Pushing for all voices to be heard at work
IN THE first US presidential debate, Donald Trump interrupted Hillary Clinton 55 times. In the second debate, it was 51, followed by 37 interruptions in the third.
Trump is an extreme case but many people, particularly women say the experience of being interrupted is all too familiar.
Someone will speak up, only to have another colleague chime in more forcefully. Or offer an idea, only to be interrupted.
Shivani Gopal (pictured) became familiar with what she calls “manterruption or manterrupting”, during her career in the male-dominated financial services industry. Gopal also came across other females with similar experiences through a social enterprise she set up called, The Remarkable Woman, which provides a platform for women to achieve their career goals.
“In a nutshell, manterruption is the unnecessary interruption of a woman speaking by a man. We speak up, only to be shot down by a louder, more forceful male colleague,’’ Gopal says. “Interruptions are in essence a verbal assertion of power enabling the interrupter to take the floor of the conversation.”
Gopal who also offers workplace mentoring says interruptions often take place in competitive spaces such as meetings and the boardroom.
“Workplaces need to create respectful, inclusive and kind environments for all staff (men and women) ... and remain politically neutral to emphasise the importance of hearing all voices.’’
Harriet Witchell of Wise Workplace investigates workplace misconduct and behaviour.
She says these styles of in- terruption can be common in the workplace.
“These are differences in communication styles, socially accepted ways of behaving and assumptions about power and authority,” Witchell says.
“One theory that may hold true is that people listen more attentively to people they are trying to influence or impress.”
Some tactics for fighting casual interrupters:
Just keep talking. Keep the momentum going and eventually the person interrupting will realise its time to stop
Go back to the person interrupting you and have a private chat
Amplify other people who are not being heard. Speak privately with colleagues in order to back one another up in public settings
Establish a no-interruption rule at team meetings Visit: theremarkable woman.com.au