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How To Make Sure Your Most Outspoken Employee Doesn’t Hog The Spotlight

Source | FastComapny : By STEPHANIE VOZZA

The squeaky wheel gets the oil, and sometimes the squeaky wheel is just an irritating distraction. When you’re the manager and you have a squeaky wheel in your office—that person who’s always eager to voice an opinion, give advice, and monopolize a meeting—how do you make sure they don’t spoil it for everyone else?

Outspoken employees can be a great asset, as they often make leaders aware of concerns or issues, and suggest solutions that others might not be comfortable expressing, says Amy Wallis, professor of organizational behavior at Wake Forest University School of Business. “They can also become allies in generating commitment to new ideas by rallying others and creating buzz about organizational initiatives,” she says. “However, to leverage these benefits, leaders must partner with their more outspoken workers, and create an environment in which that individual understands the impact they are having on others.”

This can create a delicate balancing act, says Derek Newberry, coauthor ofCommitted Teams: Three Steps to Inspiring Passion and Performance. “Outspoken members of teams tend to be rewarded over their more introverted counterparts, even if they are not necessarily better performers,” he says. “Research and our experience tell us that teams make better decisions and get better results when each member is an equal contributor. Teams that are dominated by a few individuals tend to suffer from group-think.”

While you don’t want to silence your vocal, energetic contributors, it’s important to manage them effectively. Here are four steps for maintaining your authority while leveraging their skills.

ESTABLISH GROUND RULES

Outspoken employees are least likely to be persuaded by a manager’s authority. “The ‘do it because I said so’ approach is likely to rub strong personality types the wrong way,” says Mario Moussa, Newberry’s coauthor.

Instead, teams that have outspoken members should go through a collaborative, transparent process of establishing team goals, individual roles, and the norms of collaboration. “If the outspoken employee was a contributor to this consensus-driven process, it is easier to leverage the authority of these agreed-upon standards when they get out of line,” he says.

Set timelines for the amount of time someone can have the floor during a meeting, for example. “Start by saying, ‘We will address this topic for 15 minutes with a five-minute maximum for each participant,’” says Kim Shepherd, CEO of the recruiting firm Decision Toolbox. “This gives a heads-up to the overall team that their time is being properly managed.”

CREATE AN ENVIRONMENT THAT ENCOURAGES PARTICIPATION

Don’t look at one outspoken employee as an outlier who must be managed, says Kelly Max, president, CEO and cofounder of the human resources consulting firmHaufe USA. “Encourage everyone to be outspoken by creating a workplace culture that values every employee through transparency, openness, trust, and a clear structure for refining ‘outspoken’ points of view into healthy ways to move the company forward,” he says.

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