my employees finish my sentences, my interviewer left me alone while she ran errands, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. My employees finish my sentences

I’m a manager to a team of four at a mid-sized marketing agency. For the most part, my team is great — they’re dependable, intelligent, and they genuinely care about the work we’re doing. My problem is that I have a couple employees who constantly finish my sentences when I’m explaining something to them — be it a task, giving them guidance on how to handle a particular situation, or even when I’m providing training. I think this stems from them wanting to seem engaged in the conversation, and also to show they’re comprehension of the topic. But sometimes what they say is wrong, or not relevant. It’s distracting for me in the moment, and it causes them to not fully hear or process the information I’m providing — proven by missteps they make in the future. I don’t want them to feel like our interactions are one-way only, so I’ve tried nicely saying “hold on, let me finish,” but that hasn’t worked. Do you have a suggestion for how to handle this?

I think you’re exactly right on where it’s coming from — it’s an effort to seem engaged and show you they’re on top of things. And you’re also right to want them to stop doing it, for all the reasons you say.

With something like this, it’s fine to initially try to use conversational cues to make your point, but when that hasn’t worked, you’ve got to get more direct. (I note that because I want to stress that you really don’t have to go straight to “super direct” right away in every situation; often softer cues will get the job done. But once you see they’re not, it’s time to be more explicit.)

In this case, the next time one of them does it in private (i.e., not in front of other people), finish what you’re saying so that you don’t get sidetracked … but then say this: “I noticed you cut in and finished my sentence when I was telling you X. I don’t know if you realize but you do that a lot. I appreciate that you’re engaged in the conversation — that’s great — but I want you to let me finish what I’m saying before you jump in. Sometimes what you think I’m about to say actually isn’t what I’m about to say, and that takes us both off-course.” You could add, “I know this can be an ingrained habit and so I don’t want you to be mortified if it slips out a few more times before you notice, but I do want you to try to be more aware of it and work on not doing that.”

2. Working for a boss with a bad reputation

Do you have any advice for working for a boss who does not not have a good reputation? Although I have found my own way to work with my supervisor, I have heard from many around the office that he is quite difficult to work with. I have seen it play out, have even experienced it myself, and sympathize with those affected. I’m not sure how to reconcile this on my end however. I suppose I should mention here that my supervisor does like working with me, but I’m growing uneasy over the warpath he tends to leave for others. I’m concerned that I run the risk of becoming guilty by association by working with him and I’m not sure what my place is when interacting with colleagues who are on the receiving end. Is there any way that this could harm any potential networking or future opportunities once I decide to leave?

People’s default is usually to have sympathy for someone working for a difficult person, but that can change if you’re seen as close to him or if you appear to be “carrying his water” — if you’re stuck being the face of some of his actions, or if you have to deliver messages or take actions that reflect poorly on you even though they’re coming from him.

There’s also an opportunity cost: If people don’t like or respect your boss, he’s not likely to have the type of relationships where he can promote your work to others or help you make connections with people or where his recommendation of you in the future will carry the same weight as if people liked him.

That doesn’t mean it’s doomed to be a disaster. Plenty of people work for difficult bosses with difficult reputations and come out of it just fine. And sometimes the trade-offs of the job make it worth it. But it’s usually not without some sort of price. (Also, the type of job you’re in really matters. If you’re his deputy and need to manage people and projects on his behalf, it’s going to be much harder to do your job with integrity than if you’re a bit more removed.)

3. My interviewer left me alone to run the office while she ran errands

I had an interview recently for a receptionist-type position at a chiropractor’s office. The interviewer let me know earlier in the day that it would be a working interview, which I had no experience with, but it sounded kind of fun so I was down for it.

The first hour and a half or so went normally — she spent about half an hour asking questions, and then an hour showing me the basics of how the office operates. I actually thought that was the “working” part of it, and that we would be wrapping up soon. But then she told me that she would be leaving the office and coming back in about an hour, leaving me to run it alone, and that she was sure I would do great. In my surprise, I pretty much just smiled and nodded.

It wasn’t a disaster or anything — I only had to check in and collect payment from a couple of patients, and there was a chiropractic employee there who was able to answer my questions when he wasn’t with a patient. I mostly just sat and scrolled on my phone for an hour, plus took out some trash like the interviewer asked me to (which was within the job duties for the position, so I think maybe she was testing to make sure I was okay with cleaning). When she called a little over an hour later to say that she would be late getting back, and that I could either take off if I wanted or wait for her to get back and talk more then, I politely took myself out of the running for the job and left, leaving a note for the chiropractor like she instructed.

I have nothing against her, because she was very nice. But is this normal, or good practice? She didn’t go over any privacy requirements or anything with me, even though I was dealing with patients’ PHI, and she left the office’s cash, files, billing information, etc. completely in my hands. The whole thing left me confused and slightly annoyed.

Not normal, and terrible practice. You named some of the reasons for that (patient privacy, cash control, no training, etc.), but she also illegally took advantage of you by getting you to do free work for part of the day!

At a minimum this office is incredibly unprofessional and out of touch with any normal standards for hiring. But I’d bet it goes further than that and, had you taken a job there, you would have found a cesspool of dysfunction.

4. Should I say something about my boss’s lies?

I oftentimes hear (or overhear) my boss lying to my “grandboss.” Should I say something? It’s not so major (like stealing) but it’s not white lies either. For example, sometimes my grandboss will ask about a mistake that was made. I know my boss made the mistake. But to deflect blame, my boss will put the blame on someone else (not me) or give some other false/misleading answer. Should I say something in these kinds of scenarios? Or just let it go?

Openly calling your boss out on her lies to her own boss is likely to cause a ton of tension between you and your boss, or worse, and I’d be particularly wary of doing that with someone who has shown she lacks ethics.

But there may be subtler ways to do it where you correct the information without making it obvious that you know she was lying. Like if you’re talking with both of them and your boss says Bob’s the one who made a mistake, you could say, “Oh, actually, he didn’t work on this — we didn’t catch it at the proofing stage.” That’s not as direct as saying “It was actually your mistake” — it’s using “we” to mean “our team” rather than directly calling out your boss. And it may still allow her to deflect blame, but it’s going to make it more awkward for her to do that (and may signal to your grandboss that she should do more probing).

That’s not a perfect solution and you won’t be able to do it every time (and you can’t do it at all with conversations you overhear, just ones you’re part of). The bigger action item for you here is to take this as a huge indictment of your manager’s integrity, and factor that into your thinking going forward.

(The exception to all of the above is if you have an excellent relationship with your grandboss and she has a track record of handling info like this with skill and discretion, in which case you could give her a discreet heads-up about the pattern.)

5. Explaining why I’m leaving my own business for a traditional job again

I left my job as a marketing director two years ago because I wanted to go into business for myself and work from home. I’ve been doing consulting work through a company I started (though it’s just myself and one other person) since then. However, it turns out I’m not very good at sales and getting business, so I haven’t been as successful as I’d hoped, and now I’m applying for corporate jobs again because frankly, I really need the income.

How do I address this when asked why I’m now looking for a new position? “My business failed because I wasn’t good at getting business (even though I’m a marketer!) and I really need the money” is the truth but clearly not a good interview answer. How would you answer this?

“I realized that running my own business wasn’t for me and I’d rather be working with a team.” You could add, “where I can focus on X and not need to spend so much time generating sales.”

This is a really common situation, and interviewers will have seen it a ton of times before. It’s not going to reflect badly on you that you’re not sticking with the business — you tried it, you liked it, it wasn’t for you, and now you’re quite logically returning to traditional employment. (If anything, it may even be a plus that you’ll have gotten it out of your system and realize now that you want a more traditional employment relationship. Sometimes there’s a certain … professional maturity? that comes from that.)

{ 278 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager Post author

    A note: There are a TON of suggestions below that perhaps letter writer #1 is getting interrupted because she’s a slow or rambling speaker. She has clarified below that that’s not the case, that there are no regional differences here that could be causing it, and that others in the office have complained of the same thing with these two employees. So let’s lay off the suggestions that she’s causing it, please! (She’s been very gracious about it so far, but I imagine at some point will grow frustrated with the chorus of “it’s probably you!”)

    1. This Daydreamer

      Darn. I was going to suggest that she study the vocal stylings of the Chipmunks. Or, if you’re old enough to remember, FedEx guy. A class in auction cadence might also help – you should basically steamroll through every conversation until their ears bleed, their head explodes, or they beg for mercy. I should add the caveat that it might induce a certain level of passive aggression amongst your coworkers. At best.

      Deliberately taking turns to foster discussion of communication differences and expectations with substantial explanations of what either side needs and wants is harder work, frustrating, and most likely to result in improvement on both sides of the conversation. This is probably the best kind of option, adapted to your office culture.

      Or you could learn to set a keyboard to Dvorack, link a second Bluetooth keyboard or mouse to your coworker’s computer, plant an annoyatron somewhere inconspicuous, or set their desktop screen with a screenshot of all of their icons with the shortcuts hidden or removed. There are also fun screensavers you can play with. Don’t do anything in this paragraph unless unless you ready to nuke that bridge from orbit. But I have found that just knowing how to set a keyboard to Dvorack is usually enough to restore my sense of humor and equilibrium.

  2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

    OP#3, my first, second, and third reactions after “wtaf?” were “She owes OP at least minimum wage for that hour of unsupervised work.” This set-up sounds ridiculous and unprofessional.

    1. Falling Diphthong

      This is like a fascinating new twist on “interviewing” graphic designers by having them design new letterhead for your company, one of which you will accidentally wind up using after you realize you don’t need to fill that position. Boss won’t approve an afternoon off? List your job and interview someone just before the break you need.

      1. Excel Slayer

        It’s not a new – when I was younger and didn’t know any better and desperate for a job (12-ish years ago) I ended up in a similar ‘job interview’ minding a stall in a shopping centre for a hour or so. Weirdly I didn’t hear back from them after the interview! Even now I wonder how many people they must have ‘interviewed’ for the position…

        I’m really glad OP3 didn’t stick around longer!

      2. That Girl From Quinn's House

        I worked for a nonprofit that used to do working interviews to see if people were a good fit, and in a meeting someone said, “Oh wait, if we’re short we can just interview people for those shifts to fill the gaps for free!”

        No.

        I think there’s very minimal utility in a working interview, because without knowing the specifics of your business, all the interviewee can do is say “Hi, Welcome to Business! Hey, Fergus? He wants to sign up for camp? Can I have the camp form? Um, so we have camp for children, and it’s during the summer, um, Fergus? How much does camp cost?” Which doesn’t tell you anything about the interviewee except their willingness to talk out of their ass when they don’t know the answer to a question, and looks horribly unprofessional to your customers.

    2. thankful for AAM.

      Re OP #3
      I think I would have left a note saying, although these policies were not covered in your instructions, I assumed they were standard practice so I ordered lunch with petty cash and used some to pay me for my time working. Apologies if there is a check in the mail to cover the time but I did not want us to violate the laws.

      Also, if I could find a flash drive in the office, I would have also left a note with it saying a salesman had come by for the list of patients, I think I copied it onto the flash drive for him, but he had not returned for it before I left.

      Just kidding, I would not do those things but it is fun to think of it.

    3. Seeking Second Childhood

      Honestly, I’d be worried that the interviewer might do something else illegal and go home with cash or equipment –which would then be laid at OP3’s doorstep.

      1. Flash Bristow

        That was my thought, although more along the lines that the other employee who was present between clients could have thought “oh ho!” and snaffled some cash.

        Poor OP3. I’d be scared to leave, but desperate to!

        And I would ask the interviewer how they could be assessing me in their absence, and by which metrics they would be judging my performance in their return. Because leaving OP alone in an *interview* – not even the first day in the role – is ridiculous and leaves both OP and the interviewer vulnerable.

    4. shep

      Yes, this sounds EXACTLY like something my old boss at FirstJob would do. She was very nice, but also engaged in super-shady work practices. I was young and relatively naive to the work world when I first took that job (it was before I’d discovered AAM), so I put up with a lot that in retrospect should’ve been red flags popping up everywhere. (She was ALSO young and working at her family’s business, so part of me thinks a lot of what she did was out of the same sort of ignorance and poor practices she thought were normal via her family–but she also admitted they did incredibly shady things sometimes and went out of her way to warn me not to take overtime, because they wouldn’t pay me fairly. Ooooh, the things I know now…)

      On the other hand, she IS one of my strongest references now, so…I guess it [sort of] worked out? But OP#3, I think you did the exact right thing by withdrawing from consideration.

      1. concerned citizen

        OP#3, you could report this to the Dept of Health and Human Services Office of Civil Rights – they deal with patient privacy complaints. Their website doesn’t show they’re affected by the shutdown.

        1. Bilateralrope

          Wouldn’t they require someone who was still being paid to update their website ?

          More seriously though, aren’t issues of wages not being paid handled by state level organizations ?

          1. Anna

            I think both are. In Oregon, the wage thing would be BOLI and the HIPAA stuff would be another org that I can’t think of right now because it doesn’t come up often.

    5. mrs__peel

      As a health care attorney, I was cringing SO HARD while reading that letter.

      Where I work, that incident would be reportable as a privacy breach of protected health information and the receptionist would be in some serious hot water (and likely fired). Leaving a virtual stranger alone with your clients’ health information is just….. words fail me.

  3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

    OP#1, I have a couple of people who seem to learn by verbalizing what they’re hearing. Unfortunately, sometimes they do that by interrupting and trying to finish my sentences.

    I’ve found that raising this privately as a problem with interrupting can be helpful. And I mention how folks who are interrupted might lose their train of thought or shut down and disengage. I certainly catch myself from interrupting other people by reminding myself of how annoying it is to be on the receiving end.

    1. Nancy

      You said you had a team of four and a couple of them do this. That is half your staff. Is there any chance that your style of communicating this information is meandering and not as direct as it could be? Could this be coming from an impatient “get to the point already” position? They shouldn’t be interrupting you but I have been the recipient of explanations that could have been taken care of with three sentences but instead consisted of three paragraphs and it does become frustrating.

      1. Ceiswyn

        I second this; I’ve had at least one manager who thought they were a clear communicator, but actually just belaboured the point unnecessarily. It’s very frustrating when someone insists on explaining a problem five times without being interrupted, when a) you understood it halfway through the first time and b) it isn’t actually a problem, for reasons that they are not aware of and will not let you interrupt to explain.

        1. Pocket Wench

          I have this problem with two coworkers (there’s only 5 of us!) who will interupt about a half sentence in to a quick reply. And it’s almost always when I’m answering questions they asked me. How they expect know the answer just after “That file is in-“ baffles me. Doesn’t help that they’re still wrong after the interruption.

        2. Lily Rowan

          But if the employees are finishing with the wrong end of OP’s sentences, they don’t understand it yet! So this is a different situation than what you’re describing.

          1. Ceiswyn

            Oh, agreed. The part where the employees then carry on and do the WRONG THING is particularly weird; are they not listening to any part of the conversation after they interrupted?

            But that also makes me wonder whether the OP isn’t actually being as clear and direct as she thinks.

          2. OP1

            Yes, it’s definitely not interrupting to ask questions. One of the employees is a relatively new hire, so I think this is their way of showing that they’re ramping up very quickly. The other challenge there is that multiple other folks internally have also expressed this challenge with the new hire. So that leads me to think, at least in the case of this person, it’s not me rambling. I don’t want the new hire to start off on the wrong foot here, or build a reputation of someone who is waiting to talk, instead of actually listening.

            1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone

              This is one of my biggest pet peeves… (It doesn’t help that my husband does it as well as some of my employees in the past) Does it look like this:

              Interrupting Andy: OP1, how do I file the TPS reports?
              OP1: First you need to sort-
              IA: Sort them by date
              OP1: No, we don’t use date here we use-
              IA: City…It must be city or maybe zip code?
              OP1: No, that won’t work it has to be-
              IA: First Name then last name
              OP1:User number! sort theme by user number then you need to put them in files color coded by-
              IA:Ahhh color code by date.
              OP1: No, Color code by-
              IA: -Some random ass thing that makes no sense-
              OP1: ARRGHHHHHH

              Here’s how I’ve been able to short circut this. I just stop talking… eventually they figure out that they don’t have anything to interrupt anymore and you are just staring at them closed mouth or with a smirky smile. After a second or 2 I’ll usually get a response like “oh umm sorry” and I’ll continue on.

              If they aren’t picking up the not so subtle hint, I’ll say something like “Would you like to continue guessing or do you want to give me a chance to answer? I’m fine either way, but it may be quicker if you let me continue” -Yes this one is a little snarky, but it gets the point across.

                1. Washi

                  Ergh! I had been wondering if this was cultural, but if it sounds more like the above, that’s a different kettle of fish. If it’s more of an over-eager trainee and I’m about to explain something in detail, I’ve had some success with “Ok, so first I’ll explain this, so I’ll have you just listen, and then I’ll answer any questions and we’ll do it together” to try to cue expectations of quiet listening.

              1. Bostonian

                I employ the same method when my husband does this and it does work! As soon as I stop talking and just look at him he goes, “Oh, sorry, what were you going to say?”

              2. Jasnah

                This!! This is so frustrating. I would definitely stop and tell them to let me finish because they’re guessing wrong.

            2. Rebecca1

              Did they grow up in a different part of the country from where you are located? In some places, it’s more normal for conversation to overlap, while in others, it’s normal to take a little pause even during a sentence. I do Skype interviews of candidates all over the US, and I often need to adjust my style a bit from one region to another.

              1. OP1

                No, they both grew up in the area that we work in. I grew up a few hours away, but still close enough to not have drastic differences in speaking.

            3. That Girl From Quinn's House

              I had a coworker who did this! After a few weeks of working with him, I figured out it was because he learned to speak English as a young adult and finishing sentences/repeating what someone was saying was how he made sure he understood. His English was fluent for day-to-day business, so it wasn’t readily obvious that English was still “work” for him unless you spent a lot of time talking to him.

      2. Ann Non

        While you might be right and OP1 might be more long-winded than the employees would like, the fact remains that by interrupting, the employees not only misunderstand what they are supposed to do, but they actually go and do the wrong thing (per the letter).
        Maybe OP can practice saying “I want you to do x” (where x is hard to predict for the employees) and then delve into a more detailed explanation after, and see if that helps?

        1. LQ

          As long as x isn’t intentionally hard to predict. You should want your employees to be predicting what work needs to be done, being proactive and identifying problems before they happen. You don’t want gotchas.

      3. Blue

        I had this thought, as well. I also wondered if the employees might be feeding off each other and exacerbating the problem. Until recently, I was on a three-person team with a coworker of the same title and our boss. Coworker is a very abrupt person prone to interrupting, and this wasn’t checked at all by our boss. So I found I had to be more aggressive, conversationally, if I wanted or needed to weigh in. Of course, getting into the habit of cutting him off meant I was more likely to do the same to other people and it’s been a difficult thing to turn off.

        I’m not saying that it’s ok that OP’s employees are doing this, but I do think it’s worth considering whether there are other factors that might be contributing to this and seeing whether they can reasonably be addressed.

      4. OP1

        This is a good point, and one I’ve considered. In general, I’m a pretty “to the point” type of person, but will definitely be thinking about whether I’m rambling or not. Thanks!

        1. MusicWithRocksInIt

          Or long pauses. Mr. WithRocksInIt really likes to add these dramatic pauses to his sentences and sometimes it will drive me so nuts that I will try to finish for him just to get him going again. It is usually only a beat or two or three but when he does it often enough those pauses seem to last forever.

          1. TootsNYC

            Mr. Toots will ask some sort of question, or make a big statement, and then wait for me to respond. It gets so old so fast! Like, just effing tell me what you want to say, OK?
            (this has nothing to do with you, OP, I’m just taking a chance to kvetch about it.)

      5. Dust Bunny

        OMG this.

        I love my mom but I have never seen anyone overwork an explanation the way she can. She will reiterate the same information four or five times in the same spoken paragraph. If half your team is doing it, it’s annoying, but you should also reevaluate how you’re communicating to see if you’re repeating yourself too much.

        1. Flash Bristow

          I’m guilty of this. I worked out that it came from always having to justify to my mother, who would put me down etc. Don’t want to get into my upbringing too much (and I have found my people in support groups) but if someone is over explaining, there may be a reason.

          My poor husband. He often has to cut in with “I’ve said yes already! I don’t need to know all the reasoning behind it!” which is frustrating for him, but also a bit upsetting for me.

          Maybe your mom has something in her background leading to this habit, too?

      6. Confused

        That is what I’m thinking, either that or OP talks extremely slowly with long (>5 sec) pauses. If it was one person who repeatedly cut you off, then yes, that’s very rude and probably 100% their issue. If it is half your staff, I am wondering if you are the kind of person who takes about 10 years to finish a sentence or rambles on needlessly. It’s still rude of them, but communicating poorly and slowly would frustrate anyone.

      7. JHunz

        Or it could just be those two. I have to consciously prevent myself from finishing other people’s sentences. I still find myself doing it at home sometimes but I mostly manage to suppress it in the workplace.

        1. female peter gibbons

          I do it either with boring people that I’m forced to speak to, or when I’m speaking to actual friends and I just get way too excited about the point they’re making. Otherwise yes, I have to kind of consciously make sure I don’t.

        2. DesertRose

          Same here.
          For me, it’s a family-culture thing. My mom and daughter and I all think on similar wavelengths (for lack of a better metaphor) and my daughter and I both have a tendency to ramble, especially in a fairly casual conversation. Thus, when any or all three of us are talking, whoever is listening will often finish the sentence of the person who is talking.
          Part of the difference is a) these are casual conversations, generally at someone’s home or at a restaurant table b) between family members c) we’re usually right with where the other person is going with any given sentence, and d) we’re all “guilty” of it, so we’re used to communicating that way.
          I had to train myself out of it with a friend, because one manifestation of his ADHD (diagnosed professionally, I’m not diagnosing him remotely) means that if he is interrupted while speaking, even if he’s interrupted by someone who is following what he’s saying, he loses his train of thought entirely, and it’s frustrating for him. He asked me to stop, I agreed I would, and now he points out if I’m doing it unconsciously/inadvertently, so I then apologize and shut my trap to let him finish his thought.
          So, yeah, it might be a habit with these particular people, but they still need to knock it off in the workplace, because they’re annoying their direct supervisor and they’re not always correct in their perception of where the conversation is going.

      8. Artemesia

        I worked for a guy once who was so excruciatingly slow in expressing himself that lots of people finished his sentences. It was agony to listen to him as he meandered and failed to come to the point. Yeah it is still rude to do it, but the OP should reflect on whether they are direct and to the point or are rambling and difficult to endure.

    2. Karen from Finance

      I’m unfortunately at both ends of this. I find it very hard to summarize my thoughts verbally as opposed to by writing, where I can edit words/sentences out. As a result I get interrupted a lot and I often don’t get to make my point, or get to make it only after I’ve addressed what the person THOUGHT I was going to say. I mean I get it, but we waste so much time.

      On the other hand I find it very hard to be patient when someone is explaining something to me that I already know about so it’s hard for me not to interrupt them too. What’s been working better is cutting in with one or two key words or where I think they’re going, to signal to them, and let them adjust whether I got it right or not.

    3. What's with Today, today?

      I’m not sure as their boss I’d want to imply that being interrupted might cause me to “shut down and disengage.”

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        It’s pretty easy to say, “Sometimes when people are interrupted they check out of the conversation entirely. I don’t react that way, but it’s important to be mindful that this dynamic can be out there and can undermine our team’s ability to communicate effectively with one another.”

    4. triplehiccup

      Princess Consuela’s comment made me think about this through my lens as a former HS teacher. I built in lots of opportunities for my students to respond, restate what I had said, etc. It worked well to keep them mentally engaged, but I don’t know how I could replicate it with adults, as the cues and dynamics we used would not be appropriate between adults. I’m curious if anyone has ideas on how to make that work in an office environment. Can you ask someone to summarize what you just said? It seems reasonable but I’m not sure how to do it without coming off as patronizing.

      1. Washi

        I wonder about this too! I am often showing coworkers things on the computer, and at the end I’ll be like “does that make sense?”, they’ll be like “yeah yeah got it” and then 2 days later, they ask the exact same thing. But if I’m like “so, what are you going to do next time?” I feel like I sound like their 3rd grade teacher .

        1. Evan Þ.

          When I was just starting my first post-college job, I noticed that I was starting to be like that, so I decided to keep extremely extensive notes whenever someone showed me a process. It fixed the problem, and I still do it (if somewhat more briefly) today.

          Maybe you could suggest that to your coworkers? Or, if you want to and you have the time, maybe you could proactively put together a handbook?

        2. LawBee

          Make them write it down, that’s really the only way. You can couch it nicely if you need to, but I’ve also literally been handed a pen and paper when someone was showing me something, and told what to write. It sounds really condescending, but in practice it didn’t feel that way at all. It was more like “ok this is how we upload to this particular system, you’re going to need to write this down: password is blah, format is blah, click this link, yeah this court system sucks but whattayagonnado, drag this to that – did you get all that down? I’ll wait.”

          The “I’ll wait” at the end was a nice little nudge to me that the person explaining didn’t care whether or not I *thought* I understood, but that she didn’t have time to go through this process over and over again. I wrote it all down, haha.

          1. DesertRose

            Yeah, having workplace procedures and workflow processes in writing can be really helpful. If there’s a manual or tutorial or some other written documentation (including the employee’s notes, dictated by the person who trained them on how to Do The Thing), it cuts down on a lot of confusion and can save a lot of time and aggravation.

      2. thankful for AAM.

        Triplehiccup, I think one way to do this with adults is to stop and say, I just covered a lot, can you list it all and email me so we both have it.

      3. Ursula

        I do a lot of training, mostly on processes, and honestly you just have to get comfortable coming off as a little patronizing. As long as you are careful to avoid sounding patronizing and make space for what the employee can contribute in non- training conversations, it’s usually fine.

        It can also help to add an actual explanation of why you’re asking them to repeat what you’ve said, things like “Just to make sure I communicated everything clearly, go ahead and repeat the process back to me.” Or, alternately, show them the process, and then just say, “Let’s have you drive on the next one, and I’ll watch in case you have questions.” On that one I always let them struggle a bit before stepping in, but if they say “The next step is this, right?” I’ll confirm.

        I also make sure there are process documents for everything, and rather than show them the process a bunch of times, I’ll say, “Oh, the process document for that is here, let me know if you have specific questions.” Lots of people learn much better by doing rather than hearing, or by reading rather than listening, so I make sure to have parts of training that work for each learning style.

        It probably helps that I also preface my trainings with things like “You will make mistakes, everyone does, the important part is catching them, fixing them, and making sure they’re right the next time. Because the data we work with is so sensitive, I [or another coworker] will check all your work the first few times.” And “It will take several repetitions to learn this. It’s complicated, so that’s normal.” That’s because I often work with data related to people’s pay, though, so it HAS to be correct. But setting that expectation helps people to not be resentful when I make them repeat, demonstrate, or correct things.

    5. Adlib

      It’s extremely annoying to be interrupted! I usually wait for people to stop talking on a conference call before jumping in, and someone actually told me, “You’re too nice. You need to interrupt more like we do.” Ha ha! That’s just one reason that person and I do not work well together…

      1. TootsNYC

        Helen Hong said that was the advice she was given before going on “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me” for the first time: Jump in, don’t wait for an opening!

      2. Jasnah

        I was told this at a meeting too! Maybe if everyone would let others finish and listen instead of planning what they had to say next, we could get stuff done!

  4. SignalLost

    OP 5, that’s pretty much how I addressed it in my most recent job search. “I liked the work but I hated the constant client search and the uncertainty. Plus, I’m really excited to take on larger projects – as a freelancer in my industry I was generally working on smaller projects, which of course would be appropriate for one person to do.” Brush up the phrasing on the second part – that was my generic template but I could customize on the fly to make it clear that a freelancer in web dec at the start of her freelance career was not working on projects for Apple – and no one will bat an eye.

    1. JR

      Similarly, I usually say that I have enjoyed consulting but that it was never my long-term plan, and that I miss working as part of a team and miss building something over the long-term (versus project-based advisory work).

    2. londonedit

      Last year I went back to a full-time in-house job after a few years of freelancing – in reality I no particular reason for doing so, I went for it just because the job sounded really interesting and obviously a regular salary is always useful. In my interview they asked me quite a lot of questions about why I wanted to go back to a traditional job, and I said that while I did enjoy freelancing, I’d welcome the opportunity to work as part of a team again and to see projects through from start to finish rather than only getting to work on one part of the process. They seemed fairly impressed with that as an answer, and I got the job, so it must have been an acceptable answer.

  5. LeahS

    OP #3: WHAT?! My reaction is this strong because not only is this not normal, but this job is one that involved HIPAA compliance and this manager left you with sensitive data and full knowledge that you would likely be interacting with patients. This manager is out of her mind. Run away and don’t look back. I wish you luck and hope you find something great! It just won’t be at this place.

    1. Bilateralrope

      I say make a complaint over the HIPAA violation. I doubt that the letter writer is the only person they did it to. Can you trust all the other interviewees ?

      Also chase up the unpaid wages. LW3 worked there for an hour so should be paid for that hour.

      1. Nita

        Yes. Someone needs to know this doctor is putting patient info in the hands of random people who walk in off the street.

      2. gg

        “LW3 worked there for an hour so should be paid for that hour.”

        Actually, depending on the laws of whichever state this was in, LW3 might be owed several hours pay.

    2. stump

      I work in medical billing and #3 gave me the jibblies. After I got hired for my current job but before I even stepped foot in the office, I had to sign a Very Intense and Legal Form for the client health system re: HIPAA and privacy (the patients’ and the health system’s) and their own company policies in addition to Very Itense and Legal Forms from my own company, followed with mandatory HIPAA compliance training during my training period. Even if OP#3 doesn’t try to get paid for the hour+ they worked (which they should, if they want to expend the effort!), they should really report the HIPAA violation. I’m guessing OP’s in the US; you can report them to the Department of Health and Human Services. The way this place is playing fast and loose with their patients’ PHI (and money!!!!) is really kind of gross.

      1. Just another Sara

        In grad school I had to do a project for a primary care clinic and my group had to sign HIPAA forms because part of the project was to sit in the check in and check out areas to observe workflow and interview the staff. Which, like, thank goodness

  6. LobsterPhone

    No.2…I have a colleague and good friend who was in this situation, her boss was a nightmare and an incredibly difficult person to work for and with and who left a trail of traumatised people wherever she went. However, my colleague makes a great impression on everyone she works with due to her professionalism, helpfulness and knowledge of the department. She wasn’t tainted by association and I would say increased her colleagues’ respect for her because she handled this tyrant with such restraint.

    1. sheworkshardforthemoney

      I took a job with someone who had a reputation as being difficult. It turned out that he was an introvert and was terrible at the usual office chitchat. Since I was also an introvert we got along great. In the morning, if he was already there we might nod at each other but otherwise work in silence. Everyone was surprised that I lasted until he retired.

      1. Nessun

        I worked for a woman who had ADD and dyslexia – she was C-suite level, she worked her ass off, but she was all over the place and could easily get frustrated if she didn’t have confirmation I was on top of things. The woman I replaced when I started with this boss said “good luck, she’s a nightmare” and then ran for the hills, but I always found the work interesting. This lady was like a force of nature – you never knew when she’d blow in and what she’d need, but she was appreciative when I figured out her work style and how to communicate with her effectively. I’ve been told I gained people’s respect by being so willing to deal with her, and I’ve never regretted the job.

    2. Quinalla

      I worked with someone briefly (summer internship) who was one of those who liked to throw his power around, yell at people for asking him perfectly reasonable questions, etc. and it was even more off as the culture of the place was very collaborative with folks never pulling the boss/superior card lightly. Anyway, I got nothing but sympathy as everyone there knew how he was and got a lot of respect that I was able to “handle” him without cracking. He actually took me aside at the end of the summer – he’d invited all the interns and other folks he worked with to a cookout at his house – and said he really respected how much I stood up to him and continued to ask questions even when he would yell. It was a bizarre experience for sure and glad it was only for a summer and I was completely surprised when he told me he respected me, I thought I was likely annoying him since I didn’t back down when he would yell.

    3. Owlette

      This! I am an assistant for a really tough boss. All of my peers (and even other supervisors) are terrified of him. He’s not mean, but he does have the male version of resting B- face. He’s grumpy and curses when he’s frustrated and stomps around the office even if it’s just to get coffee. But everyone loves me (or so I think)! I have my own ways of handling him, and my peers definitely see that and respect me more because of it. I am helpful and kind to everyone in the office. If someone has a question, I go out of my way to help them. I try to remember people’s names and say hi and good morning to people in the hallway. People have commented that they don’t know how a sunny person like me could work for a grouch like him. But it works! And I have a reputation for being awesome, and I think a lot of it stems from just being able to work with him!

    1. It’s All Good

      Right. Wtf? I wonder if she has “interviews” on a regular basis so she can screw around on company time.

      1. MK

        It sounds like she was the owner of the practice, so I doubt that. Also, she apparently did conduct an actual interview; I think this is an incompetent interviewer who probably thinks she is being innovative.

        1. Liane

          The owner of the practice would be the chiropractor. Now, it’s possible the interviewer was the doctor’s spouse.

          As OP figured out, this wasn’t the job f or her, or anyone. I would consider, if I was her, reporting the HIPAA violation, even if she decides not to deal with the Wage & Hour one.

        2. Observer

          This is not just about an incompetent interviewer, in my opinion. As others have noted it’s not just labor laws that she violated. I could understand her not knowing that, a bit. But not understanding BASIC security (ie you don’t leave CASH with someone you’ve just met!) is a bit harder to swallow. And for any medical practitioner to be so cavalier about letting someone handle client information?! That’s CORE COMPETENCY territory.

          OP, you dodged a bullet. There is no way that this person is a reasonable boss.

          1. a good mouse

            Not just cash, but probably a wealth of information that could be used for identity theft. You just met this interviewee, and you’re leaving them in a room of folders containing people’s names, social security numbers, and addresses?

    2. Roja

      Never even mind the problems from the interviewee’s perspective, but I found out that was happening at one of my medical provider’s offices, I would be seriously steamed and would probably change providers. Of course OP is an honest person, thankfully, but there’s no guarantee than every interviewee would be! That’s a lot of sensitive information for a random person to have access to.

      1. Rebecca

        I was thinking the same thing! This person brought someone in off the street, sat them down, gave them access to medical records and money/payment information. I can’t even wrap my head around this.

    3. Dagny

      I’m not justifying what the doctor did, but here’s another take: she’s a doctor, not an HR specialist, a manager, attorney, etc. She has a business because she has a doctoral degree and is good at realigning people’s spines, not because she has any clue how to operate a business.

      This could just be business incompetence on her part. Honestly, I would probably suggest to her that she find “outside GC” and “outside HR” companies to handle part of the business of running an office.

      1. Lilysparrow

        In my state, and I expect in most states, medical professionals including chiropractors have to be licensed in order to practice, and in order to own or run a clinic. The training and testing include legal requirements (like privacy practices).

        They are also required to take a certain number of hours of continuing education every year to maintain their license, and a certain amount of that training must be on legal requirements.

        1. Slartibartfast

          Not in my state. The continuing education is medical. There’s no business training required to open and operate a business.

      2. Observer

        Nope. Not at all.

        As I noted above, you don’t need to be a specialist of any sort to understand that you don’t leave someone who you have not thoroughly vetted alone with your cash. Also, any doctor who is not aware of how this violates basic HIPAA rules should not be in practice. These are not new rules – they have been in effect for over 15 years now. There is ZERO reasonable explanation for not abiding by them.

      3. Dagny

        You seem intent on missing the point.

        “In my state, and I expect in most states, medical professionals including chiropractors have to be licensed in order to practice, and in order to own or run a clinic. The training and testing include legal requirements (like privacy practices).”

        That is not true in my state, for what it’s worth. While jurisprudence is an allowable course for continuing education, it is by no means required.

        Rather than snot down to people who have different specialties than you do, consider that your time would be better spent understanding why these failures happen.

        1. Observer

          I don’t know what the specific courses are that doctors are required to take to maintain licensing in your state, but HIPAA training is actually required by the law, aside from any requirements for training. So, that’s not much of an excuse.

      4. DJ

        I’m at an medical school. I have nothing to do with patients or their information. I have had to take HIPAA training and refresher classes multiple times. There is no way if she is a doctor that unaware of HIPAA or the seriousness of a breach of PHI.

  7. It’s All Good

    #1 – I am ADD and when I get excited about a topic I might do this. I work really hard at not doing this. Once I’m established I will tell my immediate coworkers about the ADD and they are usually understanding. I ask them to hold up their hand if I am unaware I’m interrupting/ finishing sentences.

      1. JSPA

        in some fields (or under some hiring preferences), ADD may be more of a help than a hindrance. Estimates for population prevalence (in the young / ever having had a diagnosis of) run around 10%. Many adults are presumably mostly – coping / sub – clinical / never diagnosed. If you rolled a 10-sided die 4 times, needing a 10, you’d be pleased but not terribly shocked to roll two 10’s.

        More generally, it’s a habit that reinforces. One blurter sets off other potential blurters. It feels collaborative, creative, energetic and friendly. Even complimentary –“Your ideas are so great, they make me bubble over.”

        Getting “problem solving” people to respect that not every conversation is a brainstorming session is not trivial, especially if they’ve been rewarded for the behavior throughout their education.

    1. misspiggy

      And me! Particularly if the speaker is rambling or slow. I feel I have to interject or I’m going to lose my grip on the whole conversation. I now try to say, ‘Sorry to stop you, but just to check my understanding, is it x?’

      Me not interrupting at all would ostensibly be better for the speaker, but they’d lose me and thus their objective of getting me to understand something.

    2. Not So NewReader

      Holding hand up. This is actually a good idea. I also suggest making a little time out “t” with both index fingers. (One index finger laying perpendicular to the other index finger to form a “t”.)
      This works well at the dentist’s office when there are a bunch of fingers and other stuff in the mouth. also.

    3. JSPA

      My spouse and I do this to reach other (in part for similar reasons). We’ve found that it helps to “harness the awkward” by going to longish pause… making clear the derailment… then, “Yup, that’s another grammatical way to end the sentence, but not actually the point I was making.” Said nicely, it cuts through where nothing else works (because it does not provide faster resolution, and it also seems to reset the ADD “focus clock”).

    4. Washi

      But are you interrupting to finish the sentence or to tack on a piece of related information? I feel like in my experience with ADD interrupters, they’re interrupting with something I reminded them of, not trying to beat me to the end of my own sentence.

    5. LeahS

      Also ADD. Also have to make sure I don’t do this! Especially when I am excited or engaged. I sympathize with #1 because I know it is frustrating for other people.

      1. It’s All Good

        Yup. I work so hard at work to not do interrupt, at home I’m all over the place. Hubby asks why can’t I be like that at home, I tell him I’m exhausted from making myself focus and not interrupt at work!

    6. Starbuck

      Yes, I have this problem sometimes too- there needs to be a certain amount of give and take in a conversation for me to stay focused on it. Either I need opportunities to contribute verbally (ask a question, get asked a question, whatever) or have something to do physically (this is often seen as being unfocused and rude though!). But if you are just going to unleash a fire hose of words at me, that’s not gonna work. Especially if it’s a relatively dull work topic.

  8. Karlee

    OP#1: You should know that finishing a sentence is a regional communication style that says “I’m so listening to you!” (Check out Deborah Rannen’s books for more info.) It’s a hard habit to break and I should know – I’ve been working on it for 20 years. What works for me is people who are really direct – who tell me I’m not right and asked me to listen patiently. Said without judgment it’s really helpful.

    1. Birch

      Is it about interrupting people though? I find I finish sentences when the other person pauses because they can’t find a word and I provide the word I think they’re looking for. I also like when people do this to me because it shows they understand what I was going for. But there’s actually a communication style around *interrupting people* to finish their sentences? It just seems like interrupting people is almost always rude, even if you’re trying to show you understand–if you’re both on the same wavelength, why can’t you let them finish their own statement? It seems like the interrupter is taking agency away from the original talker’s point, but maybe I’m misunderstanding how this style works?

      1. Savannnah

        Yes. It’s called “high-involvement cooperative overlapping” and it’s not considered rude to the linguistic regional group that practices it- mostly urban Jewish populations of Eastern European descent. Outside this group though, it’s a good habit to try to break in work settings- if difficult. I’m still working on it for sure.

        1. JSPA

          I’ve wondered if that’s the source of some (possibly otherwise unexpected?) cultural affinities between African Americans and American Jews. There’s a certain shared enjoyment of “collaborative overtalk” in sizable pockets of both communities (though African Americans are more commonly taught to code shift away from it, and it’s often treated differently if black kids do it).

          1. CheeryO

            This is super interesting. I have a coworker in one of those groups who will say the last word of your sentence with you while smiling and nodding, and it doesn’t really bother me, but it would probably drive me a little nuts if I were her supervisor.

            1. JSPA

              I’ve also wondered if it ties in with participatory musical / chanting-based worship traditions. Whether that’s because it sets up conditions where “all voices” participation is a respectful thing, or because it teaches people the skill of listening and joining in. But it’s definitely a way of signaling “I not only hear you, I like how you think, I follow in rapt detail and I concur.” I actually like being on the receiving end of the “careful listener chiming in” treatment.

              None of which directly applies to people recklessly jumping in while being wrong.

          2. Librarianne

            I hadn’t heard this term before, but it perfectly describes what I do! My mom’s family is Eastern European and we constantly talk over each other. I had no idea the habit could have an ethnic component to it–I thought it was just a quirk of my family dynamics. I didn’t live near any other Eastern European families, but most of my friends in high school were Black and Latinx and we also talked like that. It drives my husband crazy and he can’t figure out how we can actually understand each other.

            I’ve tried to tone this down at work, but I haven’t been able to stop saying “yeah” and “oh?” etc. a lot during conversations. Luckily people don’t seem to mind very much…

        2. thankful for AAM.

          I’m an overlapper to show connectedness and when I find someone else who is, it is a real joy to be with them!

          But I am also an interrupter when I feel like boss is saying something I already know in a way that implies I don’t know it. If boss said, hey, you know those big things that need x treatment, now they need y added – I would not find myself interrupting. But if boss says, we have big things that need . . . I’d already be saying, the ones that need x treatment but probably need z as well?

          I’d be wrong about what new treatment they need. And I would be interrupting. I have noticed that I am feeling discomfort when I do this. Like the boss is speaking and explaining carefully to me because they think I don’t know about the thing but clearly I should.

          I have also noticed that there is an element here of trust. It is subtle and not a feeling I realized I had but, in my case, some toxicity with previous bosses here has leaked in and changed my behavior. I am acting like I don’t trust my boss.

          I personally feel there is a middle thing to try if, as OP says, the employees are trying to show they know. First, are your staff clear that you do trust and value them? Can you preface remarks in a way that shows you are reviewing material you all know before moving on to changes or new material?

        3. Washi

          I came here to say this – I have a couple colleagues who do this constantly, including one who does it TO PRESENTERS WHO ARE PRESENTING. I think it’s pretty common in Eastern Europe in general (in addition to the other groups mentioned) and it can really clash with the “take turns speaking” style that others are familiar with.

          I don’t think the OP is wrong to want to curb this (it drives me crazy too!) but if it’s a cultural thing, it may be really, really hard for the employees to stop, because in their minds, they are not being rude, they are being engaged.

          1. Savannnah

            Exactly. I still need to remind myself frequently that just because my Midwest husband is taking turns talking with me, doesn’t mean he’s not actively listening or contributing. In the work environment though, it’s really important to take turns and allow for pause. This is especially so when dealing with hierarchy and I can’t imagine doing that with a presenter!

            1. Birch

              This is a really good point. We should all be more aware of when cultural differences are clashing with either social or work needs!

          2. gmg22

            This is quite fascinating. I was identifying with the OP’s colleagues and their enthusiastic interjections (this is something I have worked on improving myself, especially with a few colleagues with whom I know it doesn’t go over very well). The comments re ADHD struck a chord for me. But so does this cultural angle, and I realize likely that’s because my dad comes from a large family of Eastern European descent, and we’re used to interruptions and interjections when we’re all getting worked up about a given topic.

          3. LQ

            This is interesting (the cultural part) because apparently we (I’m not sure the we, either this blog/comments section, or us culture we, or some other we) have decided that the Right Culture is taking turns speaking style. No one is telling the OP that they should start collaboratively speaking so as to demonstrate to her employees that she’s engaged in the conversation. Collaborative overlapping has been deemed Wrong Culture and taking turns has been deemed Right Culture.

            1. Birch

              I don’t think that’s true. Maybe for some people. But in this situation OP is higher in the hierarchy and giving instructions and feedback to her reports, so talking over her is really counterproductive in this particular situation. The other speaking style can work better in e.g. a brainstorming session, but there’s so much need for respecting hierarchy, letting everyone have their say, and efficiency in the workplace that it’s not really surprising that taking turns is a better fit for most workplaces.

              1. Savannnah

                Culture and what’s deemed best fit can’t really be separated out like that though. We think it’s best because it’s the norm in the US/the west and it’s the norm because of who dominates and controls the narrative on what ‘professionalism’ looks like and sounds.

                1. Washi

                  Yeah, I think in a “collaborative overlapping culture” what this looks like in the workplace, is using sentence filling to generally check comprehension. So the employee fills in sentences to check their understanding, and the boss might wrap up a conversation by saying “so going forward, files go into…” with the expectation that the other person will jump in to show that they know where files go.

                  I don’t think one is inherently better/worse but I would say that in the US, turn taking is more the norm in the workplace, so ultimately I think it’s reasonable for the OP to ask the other person to try to stop and listen. I think the cultural framing hopefully helps the OP not see the employee’s behavior as necessarily deliberately rude if it requires multiple reminders to change.

                2. Birch

                  Well yeah, but just like other aspects of work culture, this is one that people need to be aware of and decide if it’s a dealbreaker for them. You can’t just say “oh it’s my culture to interrupt people” and expect the whole office to be okay with it if that’s not generally how things are done in that particular office. People need to both be aware of others’ preferences and also be able to adapt to different situations.

            2. JSPA

              Well, people who have not grown up with overspeak often simply can’t process multiple inputs. So while on the one hand we’re defaulting to a very anglo-saxon midwestern protestant norm (one one level) we’re also defaulting to “what it’s reasonable to expect the average person to process.” It’s also far more difficult to process multiple voices when dealing with unfamiliar accents, or when you’re not using your mother tongue, or with mild hearing loss. So it’s not a bad default from a functional standpoint. I do wish we’d get away from, “you should know it’s rude / you were raised wrong if you were not raised to do it this way” though.

            3. JKP

              I just read a book (Deaf Tips) where they tested the turn-taking vs. collaborative overlapping communication styles. In a timed test with two competing teams, turn-taking always won as being far faster and far more accurate than collaborative overlapping. So maybe the majority landed on turn-taking as Right Culture because it actually works better.

              1. Starbuck

                Hmm, if the study was based on sign language, I’m skeptical that you could generalize such a finding from a visual communication medium to an auditory communication medium. If I’ve got one person to my left and another to my right, I can hear both just as well- but not necessarily see both.

        4. Lily Rowan

          My boss isn’t from that ethnic population, but I assume that is her preferred style! Because otherwise, it’s just her monologueing all day. (I am also not from that population, but it is also the way of part of my family, so I’m pretty comfortable with talking over someone in a positive way!)

        5. Casper Lives

          Yeah, I’m an Ashkenazi Jew and it’s a hard habit to break when you’re raised communicating that way. I’ve worked hard to curb it. It still comes out sometimes. I’ve gotten feedback like “you’re a great employee, but you need to stop interrupting people.” It’s really hard to change!

        6. Archaeopteryx

          Very useful term! I have a good friend who will speak along with the end of your sentences; I was always fascinated by how much it makes me feel heard and empathized with, when on paper it doesn’t seem like it should!

        7. JanetM

          Interrupting to finish, to fill in a word, or to correct a mis-statement is also very common in science fiction fandom. (Only the correction aspect is referred to in the link; I’ve observed the other aspects personally.) As an SF fan of European Jewish origin, I find this explains a lot about my own speech practices.

          http://www.fantasymaps.com/stuff/fanspeak.html

          It’s neat to have a technical term for the practice!

        8. Polymer Phil

          I always thought of this as something people from NYC do; never knew it was really an Eastern European Jewish thing.

    2. Dragoning

      This. Honestly, my response when the finished my sentence incorrectly would be, “No, actually, it’s X.”

    3. Not All

      This is definitely a communication style that some people were raised with…I certainly was! To me, the “exchange” style comes off as people taking turns monologuing rather than a conversation. It’s taken me 20 years to (mostly) break myself of doing it in a workplace, but I admit that I still haven’t reached the point where I find it natural or can stay nearly as mentally engaged in a meeting with that style. People who talk. so. slowly. and. have. long. pauses. constantly. are the absolute worse for me to deal with still. There were a couple people in my last office I tried to only interact with by email because they were so slooooooooooow on top of the monologuing turns thing that my brain would have played the entire conversation out internally before they got to the end of their first sentence.

      1. Cassandra

        For me it’s people who talk a lot but never seem to get to the point or actually stop. Sometimes this means folks who think through things by talking out loud about them. (This communication style is sometimes said to be a correlate with extraversion.)

        I have a colleague like this. I love this colleague to PIECES, and thankfully they don’t seem to mind my interruptiness, but talking with them is, I think, something of a strain for both of us.

        1. Lilo

          LOL my boyfriend totally does this. He goes off on tangents almost as if he’s interrupting his own monologue. One stream of thought will be interrupted an anecdote which will lead to an analysis and it will keep going until I interrupt him to get back to what we were originally talking about. Like how your stream of thoughts sometimes transition from one subject to a completely unrelated one, he just does it out loud in conversation.

      2. thankful for AAM.

        Not All,
        I think describing turn taking as a series of monologues and not an actual conversation is so accurate!!

        I think that is part of the reason ppl hate mtgs so much, it is just a bunch of disconnected speeches.

  9. Working Hypothesis

    LW #3, I think I have worked for that chiropractor!! The office manager did the same thing to me. Or else, there are lots of chiropractic office managers with similar boundary issues. Ugh.

    1. Not So NewReader

      Doctors in general get very little training in professional office norms. I think the problem starts there. They hire an office manager and assume the person will do what is normal. But without a lot of reference points they still don’t know what normal looks like.
      There’s a chiro here who will not post business hours on the door. Instead they put up a monthly calendar. If the door is locked you have to scan through and find today on the calendar to ascertain when they will be open. I tried saying that they should put their hours on the door and they thought that was the oddest thing they had ever heard.

      1. AnotherAlison

        At the risk of offending medical office employees, I think you’re right! It probably doesn’t apply to practices that are part of big medical companies/systems, but private chiro offices might be the worst offenders. I used to go to an office that had multiple chiros, a massage therapist, and some sort of midwife birthing center. They messed up my billing and charged me full price ($40) for a couple visits after I met my deductible and only owed $8. Instead of refunding me, I had to use the overpayment as credit. It was fine since I had a lot of problems post-marathon, but they just seemed a little too chill and a lot about wellness and not very much about running a business.

        1. Not So NewReader

          I had a lawyer forget to bill me. He kept saying he would send a bill. Finally I plunked down in his office and informed him I was not leaving until I paid my bill. The lack of business training really shows what is worse is the disconnect.

        1. Not So NewReader

          LOL. So I looked on the calendar because the door was locked. It said 12-2 is lunch time. But it was 11:30 when I was standing there. I said, it would be good if the calendar showed the real hours they are open. At this point they were looking at me like I am talking in a foreign language.

    2. littleandsmall

      I was going comment something similar because I had a similarly bizarre experience to the OP interviewing for a receptionist position at a chiropractor’s office.

      The interview started out normal and ended with them (husband and wife team) handing me a stack of promotional cards offering an introductory discount on their services. They asked me to go around and leave them at several local businesses and they would know which referrals came from me because of the unique promo code on the card.

      For some reason, this request didn’t raise any immediate red flags (to be fair, I was only 19 or 20 at the time). I actually did bring them to a salon that I previously worked as a receptionist at (where I was still on good terms with the owners and other staff) and started to brainstorm other places I could leave the cards before I realized they were just using me for free advertising. I threw the rest of the cards away and dodged their followup calls.

    3. AbbeyRoad

      I just left a job as an office manager at a chiropractic clinic and while I poured myself and my energy into trying to keep things professional, on the up and up, and HIPPA compliant, good GRAVY am I glad this is no longer my burden. A steep uphill climb almost every single day. She is pretty fortunate that I had some HR experience because if it was one of my first jobs it’s likely I would not have known and may have followed her lead.

      Boundaries and upholding norms were a consistent struggle and bless her, but there were so many things (not this exact situation but stuff like this) where she…just seemed to think the rules just didn’t apply to her? Her spouse was also a big part of management for some reason.

      This was my first and only experience with/working with any sort of chiropractic or naturopathic care. The associate chiropractor and all the other providers were very professional and had a clear understanding boundaries and compliance but they were not in charge and some of the comments in this thread are giving me flashbacks.

  10. Doctor Schmoctor

    #5 Running their own business is not everybody’s cup of tea. I know people who tried it, found that is wasn’t for them, and returned to work for a boss. I don’t think it was ever held against them.
    It’s like how management is not for everybody. Being good at a thing doesn’t necessarily mean you will be good at managing other people doing that thing.
    I prefer to leave the business-ing to the business people.

  11. Stuff

    #3 she used you as an unpaid temp. Has probably done before, will do again. May not even be really hiring.

    1. Not Australian

      It seems a lot of effort to put in (i.e. advertising, faking an interview) just to get someone to cover the office for an hour, though. I’m not disagreeing with you, just astonished that anybody would think this was worth doing in the first place.

      1. Bilateralrope

        But it could be worth the effort for doing this regularly. Put up the job ad, collect the replies. Then, any time they want a temp, grab a reply. Apologize about the delay in replying then arrange an “interview “

      2. Jennifer

        I think her plan was to get her to stay all day. She had stuff to do and needed someone to cover the front desk.

  12. Cat wrangler

    I worked for someone with a bad reputation with their direct staff – more indirect connections thought that they were great (as they got projects done and pushed the envelope as to what could be achieved; it’s often more than you think). They had actually been removed from their department after an official complaint against them and then sent back after a period seconded elsewhere. Oddly enough, the person who had led the complainants and had had their job changed because of it, tried to get her old role back working with Difficult Manager and tried to undermine me by diverting my extension to theirs or offering to triage emails in my absences! I did learn a lot of stuff from this role but in the end, I left as I found myself minicking Difficult Manager’s way of dealing with folk and I didn’t want to be that sort of person (I’d ring up IT and quote Difficult Manager’s name in order to Get Something Done Now instead of in ticket order). You can catch more flies with honey than vinegar after all.

    1. thankful for AAM.

      Did we work at the same place? We also had someone with a “bad reputation with their direct staff – more indirect connections thought that they were great (as they got projects done and pushed the envelope as to what could be achieved; it’s often more than you think). They had actually been removed from their department after an official complaint against them . . . ”

      In our case, they were given managing reaponsibilities over a different team, carried on with the toxic behavior, and left to carry on.

      Everyone below her knows what is happening, above her, not so much. But no one is painting her staff with the same brush.

    2. TardyTardis

      I was often asked how I got along so well with Difficult Older Woman, and I was puzzled–just admire the rack on the deer she shot a few weeks ago and she was very reasonable. And listen to her stories and view the pictures of the four feet of snow they just got at their plant. Taking a few moments to treat her like a person yielded excellent results (though alas my cries of ‘put it on the truck!’ with the snow, as we live in a dry part of the country, did not result in any actual action…).

  13. Doctor Schmoctor

    #1 If it was only one person who did that, I would say it’s just someone who wants to appear to be proactive. To show you “I’m thinking about stuff, and I’m totally on board.” But you say it’s more than one person. So maybe there is something about the way you talk that makes them do this. Maybe you don’t communicate clearly, struggle to find the right words, etc. It happens to me a lot.

    Just a thought

    1. Hello, I’d like to report my boss

      Similarly, I have a friend who was very long winded and spoke in paragraphs. People would talk over him out of blind frustration as an “I’ve got your point, you can stop the lecture” signal. He has improved after he met someone even more waffly and realised how he sounded.

      It doesn’t sound like this is necessarily OP’s case but it is worth a thought.

      1. Rikki Tikki Tarantula

        I think it’s great that he met someone worse and realized how he sounded. I was hoping my husband would have a similar moment of clarity; he’s very long-winded and ramble-y, and he had a coworker for a while who was worse, but he just complained about the coworker and didn’t realize he was almost as bad. Meanwhile, me and some of our friends were telling husband, “Boy, I bet that’s frustrating,” while holding back giggles and eye-rolls.

    2. Susan K

      That was my thought, too. I have a good friend/former coworker who can be very long-winded, and when I worked with her, she was often frustrated about people interrupting her. She didn’t get that it was because these people were frustrated with her because they went to her with what should have been a quick question and she took 20 minutes to get to the answer.

      The interrupting is still rude (especially from subordinates, which was not the case with my friend), but I think it’s worth taking a look at whether your communication style is part of the issue. It’s possible that the employees who aren’t interrupting are just too polite to interrupt their manager but still wish you would be more concise.

    3. Asenath

      Or it could be a personal quirk. I tend to jump in, and it’s mostly because something that’s been said to me has sparked a response I want to say Right Now before I forget. This habit was brought to my attention years ago, and I do try not to do it. I won’t guarantee I always remember, unfortunately, but really, there’s nothing wrong with correcting someone who does this. And two – could be two people with the same quirk, but I’d wonder if there might be something in the presentation that encourages jumping in too soon.

      1. Just Employed Here

        My first ever report used to do this just as a kind of “hobby”. It was just her way of trying to guess where I was going with the conversation, but inevitably made her sound a bit dumb (completely unnecessarily!), as she couldn’t possibly always be correct when guessing what was going to be said.

        I had a friendly chat with her about it around the time her internship ended. She was mortified, but happy to be informed of it, and later asked her boyfriend whether she did it at home as well. He said she did, and she was a bit annoyed he’d never mentioned it to her…

      2. pinyata

        I do this too. It’s really hard for me to break. If I’m taking notes I can write a note of the thing I want to say, but if it’s just a regular conversation the need to “not forget what I want to say” almost always wins over the need to “let the other person finish what they’re saying.”

    4. Blunt Bunny

      Yes it could be also that it’s a lot of info to take at once and they weren’t prepared for a long conversation. If they are nodding their head and saying hmm and yeah a lot then they are probably politely telling you it’s too long. Alot of people prefer detail to be written down so they have a record of it.

    5. Not So NewReader

      A little self-inspection is always wise.
      Early on the feed back I received was that I had the habit of telling people things they already knew. My problem was I had no way of knowing that they already knew. My solution was to preface my long story with a question or two so I could cut the story waaay down.
      “Sally, have you done X before? Oh you have, great. What did you do when Y happened?”

      The long story would have looked like this: “Sally when we do X we have to do abc. But some times things crumble because of reasons 1 through 6. So when reason number 5 happens, I want our group to do step a, b and c.” Meanwhile, it’s 15 minutes later and Sally is sound asleep and snoring because I have not said anything she does not already know.

      Okay, so it wasn’t really 15 minutes, but in some fast paced environments even 5 minutes is absolute agony. Knowing the pacing of the environment is really helpful. Managers should try to keep up with the pace of the workflows in doing their own work. In my effort to avoid being presumptuous I accidentally went the opposite it way and I seemed condescending. Ask questions to find out where in the story line the listener is located.

      1. thankful for AAM.

        This is a much better way of explaining what I tried to say upthread! Add in, I’m not bored, but I am worried you think I don’t know the stuff you are reviewing and I should. That would mean so boss is implying a lack on my part and I am eager to let her know that I know.

        I am working on not interrupting bc it is still wrong and notsonewreader makes some really great points.

    6. Natalie

      Definitely worth thinking about. My former boss would trail off/pause mid sentence for a really long time (60 seconds+) so a lot of his subordinates are in the habit of suggesting a word or otherwise prodding him. (Of course in his case, he knows about this tic and will snap to and acknowledge he trailed off.)

    7. Submerged Tenths

      Yep, my boss tends to get long-winded and repeat stuff i already know. I try not to cut him off / finish his sentences . . . but it is sometimes a real struggle. Check your own communication style, OP, before getting firm with your reports.

    8. littleandsmall

      Yep, not saying this is the OP’s case, but I used to be really bad about trailing off or taking pauses because I really struggled with making sure I chose the “right” words.

      One of my pet peeves is being interrupted and I realized 9/10 times that the other person wasn’t trying to be rude or steamroll me, they were just trying to help me out. It’s something I got better with over time and with practice. Working in technical support over the phone for several years really helped because customers really like you to be declarative/speak with confidence, even if you’re not 100% sure of the answer haha.

  14. Heylookacastle

    Just to jump in on poster #1 (ha) – although in this case it sounds more like what you and Alison have described (seeing as it’s multiple employees), chronic interrupting can also be an ADJD thing. Not saying you should go out and diagnose anyone, but don’t be afraid to be familiar with the signs and a little more patient with those that just might not be neurotypical.

    While Alison’s response would certainly work, I’d also be crushed because I’m such a pleaser, I know I do it, I can’t help it, so I mostly just try to catch myself, apologize, and redirect back to the person “sorry – please go on!”

    But before my diagnosis at age 33 I had a colleague that would go nuts over this (ironically we were good friends otherwise and had she known about the ADHD it would have annoyed her far less). It was so hard, and I’m such a pleaser, and acutely aware of how I annoy people even though I don’t always realize it when it’s happening and can’t always stop it when I do.

    Thankfully, my ADHD comes with some superstar features, so I’ve been fortunate enough to always be in demand in the working world. I always say I’m an acquired taste… the people that love me, really love me. Everyone else is just confused and annoyed. But there seems to be more of the former than the latter ;)

    1. gmg22

      I was originally wondering when I read this letter whether the OP is just one of those people who speaks very, very deliberately. I’ve had this issue with a colleague and a mismatch in speaking styles, and have over time trained myself to be more patient and “wait for the pause” when having a discussion with him. Sometimes to me it really feels like pulling teeth because it takes him so long (from my perspective) to get a full sentence out. I’ll actually experience this “bzzzzzt” feeling of anxiety waiting for the thought to be completed. But that’s how he communicates, and I’ve just had to make myself get used to it.

      But now hearing this take on it … yeah. I have many, many longstanding symptoms that suggest that an ADHD diagnosis would not come as a surprise, and this just adds to my list of evidence that I really need to pursue some screening. (I just interrupted our COO on a conference call yesterday and got a gentle reminder from our office manager that “she probably didn’t hear you because she wasn’t done talking.” Ouch.)

      My mom does this too, I think even worse than I do. She’ll just interrupt and totally change the subject when I am in mid-sentence on the previous subject. So I suspect the undiagnosed ADHD is a multi-generational problem, but getting her to investigate on her own behalf would be like … well, like pulling teeth. Another good reminder here that I need to do it for myself, though.

    2. Librarianne

      Same. My family is Eastern European *and* I have ADHD, so I must drive people nuts. I find that interjecting really helps keep my mind from wandering off topic. Luckily at work I’ve been able to keep this to inserting “yeah” and “oh?” every so often when someone else is speaking, but sometimes I have to literally bite my tongue to keep from jumping in.

  15. Heylookacastle

    And for #5 it’s true, just “yeah, I went into business for myself for awhile but decided it wasn’t for me.” And maybe mention some of the skills you developed from it like being self-driven and what it. I ran a business for the first 8 years of my career. There are lots of completely acceptable reasons to get out of it, even when it’s a successful business. If you’re not seeking work in sales, it’s easy to say “yeah, I started to realize I really didn’t enjoy the sales side of things and am really looking to find a role that focuses on (X thing you are good at that is relevant to the job you are applying for)”. Or if it’s a 9-5 job you’re applying to you can say “yeah, I’m really looking forward to something where I have an actual weekend and don’t feel like I live at work”. Or, “I realized working from home full-time wasn’t for me”. Lots of diplomatic ways to say the same thing.

    For the record, my actual reasons for getting a “real” job:
    -tired of working 12-20 hour days and feeling like I was working 24/7
    -wanted benefits
    -ran the business with my spouse. Try working together with someone you live with for 12-14 hours a day, 7 days a week for a month and then tell me how much you still like each other

    -if I didn’t get a traditional job soon, eventually my only reference would be my spouse. And that reference would have been epic (still would be!). “Is she reliable?” “Oh yeah, as long as you call her at least 7 times to pick up milk on the way home. Also, one time she forgot to pick up our kids from daycare. She’s super productive until she gets annoyed with something pointless you are doing and arbitrarily leaves because she thinks you’re wasting her time. She generally wears flip flops and a tank top to work and once told a customer to go to a competitor if he was really so unhappy with our product.”

    Cutting myself off, because that is a tangent that could go so, so far.

    1. That third reason you listed

      Ha! I work in an industry where husband/wife or bf/gf pairings are common. In some instances, the team would also be going on business travel together, so think about a 12-14 hour day and then coming home to a shared hotel room.

      I believe it takes a lot of dedication, commitment, and a certain dynamic to make it work. I’ve also witnessed instances where it wasn’t working so well (“I TOLD you the ABC file was over there!” “Well I didn’t hear you!”) I can also say that I’ve heard stories about how “Jane and Bob broke off their engagement” and that the industry destroys relationships. A former Very Senior Executive was on his third marriage when I worked at that job and former coworkers alluded to the industry being a factor on his past divorces.

      I am hoping your marriage is still successful.

    2. OP #5

      Thank you! These answers are great.

      Yours is very similar to my situation too – both my husband and I have been working from home for our own respective businesses (and honestly, I run about half of his business as well as my own) and I love him dearly but…well, you know.

      I’ve also realized that while I’m pretty good at marketing and strategy, I’m not all that good at doing it on a basically $0 budget. I’ve been kind of beating myself up about not being able to get business and why haven’t I been able to do for myself what I did for my old companies? until I realized that I’ve been trying to do everything without a budget. There’s a lot to be said for being able to do what you do well AND have the resources available to be able to do it.

  16. JulieCanCan

    #3 you need to submit an invoice to the chiropractor for your hour of work @ $25 per hour, because you were *working* for her.

    Please please consider it, do it, and update us.

    I can’t even write any more because I’m so infuriated and blown away by that sleezy scoundrel. Holy mother of all things abnormal in this freaky world.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch

      No. She needs to call the labor department. They’ll crack down on them and collect back pay including interest along with the taxes that are owed.

      Please never send an invoice for something that’s not agreed upon services. It’s not how that works.

  17. A.N. O'Nyme

    Op3, sounds like “working interview” might’ve been code for “checking how much candidates will let me walk over them”.
    You dodged a cannon ball there.

  18. Slartibartfast

    #3-wirking interviews are a thing for veterinary offices, and I could see it for other small medical offices as well. You are working very closely with a small team, and there is a lot of benefit to knowing if your personality and work preferences fit with the style of the office/doctor. Working interviews are a great way to do that, and they are fun most of the time. Leaving you alone like that defeats the purpose of the working interview. How can they get to know you if they aren’t even there? It’s also typically the last step before the job offer to your first pick candidate and not something that you make everyone do, so it’s not even competitive. If they’re doing working interviews with multiple candidates, that’s a red flag too. They either don’t know what they’re doing or they’re looking for free labor (cheap). The good places do compensate you somewhat as well, even if it’s not directly with pay. A small thank you gift or a gift card to a local business, things like that. This one though, you’re right to turn it down.

    1. WellRed

      Lots of small offices work closely together, not just medical. Not sure why making people work unpaid to get to know them is considered acceptable. In the US it’s illegal.

    2. LizB

      Can you say more about what this usually looks like? What is the interviewee asked to do on this working interview? Because honestly it still sounds maybe kinda illegal to not pay someone for their work, but I could be missing something.

      1. Pop

        This is a thing in the service industry as well. At my husband’s work, it just means working a shift with the team to see how you all get along. His boss pays for working interviews (cash) but afaik most places do not. It would seem pretty out of touch to refuse one in a restaurant.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch

          WHAT? No! This isn’t normal. In service. Everyone who does this is breaking the law and taking advantage of you.

          You can’t just pay in cash. Double down on laws broken. Woah.

            1. Pop

              Yep, it is not legal but it is definitely normal. You would not be able to get a job at Mr. Pop’s company without doing a working interview. I think we’ve also seen from several letters here that the service industry doesn’t always adhere to laws as strictly as some other jobs – think not reporting full amount of tips for wages, how many servers work double shifts and probably don’t get adequate breaks, some of the dysfunction/abuse that can happen in kitchens, especially in small business/independently owned places (vs his last employer, the coffee giant, who followed all of the laws exactly).

      2. Slartibartfast

        Ones that I have done, you’re following another team member and watching what they do for the most part, seeing what the protocols are, how the lab set up runs, what the doctor’s preferences are for vaccines, anesthesia, work flow. They might introduce you to select clients and you might restrain or do very simple procedures with full disclosure and consent (draw blood or do a physical exam, for example). It’s kind of a real time “what’s a typical day on the job look like?”, because you can’t really describe that in words, getting hands on for a few hours gives you a much better snapshot of the job. It’s not going to be as in depth as real work, but it’s a toe in the water. Basically making sure neither side finds any red flags before you make a major commitment.

    3. LawBee

      This is fascinating. I’m in a small office (there are seven of us) and our approach to getting to know applicants is the lunch, the long interview. How are working interviews legal? Someone is working for free, right? A gift card to a local business or an actual gift aren’t pay – I can’t pass that on to my utility company.

      1. Slartibartfast

        I couldn’t say if it’s legal, but it’s common. They might call it “job shadowing” and I don’t know if that’s any different legally. But it’s not unsupervised and nowhere near full-on actual work.

  19. SigneL

    OP5 – LOTS of people are not cut out to run business! My husband thought he wanted to have his own (computer software) business, but the creating a business plan and coping with the paperwork were totally beyond him (his plan for the paperwork was “the wife will take care of that” – AHAHA! No, she won’t!) Alison’s script is fine, and don’t worry about it.

    1. t.i.a.s.p.

      My husband wanted to own a business and wanted me to do all the paperwork. I did and I do and that’s why I’m a small business co-owner instead of employee.

      1. TardyTardis

        That reminds me of a business who sent out handwritten invoices about every three weeks (the work all got done, one-person tree trimming) and we all said, ‘the wife needs grocery money’ when a flock of invoices would show up to our AP department.

  20. mark gaskins

    response to ‘My employees finish my sentences’… with not one but two of his employees with this interupting issue, i can’t help but think maybe the problem is in how he speaks to people. does he drone on andon and belabor points? does he feel like he needs to explain every little self evident detail? i know when i’ve been given instructions and i understand and i’m ready to begin the task, waiting while a too detailed/boring/capt obvious type instruction, i can get impatient and try to nudge them to the end like that. probably more common than two people doing it for another reason.

  21. SigneL

    A thought: when I worked in a lab, sometimes the doctor had long, involved instructions for us. Instead of trying to tell us everything, he would use a white board and make bullet points: First, do X. Second, do Y. I think a lot of people have trouble following longer statements, so it helped to have visual reinforcement. If this is not practical, can you verbally do something similar (“there are 3 important things to do: first, do A….”)?

    1. SigneL

      This is in response to #1, sorry.

      For the record, I think interrupting is rude. I think I would say, in the moment, “Kindly let me finish.”

  22. Damn it, Hardison!

    LW#2, you have my sympathy! I worked for a manager that was prickly, mercurial, demanding, often angry and didn’t get along well with others. I spent a lot of time and effort repairing relationships with our project partners and vendors. I also worried that my reputation would suffer. As it turned out, after she was laid off, I received a lot of positive feedback from those same partners and vendors about how I handled her and worked to repair the damage that she caused. If your workplace is otherwise generally good, your professionalism and hard work will shine next to your boss’ behavior.

    1. Not So NewReader

      Yep. This. Without being too specific the comments I received clearly showed that people knew there was a HUGE difference between me and my old boss. It obvious to people working along side us, OP.

    2. uranus wars

      Yes, I left a longer message below but the way I was able to work along side my boss and deliver softer messages on her behalf strengthened the respect of others, it did not tarnish it.

    3. Dr. Pepper

      I experienced this as well. I worked for a difficult boss who managed to make the entire department hate him. Interestingly he treated his direct reports well, so he wasn’t actually a Difficult Boss to *me* or my team, but rather a Difficult Colleague to literally everyone else. He was That Guy. Despite that I actually enjoyed working for him and liked the job. Maybe he just liked me and his other direct reports, maybe we figured out how to work with him, I don’t know.

      Anyway, I ended up becoming the liaison of our team, because people far preferred to talk to me instead of him, and my role was the most visible when people came by our area. I ended up making some very good impressions on other people and secured a promotion (to a completely different team) because of it. So it doesn’t have to be bad news. I tried to remain very neutral at all times, both when he would rant about whoever was pissing him off that day and when other people would rant about how difficult he was. I never “took sides” over anything and my focus was always moving forward and getting tasks and projects completed. I also made the effort to be warm and friendly to clients and colleagues, since he could be….. brusque. In the end it made *me* shine and I ended up being appreciated by a lot of other people in our department.

  23. Minocho

    OP #1: I am one of these employees with my manager…and I’m very sorry! I realize I’m doing this, and I’m trying to catch myself and stop myself…but I still do it sometimes.

    I’ve tried to examine why this happens in 1 on 1’s with my manager, but not in larger meetings, and it has to be because on some level I feel comfortable doing it. Which could be good…or bad.

    But I am very sorry, and I am trying to curb it!

    1. pamela voorhees

      I have to confess, I’m one of these people too! My boss will sometimes pause in the middle of a sentence to find the correct word (not a speech tic/rambling/etc. thing at all, just her wanting to be precise, which I admire greatly!) and sometimes I jump in with a misguided attempt to be helpful. I can imagine how I would escalate to interrupting sentences to show a. how enthusiastic I am and b. that I’m on the same page. If I knew it was annoying her, and I got some feedback like Alison suggests, I’d do my best to back off. Hopefully your employees are the same way. Maybe you could even suggest other ways to show they’re listening, like nodding while you talk, or waiting till the end and then repeating what you said? Giving them a new thing to do instead of simply cutting off the old thing might help with any discomfort they feel over “but how will I show I’m listening?”

      1. scooby snack

        Working for a bit in radio was really helpful to this! You have to leave like two seconds at the end of an interviewee’s comment (for easy editing), and while it was SO HARD not to keep jumping in, a few lost bites because of my own contributions taught the lesson well. Now it’s a default as soon as a mic is nearby… not so much in other situations unless I focus on it, though :/

  24. Epazote

    LW2, I’ve beem the “difficult boss whisperer” several times in my career. It has never ended well for me. The reason I was able to work with them for as long as I was was due to a really uncomfortable dynamic: (1) the boss was an older guy working with me, a youngest woman, (2) the boss was incredibly insecure and would lash out and put people down when he felt threatened, which was often, (3) he initially didn’t feel threatened by me because he saw me as so much beneath him, and it fed his ego to have me around to look up to him, (4)but as soon as my skills and confidence increased, he felt threatened by me and started being nasty to me while gaslighting me that it was somehow my fault.

    But in general, if someone leaves a trail of broken relationships behind them, and it doesn’t just center around one traumatic event or something, go ahead and assume that eventually it will happen to you, too.

    1. I See Real People

      I once worked for an infamously difficult boss. They kept moving her around every few years when things went really sour between her and the other executive staff. Once workers across the region got to know me, they would all eventually say “I’m so sorry for what you’re probably dealing with right now, working for her.”. It was surreal! I never understood why they didn’t fire her. After I left, she was again moved to an outpost two states away! I wonder how those poor souls are dealing with her.

      In a nutshell OP…RUN! The word is out that he/she is a difficult boss for good reason and warning!

    2. Dr. Pepper

      I think it’s important to analyze WHY your boss has earned the “difficult” reputation. There’s a lot of things that get people labelled such, and not all of them are unworkable. Some are though. At least when you work directly with someone, you’re in the best place to figure out what the difficulty is and where it might be coming from.

      With the difficult boss I worked for, it came from a mix of horrible people skills plus a frustrating work environment. He had to deal with institutionalized inefficiency that would frustrate any reasonable person. It’s just that he didn’t deal with in the most constructive way and ended up putting a lot of people’s back up. He had some other unprofessional habits that didn’t help.

  25. LQ

    #1 I do this to my boss. He often won’t let me get a word into the conversation (conversations should be a back and forth, if you really just want to present something, send an email; if it’s a formal training then making it clear what is expected, and understanding what the retention on presentation style training is) so I do sometimes try to anticipate and interrupt. At some point if you’ve spent 10 minutes talking at me I’m going to have a hard time paying attention since you’re not letting me engage in the conversation.

    I’m not saying you do this. But a lot of people have mentioned different reasons (cultural, ADHD, stylistic) that have people interrupt, so it’s worth considering what other things might be in play as you look to address it. If my boss told me I had to stop interrupting, I would not retain as much information as I do currently. Sorry, but it is true. I’m desperately trying to hold onto all of it, but our brains can only do so much, and yes, it’s with really aggressive note taking. (And the other guy who does this I manage to hold about 10% of what he says, and that’s only because I can mentally associate it with funny imagined logos for companies.)

  26. Ali G

    LW #1 – I feel this so much. Luckily not at work – but at home. My husband is constantly jumping into finish my sentences and then off on a tangent about what he *thinks* I am going to say. He’s wrong a lot and it incenses me. I finally had to tell him to shut it and listed to the actual words coming out of my mouth before he responds (those were pretty much my exact words, but with a very forceful tone). Unfortunately you can’t throw a pillow at your employees every time they interrupt you…
    It is a hard habit to retrain. Hubs is trying, but it takes the other person 1) agreeing that it is a problem, and 2) able to have the self awareness in the moment to hold back their urge. He backslides from time to time, and that is when he gets a throw pillow to the head (aren’t they called throw pillows for a reason?).
    Alison’s suggestions are good, I just want to say you will need patience, and maybe reminders to your staff as you work on this quirk. Perhaps you can come up with a code phrase or word to remind them in the moment, but not embarrass them in front of other coworkers?

  27. Been There

    OP#1 I had an accountant who was training me on some accounting software that went on over a couple of days. I found myself finishing his sentences, and he would get quite angry with me. I would try and not interrupt him but would end up relaxing and getting involved in what he was showing me and would forget and finish his sentences. Finally I realized why. He would be in the middle of an explanation, take a long pause then move both of his hands at the screen like he was motioning for me and then I would finish his sentence. This pause, along with the hand signal is a classic prompt teachers, professors and trainers use to engage their students. I was conditioned from probably kindergarten to respond to these common prompts! The fact that you are experiencing this with more than one employee, makes me think you are giving these prompts? I

  28. Super dee duper anon

    Yeah – my mind jumped to this as well – only because I had a boss who sat me down once and told me that I was very controlling in our conversations and that I needed to not interrupt her when she was explaining something.

    The thing was – she was a very meandering communicator. When trying to explain something it went like this: To do process X you need to do step 3, then it will end with step 6, oh and you do need to do step 5, long tangent on how this is related to process Y, but that’s after you do step 4, and to start you do step 1. So whenever I’d notice the steps out of order I’d tried to jump in and ask – so wait it goes step 3, 5, then 6? Then she would get noticeably upset and say no I needed to listen. I tried waiting to the end to try to put the steps in order but it was usually way too much info to keep it all straight and if I came back to her with questions after the fact she told me I needed to listen and take notes better.

    It was maddening, but I’ve never had this issue before or since, so I’m confident now (it did a number on my confidence then – I really questioned whether I was just incapable of understanding the material) that she was an oulier in that she was a particularly poor communicator.

    Anyway – I doubt anything this extreme is going on here, but I think it could be worth it for the OP to give it some thought whether there’s anyway to be a bit more concise or focused in their communications. Maybe there isn’t, but it never hurts to cover all the angles before taking someone to task

  29. Bunny Girl

    I always side-eye working interviews. There are some roles that I completely see their use for, but I swear a lot of people use them as a way to get free labor out of someone.

    Once I had an interview at a doggy daycare (which I would have loved) and then the manager asked if I would come over for a working interview – a full shift working interview. This was after she repeatedly said how understaffed she was and said that she was having my “working interview” on a shift that was short staffed that day. Um no. I’m not going to work 8 hours for free for starters. But also, putting someone brand new on an understaffed shift seems like a recipe for disaster, not to mention just straight taking advantage of someone.

    1. Baby Fishmouth

      Yupp, I once worked a ‘working interview’ shift at a cafe because I was desperate for a job – they mostly had me doing dishes and I never heard from them again. It was definitely a ploy for free labour, and I can’t think of many ‘working interviews’ that aren’t.

      1. Bunny Girl

        I can see them for highly technical jobs, but not for retail or service jobs. Those are just straight taking advantage of people. And a lot of people, like you said, are desperate for a job and places like those take complete advantage of that.

        1. LQ

          I think that the working interview vs work test thing is sort of an interesting line. I can think of 2 I had in high school both for cafe jobs.
          One was making eggs. Make one of each (over easy, over medium, over well, over hard, scrambled, sunny side up). They didn’t use the eggs, but that was the whole interview.
          One was clearing tables/helping out for about an hour, probably a little less.

          Honestly I still look back and think both were fine. Full shift is not ok. But can you pick things up and not drop them, can you smile when you take someone’s plate away, can you make eggs? They all seem pretty ok to me.

          1. Joielle

            I think the eggs one especially is totally legit and a good idea! If you’re cooking at a cafe that does a lot of egg dishes, it seems important to be able to cook eggs well many different ways. That’s more of a skills test, like how you might have a proofreader go over a sample page and mark errors as part of an interview.

        2. hbc

          Even with technical jobs, there’s a difference between having a simulation that tests your skills and getting actual work product out of them. You can have someone do a CAD model of a house of cards to see how well they work in the program, or sabotage a machine and see if they can diagnose the problem, or edit the first draft of a document you published in 2008.

          The bare minimum ethically (and I think legally) is that the business doesn’t benefit from the work the candidate does aside from being able to assess them better.

          1. Nurse Zoey

            In the beginning of my career I had a working interview that was 8+ hours. It was absolutely a way to take advantage, I did receptionist duties which included greeting clients, taking appointments, cleaning up after stylists and doing laundry. Which…if I were applying as a receptionist would be one thing but I was applying for a hairstylist position. I’ve come to expect a technical interview, where I perform a color service and haircut at the salon, which I think is not only reasonable but a very smart way to hire. But never again would I actually do a “working interview” like the former because it only advantaged them. I did turn down that position because it was obvious that as the new guy I’d be expected to do more of the grunt work, which is fine when we are all doing it, but not when it’s hoisted on the low man for no pay. It was a commission only salon so the only pay received was for services rendered.

        3. The New Wanderer

          With technical jobs, though, there’s also a risk of wondering if your contribution as a candidate will find its way into their plans, without you being hired on or compensated.

          For example, in one interview I was asked to identify some issues with a software interface that the company built. They showed me a new pre-release version (I was under NDA), so I very well could have been diagnosing problems they weren’t yet aware of. But it was a 15 minute exercise and felt a lot more like, can you do this basic aspect of the job, so I didn’t have any qualms about that.

          Another example was a series of interviewers all asking me what I thought were the biggest problems with Tech X and how I would set up a research program to investigate it. They were newly developing Tech X and the job was specifically to be a lead researcher. I felt that was sketchy, like why would I tell them exactly what to study before getting hired (or moreover, having a real chance to see whether my initial thoughts made any sense once I learned more about Tech X) so I stayed pretty generic. After all, I had already given a 45 minute talk highlighting my research skills, so the focus of the rest of the day should have been more on fit or delving more into my specific experience, not squeezing me for work suggestions that only benefit them.

          1. Phrunicus

            I had an interview for my second job, where the interviewer, who was like the deputy team lead, put up a requirement on the whiteboard, and asked me how I’d set about testing it (the job was in software test). I suppose it would’ve been free work, but given I filled most of the board with test cases while she took notes, and that I think in large part as a result of that, I got an offer for the job like 2-3 days later, it didn’t bother me as much. Now it might, but back then I was also much less experienced.

    2. Minocho

      I had a half shift working interview – but it was doing development work in a new language, and what I was producing was absolutely not going to be of use to the company for anything other than evaluating my ability. It was a huge commitment in time, however.

      1. Bunny Girl

        Yes; asking someone who doesn’t even work for you to devote an entire day, or even half a day, is sort of off-base to me. That’s asking a lot of people to use up a lot of PTO or even unpaid leave that they might not have or be able to afford.

    3. AbbeyRoad

      I have done three; none of them were free labor since I was supervised and it genuinely was to determine whether or not it was a fit; I think if it’s an hour or more and esp if you’re doing any kind of work you absolutely should get paid and you shouldn’t hesitate to ask about it because if you don’t get the job for that reason, it’s not a job you want in the long run.

      The first was at a preschool where I read a book to kids and it was all of 15 mins since they liked me at the 1st interview but I hadn’t worked with small children in a while and they just wanted to make sure I was, in fact, good with kids and at ease with them. The principal and the teacher were in the room. The second was for a staffing/admin position and not only did they pay me, they had me sign paperwork pertaining to confidentiality. The third was for a vet receptionist. I did not get paid which sucked since I did have to take about 5 hours off work but it certainly was useful for helping me realize I was VERY wrong for the position. Still, should have asked about compensation.

  30. Observer

    #4 – You need to start planning your exit strategy. Right now your boss is not lying about you, but you never know when that might happen. Also, one day your boss’ lies will come to light and depending on how it happens you could easily be caught in the cross fire.

    Also, if there are any safety or legal implications of those lies, you may need to report this stuff anyway.

  31. uranus wars

    OP#2: I was just in your situation. I worked under a woman who had a reputation as someone hard to work with and was disliked by even her peers in many cases. I enjoyed working with an under her – she was a great mentor and boss – but I too saw how difficult she could be with different people and how once someone crossed her there was no room for forgiveness or 2nd chances (literally decades later). She and I had a few moments, but I knew how to respond to her.

    I also had to speak and communicate often disliked decisions on her behalf but was able to soften them while still making the point and I think that worked wonders for people getting to understand me without automatically assigning her personality to me.

    She has since retired and I took over her position in the organization and have had nothing but support. Many people have said they are excited to have me in the role, partnerships with other departments is starting to flourish. People do try to edge towards a gossip line/trash talk about here but I have been successful (so far) at cutting it off and responding “Boss and I had a system that worked for us while she was still here and I learned a lot of her about the logistics of the job. Now I am looking forward to growing and putting my stamp on the department moving forward.” Seems to shut them down but does not seem to hinder our working relationship on current projects.

    1. Dr. Pepper

      That sounds like my old boss. He held strange grudges forever over the most minor things, was quick to take offense, and quick to be offensive. Most of our department hated him and complained about him constantly. Yet I found him to be a good boss and I was able to work with him pretty smoothly. For the most part, being on his team actually made me look better, not worse, because I was such a contrast to him. I tried to stay absolutely neutral in the little feuds he’d have with people. I never took sides over anything, ever. It helped that he did technical side of job very well. His people skills were just really crappy.

  32. Mrs_helm

    Op#1: if this employees are trying to signal that they’re engaged in the conversation, maybe you need to give them a different way to do that. Ask questions and wait for answers. (Either a question about the topic, or just “got it?”) Pause strategically and look for head nods and eye contact. Etc.

  33. Bopper

    Re: finishing sentences

    Since a couple of people are doing this…maybe you are:
    1) Taking a long time to get to the point or over explaining
    2) Treating them like they don’t know what is going on
    3) Come from a place where people just naturally talk slower

    I tend to do that because I come from a place where people talk fast and also figure out where you are going with the conversation and want to get there faster

  34. MCMonkeyBean

    Even though it’s true for most of us, we don’t usually say in interviews we want the job for the money… but I think it would be very normal and reasonable to say something about how you’re looking for more stability than you get from freelancing.

  35. Marian

    Re: OP#1 – What if it’s the boss who’s trying to complete your thought/sentence? She does this to everyone in our office, from her not-direct reports to her direct reports to her co-managers to the grand-boss and great-grand-boss. Being direct with her about it causes her to become patronizing and passive-aggressive. What would be the advice in this situation?

    1. Michaela Westen

      I think the only option is to let her do it. At least it’s not a power thing since she’s doing it to people above her.
      Just think of her as a rude person you have to put up with and be careful not to get personal with her in any way. She sounds like she’d be a nightmare in a personal relationship.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch

      Since she’s been spoken to about it and isn’t susceptible to the feedback/criticism, you’ll need to work around it. It’s the boss, you can’t change the ones who refuse to budge.

      It’s obnoxious behavior, it isn’t going to be something you can report to her boss to get addressed or anything like that.

  36. Michaela Westen

    #5, I’m not a sales or marketing type at all, but I got an opportunity to work as a sales consultant with a program I liked and tried it. I did it for almost a year and got three clients up and running! But I didn’t make enough to live on and had to stop and get a real job.
    14 years later: it was my first job in medical – before that I worked in insurance and finance. My next job was at a medical company, and now I work at a hospital.
    When I was doing the job search that led to my current position, two of my interviewers were impressed that I had the guts to try it. One of those is my current boss.
    It was a good experience in every way, and I’m sure you’ll also find some interviewers are impressed that you had the guts to try it, and what you’ve learned will help you for the rest of your life. :)

    1. Michaela Westen

      P.S. – when I was considering the consulting I saw two possibilities – I would get tons of clients and be wildly successful, or I would get no clients and be a pathetic failure.
      I didn’t foresee what actually happened – I got a few clients and was successful getting them up and running (the program involved providing continued support for the clients).
      IRRC my very first client presentation resulted in a sale! The doctor was very reserved. An overbearing sales person would have scared him away. I made the presentation and waited quietly for his response. When he said “yes, I want to try it”, I almost fell off my chair!
      Small successes like these built my confidence, and that’s one of the positive aspects. I never saw it as a failure since it was a long shot anyway. I also succeeded in not getting obsessed with it and staying in it too long, that was one of the things I was guarding against. I knew when to stop and get a real job before I went bankrupt. Another success. :)

  37. MarfisaTheLibrarian

    I do the “finish sentence” thing in the first letter, and it is 100% me trying to show I’m engaged. Since a friend pointed it out to me, I’ve definitely been trying to curb it, but it’s hard when otherwise I feel like people won’t feel like I’m listening attentively. Hmm/uhuh/got it/yeah feels much more generic, it’s hard for me to quickly come up with words to do a full sentence acknowledgement of what someone is saying when they pause. I don’t take what I think someone is saying and go on tangents*–I’ll just sort of auto-fill the last word or phrase, usually as they’re saying it. I’d say I’m right about 73% of the time, which is not ideal but not terrible. So I think it’s definitely plausible and likely that this is them trying to demonstrate their engagement (though wordiness on LW1’s part/egotism/ADHD/etc are all also plausible)

    If LW1’s coworkers were writing in saying “My manager told me to stop filling in their sentences, how do I show that I’m listening and engaged and care about what they’re saying without doing that?” what would be the advice?

    *The friend who pointed out that I auto-fill the end of people’s sentences DOES go on tangents with what he thinks people are saying. Or what what he thinks people are saying makes him think of, which can be occasionally very disconnected from what they were actually saying.

    1. Lilysparrow

      As a recovering sentence-filler, one thing I’ve learned is that this habit does not make people believe I’m listening and engaged. It does the exact opposite and makes them think I’m dismissing them. Reminding myself of what I actually want helps me remember not to do it.

      One thing that works for me if the person has paused is to repeat the LAST word they said instead of trying to guess the NEXT word. Another is to do the “generic” noises until they finish, and ask a foll0w-up question or respond with “okay” while I’m processing and making sure I really did follow the whole thing all the way through.

      One thing I’ve discovered is that a lot of the time, I may know perfectly well what the end of the sentence was going to be, but I may have blipped out and missed something important in the middle. So by waiting, I give myself a chance to connect all the dots and make sure I have everything (or not!)

    2. LawBee

      Honestly, if you’re looking at them and nodding along, you don’t need to verbally prove you’re listening. If you want to show to a supervisor that you’re engaged, a quick recap at the end is fine. “So, just to make sure I’m clear, we’re looking into refining Teapot Design 3, and there’s a concern about color transfer.” Most people assume they’re being listened to, you don’t have to do anything extra to prove it.

  38. AnonBCofRacialDifferencesButRegular

    Re #1: Are there cultural differences to be aware of? It has recently been made explicitly clear to me that there are cultural differences in “listening” and “showing approval” – for example, many (not all) African-Americans have the tradition of saying affirmations outloud when listening, think of “Black Church” where many express agreement from muttering under their breath “uh-huh” to exclaiming full sentences outloud. This can also occur in conversations as people “get it” and express that they get it loudly or vividly compared to their (boring) White peers who have a less expressive background and wait for people to be finished or are just milder showing agreement and interest. I also think of the “Indian (from India) head waggle” that seems like shaking the head “No” but is actually expressing more of a “I’ll see what I can do, yes!” sort of agreement. That’s not to say I don’t think Alison’s advice is helpful; it is. But there might be more to the story than a person might see.

  39. The Man, Becky Lynch

    #5 Please reframe this in your mind first of all. Your business didn’t fail. You realized it wasn’t what you wanted and you folded up shop. If you can get your mind into a place where this is a choice that you’re making both directions and wash the negativity out of your situation, you’ll be able to convey that better to potential companies!

    Lean heavy into “freelance wasn’t for me, I like my job and miss having colleagues to collaborate with” kind of things. You’re not the first to dip back into corporate life for a host of reasons. It doesn’t seem like it was for too long you dipped out, since my only fear with freelancers is they’re not used to the office norms and cultures any more.

  40. LCSW

    Re OP#1: I had a temporary administrative assistant position as an eager 22-year-old with a know-it-all streak and then-unaddressed ADHD in a male-dominated field. My interruptions were generally similarly well-intentioned, but inappropriate. My youngish, female boss never addressed my tendency to interrupt directly – she would just continue to speak. She didn’t raise her voice, speed up, or pause – just continued on as if I were not speaking. Probably not an end-all-be-all tactic, but it was very effective on me.

  41. ragazza

    OP#2: I’m not sure if your supervisor is a bully (the word “warpath” seems significant), but if he is, then yeah, I’d say that’s a problem for you and your integrity. You say yourself you’re “uneasy.” Far too many organizations let these types of employees act without consequences, and the effects on the bullied employees can be really traumatic, especially when no one speaks up.

  42. spek

    #4 Seems like a dangerous situation to involve yourself in. You said your boss wasn’t deflecting blame onto you. Is she blaming someone else to their detriment? Or is this just her lack of integrity bothering you? Before you impugn your boss’ ethics to her boss, be sure you understand why you want to, as there are a lot of ways this could go very badly, and there may not be enough upside to warrant the risk.

    1. OP#4

      Thanks for this. I think I’m mostly just bothered by it from an ethical standard. I understand the value of a white lie every now and then but this just feels so wrong! It’s just so hard for me to listen to and not say something. But I can’t really think of upside for me if I say something. I worry I would just come off as a tattletale.

      And in response to some other comments, I don’t think she’s lying about me behind my back. Boss has a core group they’ll blame. There are a number of other coworkers whom I know boss respects and I’ve never seen boss blame them – I have good reason to feel that I’m in that bucket. But yeah I guess you never know.

      1. Blunt Bunny

        Your boss is clearly 2 faced so I wouldn’t be so sure. Also she may not be blaming you for things she could be taking credit for things that you did. Which could affect your progression in your job. I’m not sure if there’s away to do it delicately maybe I would have stayed behind and clarified. But it would be awkward to have to say that your Boss lies sometimes and I can see it blowing up in your face if you tell your coworkers as you would have been witness. I’m not sure if this is a HR type conversation because maybe it’s bullying. I guess if it’s documented who’s mistake it is and who caught it it’s not terrible I would keep a record of proof that I didn’t make these mistakes.

      2. Observer

        Look, your boss is a liar and willing to throw people under the bus. So, you have absolutely no guarantee that she won’t do it to you at some point.

        Whatever you decide to do, please get rid of the idea of “tattle tale.” When you see someone who is acting in a flagrantly unethical manner that is affecting people you ABSOLUTELY have standing to bring it up. There is no question of that whatsoever. The real question is practical – whether you can do so in a manner that is effective and safe for you.

        The thing is that if there is no way for you to address it, you need to start planning your exit strategy. Because right now, you are sitting on the top of a volcano. Working for a dishonest backstabber is not viable in the long term unless you are willing to compromise your integrity AND you have the ability to keep her from turning on you (eg you know something about her that she wants you to keep quiet and being nice to you is the easiest way for her to do that.) So you need to find a way to deal with it or a way to escape.

        I realize that walking out is not a simple proposition. What I’m suggesting is figuring out what you need to do to get out and start working on that, whatever it might be. It may not get you out tomorrow, but at least you’ll be moving in the right direction.

        1. spek

          That’s a little extreme. OP seems to have a bit of a moral quandary she is dealing with. Doesn’t look to me like a get up and walk out and scream foul issue. A boss that deflects blame “sometimes” is not the worst thing you can find on these pages. Not really a volcano. She is just wondering how and if she can let the truth come out without endangering her livelihood. Sure it sucks, but it seems to be pretty bearable short term. The problem with always taking the high road is it burns an awful lot of gasoline…

          1. Observer

            Yes, it IS a volcano. This person doesn’t just deflect. She’s LYING and blaming other people for her mistakes. That’s a real problem for the OP.

            I know that she wrote in about a moral quandary. But it also has some serious practical ramifications for the OP. One day Boss will do it to them OR someone will push back and make it stick, and OP is likely to get splattered with the mud.

  43. WhoKnows

    I do #1 all the time. It’s SUCH a difficult habit to break, and I often don’t realize I’m doing it until the words are out of my mouth.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch

      It took me until recently to notice in myself! I learned immediately when I was actually wrong a few times. Prior it was always that I was that in sync with my boss and now I’m peeling it back a ton and able to bite my tongue.

  44. Well-Intention Interrupting

    Same with me! The reasoning that other people have given in this discussing was eye-opening to me. I remember interrupting my driving instructor (when I was learning to drive at a driving school) as a young adult because I already understood the stuff he was explaining, such as how to switch gears and wanted to get onto the actual driving part.

    I am still an interrupter but because of the discussions mentioned above, I wonder if it has to do with adult ADD or ADHD. I also still do it to people to hurry them along or because I will forget what I want to contribute if I didn’t interrupt to ask or say something. In my defense, a lot of people/managers do a lot of explaining without pausing to ask if you have questions and I felt that it makes more sense to do something in the moment than to go back and say “So back to when you were explaining step 4 of llama grooming, how should I be…”

  45. Coffee Owlccountant

    LW2, my boss isn’t difficult, but he lives in his own head and I had to learn to speak his language. He and I get on extremely well, but his communication style has caused him endless problems with people he has to work with that don’t speak it. Like Alison said, most people are going to sympathize with you, but there are steps you can take to make sure you aren’t tarred with the same brush as your difficult boss.

    IMO, the best thing you can do for yourself is to make sure that your work persona is seen as a helpful and competent separate entity from Difficult Boss’s. Your relationships and interactions with your coworkers are yours, not Boss’s. Ideally, you want your coworkers and management to think, “Oh, Jane – she always gets back to you right away and is totally on top of the Teapot Variances” rather than “It’s a shame Jane works with Difficult Boss – she seems so nice?”

  46. Former Expat

    #5, I left a job 2 years to do my own thing too… I miss having coworkers! I sort of work with other people, but it is not the same. If I ever went back to work for a larger organization, I would totally say that I miss having a team because it is true! I’ve also worked in marketing and now that I have to do my own business development I can safely say that they are related but not the same thing. It is totally expected that someone who does one thing well might not be good at the other.

  47. Noah

    I sometimes do what the employees described by OP1 do. But, at least for me, it’s not performative. I do — unconsciously — it because it aids in my understanding. However, I also understand that it is distracting and I work hard to try not to do it. So, I think the advice is good, but possibly misunderstanding what is driving the employee’s behavior.

    1. roisin54

      I do this too, although it’s something I’ve been working on. In my case it started as a bad habit I picked up in conversations with my mom, who sometimes has trouble remembering what she wants to say next so I’ll guess and I’m usually right (she does it to me too.) It doesn’t bother her so I wound up doing it to other people. I had a supervisor at work who clearly expressed her displeasure with me about this habit, and I don’t do it nearly as much now. It takes a lot of conscious effort not to do it though because it is such a deeply ingrained thing.

  48. Lilysparrow

    #2, I think a lot depends on what kind of bad reputation it is, with whom, and why. You mention your boss being on a “warpath” and that’s not great. It certainly implies a tendency to be adversarial or unfair toward employees.

    On the other hand, I’ve worked with some bosses who had a bad reputation within the company for being high-maintenance, demanding, brusque, and impatient. In very relationship-oriented firms they might have a hard time finding support staff who would or could adapt to their communication style, or they might rub their peers the wrong way.

    But toward their direct reports they were fair, consistent and clear. Just not friendly, laid-back, flexible, or overly “nice”. And they had excellent relationships with clients and with the broader industry.

    I was sometimes the go-between on their demands. I would just say, “I know this isn’t the way you usually do it, but it’s the way Boss wants it done.” or “I’m afraid we have to bump that project, Boss has an urgent deliverable that has to get done by this deadline.” Greasing the wheels and keeping our internal partners happy was part of my job, and in a way these bosses’ reputation made that easier for me. We could sort of sigh together over “here we go again.”
    I always made sure to show appreciation, remind Boss when people had gone above and beyond, and absorb/deflect as much of the blame as possible when a partner or support person couldn’t meet Boss’ demands.

    It didn’t wind up reflecting badly on me. If anything, people gave me credit for being able to work with these folks effectively.

    If your boss is verbally abusive, unfair, inconsistent, unethical, or just does a bad job, of course that’s an entirely different situation.

    1. City Planner

      OP2, I want to agree with a lot of what Lilysparrow has said above. I worked with a difficult boss for several years — he was prickly, often defensive, was at odds with some of the C-suite people above us (but not all of them – some of them loved him). But he and I had a great working relationship and I know that he thinks warmly of me now that I’ve moved on.

      The thing about being the go-between, and that I would specifically caution you about, is that you will need to be looking out for your own relationship with internal partners, who may get caught up in conflict with your boss. Try your best to cultivate your own relationships and make sure that whatever conflicts your boss has don’t spill over to you. I had a great relationship with the manager of another department… until the conflict between my boss and this other manager spilled over into a project I was working on with this other manager, and in complying with my boss’s directions to me, I got crosswise with the other manager. I just didn’t think a couple of steps ahead when I should have, and took my boss’s hard line position on an issue on as my own. With hindsight, I wish I’d given it more thought and taken a more nuanced approach. My relationship with the other manager never recovered. I still see the other manager at industry events and we pretty much ignore each other, which makes me feel disappointed with myself.

      Other than that, working for a difficult boss didn’t affect my reputation – if anything, I think people gave me more credit for certain projects than I maybe earned, just because I was more likeable – but I also worked on developing my professional reputation outside the organization. It was the internal relationships that I hadn’t considered during that time.

  49. HigherEd Person

    OP 1, I feel your pain, 100%. I used to supervise a young woman who would finish my sentences – not by interrupting, but by just saying things at the same time I was saying them.
    Me: “….so, make sure you ask the coordinator about the catering contract.”
    Her, at the same time: “……………………………………………..catering contract.”
    Me: “And we have that program review at 11 with the students.”
    Her, at the same time: “…………………………….with the students.”

    I knew, logically, it was her way of showing she was listening, actively, and hearing me, and showing connectedness, but HOT DAMN it drove me crazy.

  50. Secretary

    OP5: I don’t think you need to make it about your business failing at all.

    When I was job searching after having worked exclusively for myself for a long time, I talked about the benefits I was looking for in a job that I can’t get from my business. The interviewer was usually asking because they wanted to make sure I was going to be able to transition well and handle being under authority well.

    My answer was usually a lot like this:
    “I’m really grateful for the experience of owning my own business, but I’m in a time of my life now where I don’t want the responsibility that comes with ownership. To have a business means I’m always on and always thinking about it. I’m looking forward to having a manager again, and being able to use the work ethic that came with my business ownership at my job to contribute as much as I can, while also being able to unplug on evenings and weekends and sow into my family.”

    Good Luck on your search!

  51. princess paperwork

    OP#1 I’m the employee that interrups her boss / finishes her sentences. Whenever I do this and my statement is incorrect, by boss halts the conversation with “No, that’s not what I’m telling you” or “What you’re saying is true, but what I’m trying to say is…” or “Can I finish? I don’t think you see where my point is headed” (I was really chatty that day). I do not take any of these comments as rude or hurtful because I was first rude in interrupting her.
    Also, I interrupt my boss because I think we are brainstorming on a project or problem but actually she’s giving me direction or feedback on the project/problem. I keep a little note on my desk that reads ‘Wait your turn’ to curb the urge to start talking.

  52. LawBee

    LW1 – welcome to every deposition ever, haha. It is really hard to break people of that habit, but a combination of what you’re doing now, plus Alison’s suggestion, and then a reminder (“Fergus, remember you need to let me finish”) should do it.

    LW3 – holy cats, that’s amazing. I’d be tempted to let someone in the office know, because that’s a level of fast-and-loose with privacy that is very concerning. (Maybe not that chiropractor who didn’t seem concerned.)

  53. That One Person

    #3 – just sounds like an excuse for free labor, would’ve asked for some form of payment for that hour regardless of it being an interview status. Might sound petty, but I’m not going to work for free and doubly less so for irresponsible people. More than anything though I’m shocked at how trusting she was and she’s darned lucky she ended up with an honest person like you.

    #1 – I’ve admittedly gotten into the habit of continuing to talk when people try to interrupt me if it’s a thought I really want to finish. It’s something that happens more in group calls with friends rather than in my work life luckily, but it’s also helped me develop some confidence to do so as well as recognize that when I don’t there’s a chance I’m going to lose that thought. It luckily doesn’t sound like they’re being rude about it, but it’s also probably in your employees’ better interest to finish hearing you out, especially for training or odd/new tasks that might require a special approach. If they want to appear engaged they need to wait until your thought is finished to either ask questions, or simply repeat it so they can prove they were listening and know what to do (and for some folks like me that can help reinforce what I need to do). There are also more polite ways to interrupt someone if they really need to do so rather than suddenly commandeering the sentence.

  54. I work on a Hellmouth

    #4: I’ve been personally struggling with overhearing my boss lying to my grandboss constantly—in addition to overhearing her PLAN OUT how she is going to lie to grandboss with other employees. It’s just… terrible. But calling it out openly isn’t an option, and the few times I have tried the more subtle kind of pushback described by Alison I have paid dearly for it. :/

    1. This Daydreamer

      Your workplace is roughly half a seriously weird incident away from the scene labeled “and then the murders began”. If you see a blond chick with wooden stake, try to cultivate a friendship. She’ll want to know the history of the site.

      1. I Work on a Hellmouth

        Oh man, I know. Right now I’m just hearing work lies being planned. But I probably wouldn’t be shocked to hear future alibis being planned for rituals, or raisings of the Master, or who knows what..

  55. CoveredInBees

    OP1: You have my sympathies. Getting talked over has always been a pet peeve for me and it is a lot more common where I live now (NYC) than where I grew up (SF). Also, my partner’s entire family seems to view conversation as a competitive interaction and we see them a lot. The most effective way I’ve countered this is to respond with, “That’s not what I was saying at all. Please let me finish.” BUT this works in the short term only. It might be more effective for you with a different power dynamic. If nothing else, you have my sympathies.

    OP2: As others have pointed out, having a bully of a boss isn’t an automatic strike against you. I had a boss who was notorious across our rather niche industry. When I left that job (and the industry), a few people reached out to me to meet with them about job opportunities. If I could make it through that office without turning into my boss, they thought it showed strength on my part. The best advice I can give from that is to try to make as many direct contacts with people in your industry as you can. Let them see who you are.

  56. learnedthehardway

    LW#5 – A good way to handle the decision to stop being self-employed and go back into a company is to talk about what you have missed from being inhouse – eg. the team environment, being able to see the results of your work and how it fits into the company’s overall strategy. Also, mention that while you have loved concentrating on areas that you are particularly expert in, you have come to the realization that you simply aren’t a sales person or you’ve found balancing business development and project delivery very difficult to manage and prefer to focus on your functional area rather than sales. (This is a common thing self-employed people find out – ie. that you have to be as much a sales person as you are a functional expert). Mention that it was an opportunity you couldn’t pass up to explore being self-employed (make it clear this was a choice and not something you were forced into because you couldn’t find a job, kwim) and that you have learned a lot about running a business – eg. business strategy, sales, etc. – from being self-employed, but you’ve realized that your best fit and where you can bring the most value is in-house. Then, talk about why you want to work for the specific employer you are interviewing with – in fact, make that the major focus of what you discuss – how this company / opportunity is one where you can make a real contribution.

  57. Liz

    LW2, I worked for a couple of years for a woman who was notorious in our industry for her bullying. She was a deeply unpleasant, difficult person.

    Needless to say, she went through PAs like they were going out of fashion. The best were the ones who acknowledged — without engaging in gossip or inappropriate levels of negativity — that our boss was extremely difficult and sometimes unreasonable, who treated the rest of us with respect, and helped us develop strategies to deal with her before we (inevitably) moved on.

    The worst PAs were the ones who took her behaviour as licence to treat others badly, who got bogged down in office politics and threw us under the bus to save their own skins.

    I don’t know if your potential boss is as toxic as this one, but I feel like “treat people decently and don’t pretend there’s no problem when there is — but also don’t fall into the trap of constant, unconstructive complaining” is advice which serves me well in most jobs.

  58. chickaletta

    #5 – I came back to employment a couple years ago after running my own business for a couple years and came back for very similar reasons. In interviews I said something really similar to what Alison suggested, and I was also honest (when I felt it was ok to be so) about not being great at marketing myself to clients and that I didn’t enjoy having to spend so much time networking and generating business for myself. I also switched careers, so I would explain why my old career wasn’t financially stable and that’s why I was looking for something else…

    I also used my freelance experience to play up other skills that are hard to find – long term planning, multitasking, managing priorities, project management, client communications, finances…you do it all when you’re in business for yourself and that can be an asset. You’ll see that you have tons answers to “tell me about a time when” questions that interviewers love to ask. Good luck!

  59. Been There, Done That

    LW 3: I’m horrified your interviewer would do this, and very very glad I’m not a patient of that practice. As a non employee, you had no business having access to patient information, and you absolutely should not have been expected to work for her for free under the guise of “interviewing.” It would’ve been one thing if the interviewer had observed you doing some work-related tasks as a test that did NOT expose real patient information, but she used you to babysit her office while she bopped out. I would’ve reported her to her professional association and billed her for the work.

  60. Jemima Bond

    Re #3: By way of a different take on a few of the commentariat’s favoured (and apposite!) phrases:
    Lo! When it came to pass in the job interview that the wise woman did see a banner of bright scarlet she pondered the wisdom of AAM in her heart, and saw that the banner signalled the way to the valley of the shadow of workplace dysfunction. So she did take up her resumé and walk, casting lightning bolts upon the bridge behind her setting it aflame. And there was much rejoicing amongst the people, who said unto her, “Verily thou dodgest a bullet this day.”

  61. Jessica Fletcher

    #3 – Run away. By letting an untrained staff member collect payment and patient info, this office likely violated HIPAA privacy laws, training requirements in their insurance contracts, and god knows what else. This may even qualify as a reportable breach of patient PHI.

    God knows how many other times the receptionist has done this. You should report this to the practice owner, immediately. I promise you, they want to know that she is creating this enormous risk for their business. Before they get fined.

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