Shhh...! - How to Respond when Male Colleague Puts His Hand Up to Stop You

An article for female corporate professionals and their Learning and Development / Talent Development / HR Managers

I wrote this article aimed at women because in my work this issue has been raised over and over again only by women. No man has ever said to me in a session that a woman stopped him and he felt undermined by her, however if men experience this themselves, they are encouraged to use these techniques as well.

1 Minute Read

Have you been in a meeting when a man interrupted or stopped you talking by putting his hand up towards you / your face?

Did you feel so shocked, you stopped talking and let them take over?

Did you beat yourself up later for letting him do this and not standing your ground?

You are not the only one!

Most women whom I work with experience this on a weekly, if not daily basis.

Let me get this out of the way - this is not because their male colleagues don't value women or want to undermine women and I am sure most men would be mortified if they realised they have done this in the past - in fact

male colleagues do not even realise what they are doing or indeed the impact this gesture has on their female colleagues.

"Why do they not realise?" You might ask...Usually, because no one told them! Or because no one has done this to them... So they don't know how it feels.

What can you do when this happens to you?

1. Carry on talking - even if you are startled, immediately say "AND" and keep talking.

2. Carry on talking AND state the obvious: "I haven't finished" or "I know you want to contribute John and I will give you the floor in a minute, what I was saying was..."

3. Speak to your colleague as soon as you can after the meeting (up to 3 months) in private and tell him:

"Hey John, can we have a word? You made some really good points in that meeting and I especially liked when you mentioned X, Y and Z. I am sure you mean well and you didn't mean anything by it, you probably don't even realise you did this, but when you lifted your hand in my face I felt dismissed and undermined.

(Pause. Let them respond.)

If in future you want to add your contribution to what I want to say, please try not to interrupt me like this. Instead you can raise raise your index finger just off the table subtly to me like this (show him), and I will know you want to say something, so when I finish I will say you want to say something and segway your contribution in that way."

If you want to know more about how to respond constructively when challenged in a meeting - take a look at our courses directory, and find what's right for you..

Talk to us about your challenge:

The Geek Whisperer

1 Brooklands Avenue, Cambridge, CB2 8BB, United Kingdom