my coworker keeps butting into my conversations with higher-ups

A reader writes:

I work in an open-plan office. The guy who sits next to me, let’s call him Steve, is a senior member of my team, but not my supervisor. I’m a youngish woman and he’s a man about 10 years older who’s been with the company for much longer. Over the handful of years that we’ve worked together, we’ve enjoyed a pretty good rapport, but he’s developed an annoying habit over the past year or so: He’s been butting into work conversations of mine with higher-ups that do not need to involve him.

Here’s what happens: Someone in senior management (higher up than both me and Steve) comes by my desk with a fairly straightforward question. It’s always about a project in which Steve has no direct involvement. Sometimes it’s one of my own projects and sometimes it’s someone else’s project, and the manager is soliciting my opinion on an element in which I have some expertise.

While the visitor and I are in the process of discussing the issue and trying to decide how we want to proceed, Steve will swoop in from over the low cube wall to grace us with his unsolicited opinion. I should note that these conversations are never about complex, thorny issues, nor is the tenor ever emotionally charged. I could see his jumping in if either of those things were the case (and in fact, I might even welcome it), but it’s always stuff I’m perfectly well equipped to handle myself. It’ll be questions like, “In situation X, is Y or Z the most appropriate way forward?” and he’s horning in to say, “In my experience, it’s always Y.” At that point, having invited himself into the conversation, he remains a part of it and the three of us discuss it from there.

This has happened twice in straight-up work-related conversations, and once in a personal-slash-work one having to do with a work-related pastime many of us do at home.

This habit of Steve’s makes me feel undermined — particularly since it affects my conversations with people senior to me who I especially want to see me as capable. In my view, such interruptions are one of the downsides of open-plan offices, a manipulation of the fact that such layouts are meant to encourage collaboration. I also think this habit of his is subtly gendered.

My hunch is that it’s worth addressing this with him; he’s a good person who takes pride in being a good colleague, and I doubt he even realizes he’s doing this. However, I’m not sure how to phrase my complaint in a way that doesn’t sound petty or like I’m trying to silence him. I’ve never directly confronted him before and don’t want to damage our relationship. Do you think I’m right that I should address his growing habit of butting in? If so, any advice on how to frame it?

Yes, you should address it! You’re right to worry that it could affect the relationships you’re building with senior colleagues; you want them to see you as competent in your own right, not someone whose thoughts need to be supplemented by Steve’s. Plus, you’re entitled to have one-on-one conversations with people who are seeking your input without having Steve pop up each time. And frankly, even if none of that were a concern, what he’s doing is annoying.

Since you say Steve is a good person who wants to be a good coworker (and not, say, a credit-stealing boor who would mansplain you to death about how he’s just being helpful), I’d approach him with the assumption that he doesn’t realize how often he’s doing this or why it could be a problem for you, and that he’d appreciate being told … just like he’d appreciate being told if he were accidentally overwriting your work in a shared drive or some other less personal work problem.

I’d say it this way: “Can I ask you a favor? I know being in an open office means we can all overhear each other’s conversations, but when I’m talking with someone in senior management, I’d appreciate it if you’d let me handle the conversation on my own unless one of us specifically asks you to help weigh in. It’s not that I don’t value your expertise — I do, and I know your intent is to be helpful — but I need them to see me as capable in my own right.”

If he pushes back or says he’s just trying to help, you can say, “I know you’re just trying to be helpful. The most helpful thing to me would be if you can let me handle those conversations on my own so I can have the conversation they’ve approached me to have.”

If he seems unhappy or things feel tense, saying something like “You’re kind to hear me out — open offices can be so weird” might ease things a little. (When you tell someone they’re being kind, sometimes it makes them more likely to live up to that. And shifting the blame — it’s the fault of the open office, not Steve himself! — can help him save face and feel more comfortable.)

But speak up! It’s a reasonable thing to ask, and if he’s really a good colleague, he might feel a little embarrassed but will be glad you told him.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 221 comments… read them below }

  1. Clorinda*

    My mind immediately went to a number of options. Spritzing him with a water bottle, as you would a bumptious cat, for example. But really, you just have to have the conversation. It might do him good.

    1. The Smiley Cube Dweller*

      OP here – I think you nailed it with the spray bottle tip! Thank you for your support. :)

    2. Sharrbe*

      Thank you for laugh and the vocab lesson. I now have a new word to bring home to the clowder.

    3. User 483*

      I think it would do the OP good too. It is important to learn how to have these awkward sort of discussions at work. And, if the co-worker is really trying to help and they work well together, that makes this kind of a safe sort of practice place for it.

  2. Petty Chief*

    I really like the language you suggested. “I know you’re just trying to be helpful. The most helpful thing to me would be if you can let me handle those conversations on my own so I can have the conversation they’ve approached me to have.” So great!

    1. hayling*

      Yes! This could be really helpful in many contexts when someone says “I’m just trying to help!”

    2. KWu*

      Yes, this language is direct and polite! Such a great way to refocus on the actual request over someone having some feelings about their good intentions.

    3. willow19*

      I agree, I like this suggestion so much more than “It’s not that I don’t value your expertise — I do, and I know your intent is to be helpful — but I need them to see me as capable in my own right”, which, in the first part, it sounds as though Steve does NOT have the expertise, and in the second part, that just makes me uncomfortable.

      1. CM*

        I also feel like “I need them to see me as capable” makes it sound like she is NOT capable, and she’s trying hard to be perceived that way, while his expertise is genuine.

        I would leave out the sentence “It’s not that I don’t value your expertise — I do, and I know your intent is to be helpful — but I need them to see me as capable in my own right.”

      2. ChimericalOne*

        I don’t see anything wrong with that sentence. It’s anticipating a reaction (that he’ll feel that his expertise is not acknowledged and/or that his motives are being misunderstood) and pre-emptively countering it by saying that the speaker *does* value his expertise and *does* understand this his motive is rooted in a desire to help.

        Also, the “I need them to see me as capable in my own right” isn’t suggesting that the speaker isn’t capable. It’s just saying that higher-ups won’t SEE that if she’s always being interrupted or having others answer questions for her.

    4. MillersSpring*

      After you speak with him, if he does it again, just smile, look him in the eyes, and say, “Steve, I’ve got this.”

      Repeat as needed.

      1. Artemesia*

        I really like this because not only does it remind him of your conversation but it also demonstrates effectiveness on your part in front of your senior person.

  3. Kheldarson*

    God, that would be so annoying. Shutting him down gently would be the way to go, so that way, next time he does it, you can just say “Hey, Steve, we talked about this.”

    And you can get documentation of the behavior if he continues (hopefully not!).

    1. Fortitude Jones*

      When I had an older male coworker do this to me (he jumped in to answer a question I was directly asked by our division’s VP), I just stared at him, unsmiling, and said, “Thank you, Fortitude.” He put his hands up and said, “Gee, you’re in a mood today,” and I just responded, “I usually am when someone decides to answer questions directed to me. Don’t do that again.”

      And he never did.

  4. Bee Eye Ill*

    I am a middle manager and my boss does this when I am addressing my team. He hears me talking, walks over, and starts either repeating what I’ve said or injecting his personal comments on whatever I am asking them to do. It’s like a scene straight out of The Office.

      1. Airy*

        Is this an established term for “when a man repeats what a woman said as if it’s his own idea?” Because if not it really should be.

          1. Fortitude Jones*

            Yeah, some people are just busybody knowitalls regardless of the gender of the person they’re interrupting.

        1. RUKiddingMe*

          Yup that’s what it means. It’s not mine though. I can’t remember where it originated.

    1. valentine*

      my boss does this when I am addressing my team
      The same scripts might work for you, without the “approached me.”

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I like variations of, “Oh, it’s great that you agree with my strategy. Now, as I was saying…”

      Because then he can’t disagree with you without looking silly.

    1. Product Person*

      I think I know, because I had to fight very hard not to become this coworker. I have tons of experience in my field, and when people start talking near me about a problem I’ve solved many times in other organizations, I have this first reaction of wanting to jump in and offer my 2-cents.

      It’s never from a place of wanting to show off or demonstrate superiority; it’s an honest impetus to offer a perspective from someone who has “been there, done that”. I know though this is totally not cool, so over the last two years, apart from a couple of times when I realized too late I was doing it, I’m proud to say that I completely ignored the conversation every single time, even when I believe I have the exact answer to the problem at hand and the two people talking seem to be struggling to identify the best solution. Unless someone asks me to chime in, I simply don’t :-).

      1. RUKiddingMe*

        I’m glad you recognize this in yourself and rein it in. I get it…the urge to jump in with the answer…I reeeaaalllyyy do. It’s just that so many times males feel that their particular point of view is necessary to every.goddamn.thing, even things that they are not a part of or that don’t pertain to them. It’s an actual Thing…and it gets so tiring.

      2. Boobookitty*

        You sound awesomely self-aware and empathetic Product Person! Thank you for your comment.

      3. Alli525*

        I struggle with this too – I have always been a bossy know-it-all (my 1st grade report card can back that up) (Product Person, I’m not saying that’s who you are!), it’s one of my worst personality traits. I actively bite my tongue sometimes and take deep breaths when the impulse to butt in arises, and will sometimes even put headphones in so I can’t overhear the conversation anymore. I also know that the impulse comes both from that good place that PP mentions – “been there done that” – but also as a negative result of my upbringing, so I feel an extra need to not indulge myself.

      4. ellex42*

        I’m that person, too, and it’s a real struggle sometimes to bite my tongue and keep my mouth shut. But earlier this year, through a series of unexpected events, I suddenly became the senior non-management person in my department, and I’ve reaped my just desserts. I’ve had to fight to get my coworkers to stop pestering the living daylights out of me because “you know everything” (I really, really don’t, but I do take good notes and I’m good at taking things apart to figure out what should be done).

        I do still find myself taking over small projects – the ones no one else wants to mess with – and that has gone a good ways towards satisfying my desire to share what I know. A new coworker who regularly butts in to offer their “insight” when they don’t actually have any real or useful insight or knowledge to offer has also given me some perspective from the other side.

        1. Respectfully, Pumat Sol*

          Ellex42 are you me? This has been exactly my experience in the last year. Management on my team is almost all new, and I suddenly find myself as the person with all the institutional knowledge. The whole team is leaning on me pretty hard – which in turn has made it harder for me to butt-out of conversations I wasn’t invited into. (Which I am actively working on as I have some serious FOMO in my office.)

      5. DKMA*

        As someone with not quite as developed tendency on this I’ve found it can work to email your thoughts to the person afterwards. So if Jane was talking to her VP about teapot glazing and I had something I thought would help, I’d send an email like “Hey couldn’t help but overhear your conversation with VP about teapot glazing, I had that same problem at Other Place and here’s what we did that that really helped.”

        You scratch the “I’m trying to be helpful” itch, while not undermining the other person. It’s possible they’ll still find you annoying, but it’s easy enough to ignore an email.

    2. Boobookitty*

      I wonder if at least part of it is trying to communicate: “Hey, look at me higher-up-person! I’m smart and helpful too. Please notice me and acknowledge my contribution. You too co-worker! I’m a good guy who is smart and helpful. Please appreciate me.”

      It helps me feel more peaceful about potentially fraught situations when I try to think of possible, more innocent, underlying meanings someone may be trying to communicate. Of course I can only guess at what someone may be trying to say, but it’s better than other assumptions I might make such as “He’s really saying, don’t listen to her! She doesn’t know what she’s talking about!”

      I’ve used this with my Dad. All my life when I’ve shared news about something I’m excited about, he has pointed out what could possibly go wrong. Example:

      ME: “Dad, I’m so excited! They gave me the job!”
      DAD: “Have you looked into their financial situation, in case they can’t pay you?”

      One day, after I’d shared something with my dad and he’d suggested something could go terribly wrong, I had this revelation about what he was really communicating. And here’s how the rest of the conversation went:

      ME: “Dad, when I hear you say that, I’m hearing that you love me and want me to be safe.”
      DAD: “You’re absolutely right! I love you and don’t want you to get hurt.”

  5. Hedgehug*

    I work with someone exactly like this. I’m also a young woman and he’s old enough to be my dad. My “Steve” is also a super nice guy. For my Steve, he likes being seen as someone with authority so inserts himself into everyone’s conversations all the time to tout his knowledge/experience/etc. It drives everyone nuts. He also, however, stands too close when talking to you, so he has boundary issues that he just doesn’t realise, so he doesn’t realise how annoying it is when he butts in to conversations. When talking with my boss once, he came out of his office to my desk to butt into our conversation, and I snapped, put my hand up, stared into his eyes and said “Steve, please!”. He got it. I felt bad after, even though my boss was glad did it. I went to “Steve” after and said “I’m sorry I snapped at you, but what I was saying to Boss needed to come from me. It was not yours to share” and he understood. That was probably a year ago and he still does it, but he is MUCH better and for the most part stays in his office. To keep our rapport I occasionally ask his opinion on things to validate that I do value his knowledge and experience and we have a great working relationship now.

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        The apology / asking opinions later are valuable ways to build the overall rapport. For people who have knowledge to offer, it’s worth the time to do.

    1. tab*

      You handled this very well! Setting a boundary while maintaining a good relationship. Nicely done.

    2. Baru Cormorant*

      “What I was saying to Boss needed to come from me”
      This is great and an alternative script for OP/others. I like that it points out that the important thing is not just that the issue is solved, but that OP gets to solve it (not Steve).

    3. Boobookitty*

      Yay! A happy ending. Good for you for asserting yourself and improving your relationship.

  6. Clementine*

    This is very difficult, because although the OP would totally be in the right to use Alison’s scripts, I’d expect a 90% chance at least that Steve will become actively unpleasant thereafter. Maybe I am too pessimistic.

    1. AMT*

      I agree. The thing that stands out to me most in this letter is how careful the LW is trying to be with Steve’s feelings and how willing she is to give him the benefit of the doubt. That’s not a bad thing in itself, but I also get the sense that the LW feels obligated to treat Steve’s feelings with *far* more sensitivity than he’s treating hers. He might act wounded and defensive after she talks to him about his behavior, but if the result is him stopping this behavior, I’d consider it a win regardless. “Preserving the relationship” shouldn’t mean “letting people hold you hostage with the threat of relationship damage.”

      1. The Smiley Cube Dweller*

        Hi, AMT! LW here. You’re totally right—I’m concerned about Steve’s feelings and should try to think more about asking for what I need—in a respectful way, of course. While I do think he’s a well-meaning guy, it’s not the first time he has completely missed the mark in terms of treating me respectfully. It’s a subtle form of aggression in this case but I love Alison’s wording (of course) as well.

        1. Lance*

          Especially given that context, I’d go so far as to say you definitely need to have this conversation with him. Make it clear that you want him to trust you to handle your own business; that while you appreciate him trying to be helpful, it’s not actually helping you.

        2. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

          Think of it this way…just because someone has good intentions doesn’t make it appropriate behavior. It’s like people who offer unsolicited advice – they generally mean well and think they’re being helpful, but most of the time they’re just being judgmental. His actions are sending a message that you’re incompetent, and that’s not ok.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Hmm, it didn’t read like that to me. If she hadn’t included that paragraph, the letter easily could have read like Steve was a rude ass, and she’s trying to get advice that actually feels right for her situation (which is that she likes Steve and thinks he’s generally a good guy).

        1. The Smiley Cube Dweller*

          You know, it’s just complicated. Steve *is* a generally nice person. But like all of us, he has his blind spots. I think the advice is very sound.

          1. The Smiley Cube Dweller*

            But to clarify, no, I don’t think he’ll become openly hostile after chat. Not his style. Might he snipe behind my back? Sure.

            1. DKMA*

              I was nodding along until that second to last sentence. You might need higher standards.

              It’s possible that he’s actually a nice guy, but someone who is low-key hostile then avoids confrontation, but whispers behind your back is someone you should be putting in the “don’t trust this guy” bucket.

          2. gilthoniel*

            As an aside, for your own career prospects, you want to avoid presenting as deferential to Steve.

        2. The Smiley Cube Dweller*

          Alison, thanks so much again for your helpful response to my question. Given your reaction above, I’d be curious to know if you would change your advice at all (or if there’s an older post that you’d point me to). To me, your response still seems appropriate. Part of why I framed the question as I did was that I liked the idea of addressing one discrete issue with Steve while it’s still relatively fresh in both our minds. My hope is that even if doing so doesn’t cover every last injustice I feel he’s ever visited on me, it will set a tone that lightly smacks him into treating me with more awareness and respect in general. Anyway, if you disagree and have time to chime in, I’d be all ears. Thanks again.

  7. Barefoot Librarian*

    I think I’d approach this by appealing to the fact that he is (or at least sees himself) as a good guy. Perhaps “Steve, I know you’d be horrified if anyone perceived you as behaving in a sexist or overbearing way, so I can’t in good conscious not point out how it looks when you interject yourself into the conversation when someone comes by my desk to solicit my opinions on work matters…etc.”

    I’ve found this kind of approach helpful in the past. Weirdly, it’s the most helpful when someone is, in fact, guilty of the crime I’m assuring them that I know they don’t want to be seen as guilty off lol.

    1. Washi*

      I think this is a good rebuttal if Steve is pushing back a bit, but I wouldn’t lead with this. If OP’s priorities include having a positive relationship with Steve afterward (which it sounds like they do) starting with something as sensitive as sexism can instantly put someone on the defensive. I’ve always had the best results phrasing these requests as if they are totally normal (which they are ) and of course the other person will be cool about making this relatively minor change and now we can proceed to work together just like before and no one is mad.

      1. Barefoot Librarian*

        I can see your point as well. If he goes into defensive mode then it just makes the interaction even harder. Maybe this could be plan B. I’ve used this tactic with good results but, as with anything sensitive, the approach must be appropriate to the people involved. :)

      2. BethDH*

        Also, sometimes it isn’t necessary to bring it up as sexism (even if it is) for OP to get the desired result. It’s great if/when someone wants to take that on, but for a lot of reasons, many people don’t want to do that at work or in other situations with certain kinds of high stakes.
        I will add that I am a woman and found myself butting into conversations in a similar situation. In my case, a little self-reflection made me realize that I was insecure about my position in that, especially when people I respected were regularly asking someone near me for input. This situation seems likely to have a degree of sexism (and maybe ageism?), but that seems like it might be a compounding factor that wouldn’t be a problem if the OP can get him to check that immediate need to show off knowledge in another way.

  8. blink14*

    My recent co-worker (who has now moved on, thankfully) did this to me constantly, in any kind of conversation. They were in a senior position to mine, but in no way my supervisor, and both position report directly to the department director.

    If a person dropped by our office and saw me first, my co-worker would come out of their office and hover, waiting to jump into a conversation. It happened in meetings, randomly running into colleagues out in other buildings, and even on phone calls where they overheard the topic. The one thing that worked for me was to literally not even acknowledge their presence and continue the conversation as if they did not exist. No eye contact, no body language to allow them into the “conversation space”, etc.

    1. Snarkus Aurelius*

      This is what I was coming here to say. I continue the conversation as if the person wasn’t there and didn’t say anything at all. No eye contact. No acknowledgement whatsoever.

      1. KRM*

        I have done this, and it works with all but the most oblivious! Or if they’re really annoying I’d stop my convo and say “Sorry, did you need something from me?”, and when they said no, just move on with conversation, ignoring them (generally the person would leave because they felt awkward after that, so mission accomplished!). Anyone who genuinely needed something would always start with “I’m sorry to interrupt, but (question/thing they needed)”.

        1. blink14*

          I did the “do you need anything” a few times when the person I was speaking to was at a much higher level (like our boss’ boss), otherwise I had to go with zero acknowledgement!

      2. blink14*

        What really drove me nuts is when they would butt in on a conversation that they only had peripheral knowledge of – like a program that I mostly run, with about 10% input of my manager in final decision making conversations and like 5% from this other position. I actually told them to stop talking over me, as I have the most experience on the topic, in a couple of important meetings surrounding this particular program.

      3. Shoes On My Cat*

        We have a client that does this. All The Time! I don’t have the standing to correct her or ask her to quit it, so I do the ignore tactic so I can finish my instructions, get another person’s feedback, etc. Last week though, my boss (the owner), stopped her by actually saying “It’s not your turn right now, it’s Mary’s turn to speak.” My eyes bugged out of my head and I am still enjoying the karma of that one joyous moment ;-)

        1. blink14*

          That is awesome! I’ve really found that the person or people I’m speaking with take my lead by not acknowledging the person as well. It can be awkward, but it’s the only way I could deal with this person when they interrupted a conversation.

  9. The New Wanderer*

    The timeline is a little confusing. The LW says this habit has been emerging for “the past year or so” but then says it’s only happened three times. Three times in a year plus is not egregious butting in, it sounds pretty normal to me for an open office plan when people in an adjacent cube are having a conversation that another person has relevant input on. I’ve been that butting-in person once in a great while, and I would find it very off putting to be told to keep my opinions/information to myself unless asked directly.

    Of course, if it were three times in the last few weeks, or a bunch of times over the past year with three main and obvious examples, that would seem more like an escalation of a bad habit. If this guy isn’t letting LW get a word in edgewise, that’s a bad sign. If he’s butting in to say “Well actually” and challenge/overexplain LW’s response, that’s a bad sign (or at the least, not handled well). But as written, it seems like kind of an overreaction to have a separate conversion with Steve on something he’s done pretty infrequently.

    1. Loubelou*

      I was wondering this too. The timeline as described doesn’t seem like a big deal. Perhaps the co-worker has many annoying habits that make this one feel like particularly big deal?

    2. Rectilinear Propagation*

      Three times is a lot if you’ve only had a few opportunities to impress senior management face to face.

        1. The Smiley Cube Dweller*

          Hey all, LW here. I have to admit that I also wondered if three times in a year-ish period was really enough to warrant a Big Conversation. That’s part of why I wrote in. (Update: I just did the math and it was three times that I can recall in seven months.)

          Also he doesn’t seem to do it to the my-age guy in our group when senior people come over to *his* desk, and he doesn’t seem to do it when people who *aren’t* senior come over to my desk. I don’t get asked pointed “what’s your recommendation”–type questions right there at my desk all that often by senior people, and while I don’t have an exact tally, he’s definitely butting in a high percentage of those times.

          My sense is that Steve, unwittingly or not, is chiming in just in situations where I (a young woman) am being approached by senior managers. And yes, as Loubelou suggests, it’s not the only thing he does that makes me feel disrespected. He does the thing where I say something in a meeting and he seems not to hear it, then raises the same idea himself, *or* attributes the idea to our boss, weirdly. I had an idea for a tracking system at one point and he agreed it was a great idea, then took it upon himself to create it and acted surprised when I acted miffed, pointing out it had been my idea and I’d said I’d do it myself. “Oh, yeah, I just figured I’d do it.” So he’s definitely careless and disrespectful sometimes.

          1. Loubelou*

            Wow, he sounds really annoying, and with all that extra contexts it’s definitely a gender issue. He sees an opportunity to make himself look good at the expense of a young woman.

            I guarantee this will only get worse if you don’t stand up to him, sadly. Call him out as much as you feel able to and make *him* feel as uncomfortable as you feel when he behaves like this.

            1. valentine*

              he doesn’t seem to do it to the my-age guy in our group
              Have a response ready in case Steve admits to just usurping your facetime with TPTB. And sticking to your scripts may help, as it did for the OP who told her coworker to stop hiding OP’s candy dish.

              I wonder whether you can say anything in the moment because TPTB may remember these incidents as being with just Steve or him providing the answer you gave, and if you were to say, “Steve, I got this,” they might tank you with, “No, I’d love to hear Steve’s take on this.”

            1. Seeking Second Childhood*

              I’d go so far as to speak to him _in the presence of that senior manager_. But then again I have been told I was “overbearing” in a meeting. (I was right, and because it was life-safety, I would do it again. )

          2. The New Wanderer*

            Wow, okay between this, your previous comment above with more context about his other behaviors, and the point that there aren’t many opportunities to begin with and he’s squashing those? It’s definitely a worse situation than I initially thought!

            Yeah, he needs that conversation, and also to be interrupted or stopped in the moment, because he does seem to be both targeting you in specific, and targeting opportunities where your ideas are getting attention. Frankly I would skip any softening language that would normally serve to smooth things over (asking a favor, attributing it to the open office setup). You *want* him to be set back on his heels and abashed for his behavior. He wouldn’t be doing you a favor by cutting it out, he’d be acting like a reasonable professional. He currently sees you as someone he can overrun, don’t give him any more leeway to see you as a soft touch.

            1. The Smiley Cube Dweller*

              Thanks so much, The New Wanderer, BethRA, Reba, and Loubelou! Yeah…he’s someone who I think doesn’t get a ton of attention from higher-ups and my hunch (which I didn’t want to share in the letter, lest it affect Alison’s own analysis) is that he gets annoyed when he sees someone who he perceives as inferior (me) getting attention he wishes he were getting.

          3. tamarack and fireweed*

            “He does the thing where I say something in a meeting and he seems not to hear it, then raises the same idea himself, *or* attributes the idea to our boss, weirdly.”

            A classic. I’ve been finding it really helpful to respond to this with something along the lines of “Thanks, Steve, for supporting what I suggested!” The trick is to get it out without any trace of rancour, even with genuine-sounding delight. And you don’t have to butt in for it. Sometimes it works that when there’s a natural lull in the conversation, or all relevant points have been made, to take the speaking role again and say something like “If I can summarize, we all seem to agree that on [problem 1] the right thing to do is [A]. But for [problem 2], Steve has spoken up in favor of the solution I suggested, which is [B], and if I understand Steve correctly, it also has the support of [boss]? On the other hand, Mark and Patricia think we might try [C], so that’s to be decided.”

            1. The Smiley Cube Dweller*

              Oh, absolutely. This is one that I’m much more comfortable addressing right in the moment, even somewhat testily. “Yep, that is what I *just* said, Steve.”

              1. R.D*

                Depending on the dynamics of the conversation, you might be able to address the interruptions in the moment with a quick “thanks, Steve. I’ve got this.”

              2. gilthoniel*

                The “thanks for your support” line is a real beauty; it’s a ju-jitsu move. Instead of allowing him
                to diminish or take credit for your comment, you have added his status to your own.
                Honestly, it has left some of them stuttering.

          4. Jules the 3rd*

            ooooo – that really changes the conversation.

            He is clueless, but he is not nice or harmless. You absolutely need to have a big picture conversation with him about this, one where you say “you are undermining me with these behaviors:
            1) Meetings
            2) Informal conversations

            I need you to stop doing this. If you continue to do this, I’m going to have to speak up.”

            Then in the moment –
            “Yes, Steve, just like I said”
            “Hi Steve, I got this”
            Coldly ignoring him
            “Did you need something from me? No? I’m talking to Mary right now, please come back later when I’m free.”

            This is classic sexist behavior, there’s tons of examples and scripts out there, and you are allowed to get irritated by it, and to demonstrate that in a professional way.

      1. Lance*

        This is a big part of where I’m coming down; plus, if, as in the example, Steve is butting in with a direct answer, that eliminates (or at least reduces) the OP to answer; instead, they’re just left to agree or disagree, with any possible reasoning. Not really fair to the OP when they were the one being asked the question, that they presumably have an answer for themselves.

        1. valentine*

          that eliminates (or at least reduces) the OP to answer; instead, they’re just left to agree or disagree, with any possible reasoning.
          Since it’s a case of “Who asked you?”, OP can mostly proceed as though Steve’s not said anything because it doesn’t matter what Steve’s experience is.

  10. Rectilinear Propagation*

    Over the handful of years that we’ve worked together, we’ve enjoyed a pretty good rapport, but he’s developed an annoying habit over the past year or so

    It’s interesting that this is new. LW, have you always had higher-ups come by your desk to discuss work or is this something that also started happening within the past year? If so, then it makes sense that this is new behavior. But it’s a bit odd if this sort of thing is par for the course and he’s only now started butting in.

    I don’t think this changes the advice but I’d brace for push back if it’s the latter because it implies there’s something else going on. (Not necessarily something that’s a big deal, but something.)

    1. The Smiley Cube Dweller*

      Hi, Rectilinear Propagation (lol, favorite sentence I’ve written in some time). LW here. I think maybe my profile as someone who knows what they’re doing has raised a bit over the past couple years? I’m not entirely sure why the change. Certain of these convos w/ higher-ups have always been part of the deal. It’s been about seven months of Steve’s new habit. Could be something to do with him and not me.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        I would assume that it’s something with Steve, not you.

        He may have an itch for promotion or “something more” and decided to be seen, so he looked around and heard some advice on increasing his visibility to the higher-ups.

      2. AnnaKonda*

        I wonder if it might be that he feels more comfortable about your relationship which is why he feels like he can speak up. I easily fall into this habit when I have a good relationship/rapport with someone. Like if we talk naturally then it feels normal to be able to pipe up if I feel like I can add something to the conversation.

        1. The Smiley Cube Dweller*

          AnnaKonda, I actually think that’s a very good point. Yes, as others have said, Steve is out of line and clearly boneheaded, but he and I do some degree of asking each other’s opinion (in both directions) as well as just chatting over the cube wall, so maybe he just sees this (wrongly!) as an extension of that.

          1. Flash Bristow*

            Sounds like he’s kinda looking out for the chances to join in, though – rather than just being “handy” to pop up?

  11. GreenDoor*

    I might shoot out a “I got this Steve” followed by a shift of my body that physically shuts him back out of the conversation. Like insert your body into his line of sight to the upper manager. Stand, move your position whatever. Sometimes a non-verbal that says “you aren’t a part of this” can do the trick too.

    As a woman, I’m a bit sick of assuming that when an older male colleage does stuff like this that he’s just trying to be helpful. No. He’s trying to look like he knows more than me. I’d still have a direct conversation, but it’d be more pointed. In a curious sounding, non-aggressive tone I’d ask, “What’s up with you constantly jumping into my conversations with Big Boss and Other Big Boss?” Followed by an appropriate form of “knock it off” depending on what his answer is.

    1. MarfisaTheLibrarian*

      Oooh, I like the “I got this, Steve” as a way to shut it down in the moment; even if he sticks around, you’ve done something to reclaim authority in the conversation

    2. Librarian of SHIELD*

      I think it can be a combination of “trying to be helpful” and “demonstrating that he knows more.” At least some Steves will interrupt in this way not out of malice, but out of a genuine belief that they have the superior knowledge and that their interruption will be a benefit to the conversation. They really are trying to be kind. But they don’t understand that their knowledge isn’t actually always superior or necessary, so the interruption isn’t as helpful as they think it will be.

      And honestly, whether Steve’s trying to be helpful or trying to play a misogynistic power game, Alison’s wording is still good. Because framing it as “the most helpful thing you can do for me is to stop interrupting” takes away the “I’m just trying to help” excuse, and the overbearing jerks probably still don’t want to come right out and say “I just want the higher ups to think I’m smarter than you!”

      1. The Smiley Cube Dweller*

        Great insights, Librarian of SHIELD, thank you. (I’m the LW.) He’s also someone who I think may see his job as kind of beneath him. Fun for the rest of us who do not. :)

      2. RUKiddingMe*

        “…genuine belief that they have the superior knowledge and that their interruption will be a benefit to the conversation…”

        The really exasperating thing is that this is how probably 90+% of them think. Their knowledge/opinion/insight is so vastly superior/important it The reality being of course that women come equipped with fully functioning brains and the ability to think and be productive sans male review.

    3. Shut Up Steve*

      Yes this. Steve is being a douche. No one has to manage his feelings when telling him so.

    4. Quinalla*

      I’ve definitely used the “Thanks, I’ve got this, Steve.” in the moment to shut down someone in the past. Drop the thanks if you want, but I feel like it makes the interruption easier to swallow. And I interrupt with it just like hbc a few comments below. And yes, I would talk to him after higher up is gone, apologize for interrupting, but explain that higher up(s) need to know your expertise.

      I also agree with others that he may be trying to help, but he also may just be using the opportunity to show off his expertise. Likely not maliciously to shut down the OP (though that is possible too, but I’d say unlikely based on what OP said), but it’s quite possible he’s really not trying to help at all. I do think it is still best to go with Alison’s script as it lets him save face.

      1. RUKiddingMe*

        “…apologize for interrupting, but explain that higher up(s) need to know your expertise.”

        See I see this as just so much emotional labor making sure Dude doesn’t get ruffled feathers for being rude. He was in the wrong, whether it was malicious or not…probably not, most likely just some random dude thinking his thoughts are superior and must be heard (nothing new there).

        If he feels awkward about being called out in the moment, let him feel awkward and stop doing the care taking thing of making sure his manfeels aren’t hurt.

        I know not everyone can draw the same hard line that I can. I do recognize that sometimes women still have to put up with this bullshit. But seriously if they are not superior to you* or have some way to harm your career/job when they are put in their place…put them in their freaking place, every.single.time until they learn how to behave.

        *The general “you/your” of course.

        1. Baru Cormorant*

          I dunno, it would be less emotional labor for me to say, “Sorry I was harsh, Steve, but I need you on my side here, thanks” than to calculate how much damage they could do now and in the future and weigh that against the immediate satisfaction of being harsh to someone who deserves it.

          I don’t see it as “harshest stance is preferable if you can get away with it,” but as seeking the most effective response that is true to one’s own morals. Someone more blunt than me would feel better with your approach. I would feel like I hadn’t been my best self if I led with that with a coworker. There are lots of ways to push back for different kinds of people!

    5. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      That was my reaction as well, you just throw up the “I got this, thanks bro!” and continue as if he’s immediately removed himself from the conversation.

      1. Blue Horizon*

        That would be my approach as well in this situation (I am male). You are politely sending a message, in the moment. As a male I would not assume up front that there was any need to manage his feelings over it. In theory a female shouldn’t need to assume that either, but it depends on the office culture to some degree, and if OP just wants to get the job done rather than stand on a point of principle then Alison’s script might be safer.

    6. Coco*

      I like this. Might be tempted to add ‘we can talk later’ so he knows I’ll listen to his input as well as give me an opportunity to tell him he doesn’t need to butt in.

  12. MicroManagered*

    I’d say it this way: “Can I ask you a favor?

    When would you bring it up? Right after he does it (and the senior person has left)? In a more general, less in-the-moment way?

    1. Lance*

      I’d say after he does it and the senior person has left out of earshot would be a good time. Address it in the moment while it’s still fresh in everyone’s heads, and it’s likely to have the biggest impact/sticking power.

  13. Circe*

    I saw the headline and was terrified someone had written in about me! I know popping in to conversations that don’t involve me is an annoying habit, but it is also really difficult not to when I (often incorrectly) think I have something to add. So here’s my advice, which you didn’t ask for, but I will provide anyway:

    1. Definitely talk to him. Name the problem and thank him for his helpfulness, and name the boundaries you’re setting.
    2. If you think it would be helpful, invite him to discuss things with you afterwards if he thinks you got something wrong.
    3. When he does it, just neutrally day, “thanks for your input, but we’ve got this.” And Do. Not. Engage.
    4. If possible, when he does this, consider relocating the conversation. Something like, “[to steve], thanks, but we’ve got this. [to other person] it looks like we’re distracting Steve. Should we take this conversation to your office/the conference room/for a walk?”

    If none of this helps, if loop in your/his manager, because it may be a bigger issue than that of a helpful coworker who just can’t help himself, but a coworker who can’t respect boundaries, derails other conversations, and isn’t focused on his own work, which are all bigger issues that you don’t need to fix.

    1. AnonEMoose*

      The thing is, though, if you know it’s an annoying habit you have, it’s kind of on you to control yourself and not do it.

      1. CMart*

        Yeah, but Steve didn’t write in so “hey, knock it off” isn’t actionable advice. I think Circe’s perspective as what would work/has worked on them “as a Steve” is helpful here.

        People are works in progress, and of course all change must come from within but if someone is there to help along the way it would be good to know what techniques are actually helpful/successful.

      2. Parcae*

        Notice that Circe’s first recommendation is to name the problem. I am a terrible buttinski, but it never occurred to me that it might be a problem until someone wrote in here with a similar question. I’m working on it *now*, but first I had to have the “this behavior that you think is helpful is actually the opposite” realization, which I never would have come to all on my own.

        I think Circe’s advice is solid, looking at it from the letter writer’s perspective. It’s the kind of approach that would have worked on me. No, thanking me for my helpfulness isn’t necessary, but it does help me save face, which helps keep our work relationship warm.

        1. lasslisa*

          I’m still fighting that myself. Sometimes I know the answer! Sometimes they’re asking my neighbor about (thing I worked on) and if they know where (numbers I calculated) came from, or even asking specifically “hey, do you know who the owner was for (project I owned)?”

          And I do think it’s good for me to short-circuit this person’s walk around the office looking for the right person to point them to me. One of the benefits of an open office space is that you can walk over to the appropriate section of cubicles and discuss a topic and see who looks up, and I think that’s an honest benefit.

          But I’m also aware that concerns about who gets credit for an idea or response are pretty hard for me to intuit. I’m usually thinking first about getting to the right answer / solving the (technical) problem, and the idea that it might matter where the answer came from does not even cross my mind until later. So it’s an area I have to pay extra attention to not step on anyone’s toes, and getting feedback in that area always helps.

    2. Nesprin*

      I will also admit that I do this. A big part of it is that I am easily distracted by conversations around me, and if its something that I’m an expert in, or especially if something factually incorrect is said, I tend to butt in. I find it useful to be told to back off when my 2cents are neither needed or appreciated, and I’ll hold my tongue if someone has asked me to.
      OTOH, I have had interns who try to do this, butting in with incorrect information, and getting bent out of shape if corrected/shut down. I blame that nefarious sort of patronizing sexism which makes young male engineers think they know better than old female engineers.

      1. valentine*

        Would it help you (or you, Circe) to write what you want to say in the moment, hang on to it, review, then only bring it up if you decide it’s vital?

        1. Shoes On My Cat*

          One thing that helps me is I press my forefinger to my thumb really hard to help me remember the point I wanted to add. Then if their conversation covers it, I just relax my fingers, no one the wiser. Otherwise, I might bring it up, but later in an email. My boss is scary about reading body language and has caught on! If she sees my self-cue during a meeting, AND wants to hear what I have to say on a certain topic, she will bring me into the conversation. It’s a relatively recent development, but pretty awesome because she’s bringing me in more often!! Which makes me less likely to “Steve!” Also, it’s been helpful to teach myself to wait to see if my colleagues are on the same page as I am, which they often are, and that also helps me be less likely to “Steve.” WinWin!!

      2. Autumnheart*

        I do it too. (I’m female.) I just like problem-solving and trivia of all kinds. There are a few of us around the office, but generally the pace is quick enough that we can get our Steve on when people really do need an answer. I’ve been working on hanging back until I hear that they’re going to dig into the issue further, and if I have the answer, I’ll chime in at that point.

        Being a Steve can backfire in its own way, if it teaches people that they can just come to you to figure everything out, instead of doing it themselves. It’s like being the person who sits next to the printer. People learn more effectively when they do things themselves.

        1. TechWorker*

          Yeah I’m a bit of a Steve too sometimes I think – I am a manager so sometimes I *do* have more info than the person answering the question, but I need to work on only butting in if my input is actually needed and they won’t work it out without it.

          (I’ve had some success by wearing one headphone and studiously not listening until I’m actually asked)

        2. Becky*

          I do this too (female as well). I’m a Quality Analyst so that kind of thing is my entire job but as they’re asking another QA who has been at it longer than me… Yes I have annoyed a co-worker with this. I’ve gotten the “I’ve got this Becky.”

          I’ve been working on training myself to not speak up unless I hear something that I am pretty sure is incorrect.
          This is helped by the fact that co-worker and I have kind-of distinct areas of responsibility. There’s some overlap in a few areas but mostly I’ve just been working on biting my lip and not speaking up because what they’re asking about is her area of responsibility. But when it edges into my territory or when it applies to both of our areas of responsibility I will often listen to make sure there isn’t something I should bring up that pertains directly to my responsibilities. Co-worker is usually pretty good about asking for me to join the discussion at those points.

          I did have to speak up recently when a Manager came over and was asking co-worker about how something worked and I had to correct both of them with how that thing specifically interacted with my responsibilities because the plans they were making would have affected both her stuff and mine.

    3. Trout 'Waver*

      You’re putting a lot of work on the person you’re annoying to correct your behavior.

      1. Why should someone thank you for butting in?
      2. Why would the subject matter expert who the senior manager went to directly need to discuss their job with you afterwards?
      3. Why should they interrupt their conversation to thank you?
      4. Why should they have to move?

      Just don’t butt in. If you find yourself having butted in, apologize and remove yourself from the conversation. If you routinely do this to certain people, apologize to them, name the behavior, and say you’re working on fixing it.

      When you try to coach others on how to deal with your annoying habit, you’re putting a burden on them. That person has to decide if you’re reasonable or not, if you actually mean what you’re saying, and figure out if there are power dynamics that would keep them from following your “advice”. And you’re the one with the uncontrolled annoying habit, so it’s not looking good from the start. For every reasonable person who says, “If I’m bothering you with X, just speak up,” and means it, There’s an unreasonable person who doesn’t.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        I think you missed that Circe is answering LW with suggestions that have worked to help HER realize when she’s being a Steve.

      2. Baru Cormorant*

        This is kind of harsh. I appreciated hearing Circe’s perspective as a well-meaning Steve on what would work for her. The advice is basically what Alison said, so I don’t know why you’re taking this “why should they have to deal with this problem” stance.

        “When you try to coach others on how to deal with your annoying habit, you’re putting a burden on them.”
        OP literally wrote in on how to deal with someone’s annoying habit, that is what we are all doing here.

        1. Trout 'Waver*

          If Circe was leaving dirty dishes in the sink, we wouldn’t advise OP to use a different sink, teach Circe how to wash dishes, or thank Circe for his helpfulness when addressing the issue. None of that is OP’s responsibility.

          Here we have another annoying habit. If Circe or Steve is made aware of it, it is 100% on them to fix it. Alison’s advice is spot on: Name the behavior and ask him to stop.

    4. Coco*

      Just a question for those who identify as doing similar. Do you like it when others interrupt your conversations as well? Do you generally think ‘I’m glad coworker got involved?’ I wonder if some people don’t see it as a problem because they appreciate it.

      1. Baru Cormorant*

        In my experience, sometimes it’s helpful to have someone with more experience/expertise chime in in an open office. That’s the point of those things, to encourage collaboration. Sometimes the office newbie asks their neighbor about something that actually the kitty-corner neighbor is the best person to ask. It would be pretty anti-collaborative if the expert just sat there listening and said nothing. But there’s a spectrum between chiming in when appropriate with helpful advice, and Steve.

        1. The Smiley Cube Dweller*

          OP here. I think there’s a spectrum for sure. I also think it can make a big difference to *ask* if you can join the conversation. “Mind if I jump in here?” I’ve certainly done that when I have something to add to Steve and my other colleague’s conversation, like a reminder that we already closely considered this issue last year when we were working on Project X, and they’ve responded, “Ohhh yeahhh!”

          I suspect, for the Steves of the world, who just have that itch to participate, the mental task of instructing yourself to ask permission first also serves as a sort of WAIT moment (Why Am I Talking) that other posters have mentioned. It’s a check on whether you in fact have something useful to add so it’s not as easy to casually toss conversation bombs into the workplace. And it also does give your coworkers an opportunity to say, “Actually, I think we’ve gotten this sorted out, but thank you.” A sort of affirmative consent for workplace interaction!

      2. lasslisa*

        Since you asked – ABSOLUTELY. Unless this is an interview (in which case we are in a room), I am looking for information on a topic, not trying to assess the person I’m speaking to. If someone else actually has relevant knowledge, I want to hear it. Or if they’re working on something related and want to step in to ask some follow-up questions, this is exactly what hallway conversation is for imo.

        If I actually want *this person’s* input specifically (relevant expertise, experience, just curious what they think) then I can redirect to them after the other person has butted in, or can politely dismiss (“oh, Steve, I really wanted to get Smiley’s thoughts on this, can you hold on?”). If I just want to know the differences between the new and old teapot polish, though, I would love to have the Principal Teapot Polisher introduce themselves and sum up.

        1. lasslisa*

          Note I actually DO think the managers are messing up by not redirecting toward Smiley. They wanted her opinion and should insist on getting it. Good on her to take charge of it herself. This doesn’t sound at ALL like the kind of case where someone else has necessary info, or is helping solve a problem faster, or even just feels so casual with her that he habitually ignores their cube wall – that wouldn’t be limited to upper management.

          1. The Smiley Cube Dweller*

            The thought crossed my mind as well. Good managers would be able to see that and shut it down.

      3. ChimericalOne*

        Coco — my answer would be, “Yes.” I’m a buttinski because I frankly don’t get most conversational boundaries and don’t have many myself. If I’m talking to someone else in public and a third person (assuming they’re not a complete stranger!) has something to add on the topic, I’m generally interested to hear their opinion. I’ve several times noticed that my contributions to a conversation were perceived as “butting in” at my last job, but I also observed many other people swinging into and out of conversations without being explicitly invited to, so… I guess it depends on how much the people involved like you / value your contribution as to whether it comes across as “friendly chiming in” vs. “annoying butting in.”

        I would never jump in to offer my opinion unsolicited if a senior person was directly asking someone else a question, but when it comes to social chit-chat and peer-to-peer conversations, I generally assume I’m as welcome to join in as anyone. And I feel the same about others joining my conversations, too.

        1. ChimericalOne*

          I’d add: I try to be mindful (now that I know that this can be annoying) that not everyone wants to hear my opinion, but I’m also mindful of the fact that not joining in cheerfully can come across as standoffish (another thing I’ve been accused of frequently… Aspies really just can’t win!). So, I just do my best to read the room and basically apologize a lot.

    5. Shoes On My Cat*

      Circe, you ROCK! I just want to say that your willingness to own your behavior and then share solutions that have helped you to not continue to be a Steve are jaw droppingly self aware and my hat is off to you. Kudos and keep up the good work!

  14. hbc*

    If it’s literally been three times over the past year, I wouldn’t have a big picture talk about it yet. I would, however, be prepared to interject in the moment the next time it happens.

    Management: “Hey, OP, when we have X, do we usually do Y or Z?”
    Steve, popping up like a meerkat: “In my exper–”
    You: “Hold up, Steve, let me go first. It’s almost always Y because [reasons]. I assume you agree, Steve?”

    If he takes it badly (or if I misunderstood the number of occurrences), then he can get the explanation. It can even be “Sorry that I interrupted you, I just want to make sure when Management asks me a direct question like that, they don’t think I need your help. I’ll call you over if it’s out of my wheelhouse.”

  15. C in the Hood*

    Curses on open office plans that enable this kind of behavior! I too have a butt-er in-er, but same gender and nearly the same age. They seem to think that every conversation must involve them.

    1. Massive Dynamic*

      Agreed – open office plans certainly increase the awkward. I’ve been both an annoying interrupter in other conversations and have attempted to ignore conversations going on right behind me that I was not actively invited to participate in, only to feel eyes on my back and getting pulled in anyway. Ah, the perils of sharing a desk with your boss in a large room. Didn’t realize how much mental/emotional energy I spent (probably badly) navigating all sorts of weird things like that during the day until I left that job.

  16. AnonEMoose*

    I don’t think this is “subtly gendered” at all. I think it’s very much gendered.

    I agree with the advice, including the advice to, in the moment, say something like “Hold up, Steve” or “We’ve got this, thanks.”

    And more globally, address the pattern as Alison suggests.

    I used to have a coworker (call him “George”) (no longer here) who would come to me with a question about something specifically handled by me. If he didn’t like my answer (which he usually didn’t), he would then go to my male coworker (call him “Bob”) and ask the same question. Bob, thankfully, would just refer George back to me. I never did figure out a way of professionally confronting George about it. But yeah, total slow burn every time, because on top of everything else, Bob’s desk was right next to mine, so I was right there for the conversation between Gorge and Bob Every. Single. Time.

    1. starsaphire*

      I had a George too!

      I (female, older) was in charge of training my George (male, younger) on a particular software. He’d come over, ask me a question, and I’d tell him the answer. He’d say, “Are you sure?” like it was something I’d made up. I’d confirm, and explain. He’d shake his head and say, “That doesn’t sound right to me.” Then he’d go to my cube neighbor(s) (female, same age, but waaay more seniority) and ask one or more of them the same question. In the 5% of times he got a slightly different answer, he’d come over and very condescendingly “teach” me the “correct” solution. (I just now realized, when I was right, I never heard another peep from him on the topic!)

      He also did the fake-laugh “ha ha is that true” thing alllll the time too. *sigh* I suspect he responded that way because (as I discovered later) he was really just making crap up as he went along, and interjecting “funny” one-liners into conversations to show off. Which made him a bit of a Steve as well.

      More Bobs and less Steves and Georges, please, Work Universe…

    2. Jedi Squirrel*

      “George, I noticed you always go to Bob when you don’t like my answer. However, this issue is under my purview, which is why Bob always refers you back to me. Please follow Bob’s lead and consult with me directly on these issues, and don’t bother Bob with them. He has his own work to do.”

      1. AnonEMoose*

        Oooh – that is great wording! I will have to file that away in case I ever run into another George!

        1. Jedi Squirrel*

          It’s rather more blunt than I usually go with, but George sounds like he needs a blunt response, especially when his actions are based on his rather sexist worldview.

          1. AnonEMoose*

            Oh, for sure, George could have done with a few blunt responses. I still vividly remember the time he chose to insert himself into something another coworker (also female) and I were handling, that was literally NONE of his concern. He was actually apparently of the opinion that making puppy dog eyes at me was going to get him somewhere. Little did he know that I have withstood puppy dog eyes from actual puppies.

            1. Jedi Squirrel*

              I have withstood puppy dog eyes from actual puppies

              I would add that to my resume if I had that actual accomplishment, but unfortunately puppy dog eyes from actual puppies make me melt.

    3. Jen2*

      So does that mean Bob had already overheard your conversation with Greg too? This situation sounds so frustrating to be a part of, but pretty hilarious to witness as an outsider.

      1. AnonEMoose*

        Bob certainly could have overheard the whole thing, and probably did – it depends on whether he was actually paying attention. Sometimes you hear something, but don’t really listen to it, you know?

        Bob, to his credit, did understand my frustration over this, but felt like there wasn’t that much he could do about it, other than refer George back to me.

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          Well, Bob could refer him back with escalating levels of irritation and the occasional “why are bugging me instead of asking AnonEMoose this? She’s great, what’s your problem?”

          Men telling other men their sexist behavior is foolish, as explicitly as possible, are the best allies.

          1. TechWorker*

            I don’t think he needs to clarify with ‘she’s great’, more ‘have you already asked AnonEMoose’? Yes, great.’ End of conversation.

  17. The bad guy*

    I’ll offer a slightly different perspective, I do this to colleagues because I can’t get work done when a conversation like this is going on around me. Granted, the number of times I sit quietly and say nothing while also getting nothing done vastly outnumbers the number of times I interject. But when I feel I have a perspective that hasn’t been brought up yet, I’ll usually use the W.A.I.T. method, and if I decide it’s valuable, I speak up. Does your management have an office on your floor? Maybe you can suggest having the conversation in their office or an open meeting space instead of in the cube farm. The person you’re talking about might honestly be super grateful to not have the distraction of a meeting in the shared area, I know I would.

    1. AnonEMoose*

      That seems…like it’s kind of on you to manage, though. I mean, work-related conversations happen in open offices (don’t misunderstand, I sometimes find it annoying and distracting, too). But if no one’s being unreasonably loud or something, I do my best to ignore it.

      It helps that my boss is fine with me wearing headphones; that filters out enough of it that I can block out most of it. I know that’s not the case in every office. Or sometimes I take the excuse to get up and go to the bathroom or get a drink or something like that.

      1. Lance*

        Agreed on these points. Also… are they even conversations, in OP’s case? It sounds like a case of someone popping by for a short period to ask a single question (or maybe slightly more); I think it’d be stranger to suggest such instances be taken elsewhere than to just answer in the moment and let people move on.

        1. valentine*

          are they even conversations, in OP’s case?
          It’s TPTB asking for her expertise, so it’d be weird for her to suggest she needs privacy to do that and, if Steve’s problem were that his perspective hasn’t been brought up, that’s too bad. If anyone wants it, they know where to find him, since he pops up like a Whac-a-Mole.

      2. The bad guy*

        And I do manage it, as I said above. I know a big portion of this is just, do what you can to ignore it. But if these conversations are true conversations and not just status updates, it is probably good office etiquette to suggest you take it to a room (though I guess this may be industry specific).

    2. Lucette Kensack*

      What is the “W.A.I.T. method”? I tried googling and came up with nothing but Java stuff.

      1. The bad guy*

        You ask yourself “why am I talking?” Before saying anything, if there is a good reason, you talk, if there is not you don’t. I use it primarily in meetings but it works well in all of life for those of us predisposed to dominating a conversation.

      2. KarenT*

        Google Why Am I Talking method. You’ll see some flowcharts that explain it–the basic premise is to reflect before speaking and only speak if you add value to the conversation

    3. tamarack and fireweed*

      Having your work disrupted by conversations popping up too close to you is one thing. You’re in the right doing something about it (addressing it in the moment, asking your co-worker privately to take conversations elsewhere, wearing headphones, speaking to management about seating arrangements….). What you aren’t in the right doing is to undermine your co-worker’s professional standing because of it.

      1. valentine*

        Having your work disrupted by conversations popping up too close to you is one thing.
        This is a bog standard employees need to roll with.

    4. Cranky Neighbot*

      Same here. I’m certain that I’m not undermining anyone like this guy is, but like you, I find it hard to stay out of a conversation that’s happening right beside/around me.

  18. Venus*

    Depending on the situation, I have done the “Do you mind if we walk back to your office and talk” suggestion. In part I make the offer because I don’t want to force my colleagues to hear my conversation, and I also reduce the chance of being interrupted by others. The “I was just about to boil the kettle for tea, can we talk about it in the break room?” line also allows for the conversation to be moved to a better spot (my managers love the office coffee maker).

    I know this doesn’t really address the issue with Steve, but if it’s only happening a few times and there is a chance that he’ll get upset or hurt, then these are potentially ways of redirecting the problem.

    1. ACDC*

      I started doing this at my work. Any time someone would come into my shared office, my officemate would stop what she was doing to listen to whatever the other person had to ask me. The conversations NEVER involved her too.

  19. Minocho*

    I am sometimes this person! It’s something I’ve realized, and something I’m trying to correct – but it’s a hard habit to break! Please address it with him – I’ve had it addressed with me, both politely and impolitely, and while impolitely was not fun, it is something I need to hear to help me really keep an eye out for it. Politely pointing it out will be received well if the person is reasonable, I think.

    In my case, I think I do it because of a combination of trying to help, trying to indicate participation/buy in during a meeting or conversation, and a feeling I will be overlooked / unrerecognized if I don’t speak up. These are not good reasons to do this, but they are reasons why, and knowing why helps me find less annoying ways to deal with my personal issues.

    1. Auntie Social*

      You’re a fixer. You just want to fix everything (so do I). It’s hard to remember that this is someone else’s chance to learn/shine, and we need to back off unless someone gives the wrong answer that will cost the firm money or embarrassment. Someone was nice enough to let us learn.

    2. Shoes On My Cat*

      Hey Minocho, I said this above, but here goes (me, butting in. Eep!): One thing that helps me is I press my forefinger to my thumb really hard to help me remember the point I wanted to add. Then if their conversation covers it, I just relax my fingers, no one the wiser. Otherwise, I might bring it up, but later in an email. It’s been helpful to teach myself to wait to see if my colleagues are on the same page as I am, which they often are, and that also helps me be less likely to “Steve.” And, because I but in less, people are starting to invite me into the discussion. WinWin!!

    3. Minocho*

      Thanks, Auntie and Shoes. My awareness of this issues waxes and wanes (it’s on the wax right now!), and reminders when I’m slipping while I’m still working on breaking the habit are super important.

      I’m grateful I’ve work hard on building a reputation for being easy to give constructive criticism to, because it means I’m a lot more likely to get a friendly warning when I’m getting lax on things, before I cause real issues. Now I just need to stop needing the constructive criticism!

  20. Aeon*

    A manager at my last job used to butt into my conversations with other colleagues all the time and it drove me nuts. Most conversations did not need their input and the intrusions always came across as really nosey and undermining.

  21. Middle Manager*

    I struggle with this as a supervisor in an open floor plan. I’m in the open as is everyone below me. Our boss’s have doors.

    I really want to empower my employees to talk directly about their own work, but I can definitely hear when they are talking to higher ups or even co-workers in their cubes. If they are totally off base, I jump in. But sometimes it’s more nuanced- they aren’t wrong, they are just missing something pretty significant, etc.

    Not identical situation and with a peer I think it’s way less appropriate to jump in (and this definitely sound gendered and perhaps aged as well), but the struggle of the open floor plan is real.

    1. Trout 'Waver*

      You aren’t doing your direct reports any favors by jumping in and correcting them. Circle back after the conversation and teach them the pieces they were missing. Or provide context to the higher-up in private afterwards. Or both.

      1. Jedi Squirrel*

        This is how you do it. You debrief them a bit, explain why the missing bits are important, give them a chance to process that and make some mental changes to how they approach this, and they get a chance to ask questions.

        Also, you have to explain to them the difference between “totally off base” and the more nuanced bit. It sounds like some communication pieces are missing here, either between them and the person they are talking to, or between what you are hearing and what you think you are hearing.

        Bottom line: You have to let people make mistakes if you want them to get better at their jobs.

    2. tamarack and fireweed*

      If you want to empower more junior people (or students, otherwise mentee-type people) to talk freely and directly about their work you *have* to become comfortable hearing stuff that isn’t correct. Even completely off. And they figure it out as far as they can themselves.

      What you do is to make a mental (or better physical!) private note that topic X needs addressing, and then, later, in the appropriate forum (1:1 meeting, team meeting, “learning hour”, whatever), you say “a thing that recently occurred to me is that there may still be some confusion around [topic X]. So let’s get over it.”

      Only if there’s something time-critical and possibly harmful happening should you ever jump in. Like this:

      Jim, shouting across the cubes: Hey, Sarah, I have [big client] on the phone. I think [request] is going forward, right? We send out [co-worker] tomorrow. They’ll have [staff] available to meet them.
      Sarah, shouting back: Yup, that’s it!
      You, knowing for a fact that it has been decided that this isn’t happening, and seeing the potential the client might make arrangements they would be unhappy to have to reverse: One sec, Jim, could you please tell [client] that you call them back in 10 min? I’m very sorry to butt in, but if I’m not mistaken there’s a wrinkle in that plan and we need to quickly go over it.

      But if your processes are robust, this sort of thing should be very very rare.

      1. Middle Manager*

        Yes, I agree. It’s a weak spot of mine. It’s *usually when it’s something time sensitive- a higher up requests a few talking points on their way out the door to a public meeting- but I’m not going to say I’ve never jumped in otherwise. It’s on my lists of things I’m working on.

    3. Cranky Neighbot*

      Does your office have any meeting rooms?

      My office has an open layout that could cause the same problems for managers. They pull us into meeting rooms, even for 15-minute conversations. It’s not a perfect solution, but it might help.

    4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      It also really depends on your office and the office culture. If you’re doing this only when something needs to be corrected, more so than just adding your two cents into the mix, it’s less of an issue. It would actually irk me if you let me fumble the ball in front of an executive and then pulled me to the side later to give me the “BTW that was wrong, this is the actual answer.” spiel. It’s one of those “Why didn’t you fix this when you saw me screwing it up though?!”

      That’s how we operate around here and anyone who would find it rude or overstepping wouldn’t fit in our office.

      It’s not empowering me to talk to someone by letting me make a mess of myself! If you see someone is going to trip over the rug, you say “Hey, watch your feet.” you don’t just let them trip and then go “oh silly wrinkled rug gets us sometimes.”

      What doesn’t empower someone is being constantly there in their ear, taking over the conversation that you don’t belong in and such. You’re probably doing a lot better and your reports probably don’t have a problem with you or deem this setup a weakness.

      1. Baru Cormorant*

        Agreed, in some office cultures always circling back comes across as letting someone screw up when you could have helped. It can even come across as cruel, like they just want to watch you fail or waste your time. It’s a delicate balance!

  22. Eiram*

    I work with someone similar, except my Steve buts in on pretty much all conversations around him – regardless of who’s involved. For example, I’ll be having a conversation with one of my reports and the report will say “I had to move the teapot label over a couple centimeters to fit the stamp” and my Steve will come around and say “What’s that about the teapot handle? I designed the teapot, and the handle needs to be there.” 9 times out of 10, he hears a word or two that relates to him and assumes he should be in the conversation, but it’s usually about something entirely unrelated to his parts of the project. And then when we explain, “No, not the handle. He moved the label over a bit”, he either gets defensive and sullen as if we’re chastising him for interfering, or he’ll become even more involved, talking for an extended time about other options that we should consider or going on a tangent about something only vaguely related. It ends up taking us out of our conversation, and it becomes very difficult to get back on track.

    Unfortunately, any attempt I’ve made to talk with him about this (or other similar issues) has been met with frustration or defensiveness, and when he gets defensive, he gets really sullen and grumpy. I’ve taken the issue to his manager and he said he’d pass on the feedback, but historically people are just told to work around Steve because “he’s trying to improve, but it’s hard for him, so you need to be nice to him”.

    1. AnonEMoose*

      Translation: “It’s easier to ask you to put up with him than it is to hold him accountable for his behavior.”

    2. CM*

      Is the sullen and grumpy behavior a problem for your work? If not, that sounds like a problem for Steve, not for you. Rather than explaining, can you shut it down immediately by saying, “I need to finish my conversation with Marcia, but if you need to talk to me I’ll be back at my desk in about twenty minutes.”

      1. Eiram*

        It’s not a problem immediately. But saying something like that would probably result in one of our shared managers coming to me later and berating me for being mean. When he gets sullen, he works slower. He tends to have a lot of high priority work on him, so making him slower is bad.

    3. valentine*

      Is your manager any help? If no, you can start saying, “We’ve got this, Steve. Nothing for you to worry about. You misheard.”

      *Steve bangs on*
      You: Oh, my goodness! I would hate for you to worry about this. We’ll talk to you later.

      Don’t hold back for fear he’ll be sullen and grumpy and otherwise unprofessional. Leave him to it.

      1. Eiram*

        He tends to work on a lot of important stuff, and there’s been a bit of a history of people touching that stuff without telling him, which can lead to him struggling to figure out what was changed and why. Because of that, people have been encouraged to loop him in whenever they’re doing anything related to his work.

        I don’t think a script like this would work because he still doesn’t trust people to loop him in when it is necessary.

        1. AnonEMoose*

          Ok, I have bit more sympathy for him now. I’ve had it happen where well-meaning people touched my work without asking/telling me and REALLY messed something up, that I then had to spend several hours I really couldn’t afford fixing whatever they messed up.

          And yes, I was pretty grumpy with whoever messed it up. I knew they didn’t intend to mess it up, but it was also important to stress the point that they MUST NOT do whatever they did, or anything similar, again. Basically the point was, “If it’s my work…DON’T touch it without checking with me. And while you’re at it, actually paying attention to the notes in the system would help…”

          I did try not to be actually rude. But I would specifically and clearly tell them WHY what they did was wrong and what I had to do to fix it. It was the best way I found to impress on them that doing it again would not be a good idea. Otherwise I found that some people would be like “oh, ok” and then totally blow it off, and I’d end up fixing the same thing from the same person again. The only way that worked was to make sure it made an impression on them, so they both remembered and were motivated to not have another one of those conversations with me.

          I know that, in some quarters, I had a reputation for being unreasonable. But the truth is, sometimes it was my job to be unreasonable on certain things. It’s incredibly demoralizing and frustrating to be working on something and have someone with the best of intentions come blundering in and mess up something. Which does not mean it’s ok for him to be sullen or defensive, but yeah…I can understand his point of view.

  23. Well actually...*

    A guy in my office used to do this all the time. The minute a supervisor started talking with me or someone else about a project he would practically run over from his cube, take off his glasses, and say “Well actually…” and then offer some insight. Everyone rolled their eyes about it, except leadership. Leadership was so impressed by his “knowledge and willingness to help” that they promoted him to team lead.

    He still interjects himself into every conversation but now does so with some authority behind him. So now we roll our eyes AND grumble about it behind his back. Who knew that what is considered rude by some is considered management potential by others? Sigh

    1. Jedi Squirrel*

      The supervisor should have shut this down as soon as it happened.

      “Well, actually, Jim, this does not concern you. If we need your help, we’ll let you know.”

      I’m betting there was some highly gendered expectations and management in this organization.

      1. valentine*

        what is considered rude by some is considered management potential by others?
        Depends on who does it. A lot of us would be pulled up for insubordination, overstepping, intimidation, etc.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Yep, that’s really the point of this kind of behavior in most cases, it’s to be seen and respected for your knowledge base.

      I won’t lie, I got to my place in life by doing the same kind of stuff, only I am calculated, I don’t go into every conversation because that’s boring and really unnecessary [and yeah, that’s when it gets rude]. You really don’t need to do it all the time, you just need to do it enough that they remember you as helpful, not meddlesome or needy.

      Nobody anywhere I’ve been would ever be punished or told to go away/shush etc for doing this kind of thing. If it’s a personal or confidential kind of conversation, we would have it in a closed door location.

  24. tab*

    This: “and not, say, a credit-stealing boor who would mansplain you to death about how he’s just being helpful” literally made me laugh out loud. Thanks, Alison!

  25. Clay on my apron*

    OP, this definitely needs to be addressed. Lots of great ideas here about putting him in his place.

    I have a different approach to suggest, which has worked for me in certain situations. You can decide whether this is likely to be one of those. Essentially when Steve butts in, he is taking charge of the conversation and sidelining you.

    Here’s something you can try. When Steve starts talking over you, don’t allow this. Say, “Steve, I wasn’t finished. You can share your thoughts in a moment”. Look at him briefly, and maintain eye contact with Senior Person. When you’ve finished what you wanted to say, graciously give Steve a few moments to share his ideas. Acknowledge him. Then continue your conversation with Senior Person. Steve has had his say, but you are still running the show.

    This has the advantage of you appearing cool and collected about being interrupted, a big enough person to allow Steve his moment, and still in charge. If it works, it really works well!

    Good luck.

  26. DKMA*

    Reading the further commentary by the OP here has me skeptical that Alison’s advice will work. This guy sounds like he’s more in boor territory than her advice requires. Two thoughts:
    1) Consider why you are extending this guy so much benefit of the doubt. You need to remain professional, but you shouldn’t completely trust this guy when it comes to office politics.
    2) If there is an “engineering” solution that makes sense, try it first. By this I mean, can you naturally relocate this sort of conversation as a standard practice (“I have lot’s of thought, why don’t we pop into this huddle room?”) or even put just a bit more physical space so it’s harder for boor-man to intrude (e.g. Stand up and take two steps out your cube to have the conversation).

    1. The Smiley Cube Dweller*

      Thanks, DKMA. It’s true Steve’s track record isn’t great, but he’s a fairly insecure guy who I think will be suitably freaked out about being confronted at all. Even if his takeaway is, “Wow, Smiley Cube Dweller, can’t say anything around her!” that’s fine by me. His not saying anything around me would be so refreshing.

      I am extending him the benefit of the doubt only in the sense that I know him to be a well-meaning, generally unobjectionable human. That is not to say that I am trusting him when it comes to office politics. This is the guy I wrote my first-ever ATM letter about because of his habit of blowing up my conversations with higher-ups!

      1. Jes*

        OP: Wait, you had other issues with this guy, enough that you wrote into AAM before about him??? I feel like that’s relevant info, and certainly blunts your insistence that he’s such a well-meaning good human and colleague you share such good rapport with.

        Can you link to your previous letter here?

        Maybe that will give further insight into this dynamic between you two… and perhaps give you some food for thought as you reconsider how good a colleague he really is. Especially since you’ve commented that he wouldn’t take criticism well from you. Think about it. He does sth repeatedly negative towards you, and you repeatedly defend his overall character as good. You imagine you give him a single criticism in the future, and you hypothesize he’d instantly talk smack about you behind your back. That doesn’t feel very balanced to me. Speaking as a fellow woman, I’ve been in many a situation in which, afterwards, I’m like: Why am I so willing to expend so much energy APPEASING a grownass man’s feelings when I know for a fact he’d never ever consider doing so to appease me?

        I wish someone had told me when I was a younger woman to save more of my energy for myself, rather than work so hard to prop up so many men with delicate egos. I wish you a lot of luck navigating this diplomatically, but don’t beat yourself up about it if his fragile emotions get lightly bruised in the process!

        1. The Smiley Cube Dweller*

          No no, I meant that *this* is my first-ever letter to Ask a Manager. I have not written in about him before!

  27. I coulda been a lawyer*

    If this is new behavior it might be coming from something in a performance review. The old, “the big shots always turn to Jane for help now – is your knowledge out or date? Are you still relevant? Are you going to let a young girl show off right in front of you? His boss may not have meant to pit you against one another, or maybe they did.

  28. Forrest Gumption*

    I’ve successfully shut down that sort of thing in the past by simply smiling at the person after their interjection and saying politely, “thanks Steve, but I got it!”

  29. Tomalak*

    I can imagine this must be annoying to the people asking the questions, too. If they really wanted Steve’s input instead of yours I am sure they would have simply gone to him in the first place.

    “As a woman, I’m a bit sick of assuming that when an older male colleage does stuff like this that he’s just trying to be helpful”
    I don’t understand what the words “As a woman” and “older male” add here. Either it’s boorish and unhelpful or it isn’t. Are you saying it’s ok if a younger or female colleague does it – or if it’s done to a man? Isn’t the point about exorcising sexist behaviour from the workplace that people be expected to treat others the same – rather than show way more lenience for the same behaviour if it’s not from a white male?

    1. Jemima Bond*

      I think the point the commenter you quote may be trying to make is that in their experience (and I wouldn’t necessarily disagree) that an older male behaving like this is shownore lenience not less; “he’s only trying to help” being offered as a defence, as a way to deny the sexism perceived, whereas for example a young female being annoyingly interrupty is acknowledged to be annoying and wrong and not minimised.

    2. AnonEMoose*

      I think what is meant is not that this behavior is ok if it doesn’t come from an older, white man, but that this behavior is often (not always, as this thread illustrates), but often seen from older, white men directed at younger women in the workplace. It’s not exclusive, but it’s something enough women have experienced that this dynamic is worth looking at as a pattern, not just as a series of individual occurrences.

      Maybe they even think they’re being helpful. But a lot of the time, what ends up happening is that the coworker they think they’re “helping,” ends up feeling (and sometimes being) ignored and minimized. Because what their behavior is saying is that “my voice is more important than yours, even when I’m not the one who has actually been asked, and I know more than you, even if this isn’t my area of expertise.”

      There can be different motivations driving the behavior from different people, of course. A younger person might be looking to prove themselves or look eager or helpful (but there can be a gendered component to this, too, depending, as in the post above with the older female engineer training the younger male engineer). Another person might (as others have indicated) be looking to correct something they’ve heard that isn’t correct. It’s a complicated set of dynamics.

    3. Lobsterp0t*

      No one mentioned white men.

      It’s not about treating everyone the same – it’s about recognising gendered and sexist norms play out in the workplace a lot. “As a woman” and “older male” give context to what the person is experiencing, and the fact that they are often told “he’s just trying to be helpful” is a specific and sexist dismissal and asking to put that person’s ego or ability to save face ahead of the woman (in this case) and her professional integrity and credibility.

      It’s fundamental to the issue at hand.

  30. Civil servant*

    I shall be re-reading this carefully when I’m back at the office (few days off) because I have a similar issue with someone I manage. I’m sure it’s not gendered (we are both women and she’s actually younger and less experienced than me by about fifteen years on both counts) but the behaviour is similar – someone be it senior, junior or a peer, will ask me a question in our open plan office and Katie will weigh in with her attempt to answer/solve the problem/offer a useful contact. She interrupts, it’s annoying, usually I’ve got this – and if it’s one of my other reports or someone at that grade it is my business to tell them best practice not hers. I can and do refer to her or any other if I need help and/or think she may have specialist knowledge. She interrupts and even stands up to see over the top of our various screens while I and often the questioner are sitting down (so it’s harder to ignore). I admit that once or twice I have held my hand up and said “Katie, wait!” while I finish answering my (other) report’s question.
    I have a theory about why she does it – – which I must admit fits with why my instinct goes that way too but I try to control it – which is that like me she was a clever student (my job doesn’t require a degree although many have one especially younger people) from a family background that sets much store by diligent work and good results, and the prevailing theme is being rewarded for knowing the correct answer. So I think that creates a bit of a mindset of “ooh I know pick me sir” because you want to show that you know the answer, you want to help. As I say I’m a bit like that myself.
    Fortunately as her manager I have the standing, indeed it is my job, to talk to her about this, but I am a bit concerned about coming across as a hypocrite (I do try not to interrupt though!) plus I don’t want to be arrogant and sound like I think I always know better! But I hate the interrupting and the (doubtless unintentional) implication that I can’t help or give a useful solution when usually I can.
    Spreading to my other two staff I sometimes feel like, with one of them, he’ll be like “John says we can do this” and I’m trying to find a polite way of saying “yeah, John is ok but he’s [level meaning he’s your peer and junior to me], he’s not massively experienced at that level, and I’m your manager, don’t listen to him listen to me!” But I don’t want to discourage them from listening to colleagues, finding things out for themselves etc nor do I want to be some sort of dictator!

  31. Kristine*

    Where are the higher-ups in this? Has any one of them said, “Thank you, Steve, but we are having a conversation”?
    Has the OP or any of them said, “Let’s go [elsewhere] to chat in private.”
    I agree OP needs to have a conversation with Steve but surely OP’s higher-ups see and recognize what is going on? That would be quite helpful and a skill I think higher-ups should have.

  32. Rachel Ramble*

    Is it possible at all to quickly duck into a conference room when the higher up comes by? Hopefully Steve would not tag along and it would be weird if he did.

    Or if you had an update or questions to clarify, could you book a meeting on Outlook in the meeting room and invite the higher up, and Steve would have no idea.

    Steve sounds so annoying!

Comments are closed.