For years I’ve watched bullies disrupt professional meetings and create hostile workplaces. It’s bad enough when team members dominate meetings, but it’s always worse if it’s the boss who’s a control freak. Here are the top 10 tactics I’ve seen them use. What situations and actions irritate and frustrate you most?
These methods are even worse when they’re repeatedly used. But of course, that’s a sign of bullying behavior; bullies don’t change. My top 10 are:
- Unprepared and latecomers – especially when they make a loud entrance.
- Interrupters – they may be show-offs or clowns; they may interrupt vocally or by eating and drinking loudly or they may use their cell phones, Blackberrys or computers. They have the attention span of two year-olds.
- Boring ramblers with their lengthy personal conversations or digressions.
- Dominators and know-it-all authorities – their loudness, certainty and fast talk tend to shut other people down.
- Naysayers – they are relentlessly negative and can put down and block every proposal; “There are problems, we tried that, nothing ever works except my ideas.”
- Angry people who indulge in personal attacks and put-downs, belittling and bringing up old errors. They’re often defensive but, after a while, who cares about their psychotherapy?
- Nit-pickers, distracters and side trackers who are full of irrelevant facts. They prevent progress by correcting or arguing over irrelevant details. They may want to re-think every previous decision; they never take action.
- Side conversation experts – their ideas, whims or self-important witticisms seem to them more important than the agenda.
- Editorial comments – they may be verbal or non-verbal, including snorting, rolling eyes, drumming fingers, turning their chairs around, laughing sarcastically and barely audible disparaging or ridiculing remarks.
- Passive-aggressive backstabbers – they keep quiet or even agree during meetings, but then disagree, complain or put down people after meetings.
We usually know how to resolve these problem behaviors, but most people don’t have the courage or the organization’s culture won’t allow you to act.
Often, the strong and clear voice of an outside consultant and coach can change these behaviors or empower managers and staff to remove these bullies. I’ve often helped companies and even non-profits and government agencies create and maintain behavioral standards (team agreements, ground rules for professional behavior) that make meetings worthwhile and promote productivity.