How to Handle the Seven Toxic Meeting Behaviours


How to Handle the Seven Toxic Meeting Behaviours

Too often business owners tell me they don’t run team meetings because they don’t have time to arrange them and staff don’t have time to attend them. Often, when I dig a bit deeper, the business owner confirms he/she has never attended an effective workplace meeting, doesn’t believe you need an agenda (or know how to set one) and hates having to manage the behaviours of the attendees. It’s simply easier not to have them.

This is a big problem because well run meetings are gold for any business. 

Meetings are an activity that bring staff together to share information, make decisions and solve problems and how well this is done, depends on the interplay of a range of factors. People are complex and their behaviours in groups can be unpredictable.

Be assertive – not aggressive.

Attendees will look to you for examples of acceptable meeting behaviours. Be clear and concise with your directions and remember, your body language and tone of voice communicates information as well as your words. Remain polite, professional and consistent.

Tips to stop the seven meeting hijackers:

1. Talkers and whisperers.

Stop the meeting momentarily as all meetings require participants to respect each other’s time and attention. Politely ask them to defer their conversation till after the meeting. If their talking or whispering is about the meeting topic, ask them to share with everyone.

2. People who talk for too long.

Politely break in and thank them for their contribution, then ask others to have input to gain a broader view.

3. Irrelevant interjections.

You can try guiding the interjector back to the subject or overlook their request to talk if you are certain that their comments will be irrelevant. If they persist, remind them of the agenda and the time limitations.

4. People who disagree or argue.

Ask the group whether they think the comments are helpful. Do they agree with the comments being made? Disagreements can lead to new information and different perspectives and this can add great value to a meeting. But only if the information and perspectives are delivered respectfully.

5. People who cling to an idea and won’t move beyond it.

Ask them to keep their comments brief and match their output with contributions from others. Again, remind them of the time limit and if necessary, suggest a post meeting catch up.

6. Inattentive people.

Seek input from the individuals to confirm they are valuable to the meeting process and you require their full attention. If their attention has been unavoidably diverted, make arrangements to bring them up to date during the break or post meeting.

7. Silence.

There are several ways of dealing with this, including backtracking, reintroducing an issue, calling for questions or asking questions of specific individuals. Silence may also mean a break is required. Let people stretch their legs, get some fresh air or enjoy a refreshment.

Effective workplace meetings have one thing in common; they have rules. You don’t need to have formal rules like strict minute taking and quorums etc, but you do need rules around topics, timeframes and behaviours. You cover the topics and the time frame with an agenda and you encourage the correct behaviours by displaying them and addressing the bad behaviours professionally.

Avoiding running a meeting because of bad behaviours is letting bad behaviours run your business. 

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  • Rosemary Shapiro-Liu

    This is applicable to any business and yes, it is imperative that bad behaviour doesn’t run the business. Great tips. One more: at the beginning of any meeting, bit or small, short or long, request everyone to list their expectations of the meeting. Best question is: when you walk out of here, what will have made this meeting really worthwhile for you.
    Then put those expectations somewhere for everyone to see, and check in on them at the end of the meeting. Works a treat every time, and gives you permission to create a great meeting.
    Thanks Cate. I’ll be sharing this.
    And fun image as well!

  • Cate

    Hi Rosemary 🙂 Thanks for the feedback, for sharing and for your great add on tip! Cate

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