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Our team sometimes has one-on-one or 3 attendee meetings in of the developers' cubes. We have one developer who always jumps in to "offer" his suggestions for projects that do not concern him. Engaging him tends to derail the efficient nature of our semi-formal/quick meetings, where 1 or 2 developers convene, make a decision, and go our separate ways.

The ad-hoc nature of our meetings doesn't require us to reserve a conference room every time. So meeting in one of our cubes just makes sense.

Comments are always welcome but not necessarily if we are pressed for time and have a very focused agenda for a meeting that does not concern him.

Is there a professional/tactful way to communicate that his behaviour is intrusive and not always welcome?

  • @user492 - I made some edits to your question to clean up some spelling and grammar, which will help your question get more professional attention. Can you please review my edits and accept them? Thanks! Great question! – jmort253 Feb 27 '11 at 20:04
  • @jmort253 - I didn't notice anything for accepting edits - does that occur automatically? Appreciate the effort – user492 Feb 28 '11 at 0:52
  • @user492 - Look below your question, you'll see an option edit(0) right under the tags. Click edit(0) and you can review the edits and accept them. – jmort253 Feb 28 '11 at 5:02
  • @jmort253 - got it - thanks! – user492 Feb 28 '11 at 15:57
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If you don't want to be interrupted, I would suggest finding a quieter, more isolated place to meet. Here are just a few ideas of places you can go to have a meeting:

  • Conference Room

    In a conference room, you can close the door and have more privacy. If your conference room has a computer on the wall, you can make use that for any presentations you need to make.

  • Coffee Shop

    Sometimes we have ad hoc meetings on the way to our local coffee shop. This has the advantage of getting us away from other team members so we can have a discussion amongst ourselves.

    While this is more difficult to take formal notes, it's a great way to get outside of the office for a moment and brainstorm some ideas. Some smart phones have note taking facilities that may come in handy, or an IPod or Xoom may be a great tool to bring to the meeting, especially if you have time to sit down and consume your invigorating beverage on-site.

  • Go For A Walk

    Many of us could use the exercise. Sometimes we take a 15 minute walk around the block. This has the added benefit of energizing us, getting us out in the fresh air, and can both isolate the group and generate new ideas. Walks suffer from the same disadvantages as going to a Coffee Shop, as notes can be harder to take, especially since you're moving.

    If you can get outside, this will also give you some much-needed exercise and lower stress.

  • Be Clear In Expectations

    Sometimes, getting away is not an option. Besides, you shouldn't always feel you need to run away in order to have a productive meeting. Sometimes, letting people know up front the expectations can be a nice way to make good use of your meeting time while saving the intruder the embarrassment of being called out as they're perpetrating the crime.

    Before the start of the meeting, let the developer know you wanted to give them a heads up that you and one other person will be having a semi-private meeting and will not be available to talk. Unless this developer lives under a rock where social skills don't exist, he or she should get the point that you are not to be interrupted.

    If that fails, then a much more blunt approach is warranted. It's not rude to let someone else know when they are being rude. Be clear in your expectations.

  • Don't Get a Manager. Try to Resolve Yourself

    We're all adults here. Hopefully. So we should be able to resolve any conflicts without having to go "tell". If none of the above techniques work, a last resort could be to ask HR to send a reminder from the Employee Handbook Section on Meetings, which your organization most likely has already written.

    I would suggest avoiding any direct action from management, as you're essentially giving up any persuasive power and respect you may have earned from the developer, as well as from your manager. In the eyes of the developer, there will be some conflict and tension. In the eyes of management, you may be viewed as incapable of resolving conflict, which may exclude you from promotion to higher level management positions.

    I do understand that sometimes the situation does warrant this, but I would encourage this as a last resort.

  • Do Get Advice from Your Manager

    While you don't want to complain to your manager about Person X, depending on your corporate culture, it may be okay to seek advice from your manager. By asking how he or she has handled the situation in the past, you demonstrate to your manager that you have the desire to resolve conflicts yourself. You also may learn some other conflict-resolution techniques from someone with more experience than you.

    Just make it clear that you're not asking your manager to step in and resolve the issue. Make sure you're clear that you want to hear some tips for solving the problem yourself.

    Unlike "Reporting the Issue", this demonstrates that you are a competent individual capable of solving problems as well as knowing when to seek guidance. This will gain you more respect than simply reporting the issue and walking away.

In summary, these are just a few of many ideas that can help you have productive and fun meetings. Find out which ones work best in your situation by giving them a try!

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  • thanks for the well articulated reply - "Unless this developer lives under a rock where social skills don't exist, he or she should get the point that you are not to be interrupted" - I have dropped a hint before - but it has again started to creep again. I think the "before the start of the meeting - heads-up" is a good idea. I would imagine 2 such reminders prior to a meeting will drive the point home. – user492 Feb 28 '11 at 0:29
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    @user492 - I hope this works out. Remember, it's okay to be blunt if you have to. If you don't set boundaries -- in any situation -- people will try to walk all over you. It's not rude to set clear boundaries and expectations. – jmort253 Feb 28 '11 at 5:05
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    +1 for the walk idea. I think that it helps with attention (I have yet to see someone fall asleep on a walk) and IMHO I believe that helps with abstract thinking. – Steven Feb 28 '11 at 16:49
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  • Tell him this is not his meeting, nor his issue nor the time to discuss it.

  • Get a manager involved.

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    this appears to be more of the "blunt" approach – user492 Feb 28 '11 at 0:26
  • This approach is "blunt", but effective. Instead of hiding from the problem you will face it and resolve. @Mark, +1 from me – yegor256 Feb 28 '11 at 10:25

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