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Nick Gilmour

Nick Gilmour

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Five Ways to Alienate Colleagues During a Meeting

Meetings are part of everyday life, whether you work remotely, or in a traditional office.  According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, businesses in the United States average 11 million meetings per day.  That adds up to 220 million meetings per month, and over one billion meetings annually, in the U.S. alone.

Meetings are not just time consuming, they are also expensive, with the average salary cost of $338 U.S. for a small to medium sized meeting, according to “Your Company’s Useless Meetings Cost Billions Every Year,” by Sam Becker for The Cheatsheet®.

It is not surprising that many staff and management teams are critical of the outcomes of lengthy or repeated meetings.  Averaging from thirty to sixty minutes, the average size of a meeting is nine or fewer members, but some surveys reveal that as many as 34% of employees consider a meeting to be ‘wasted time’.

The top five complaints about hosted meetings, per the survey were:

  • Inconclusive (no decisions made)
  • Poor meeting preparation
  • Disorganized meeting agenda
  • Individuals who dominate the conversation
  • No published results from the discussions

No matter how busy we get during our workday, meetings are an essential communication tool, which helps keep team goals and efforts aligned.  The average individual can have between 3-8 formal meetings per week, and while they can be arduous, they are essential to productivity.   And they work well, if all participants remain engaged and organized.

How would you rate your professionalism and contribution during meetings?  We’ll share five common ways that individuals can inadvertently create discomfort, or even hostility between team members during a meeting, and what “not to do” during a meeting, if you want to meaningfully contribute and make a good impression.

1. Use Your Smartphone

Is there anything more irritating that showing up for a meeting, where 50% of the participants are distracted and texting, browsing or emailing from their smartphones?  While it is understandable that a few “phone checks” may be necessary, to be professional within a meeting, the modus should be “heads up” and “phones down”.

If an employee is paying attention to his or her smartphone, they are not able to pay attention, respond or contribute fully to the discussion.   The message it sends is that you are “too busy” to participate in a meeting, even though you have been included to add value to the discussion.   One of the most professional things you can do is to place your phone face down on the table, and be present to the problem solving or creative brainstorming that your team expects.

Per, 77% of business professionals surveyed, felt it was rude to text, accept a call, browse or read emails on your phone or tablet, during a meeting.

2. Arriving Late

The meeting typically won’t start, until all those invited have arrived (it’s rude to start without them).  By choosing not to be on time for your meeting, you have inadvertently sent a message to your team about the importance of the project, or even your performance.  Life happens, but be on time for meetings wherever possible.

3. Repetition

Every meeting has one, and sometimes, there are two.  That person whose only contribution is to repeat something, that someone else said.  Traditionally, this is a very transparent way of sharing without paying attention to the meeting, particularly if you repeat yourself.   It is so transparent in fact, that you are better to not say anything at all, rather than appear to be hiding the fact that you aren’t listening.

4. Negativity

You don’t always have to agree with every idea presented in a meeting, but be aware of your tone if you must object or defer to a different opinion than your colleagues.  Be polite when voicing opposition to certain ideas proposed by others.  Be open to the concept of an evolving idea, and not just a “right or wrong” judgement.  Stay positive.

5. Interrupting Others

When you have an idea, you deserve some time to articulate it, and help people understand the potential of your creative solution.  This is difficult to do, if someone consistently interrupts your mid-statement, and derails your train of thought.

Exercise patience and allow people the respect and time to present their thought.  And if you must interrupt someone due to time constraints, explain that the team must move on to the next discussion point, but encourage the staff member to elaborate in writing, so that the details can be considered after the meeting is over.

It may feel like “just a meeting”, but professionals are observed in all team settings, which includes conferences, informal meetings and presentations.  Your behavior and the way that you govern your actions, and show respect for your colleagues, will support recognition and growth in your career.  Soft skills matter.

Thank you for reading!
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