Meeting Mayhem

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Meetings can be one of the most productive ways to conduct business. They also can waste valuable time and serve as a source of considerable frustration.  Whenever you bring a group of people together there’s always a good chance that at least one person in the room will cause conflict, distraction or aggravation. Sounds like fun, doesn’t it? However with appropriate planning and leadership, meetings can be productive.

Attendees should come prepared and arrive on time. Participate, but think before you speak.  Don’t be the “know it all” and certainly don’t scorn others’ ideas. 

It’s the responsibility of the leader to keep the meeting on track. Begin by providing an agenda, timeline and understood goal. If someone goes on a tangent, the leader should intervene and return the group back to the agenda. And if someone is displaying poor manners (talking out of turn, checking email or being disruptive) the leader must take charge and keep that person in line.

I attended a meeting recently at which an employee tried to make another look bad in front of the boss, which was highly inappropriate and ill-mannered. The leader should have stepped in and steered the meeting in a positive direction but didn’t. Instead, everyone felt uncomfortable and the victim ended up having his day ruined.  I’m not sure what happened in private after the meeting, but in the public setting the leader should have stopped the hurtful behavior. Respect and consideration are cornerstones of good manners and this one employee was showing neither toward the group, the boss or the victim.

The leader could have been polite but firm. A simple, “this isn’t appropriate behavior/discussion for this meeting” would have stopped the action and shown the group that this behavior is not tolerated. It’s impossible to control everyone’s actions during a meeting but it certainly is reasonable to react appropriately with words and actions to keep the meeting going smoothly. 

Common sense and courtesy should be at every meeting but as the saying goes, “common sense isn’t so common anymore.”  Make sure that doesn’t happen at the meetings you’re a part of in the future. 


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