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Why Your Prolixity is Killing Productivity

prolixity [proh-lik-si-tee]

"the state or quality of being unnecessarily or tediously wordy"

Maybe it's not you, but because you are reading this, I suspect you've had a boss that is a bit of a gabble-ratchet. Or perhaps, it is you—and that's alright, as long as you're aware of the potential harm your verbosity might be inflicting on your team's productivity.

Bottom-line, we are all aware that effective communication is lauded as a key leadership trait. However, there's a fine line between communicating effectively and overwhelming your team with a barrage of words. Recent research suggests that overly talkative leaders can significantly hinder team productivity, creativity, and morale.

A study by the Harvard Business Review highlighted that leaders who dominate conversations are perceived as less collaborative and less inclusive, ultimately stifling team innovation (Harvard Business Review, 2020). When leaders monopolize discussions, they inadvertently signal that their ideas are more valuable, discouraging team members from sharing their insights and solutions.

Echoing the Harvard findings, a survey conducted by McKinsey & Company revealed that employees feel more engaged and report higher levels of satisfaction when they believe their voices are heard and valued in the workplace (McKinsey & Company, 2019). This engagement directly correlates with increased productivity and lower turnover rates, underscoring the importance of balanced communication.

Finally, excessive talking by leaders not only dampens team input but also leads to information overload and a study published in the Journal of Management Studies found that information overload could significantly decrease decision quality, as individuals struggle to process and prioritize the deluge of data (Journal of Management Studies, 2018).

So what to do? How can we create more productive dialogue with a loquacious leader?

Inspired by leadership insights and backed by organizational research, here's how you can diplomatically navigate a more verbose than concise leader, and the art of subtlety and strategy are paramount.

Embrace the Art of Listening

First, this it's not just a platitude, you must hone your active listening skills. Yes, that means practice. Active listening is not just about hearing but also showing that you’re engaged. Research by Zenger and Folkman (2016) suggests that active listening, including nonverbal cues like nodding and eye contact, can significantly improve communication dynamics. By demonstrating engagement, you encourage your superior to consider the impact of their words, making space for more balanced dialogue.

Ask Targeted Questions

Be brief. Steer the conversation with specific, open-ended questions. This strategy not only keeps the discourse focused but also invites your chatty superior to think more critically about their responses. Follow that up with strategic, closed-ended questions to confirm understanding and transition to a new topic. In the HBR article "The Surprising Power of Questions.", researchers highlight the value of asking the right questions in fostering effective communication and decision-making within teams (Harvard Business Review, 2019).

Propose Structured Interactions

Suggest setting aside dedicated times for discussions with a clear agenda. An agenda that you will set. This is your request so you should get what you need out of that time. This simple approach helps keep conversations on track and prevents them from meandering into monologues. According to research on the effects of meeting structure on creativity and productivity, structured meetings are more efficient and result in higher satisfaction among participants (Journal of Organizational Behavior, 2017).

Lean on Written Communication

As with the agenda, when possible, shift some of your other exchanges to email or memos. Written communication forces conciseness and clarity, reducing the room for unnecessary verbosity. A study on team communication patterns found that teams relying on a mix of communication forms reported better understanding and productivity (Academy of Management Journal, 2018).

Offer Gentle Feedback

If you have a solid relationship with your superior, consider providing respectful, constructive feedback. Frame your suggestions in a way that highlights the benefits for the team and project outcomes. Research on feedback shows that leaders open to feedback exhibit more effective communication practices (Center for Creative Leadership, 2020).

Establish Boundaries Respectfully

Politely setting boundaries around your time can help mitigate the impact of excessive talking. Let your superior know when you need to focus on your tasks, suggesting a more opportune time for discussions. This tactic aligns with research demonstrating that respecting personal boundaries at work leads to better job satisfaction and performance (American Psychological Association, 2021).

Model the Desired Communication

Exemplify the concise, focused communication you aim to see. This subtle influence, over time, can encourage your superior to mirror your style. Believing that it is a powerful tool for change, research supports the notion that behavioral modeling is an effective tool in changing workplace dynamics (European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, 2019).

View Challenges as Growth Opportunities

Consider this situation an opportunity to enhance your professional resilience and adaptability. Developing effective strategies for dealing with complex interpersonal dynamics can be invaluable for your career progression.

Navigating the delicate dynamic with a talkative superior requires tact, empathy, and strategic communication. By fostering an environment of mutual respect and understanding, you pave the way for more effective, inclusive, and productive workplace interactions.

When Necessary, Seek Support

If the situation persists and affects your performance, reaching out to HR or a mentor for advice might be the next step. They can provide guidance suited to your organizational culture and possibly mediate a constructive solution.

Another option may be an Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs):

  • If your organization has an EAP, these programs often offer support not just for personal issues but also provide managerial advice and conflict resolution services.

Need some help? Book a time to talk here


1. Harvard Business Review. (2020). "The Impact of Leadership Communication on Team Innovation."

2. McKinsey & Company. (2019). "Why Employee Engagement Matters."

3. Journal of Management Studies. (2018). "Information Overload and Decision Making in Organizations."

4. Zenger, J., & Folkman, J. (2016). "The power of listening in helping people change." Harvard Business Review.

5. Harvard Business Review. (2019). "The Surprising Power of Questions."

6. Journal of Organizational Behavior. (2017). "The effects of meeting structure on creativity and productivity."

7. Academy of Management Journal. (2018). "Team communication patterns as measures of team processes: Exploring the effects of team reflexivity and team viability."

8. Center for Creative Leadership. (2020). "Feedback: The Communication Skill."

9. American Psychological Association. (2021). "Workplace Boundaries."

10. European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology. (2019). "Behavioral modeling in the workplace: A powerful tool for change."

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