showing your ID without complaint definitely go a long way – or at least, they always did with me. We weren’t asking for it to be jerks, after all, but so we knew who we were letting in to a space that could have stuff that not just anyone should have access to.

          I used to be really bemused at the people who were so convinced of their own importance that they couldn’t or wouldn’t understand that. After all, we were just lowly students who should know who they were, right?!

          In the OP’s situation, Fergus seems so interested in demonstrating his importance/competence that he has no awareness of how he is actually being received.

  45. MW*

    “I’m just trying to learn”

    Which he does by… interrupting someone, not to ask a question, but to repeat what she says and interject with some of his own knowledge. How is that even learning?? You learn by listening, asking questions and listening to the answers. Nobody listens with their mouth open.

  46. MLHD*

    I just wanted to give my kudos to the LW for holding the line and standing up for herself. I know that’s often very difficult for me so I hope I can be more assertive in this area!

  47. Noobtastic*

    In my fantasy:

    After having a “come to Jesus” talk with him in my office, about how his interruptions during MY classes absolutely needs to stop, and to remind him that during MY classes, I am not his peer, but his teacher, with full authority over MY STUDENTS, then, I would tell him “Here’s how it’s going to work in my class from now on.”

    I will reserve a section of the white board just for you. Every other student in my class knows how to treat me and each other with respect, not waste class time, and to take their proper turns. Each time you interrupt me, you get a black mark. Each time you spout off, out of turn, with your knowledge, you get a black mark. Each time you spout off, and are incorrect, you get a RED mark, which is worth five black marks. Ten black marks, and you will be expelled from my class. Not suspended. Expelled. You will only be allowed to train with me again when you have given a written apology to me and to your supervisor and to the hiring manager who chose you for this job, in the first place, AND to all the customers you will have to deal with, because if you will do this to me, you will do this to them. This note of apology will go in your file. If you have to write a second one, that will also go in your file. Three apology letters will not be required, because the third time, you’ll be fired.

    Also, I want a pony.

  48. Lily*

    I’m in my late 20’s, and my job deals with handling travel plans for both corporate travelers and golf groups. I get the mansplaining treatment all the time. I get the “young lady” thing, all the time.

    Many of the clients I deal with are middle aged men, who feel 100% compelled to tell you how important they are. With my job, it’s usually something along the lines of how long they have been traveling, how they have been doing x, y, and z “probably since before you were born,” that they have 3 houses, that they have used our services many times and they know my boss, that he played Pebble Beach and met Tiger Woods. I do not need ANY of this stuff. So just let him talk. He’s going to fight to the death to say it anyway, and he thinks you’re going to be impressed. So you say nothing, and he’ll eventually run out of things to say. Do not go “Wow, that’s great” or anything to encourage the nonsense. Just let him finish, stay silent, and then when he’s done, ask for the relevant information.

    Listen to his demeanor change after that. Now he has realized that you’re not impressed. You’re not star-struck. For once, no one is giving him what he wants. He has realized that he doesn’t have control over the conversation like he thought he did.

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