At a healthy level, outspoken employees are candid and willing to address tough issues. They eagerly share ideas and offer solutions to problems. But at an unhealthy level, they dominate the group and stifle discussion.
In group settings, the manager must take responsibility for giving every team member an opportunity to speak. Otherwise, people can feel marginalized and become disengaged.
The manager must hold outspoken employees accountable for their behavior. This can be done in a positive way by channeling overly vocal personalities into an advantage for the team.
Here are some ways to effectively manage outspoken employees:
Talk to them privately
Commend them for sharing their views with the team and ask for their help. Convey that you would like them to allow others to share their perspectives and ideas before offering their own. Explain that you need their assistance in building the confidence and openness of other team members. Outspoken employees will relish this role.
Take charge of discussions
After the outspoken individuals have shared their perspectives, do not allow them to pontificate and repeat themselves. Say, “I’d like to hear from some other people on this topic as well.” Or, try: “I’d like to hear some other perspectives.” Be willing to cut off employees who are not adding value to the conversation.
Design meetings so that other employees must speak
When you have significant issues to discuss, break the group into pairs and ask key questions that partners will answer. Then, ask each partnership to share highlights of their discussion. This gives everyone a chance to contribute without allowing any single person to dominate the discussion.
Set Time Limits
During meetings, announce the amount of time a topic will be up for discussion. If there are 10 people in the group, and you allot 20 minutes for the topic, state upfront that each person has two minutes to speak and may not do so again until everyone has had a chance to contribute. Outspoken employees may kick off the discussion, but they won’t be able to hijack it.
Good communication skills are perhaps the most important item in your career toolbox. AMA has a host of resources and seminars to help you learn to communicate effectively at any level.