Are you planning to hold a meeting soon? Are you excited and looking forward to it or inwardly dreading and hoping that you might get answers before and cancel it? The answer depends on the nature of workplace characters and your experience with them in the past.
The world has an infinite number of characters and many can collide in workplace meetings. Without proper handling strategies, meetings can be dreaded and harmful coping mechanisms can emerge and puncture the social fabric. For instance, if some employees get too much time in meetings and others little to none, the former can develop a false sense of power and look down on their teammates and the latter can feel ignored and marginalized. Also, if one character is left to dominate, the culture can be ruined- the very thing that as a business leader you should be striving to maintain. On the other hand, when the differences in characters are understood and handled well, they can make meetings productive and show the essence of diversity.
As a business leader, meetings are essential and almost inevitable. This is why, instead of leaning on temporary solutions such as adding more meetings ethics to make all behave in a certain way, diverting to other opportunities so you can cancel, or shortening the time, we have provided strategies on how you can handle difficult characters.
The over-sharers – these are people who talk ‘too much’ in meetings. They do so for a number of reasons: maybe they are passionate and/or very knowledgeable about the topic under discussion and are grabbing every chance they can to share their ideas. Maybe they are anxious and speaking is their way of self-regulating. Or maybe they are trying to make a certain impression to someone or the entire team. When it is a one-time occurrence, there is no reason for worry but when it becomes a habit, you have every reason to address it.
Some over-sharers don’t realize they are over-sharing. As far as most know, they are sharing their knowledge for the benefit of the organization. As a business leader, your reaction will determine whether they will respond positively by adjusting their behaviour or refrain from participating completely. Examples of handling tactics are:
- Informing them that they are over-sharing and teaching how to read signs from the audience so they can stop
- Educating the importance of collective participation
- Giving them a signal when they talk too much
- Teaching about mindfulness to time
- Allocating research topics
- Challenging them to address the issues that could be causing anxiety
- Advocate for less strenuous ways of getting attention
The silent ones – these are people who don’t or rarely contribute in meetings, no matter how engaging the conversation is. Although this can be attributed to introvertism, sometimes dismissal in the past, fear of rejection or confrontation, or social anxiety makes people choose silence over speech. Some silent characters are excellent workers but without participation in meetings, their ideas may never be experimented. You can:
- Inform them about meeting agendas before and call for their participation
- Call them out to speak if they don’t know when to participate
- Help them overcome the fear of public speaking through career skills and development workshops
Smart monopolizers – these are people who seek to dominate meetings because they have proven to be smarter than most. Some who exhibit this behaviour aren’t aware of its negative side. If asked, they are bringing the best ideas for the growth of the company and ensuring everyone understands. However, if permitted to rule every meeting, others might feel like their contribution is unwanted, break from the organization and cluster in groups that they can easily identify with, and cease putting effort into their work.
- Informing about the destructive side of their habits diplomatically and recommending corrective measures can make the workplace climate accommodating.
- Inform about the importance of group participation
- Informing that everyone has something to offer and the person can equally learn from others
Interjectors- depending on the agenda in a meeting, you might have noticed different reactions. Some are too interesting or too sensitive that almost everyone rises to make his/her voice heard. However, there are people who are known for interrupting others and taking over meetings. It could be that they are being introduced to a different interpretation of a common concept but automatically think it is wrong. Others don’t know the effect of the interjection in dumbing down ideas. The best corrective measure in that case is educating about communication skills or allocating time for each person to present views.
Naysayers, faultfinders and the acutely dismissive– these are people who find fault in everything, are quick to oppose and dismiss (almost) everything respectively. The naysayers and acutely dismissive rarely consider the possibility of an idea succeeding but will cite all the reasons why it will fail. Faultfinders, though they may see the potential of an idea, they emphasize on the flaws to the extent of making the idea seem worthless. If such characters are allowed to dominate, they can dampen the mood, lower people’s self-esteem, and stifle creativity. It can also pave the way for groupthink if members start believing that success is guaranteed by following a certain pathway only. Some are not aware of their behaviours and bringing it to their attention can initiate change. Also, educating on the importance of broadening one’s scope of understanding and experimenting can make the workplace a breeding place of unique ideas.
Challengers – they put up counter arguments in most if not all topics. Although challenges are essential for refining ideas, if overdone, they can water down ideas, puncture the morale, and take up too much time thus diverting team members from the agendas. Others bring up challenges as sports or to differentiate themselves from the team and get the higher seat. As a business leader, spotting the cause of frequent challenges from specific individuals can help you to craft the right approach. If meant to provoke thoughts, then you can hold a sit-in prior and gather their ideas. That way, others will have a chance of participating and the day’s agendas can be covered.
Confrontational – different interpretations of agendas are bound to happen. However, there are those who take counter arguments, no matter how gently they are offered, as personal attacks. In consequence, they became very aggressive thus making the workplace unsuitable for raising concerns. In other words, they instil fear and force others into silence. The good climate and sense of belonging is ruined because people are too careful that they choose not to act or speak to avoid causing confrontations. Be quick to point this behaviour and encourage them to embrace flexibility.
Rib crackers – jokes are good for easing the tension and strengthening the bond in the workplace. However, too much or when delivered at the wrong time can dilute the seriousness of a certain matter or cause conflicts if misunderstood- something that will be more apparent to you as a leader than team members. Those who take the initiative of cracking attendees may not know the downside of it; if some topics are prone to being made fun of, their importance can be overlooked and entirely avoided by team members. This is where you come in: informing what is (un)acceptable and ensuring each follows the rules.
As a business leader, getting the attention and contribution of all team members in a meeting is possible. You don’t have to coerce all to act in a certain way as this will only lead to resistance and disappointments. Understanding the possible characters and crafting the appropriate strategies will help you to reap the most from the people.