Push­ing for all voices to be heard at work

Mt Druitt - St Mary's Standard (East) - - CAREERS - Janita Singh

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

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