|Dear Meeting Guru,
What techniques can be employed to deal with
the cynical employee who always charges to challenge others during
meetings. This person also tends to drift in and out mentally of
meetings but never misses a moment to question or challenge the
information being presented. Thanks.
Mason Myers, Woodland Heathcare
Below, I've listed a few techniques for dealing
with dysfunctional behaviors in the meeting room. I hope these suggestions will
help you put a stop to this negative behavior and get the most from your group
each and every time you meet.
Situation 1: Meeting
Participant Drifts Off-Topic
The leader should intervene and explain that the discussion is drifting
away from the matter at hand. Try saying something like "Yes. What you're
saying is interesting, but we must first address the agenda item which
is to brainstorm alternative solutions to this problem."
Situation 2: Muddled
and Confused Participants
The leader must be supportive, coaxing the speaker to re-state the
point more explicitly. For example, "My understanding is that you think
Am I correct?"
Situation 3: The Broken
The leader must intervene to save the meeting's valuable time. Nevertheless,
this should be done in a sensitive and supportive way. For example, "I
think we all relate to your point on that issue, but another perspective would
be useful. Should we hear the opinion of someone else?"
Situation 4: A Participant
Makes a Habit of Providing Vague or Unclear Suggestions
The leader must clarify the suggestions before allowing the discussion
to proceed. For example, "Could you be a little more specific? What are
your plans for this idea and when do you see them unfolding?"
Situation 5: A Participant
Interrupts Other Participants While They're Speaking
This may be acceptable if the speaker is being corrected on a factual
error. Similarly, a humorous interjection may be useful in keeping the discussion
on friendly, cooperative terms. If not, then the leader must keep control of
who speaks and when. For example, "Could we have your point of view after
Kathy has finished speaking? She may answer it for you if she's allowed to continue
Situation 6: A Participant
Persistently Chatting to His Neighbor
The leader needs to draw attention to the matter at hand and encourage
everyone to pay attention. A direct question can be effective in keeping people
listening actively. For example, "Could I ask your thoughts on Joan's last
Situation 7: The Cynical
Employee Challenging Other Participants' Ideas
It's good to play devil's advocate from time to time and to present
reasons why an idea isn't a great one. This can help groups fully consider an
idea from all angles and possibilities. However, when one individual challenges
other participants' ideas meeting after meeting, this is dysfunctional behavior
that will create negative emotions in the meeting room. The best way to correct
this behavior? The next time the cynic challenges a participant's idea, simply
ask him to suggest a better idea. For example, "You're challenging this
idea. Perhaps you could recommend something better?" Or change negativity
into something positive by asking him what he thinks is good about the presented
idea. For example, "Now that you've let us know what you don't like
about the idea, tell us a what you do like about the concept."
If you don't feel comfortable confronting this
individual in front of the group, talk to him in private. Let him know how the
group feels about his meeting behavior and how this behavior affects the group.
Make it clear that he's a valuable member of the team, but that he needs to
work on being a more effective team member. Give him suggestions on how he can
do this. After all, there's nothing more destructive than giving criticism without
providing tips on how to overcome it.
hope these tips will help you with the dysfunctional participant in your meetings.
If you're frustrated by his behavior, you can guarantee that the rest of the
group is too. Having a cynical individual in your meetings does nothing but
create negative karma don't allow this individual to control the entire
group. If having difficulty getting up the courage to address this individual's
behavior, remember what the wise philosopher Confucius once said, "To see
what is right, and not do it, is want of courage, or of principle." In
other words, if you're the leader of the group and you observe this type of
dysfunctional behavior, it's your duty to put a stop to it for the future
productivity of your group and your meetings.
Until next time
may good meeting karma always be with you.