Compliments of sparetomato via Flickr

One of the ultimate onlooker activities is the interaction within corporate walls – specifically, the mainstay we know as the company meeting. These invariably disintegrate into alpha control and subservient roles, with the majority either remaining silent – or, participating in the charade.

Inequities in contribution are apparent. Why are some people “spanked” as soon as they open their mouths, while others get a free pass to wreak havoc? Moreover, why are the comings and goings of these same people (the denigrated) unnecessarily scrutinized? Meetings are typically segmented into the haves and the have nots, resulting in some employees never having their say. Silence through bullying is constructive discharge from the conversation. It’s a contrived version of group think in which people know better than to cross dominant views.

If you’re facilitating a meeting, below are some tips to achieve a more balanced form of conversation:

  • In the face of aggressive personalities, Nominal Group Technique is an inclusive method to ensure that everyone is heard [e.g., no one is allowed to speak until all business has been presented]. In this format, conversational bullies are less likely to derail their peers. Waiting circumvents the “talk first think later” tendency of workers who use their tongues as weapons. Feelings badly afterwards is not a panacea for the destruction one caused in the first place.
  • Maintain order with a detailed agenda, and by curtailing bullies when you see them overstepping someone’s boundaries. If individuals have a step by step rundown of what you’re covering, interjecting with their own platform becomes more difficult (and less welcome and/or relevant). Stepping through items in an efficient manner (and scheduling multiple participants to speak) leaves little room for the unexpected. If bullies insist on having their say (along with someone else’s) cut them off at the pass by bringing the conversation back to your business.
  • Piggyback on the comments of less talkative members. This will at once increase their confidence, while at the same time letting others know their contributions are valued. They will be more likely to participate, thus making meetings more balanced.
  • If you see someone being “slaughtered,” immediately stop. Explain in no uncertain terms that uncivil behavior will not be tolerated (instead of leaving the target holding the bag). This will send a message that the unmannerly are not welcome.
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All viewpoints expressed by Jackie Gilbert are her own, and not of her employer.

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