the 5 worst people to have in your meetings — and how to deal with them

If you’re like most people, your weeks of full of workplace meetings. And if you’re like most of us, there are certain coworkers who regularly make those meetings far more painful than they have to be.

Here are the five worst types of people to have in your meetings – and what you can do to neutralize each of them.

1. The Monopolizer. The Monopolizer acts as if he’s in a meeting of one. He has lengthy comments about every topic that comes up, won’t let anything be tabled until you’ve thoroughly discussed it from all angles, derails the agenda with unrelated items, and makes the group sit through long debates of issues that ultimately don’t need to be resolved at this particularly meeting.

What to do: Address it head-on, with phrases like these:

  • “Let’s table that for now and move on with our agenda.”
  • “I’m just looking for quick input at this stage, but might come back to you on this down the road.”
  • “I’d love to hear from others now.”
  • “I need to cut you off so that we have time to get to other topics.”

2. The Silent Shadow.

The opposite of the Monopolizer, the Silent Shadow contributes nothing. Whether it’s a brainstorming meeting or a project planning meeting, she sits silently while others do the work.

What to do: You might be tempted to just ignore her, but a better bet is to try to draw her out in the moment (“Jane, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this” or “Jane, you have great experience in XYZ; what do you think about this?”). Or, depending on your role and hers, you might talk to her outside the meeting and say something like, “I’ve noticed you don’t speak up much in our weekly meetings; is there anything I can do to help you contribute?”

3. The Missing-in-Action. This is the guy who’s constantly reading his email, checking his phone, or texting while other people are talking. His actions scream, “I don’t want to be here and I’m not paying attention.”

What to do: This will depend on the dynamics and hierarchy in your office. For instance, if you’re the offender’s boss, it would entirely reasonable to address it in the moment (“Carl, I’d love to have your full attention”) or outside of the meeting. For a peer, you might go with “Carl, I’d love your input on this – would another time be better for you?” And for someone above you in the hierarchy, there’s not much you can do.

(Of course, cut people some slack. The occasional peek at email is probably no big deal; it’s patterns that we’re talking about here.)

4. The Unprepared. You ask everyone to do some reading in advance of the meeting and come prepared with their input, but this person never does it. As a result, she derails the meeting by asking people to fill in the background for her, asking questions everyone else already knows the answers to, and generally being unhelpful when called on for comment.

What to do: If this behavior is a pattern, talk to her outside the meeting. Say something like, “Lisa, I’ve noticed you haven’t had time to do the meeting prep for our last few meetings. I send it because I don’t want to spend people’s time covering that stuff once we’re all together. Would it help if I got it to you earlier, or is there anything else I can do to ensure you have time to read it?”  And of course, if you’re this person’s manager, you can be more directive than that – as in, “I’d like you to come to meetings with the pre-readings already reviewed.”

5. The Naysayer. The Naysayer’s favorite refrain is “it’ll never work” or “they’ll never let us do it” – taking the wind out of new ideas and suggestions with astonishing regularity. While this type often thinks that they’re serving a valuable role by playing devil’s advocate, denigrating suggestions, and poking holes in plans, but when it happens at every meeting, their colleagues rarely see it that way.

What to do: If you’re a Naysayer’s manager, it’s worth giving some feedback on this in private – pointing out that the behavior is squelching new suggestions and enthusiasm and asking the Naysayer to rein it in. If you’re a Naysayer’s peer, you might try language like:

  • “Let’s focus on how this might work for a moment, before we get into potential drawbacks.”
  • “What suggestions do you have for working around that?”
  • “Let’s work from the assumption that we can get approval, since we’ve had similar projects approved in the past.”

{ 177 comments… read them below }

  1. Kevin*

    I have a colleague who I feel is a subset of one. I feel like she either heard somewhere or came up with the idea that, “you should always ask a question to show you were involved.”

      1. Julie*

        I had a professor who I really liked, and I loved his class, but I didn’t always do the reading before class. So in that case, I would make sure to make a comment or ask a question early in the class so I wouldn’t get called on later. It worked pretty well! This kind of thing tends to come up at work when we’re on conference calls, especially if we’re talking about something that doesn’t have anything to do with me. My attention will wander, and that’s right when someone on the call will ask me a question. Usually I can piece together enough of what I semi-heard to give a semblance of an answer, but other times I have to ask them to repeat the question. My boss and I were joking the other day about the various things we say when we’re caught in that situation so it isn’t too obvious that we weren’t paying attention.

        1. Heather*

          Are you me? I used to do that in all my classes when I hadn’t done the reading :) Worked like a charm!

    1. Vicki*

      Oh, she definitely heard it somewhere.

      A former CEO insisted that if there were no questions in/after a meeting, either people hadn’t been listening or (of a presentation) the presenter hadn’t done his job correctly. Needless to say, people came up with the darndest time-filling questions, especially if the CEO was the presenter.

  2. Sharon*

    Heh, at my last few employers everybody fell into #4. I do at least skim, if not read, stuff in preparation for meetings, but I’ve noticed that nearly everybody else does not.

    1. Elysian*

      Yeah – I think its really hard, if no one else is prepared and management doesn’t call people out on it. If there’s assigned reading, and enough people fail to do it, then you have to spend time in the meeting anyway going over the stuff in the reading. It’s a huge time waste for people who came prepared. If it’s allowed to continue for long enough, no one is going to do the prep work because everyone will know it’ll just have to be covered again in the meeting.

    2. Piper*

      Yep. Happens all the time in my office. No one ever reads anything that they’re supposed to read, but they like to act like they have (although, it’s clear from their lack of knowledge on the subject matter that they have not).

  3. Yup*

    6. Detective Columbo. Asks never-ending roundabout questions in a vague manner to “clear up one last thing” until you want to tear your own ears off.

    7. Perry Mason. Treats every meeting as a chance to cross examine colleagues. Point, counterpoint. Are you sure about that? Who did you speak with? Don’t you mean you *assume* this is what the client wants?

    8. The Goldfish. Has an attention span of eight seconds and the self control of a baby gibbon. Usually found arriving late, holding sidebar conversations, needing at least two breaks and a snack for any one hour meeting, and asking questions that were already answered ten minutes ago.

    1. anon o*

      The owner of the company I work for is a goldfish. Imagine trying to wrangle that in a client meeting! It’s a nightmare. But from now on in my head I’m going to call him a goldfish, thanks!

    2. ChristineSW*

      I’d say there a variation of #6 at a previous job. I mentioned her last week, I think, in the Open Thread. She always used the “round table” portion of the weekly meetings (which I always assumed was meant for quick questions) to ask a ton of questions, this pushing the meeting along at least another half hour.

    3. Tiff*

      Oh my goodness that’s hilarious. I must admit I can be a bit of a goldfish, but I swear I don’t start shuffling til about 1.5 hours in. Especially if the meeting is full of the other offenders on the list – at that point I have to check out a little just to keep from screaming.

      Bonus: I bring snacks to my meeting, keep the agenda moving and provide breaks for long work sessions. I have to for my own sanity, but I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback from colleagues who have an easier time sitting still and staying on task.

    4. Anonymous*

      I work with a #6. She has to cross-examine every point, come up with every single “what if?” scenario and needs everything answered there and then. It’s frustrating, to say the least.

    5. Emily K*

      The worst kind of #6 is the person who keeps asking questions after the meeting has overrun its allotted time…even worse when the meeting was supposed to end at 5:00pm so we could all go home! You can just see the tension on the faces of half the people in the room who don’t want to look like the clock-punching slacker by getting up and walking out of a meeting still technically in progress even though NOBODY CARES ABOUT THAT GUY’S QUESTIONS.

  4. Jax*

    Anyone read “Lean In”? The author advises women to sit at the table during meetings, and speak up and contribute.

    I have a weekly meeting where I am the only woman, and for many meetings I would sit back and only speak if I had something I desperately needed to say. But after reading that, I make a point of being more verbal, even if it’s just to say, “Yes” rather than quietly nodding. I also watched a TED talk with a woman who said to spend a couple minutes stretching and making yourself “big” to get a surge of confidence before a meeting. So…I’m totally the shy woman doing weird power stretches in the private bathroom psyching myself up to speak up at the meeting.

    So awkward. So intimidated at the table!

    1. Ollie*

      You’re intimidated because you’re shy, or intimidated because everyone else is a guy?

      I’ve had to attend lots of meetings where I was the only female and never had a problem with that. I’m shy though, so it takes some mustering of courage to speak up. The more I do it, the easier it gets (start to realize that my opinion is treated seriously, that I can be helpful, that nothing horrible will happen if I speak, etc.).

      I like the idea of saying “Yes,” instead of nodding in an attempt to be more verbal. :]

      1. Jax*

        I’m in a construction field, so it’s a table full of rough construction supervisors who pretty much intimidate me! They are very direct and very confident.

        I suppose the problem is that I don’t feel that I’m their equal. I still feel very much the secretary instead of the project manager, and I’m trying to push myself to be equally as confident and equally able to challenge an idea or call B.S.

        If it were a table full of women, I probably would speak up more without my heart stuck in my throat for daring to interrupt. Like I said, I must be awkward and weird!

        1. Adam*

          Just remember: they can’t eat you.

          It’s a strange piece of advice but I find it actually does help. It was given to me in the context of worrying about asking a girl out, but I feel it can apply in any social setting. The worst thing they will do usually isn’t really that bad (i.e. say no), and if it does turn out to be bad then it’s a cue to start moving on to greener pastures.

          1. Anon*

            I am asking someone out tomorrow for the first time and your advice is spot on, for both personal and business! Awesome for sharing that.

          2. Jean*

            Your advice conjures up images of the monsters in Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak: bulging yellow eyes, sharp claws and teeth in a half-friendly, half-frightening smile. “We’ll eat you up! We love you so!”


        2. Ollie*

          Oh, okay. I can see rough construction guys being a bit more intimidating than the business guys I was imagining. =/

          I suppose my situation was different because I had enough in common with them that I was either treated “like one of the guys” or they liked me because the things I had in common with them made me “cool for a girl.”

          You’re not awkward or weird! It’s totally normal to feel intimidated when you’re the oddball/outsider in a group. The more you speak up, the more they’ll view/treat you as an equal, so remember that things will get better.

          1. VintageLydia*

            I hate the “Cool for a girl” thing, though, and would turn me into someone definitely “not cool” to them. If you can’t show me the respect I deserve without putting down the rest of my gender, than I’m going to lose every ounce of respect I had for you. I don’t put up with it in social situations. Business is different but I’d call it out if it wasn’t going to hurt my job/career overall.

            1. fposte*

              Seriously. “You belong to a type where people are generally pretty unimpressive, but you seem to have defied the odds.” Oh, thank you so much.

              1. Ollie*

                It actually never bothered me because I grew up with “You like/do [male typical thing]? That’s cool for a girl,” comments and was used to being treated like that. It does seem bad when you guys phrase it like an insult to our gender though. =/

                1. fposte*

                  I could see it being phrased in a way that it’s not as insulting–“Oh, it’s kind of cool you like cricket–that’s unusual for an American” isn’t necessarily a slam against Americans. But “You’re pretty cool for an American” is one of those slams that can seduce you before you realize it’s not actually a compliment you want to accept.

                2. TL*

                  The thing is, a very large number of girls like/do typical male things. (I think my disinterest in sports and gaming/”nerd things” is actually in the minority among my female friends, and they are all pretty average women.)

                  So that phrase tends to irk me, because not only is it insulting, but it ignores a lot of women who do actually like “typical male things.”

                3. The Real Ash*

                  Turn it around though. Does it sound like an insult if you said you a man, “Oh, you like baking? That’s cool, for a dude”? It’s just a backhanded compliment, which means it’s not really a compliment to begin with.

        3. Elysian*

          I also work in a field where I’m female and young and working with intimidating men who might be considered “rough around the edges.” I think it helps me to remember that they’re not trying to intimidate you – it’s just their communication style. Yours sounds like it is different. Sometimes to communicate well with them, I have to be a little rougher or more confident-sounding than I really am.

          I think of it like this – If you were giving directions to a visual person, you’d use a map. If they were a good listener, you’d describe it. Here you’re just communicating with people who probably aren’t super-subtle, and it may require you to adapt. But you have something to say worth hearing, so it’s worth being pushed out of your comfort zone a little to get it across in a way that they’ll really ‘hear.’

    2. Pam*

      I do the stretch-in-the-private-bathroom-before-the-meeting thing, too!! It really works. It calms me down, reminds me to be relaxed while being present and self-assured.

        1. Emily K*

          Yes! Google “power poses!” Fascinating biopsychology stuff…puffing yourself up real big and opening your chest literally changes your biochemistry from a short while, makes you more willing to take risks, more confident, etc.

          Relatedly, when we’re feeling anxious or nervous we tend to instinctively assume the opposite of a power pose: curling forward, hunching over, wrapping our arms around ourselves. When I was in counseling for anxiety, my therapist taught me a neat trick that simply straightening up, pulling your shoulders back, and opening your chest up can help alleviate those feelings of anxiety and nervousness. Amazing how such a small thing can have such a large impact on your mental state.

    3. Adam*

      I know the feeling. It’s the same sort of mentality guys will use when they do some light physical activity before a date or a big event to get “pumped up”. It often does point out how so much of this is really just in our heads, as most of the people we encounter are just as concerned about how they themselves are being perceived as we are.

    4. Jules*

      I’ve been spoiled I guess because being the only female in a meeting doesn’t intimidate me because I’ve always worked with really nice people. More often then not, men are harder on other men, just like women being harder to other women.

      Remember, if you don’t deserve to be at the table, no one would invite you anyway. Use your knowledge and experince to give a different perspective. Some might scoff and think it doesn’t merit a thought but by putting yourself out there, people know about your specific knowlege and leverage them.

      I get scared talking in higher level meetings (cold shakey hands) but I need to put myself out there so they know what I know and leverage my skills/experience. That way people also know what I am interested in and can further develop me.

    5. Drew*

      I just watched that TED talk! It is so true and I’ve been taking up more space myself, although for me it is less about confidence and more about being authoritative. It’s also doing wonders for my posture :)

      1. Emily K*

        The taking-up-more-space thing is interesting to me.

        A year or so ago, I was given one of those “spirit hoods” – a furry hood with animal ears that hangs down long with sort of mittens at the end. The first weekend I wore it, I was in a social setting with one good friend and several people I didn’t know very well. I’m a natural introvert and used to sitting sideline in that sort of situation, and I loved that my new hood was oversized enough to allow me to sort of hide and sink into it. But for some reason this night, everyone seemed to be…following my lead. Doing what I was doing without my asking them to, asking me what we should do without me volunteering that I had any ideas. I was baffled and a bit uncomfortable, to be honest. A few hours went by and I had to use the bathroom. I walked in and caught sight of myself in the mirror: The spirit hood made me so much larger and more imposing than I expected to see that for a second I didn’t recognize myself.

        Although I’ll never know for sure, I’m convinced those people who didn’t know me that night decided I was a person to follow/emulate simply because I had this huge freaking furry-eared hood on my head making me take up far more space than usual. And now I wear it whenever I want to feel powerful.

        1. Woodward*

          I love that! I have a pink & orange boa scarf that’s huge and audacious. I wear it when I need to remind myself it’s ok to be sassy and bold. I just feel like a queen or a diva or celebrity when I have it on. Not to work, but in social settings.

        2. Anonymous*

          It shows you have confidence in yourself. Anyone hiding in a corner tends to get left there as people don’t want to upset them by drawing them out because they don’t know why they are hiding….

  5. Ollie*

    9. The Broken Record: Gets stuck on one point or idea, convinced that they are right, and won’t compromise or let it go no matter how many other people disagree. Does not understand the concept of majority vote and causes meetings to run a few hours longer than they need to.

      1. Ollie*

        Oh, yes. I read your post, and the groupthink thing is valid. I was thinking more like opinion/simple/creative type things than fact type things.

        1. A Bug!*

          Honestly, it sounds like both items are discussing the same people. The Groupthink is what happens when multiple Broken Records congregate.

          I don’t think it counts as Broken Record when you’re actually trying to discuss something in good faith. If you’re being shut out and your ideas dismissed out of hand, then that’s quite a different thing than doggedly refusing to drop something and move on when it’s been discussed and rejected on its merits.

          Also, when it comes to the groupthink, I’ve experienced it once. I managed to get around it by privately speaking with the most reasonable person in the group. I approached it from the angle that I felt I was missing something that the others were getting, and wanted some one-on-one clarification. Because really, maybe I was missing something. But just by asking the questions that were ostensibly meant to clarify things for me, the other person came around to my side, because she couldn’t really answer my questions without resorting to “Uh, because we said so”.

          1. Ollie*

            “The Groupthink is what happens when multiple Broken Records congregate.”

            Good way to word it! :]

            ” …doggedly refusing to drop something and move on when it’s been discussed and rejected on its merits.”

            That’s what I’m thinking of. =/ I’ve had meetings that dragged out much longer than they needed to because one person would not drop minor details and kept repeating the same things even though all the advantages/disadvantages of their point and the consensus decision had already been hashed out. There are certain times where moving on instead of obsessing over something that’s not going to make a huge difference is best.

          2. Legal jobs*

            After thinking anout it, I don’t think my cturent position is the best example regarding meetings. I work in a toxic environment.

            Management eliminates anyone who doesn’t agree with the groupthink. Meetings are a symptom of the overall problem.

            Their response to my raising the issues outside of meetings in the past was to subtly threaten my position until finally deciding recently to eliminate role. They have done this with at least three other positions.

            1. Ollie*

              “Management eliminates anyone who doesn’t agree with the groupthink.”

              That’s actually kind of scary.

              1. Legal jobs*

                Its in an industry facing regulatory changes and other business disruptions. In addition, the company has attempted to build itself without justfication or measures of success.

                Rather than facing realty, the primary focus is on denial. Its the regulators are being mean. the build out is good for business (but don’t ask how). Reality check: The company is losing money.

                In eliminating my role, I pointed out the money that I saved the company, and they responded it didn’t matter. Although I am now job hunting and as cliche as it may sound, they are doing me a favor. I tend to be loyal and stick it out until the end, but the handwriting is on the wall.

  6. Anonymous*

    I’ve only had one job that had traditional meetings, and it was a horrible job at a call centre. The meetings were mostly to lecture us about policies. I was #2 because I couldn’t care less about the content of the meeting. There was always one guy who asked a hundred stupid questions, but I think he just wanted to delay getting back on the phones.

  7. Adam*

    I admit that in my current workplace I can sometimes be guilty of #2 and #3, although my office is infamous for holding too many useless meetings so I don’t feel too bad about it the few times I do it. I’m still working up the mojo to ask I not be included in certain meetings I really don’t need to be at.

  8. Elizabeth*

    What about The Derailer? The person who, instead of sticking to the agenda, pushes everything off track by discussing weekend plans (or the previous weekend’s happenings), gossiping about professional acquaintances, and generally starting conversations about topics (professional or personal) that aren’t within the scope of the meeting, making the whole thing twice or three times as long as it has to be?

    1. Elizabeth*

      Also, I should probably add that I’m guilty of #2, usually because I can spend anywhere from a third to a half of my day in meetings and at some point I just sort of withdraw.

    2. Brett*

      I was wondering that too. I think the Derailer is just one of the variants of the Monopolizer. It is still about taking control of the flow of the meeting, even if they take it off in a direction that has nothing to do with the agenda.

    3. Jules*

      Admittedly, sometimes I do that to let people back off in heated discussions. I’d throw a bone until we all are back in our happy place and re-engage.

  9. ChristineSW*

    Oh I definitely at least one of each over the years! Don’t know who signed up for my new committee, but I have a feeling that one of them–while a great, passionate person–will be a handful! lol.

    1. ChristineSW*

      FTR: I sometimes giggle about the fact that I was appointed chairperson of this committee–I’ve always considered myself the Silent Shadow (#2), at least in the general council meetings.

  10. Sabrina*

    Or the person(s) who are ALWAYS late. Or require a 10 minute lesson in operating the conference call menu or Webex software.

    1. Julie*

      That reminds me of this video that we showed at our last all-hands meeting, just to break the ice. It’s called “A Conference Call in Real Life,” and in a nutshell, it’s an in-person meeting that’s being run like a teleconference. It’s really funny! Here’s the URL: (Note: Even though the web site is called “tastefullyoffensive,” this video is not offensive in any way). There is a brief pitch at the end for a leadership event, but you can just stop the video at that point.

  11. MR*

    Most meetings aren’t worth the time needed to put them on everyone’s Outlook calendar. What about tips for getting rid of those unnecessary meetings?

    1. Jules*

      I know what you mean. Sometimes it feels like you are just talking around in circles and they don’t even need you there…

      I was told by someone recently that I should schedule weekly project meeting. Erm… no thanks, I am not going to call for a meeting so we can stare at each other and say nothing.

      1. the gold digger*

        Meetings should have agendas. If the meeting comes without one, you might be able to ask politely what the agenda is or what the organizer hopes to accomplish. Then you can say, “That has nothing to do with me.” :)

      2. Julie*

        I know! We had been having weekly meetings when we ran into a technology snag. There was nothing we could do on the project until it was resolved. Thank goodness everyone who needed to attend those meetings agreed that we should suspend them until there was actually something to talk about.

    2. Us, Too*

      If I’m an attendee of the meeting and I don’t see why I’m on the invitee list, I just decline saying “I don’t think I’ll add value to this meeting.”

      If the facilitator challenges me, that gives me a chance to set clear expectations around what my role will be in the meeting and offer compromises like “can we save that subject for the last 10 minutes or first 10 minutes so that I can participate only in the relevant parts?”

      1. Anonymous*

        I do this a lot. I do a lot of tech training for various teams and departments, and I always ask to be on the agenda at a certain time. I don’t have time to attend a 2 hour staff meeting to do a 20 minute training. It has helped to “train” certain departments that my time is valuable.

  12. Windchime*

    I have a co-worker who is a combination of #1 (the Monopolizer) and #5 (the Naysayer). This person frequently spends entire meetings making snide remarks under her breath. I think they are intended to be funny but they are snide and sarcastic. She will also initiate side conversations with whomever she is sitting next too. When she does finally speak up, it’s always to tell us how this will never work, the users will never cooperate, that suggestion will result in way too much manual work (for her), blah blah blah. So distracting and annoying.

  13. Legal jobs*

    You missed one of the worst- groupthink:

    I see this one as a lawyer. The group believes the law says X, but the law says Y. Rather than using the meeting to address what to do with Y, the members of the meeting use group dynamics to reinforce their believe that X is true. It becomes unproductive wastes of time.

    Example: I was in a meeting in which executives believed individually that signing a contract eliminated their liability under the law. The meeting became an opportunity to tell each other they were right and how great the organization is rather than brainstorm to move the organizations pass the obstacle.

    I have not found a way to neutralize the problem bc the perception is that the person raising the red flag is harming the meeting.

    1. James M*

      I’m not sure how well this translates to the legal world, but in technology, research becomes a powerful tool for dislodging groupthink. Sometimes group members will become an echo chamber exhorting an anti-pattern ( To resolve the situation, I research the issue and find authoritative sources debunking the idea to present to the group members.

    2. littlemoose*

      If signing contracts could completely negate liability like that, lawyers would have a lot less work to do.

      Does coming armed with information help at all? Like, “Well, the Ninth Circuit’s decision in the Smith case shows that premises liability can still arise despite a tenant’s signature of a rental contract that included a waiver provision. If that’s how the Court is interpreting it, then we have to deal with that reality.” Or whatever? Although the tone of your question certainly seems like you’ve tried this to no avail. Would memos to the others explaining why it is Y and not X help at all?

      1. Legal jobs*

        At times, it felt like a business world version of the Twilight Zone. You name it, and I tried it. From citations to providing reports about the financial cost of action v.inaction to including probabilities of incidents with resulting business disruption. I presented it as memos, presentations, emails, casual and formal communication, etc. I even asked a friend in sales, marketing and communication for tips. Nothing worked except crisis (lawsuits, etc). The one good thing to come out of the meetings and interactions is that I learned how to sell and measure value.

        1. Julie*

          At least your rear end is covered, and they can’t come back to you and say, “why didn’t you tell us this would happen!?”

          1. Legal jobs*

            I’m covered but I’m in the process of deprogramming myself because I have become too focused on convincing which has harmed me in interviews . It comes across as defensive rather than assured.

  14. Sunshine*

    I’m a Silent Shadow by force. My boss has asked me (and her other direct reports) not to say anything in our semimonthly department meetings. She claims that she doesn’t want to appear as though she’s not abreast with what’s going on in our group so if we need to raise any issues, we should let her know. If she thinks it’s valid, she’ll bring it up herself.

    1. Ruffingit*

      How crappy, must make you feel there’s no point in even attending the meetings. That is how I’d feel. If she wants to bring up all issues, she can just meet privately with you guys, take that info to the meeting and be done with it. What a waste of time to ask you to attend and say nothing.

      1. Emily K*

        Seriously. If the meeting is only for managers to share what their teams are doing, leave the teams out of it. No one should be in a meeting just to passively receive information. That’s what email is for. Meetings are for two-ways exchanges of information and collaborative decision-making.

    2. r*

      I went to an interview where I think this sort of thing was happening. I had a room full of people who were all just staring at me while the boss asked the questions. Evem weirder was when I asked questions of the staff and they sort of looked to their boss to see if theu could speak. It was terribly off-putting and seemed like a really unfulfulling wprk environment.

    3. HR lady*

      I get the concept of not surprising your boss at a meeting with something that you haven’t yet told the boss – that’s a no-no. But there are much better ways to solve that! Mainly, for the boss to encourage ongoing communication with their staff, and to just say it outright: they shouldn’t bring something up in a meeting that they haven’t already told the boss.

      1. some1*

        Or in the past her boss was supposed to communicate something to her team that slipped her mind, & *her* boss(es) found out when one of her employees asked a question in a meeting.

    4. Vicki*

      I had a manager who insisted that I asked “the wrong kinds” of questions in meetings. I tend to ask clarifying questions or questions that no one else seems to be asking that I think need to be asked. He told me to stop.

      After that, I usually played “silent shadow”. After all, if you’ve basically been told Not To Speak Up, you shut up.

    5. Vicki*

      Some Silent Shadows act that way, not because they’ve been told to keep quiet but because they don;t actually belong in the meeting and can’t understand why they are being forced to attend (i.e. Sunshine if she came to this conclusion on her own rather than her manager telling her. (Gack)).

  15. Brett*

    I tend to be the Monopolizer at a lot of meetings. But what I find odd is that I’m normally also the one who has to say, “Okay, stop that, back to the agenda.”
    When monopolizing, it is really easy to get all the other bad meeting people (even the Naysayer) to play along with you.

  16. Jules*

    Lucky me, in my meetings I only have 4 out of 5. Can’t be bad… can’t be bad at all…

    The unprepared bums me out most. We can’t talk about something without everyone being informed and they make so much assumptions instead. Know the material dang it! You drive me crazy when we are trying to work on a project and no one had even open the manuals. And then asks elementary questions… Maybe I should walk around carrying old school pipe and quote, “That’s elementary, Watson.” every time someone ask something they should have known.

  17. Windchime*

    Oh, we had someone who was Missing in Action. He had a terrible habit of just sitting and looking at his phone the entire time; he was a contractor who also had other clients, so I suspect he was answering cline emails while in a meeting with us (also his client). One day, we were trying to untangle a sticky problem in a meeting and he kept playing with his phone; finally I ask, “Frank, are we boring you? Because you keep checking your phone.” He finally put it down and it was less of a problem after that.

    I don’t think anyone cares if people take a quick peek. But when you are staring at your phone and clicking around during the entire meeting–why are you even here? Go take care of business.

    1. Ruffingit*

      Amen, I hate the phone thing so very, very much. It’s rude and crappy. It’s especially galling when someone is doing this to a client. The contractor is working with you as his client and rather than giving you his full attention, he’s on the phone?? NO WAY. I’d be looking for a new contractor who gives a damn. You’d think these people would be concerned about this hurting their business especially given that contracting work is an eat what you kill kind of business in that if you lose clients, you lose money as opposed to keeping the same salary (if you’re an employee) regardless of whether a client leaves a particular business.

      1. Julie*

        My boss’s boss has a “laptops down” rule for meetings because otherwise one person ends up presenting their information to no one because everyone is reading email. Strangely, I’m usually able to get away with opening my laptop because almost always something will come up that I can solve right there and then (updating a wiki page or finding out specific information), and he doesn’t seem to mind my doing that.

      1. Windchime*

        Of course he’s forced to be there. We are paying him big, big bucks to be there. If he doesn’t want to participate in discussions, then he shouldn’t have signed to contract.

      2. Scott M*

        If he needs to be there because he is supposed to actively participate, then yes, this is rude.

        However if he was invited just to “have everyone involved”, then perhaps the meeting attendance list should be trimmed down in the future until there is a good reason to include him.

        1. Vicki*

          Does anyone ever trim the meeting list?

          I get the feeling that many managers judge their own importance by how many meetings they hold times how many people are in those meetings.

  18. Mary*

    Almost all our meetings are teleconferences or video calls. My biggest annoyance is the background noise person. If someone comes in and starts talking to you in the middle of a meeting, mute your mic. And if you have a chirping smoke detetctor in your home, replace the batteries. (Seriously. I don’t know who it is, but it’s been chirping for two weeks now…)

    1. ChristineSW*

      This + 1000. I’d hear things on my husband’s conference calls (we are often both in the computer room at the same time) and it takes every ounce of self-discipline to not jump in and say something. Thank goodness hubby finally started using headphones!!

    2. the gold digger*

      I was on a three-way call with a colleague here and another in Dubai. My cats started whining – they are Siamese – and Here Colleague said to Dubai Colleague, “DC, I didn’t know you had a baby!”

      DC laughed and said, “My baby is 15 years old! Those are GD’s cats!”

      1. LJL*

        When I was working from home, my Siamese was a perfect angel till she heard me get on the phone. Then the whining started. Every time. :-)

        1. Cath@VWXYNot?*

          My cats LOVE conference calls – what a great time to show off their purring and yowling prowess to the world! What could be more fun than to leap into my lap while I’m talking to colleagues at 6am, or to try to jump onto the desk, slip on some papers, and go crashing off?

          At least they don’t know how to flush the toilet, I guess?

          1. Jamie*

            Mine wait until I am logged into someone’s computer or the server on my iPad to try to get on RIGHT NOW and play Pocket Pond.

            Seriously – it’s like they know.

    3. Chrissi*

      Here’s my favorite teleconference call story. This was a conference call for about 40 people across our offices in different parts of the country, being put on by a bigwig at the national office. At one point in the middle of the call, you hear someone say “Yes, can I get a tall vanilla latte?”. We all bust out laughing, but TPTB were not very happy. Mute is important.

    4. Meg*

      I was working from home one day during the nor’easter, was in the middle of giving my update over a conference line, and my cat (almost 5 months old) and my dog (almost 7 years old) decide to run in the room, around the room, into things, etc. My update went something like this:

      “An incident was opened regarding functionality on the OH MY GOD, KNOCK IT OFF. OUT. OUUUUUTTTT! Anyway, the balance transfers doesn’t work as expected.”

    5. MaryMary*

      I used to take a lot of calls while in the car, and once had to interrupt myself to say I was about to be passed by two fire trucks, three police cars, and an ambulance and needed to go on mute for the next couple minutes.

      1. FormerPhotog*

        I was on a cell call with an customer, discussing the requirements for a data migration – I was on bluetooth, driving, and I had to pause because I was in the middle of the setup for the Detroit Thanksgiving parade.

    6. Emma*

      And if that person comes in to start talking to you, don’t say “Oh, I’m just on a stupid conference call” for all of phoneland to hear.

      Those are my favorite faux pas. Remember to mute!

    7. Volcano*

      Videoconference across 4 sites on three continents. Our US office were ordering (and then eating) breakfast, one of the German guys was always *really* interested in the contents of his nose, nobody in London was paying attention, and there was some Obvious Tension between two women in the Chennai office, who were doing a form of competitive monopolization.

      No amount of begging and pleading would get these informational meetings replaced with a two-paragraph email, which is all that would have been needed to convey that information.

    8. BadPlanning*

      My favorite conference call faux paux was a large meeting where we were listening to required, but dry information. Someone was clearly getting ready to come into work and ignored all pleas to go on mute. Heavy breathing, slurping, water running…finally garage door opening/closing. When the water started running, we were afraid there would be toiled flushing….we were saved from that at least.

      In retrospect, I’m not sure why we didn’t do a mute all. It did spice up the otherwise boring call.

  19. KJR*

    How about “The Interrupter?” This guy won’t let anyone finish a sentence. And what’s worse, half the time he’s interrupting, it’s to interject a smart ass comment, joke, or insult directed at whoever’s talking. He’s even been known on occasion to comment on the person who’s speaking’s appearance. For example:
    Linda: “I really think the TPS reports ought to be…”
    Annoying Interrupting Co-Worker to Linda: “Wait…didn’t you wear that same shirt two weeks ago?”
    In the middle of a meeting, with multiple attendees!! He’s says he’s “just trying to keep things light-hearted.” Drives me bananas. He has gotten better after having been spoken to recently though.

    1. KJR*

      He also will call you out if you get up to use the restroom in the middle of the meeting! “Where are YOU going?” He’s like a toddler.

    2. MaryMary*

      I work with a couple monopolizers who won’t let anyone interrupt them, even in a useful way (per Alison’s suggestions). Things can get pretty heated.

    3. Turanga Leela*

      I’ve worked with a different kind of interrupter: the kind who wants to finish my sentences. I don’t know how many times I’ve said, “No, that’s not what I was going to say.”

    4. ReallyHere*

      God – I have someone like that. Really smart, really annoying. And will not stop making bad puns! Gah!

  20. MJH*

    I’d also add the Space Cadet: the person who seems to be on another planet entirely, asking strange, generally irrelevant questions and getting odd looks from the rest of the team. Also has pet projects and a weird focus on particular items that make everyone else shrug.

    1. Lynn Whitehat*

      Sometimes someone who appears to be the Space Cadet is focused on something that is important, but it’s something other people don’t work with as much, so they don’t think of it. I’ve been that person, “weirdly focused” on, for instance, the fact that our product ships to 100 different countries in 30 different languages, so anything that is US-English-only is not going to work for us. Because of my role, I was very aware of it, but most of my co-workers didn’t have to worry about it.

    2. Jules*

      I feel ya. People throwing random question/comment to look engaged and I am looking at them thinking… “WAT?” I am pretty sure it shows on my face but at that time I really didn’t care.

  21. Positivity Boy*

    Oh man, I work with the Naysayer, and I lost it on him in a meeting one week. He was yelling (and I mean literally yelling at the top of his voice) at my boss about how unreasonable and unfair everything we were being asked to do was and how we were never going to achieve the goals being set for us. He’d been doing this in every weekly meeting for a few months but that week was too much. I told him it was completely inappropriate and useless to complain about these goals every week and that the purpose of even having the meetings was to figure out new strategies to meet them, because they weren’t changing. He’s the most senior member of our department and as such he should be the one using his experience to tell us what strategies worked in the past, what didn’t work and what he thinks we should try for the future. He shouldn’t be the one doing nothing but bitching. He immediately came up with 3 great ideas that he had clearly already thought of but was too busy complaining to present. I made it a point to ask him why we couldn’t have started the meeting that way, with a positive outlook and useful suggestions, instead of just another negative tirade. Needless to say that gave him a pretty big reality check, and while he still bitches sometimes he keeps it to under-his-breath snarky comments at his desk that are much easier to ignore.

  22. A.Y. Siu*

    I’d like to add The Sexist and the Schedule-A-Meeting-About-Everything.

    The Sexist is a guy who makes off-handed plausibly deniable offensive remarks and talks over women and interrupts them, or repeats what women have said and then tries to take credit for those ideas.

    The Schedule-A-Meeting-About-Everything has to schedule a meeting even when there’s nothing to discuss, and it can all be done better over email.

    1. Lily in NYC*

      Ugh, my entire dept. schedules multiple meetings about everything. We generally have 2 or 3 “prep” meetings before actual meetings. Consultant mentality at its finest!

    2. some1*

      “The Schedule-A-Meeting-About-Everything has to schedule a meeting even when there’s nothing to discuss, and it can all be done better over email.”

      Ugh, this was my former boss. She would schedule meetings for no reason, then when she added a major responsibility to my role (which would have been a really good reason to have a meeting to to let me know the procedure of the new task and her expectations), she didn’t even inform me about it. I only found out when people started bringing work related to the new task!

    3. Volcano*

      Meeting addicts are So Much Fun. I love premeetings, focus premeetings, prepmeetings, actual meetings, and postmeetings. particularly when the ancillary meetings can, as you say, take place over email or a 5-minute coffee brewing conversation. I spent more time finding meeting rooms than doing useful work!

    4. Leisabet*

      Yeah, I used to work with a Sexist. Our manager was a woman (I mean, as far as I’m aware she still is), and so am I. He was dismissive of our experience, would interrupt meetings I was chairing to rephrase what I’d just said, and would constantly talk over our boss. He got on with the men like a house on fire, though. He’s a large reason why I left.

  23. MIA is OK at times, or at least a symptom of poor meeting design*

    If some people are MIA in parts of the meeting that aren’t closely relevant to their work, but become engaged at key moments, that’s probably not that bad assuming they are actually working (on something else) when they appear MIA.

  24. Apple22Over7*

    I’ll admit I’m a number 2. Mainly because the other people I work with who are in attendance at the meetings are loud, boisterous types and I simply don’t have the energy to try and raise my volume to beat theirs. I’ll contribute when asked my opinion, and I’ll speak up when I need to, but for the majority of a meeting I’ll let everyone else do the talking and generally find the points I want to raise are covered by other people.

    1. fposte*

      Oh, yeah. The Figurehead. Sometimes simultaneously a Monopolizer, sometimes just the person who lets the Monopolizers run riot. Ugh.

    2. HR lady*

      r, I agree. There are techniques for running a productive meeting – many people don’t know this (or don’t care).

    3. PJ*

      Or the absent leader. The president of a company I worked for would let us know that she would be late for a meeting she’d called, but rather than reschedule she insisted that we go ahead without her. She would arrive 20 minutes late and then make us rehash the first 20 minutes to bring her up to date, and then make us change every conclusion we’d come to. Honestly, we’d have gotten a lot more done a lot more quickly if we’d just postponed the meeting until she got there.

    4. Jules*

      I am guilty. I kick off meetings to discuss relevant issues, even if it stretches for 2 hours because people need to have their say but I know people hate that. I am trying to fix it though!

  25. Laura*

    I’d love to hear some thoughts on strategies for those of us who recognize ourselves in the descriptors. I find myself battling against being the Silent Shadow all too often. What can I do to have more confidence about speaking up in meetings? It’s particularly bad when I end up in a meeting with a Monopolizer.

    1. Sharm*

      Same here. I just don’t feel smart enough, and the few times I have spoken up, it was clear my questions or thoughts were silly. So I’d just much rather let the group hash it out, since I clearly don’t know what I’m doing.

      I’m exaggerating a bit; I just know my strengths are not in meeting settings. I am SO much better at one-on-one. It’s gotten incrementally better with time for me. I’ve had a couple of new jobs in the past few years, and I try from the beginning of each job to jump in and ask questions at meetings. I figure when I’m new, it’s acceptable to do so, and it’ll eventually shift into being a more constructive contributor the longer I’m there.

      1. Positivity Boy*

        What it is about being one-on-one that makes you more successful? It seems weird to me that your questions and thoughts would be valued in a solo context, but the same questions and thoughts would be wrong in a group. Maybe it’s not so much the group vs. solo context as it is the specific people in your group that are causing the issue. If you’re in a meeting with Joe and Bob and Joe always shoots you down, but when you work with Bob one-on-one he likes your ideas, that’s an issue with Joe, not an issue with working a group.

        1. VintageLydia*

          Honestly for me, I’m not a quick thinker. I just observe and absorb at meetings but I don’t think of contributions or questions until I’ve had a chance to mull things over. In the moment I come off like an idiot because I haven’t had the time I personally need to figure things out. I also tend toward the rudely blunt unless I have a chance to mentally reword stuff. I can ask essentially the same question later without being as abrasive.

          1. squid*

            Two possible suggestions:
            If people aren’t providing background material ahead of time, it might be because they’re used to no one actually reading it ahead of time. (Unfortunate result of #4.) If you ask for background material they may be very happy to provide it, and then you’ll be able to bring questions or comments to the meeting.
            I’ve also often gone up to someone at the end of the meeting and let them know I’d like to think further about [thing they were looking for feedback on] and will be emailing them by the end of the day. This has been well received.

            I don’t know, it’s putting more work on you, but I like the idea of reminding the people you work with in subtle ways that not everyone performs the same way in the same contexts, and that they can still expect the best of you just on a slightly different timeframe.

          2. Elysian*

            I don’t know if this will help you, but I actually re-word stuff before saying it. I bring a notepad and pen to meetings and literally write out my questions word for word when they come up. Sometimes I’m starting starting my question with “I just wanted to add/ask, about the previous point…” after people have moved on, but I find it helpful for me to actually write it out, sometimes. It feels idiotic, but it helps.

          3. Julie*

            Yes! Both things! Need time to think things through before I have anything constructive to add. And it takes time for me to figure out what I want to say in a way that isn’t rude. I’m a genuinely nice and kind person, but adding the “padding” language around my blunt opinions does not come naturally. I just take the time I need, and so far it’s been OK.

        2. Sharm*

          What VintageLydia said. I just don’t think well on my feet and I need time to process.

          And also, I prefer being shot down by one person rather than in front of a group. It’s the failing or looking like a buffoon in front of multiple people that kills me.

    2. Positivity Boy*

      Do you find that you aren’t saying anything because you legitimately don’t have anything that needs to be contributed to the discussion, or because you’re worried that what you want to say is wrong/you don’t know how to interject into the conversation? If it’s the former, I would consider the subject of the meeting prior to it starting and write down at least one thing you want to discuss, as well as what you want to say about it so that if it comes up organically, you already have a prepared opinion. If it’s the latter, remember that you’ve been invited to the meeting for a reason. If your input weren’t valid or valued, the organizer wouldn’t have bothered to include you. I mean, yes, sometimes everyone just gets included in a meeting because it’s a department meeting even if the specific organizer hates you and ignores everything you say, but if the result of the meeting is going to impact you in some way, your opinion on that result is important enough to bring up.

  26. Dianne*

    Uncanny – I was just in a meeting and all of these types were present PLUS there was an annoying coffee slurper guy. There were snacks though, so that made it OK. When there are no snacks everyone tones down their bad behavior (except the coffee guy) and we are very productive, but I am not about to suggest we do away with snacks.

  27. Ali*

    I definitely have had Monopolizers in our meetings. We have hour-long meetings every other week, and sometimes, we will spend half an hour on one agenda item because one person can’t stop asking questions or making long-winded comments. Then we have to rush through the rest of the agenda because my manager doesn’t take control and say “let’s discuss this later” or something of the sort…he just lets people go on and on and on. I appreciate that my company is open minded and will listen to issues/feedback, but at the same time, I can’t stand listen to one person talk for a whole first half of the meeting when there are other concerns to get to.

  28. greenlily*

    My workplace cowers in fear of Believes Himself (Erroneously) To Be The Sole Voice Of Rationality Guy. Any staff meeting in which staff are informed of any kind of upcoming change (operational, policy, anything) will inevitably find itself bedeviled by this guy as soon as the floor is opened for questions.

    He’s not a Derailer, exactly, because his questions are always related to the topic and they’re often good questions. But his questions are always asked with a smug expression that implies that a. the meeting leader is an idiot, b. he’s smarter than everyone else at the meeting because he thought of these questions first, and c. everyone else at the meeting is a sheep, while he’s the only one who dares to ask The Tough Questions.

    He’s by far the longest-standing company employee (30+ years at this point) and is the head of one of the few departments that’s completely concrete and hands-on. And our workplace is structured such that most of the meeting leaders are female. So there’s also always an element of “smart hands-on guy who doesn’t hold with all this book-larnin’, schooling the silly women in the practical realities of life”–mansplaining with a side order of anti-intellectualism and Father Knows Best.

    Needless to say, meeting leaders have learned to moderate the questions period of the meetings very, very carefully to limit this guy. It’s only a matter of time before he notices.

  29. Kat*

    We have a bloke who just *has to* give out action items to everyone at our management meetings. He’s not the highest level person there, but he compulsively butts in to “provide suggestions” for every single item.

    I’m pretty sure he thinks a) that he genuinely knows better than everyone and b) that this is the way to get noticed by the more senior management. But frankly, it’s just annoying and has the unintended effect of people ignoring everything he says…

  30. squid*

    The Talks Over Other People person.

    There’s so many of them here. I saw a mention of interrupting in a sexist context above, and that’s maybe some of it, but it’s not all of it. Just … people who start talking while someone else is already talking, and because they’re louder they get to keep going. Please just let us finish our sentences before you start in!

    I’ve been trying to fight fire with fire but maybe I’m just making things worse, I don’t even know.

    On the other hand, I’ve got a monthly committee meeting where everyone is polite and soft-spoken and the meetings get quieter & quieter until it’s almost uncanny.

    1. Kera*

      I’ve got a weekly meeting with a whole group of these. I’ve developed situational ear infections “sorry guys, this ear infection is really messing with me and I can’t hear when we all start talking over each other – can we separate it out so I can follow the thread?”

      Usually works for 15 minutes until they need another prod.

    2. Anonymous*

      I have this in friends. Who are basically interrupting me before I can even get more than one word out and then when I raise my voice only slightly to say “hey, listen I’m actually saying something you need to know” *I* get told off for being “so snappy”…. yeah. fun….

  31. Diane*

    Our department meetings exemplify all of these. My boss is a figurehead who does not give us agendas and who does not move the meeting along. Some of my colleagues are bored beyond belief and use meetings to fill time, so we go off on tangents that are related to meeting topics, but not necessary for the whole group (the history of a piece of software or a policy and why a new idea will never work). I am insanely busy, so if the meeting is still dragging after an hour, I leave to tackle a project or go to another meeting.

  32. AB*

    Depending on the meeting, I tend to be a #2. The problem is I’m asked to participate in a lot of high-level meetings where my role is to take care of the details once the meeting is over. My presence in these meetings is important because I need to know the overall picture and get an idea of what needs to be done to accomplish the tasks, but I generally have nothing of any substance to add to the conversation. For example: we were planning for a facility visit from an investor. I went to the planning meeting with the execs because I was going to be the one setting up the presentations, sending out invites to presenters, arranging the transportation and tour, etc. I was not about to get into a discussion with the executives whether they should highlight project A or project B because I really had no useful insight.

    This is a frequent occurrence, and it was actually brought up in my mid-year review that I need to “contribute more” with the aforementioned situation used as an example. I went home, thought about what was said, and then sat down with the exec later and laid out my situation and asked in what way they were looking for me to contribute to the conversation. He didn’t know, he just said it was weird that I was there and not talking. So, just because there is someone in the meeting who doesn’t talk doesn’t mean they aren’t contributing to the overall project. It may just mean that they are there to stay informed so they can complete tasks tangentially.

    1. Sadsack*

      Maybe an occasional “Harumph” or “I concur!” would help!

      Sorry, I am joking. I do hope that your manager was more helpful when you followed up. Telling you to contribute without making any useful suggestions is not very helpful.

      1. AB*

        He was and he wasn’t, it was more about expectation change. On the one hand he didn’t give me any advice on how he was looking for me to contribute, but on the other hand he stopped expecting me to contribute when it was clear that I was there for informational purposes. My point was that sometimes there’s a person in the meeting that isn’t saying anything or adding to the conversation, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re dead weight. They may be there because it is the most effective way for them to keep up the the information being discussed.

  33. Laura2*

    The monopolizer is my least favorite, because they’re also the people who make the meeting run an hour overtime dealing with all their special problems.

  34. Anon*

    To be honest, I was a Silent Shadow (and I’m also stealing that as my superhero name) at an internship a few years ago. The job advertisement said the work would involve a whole bunch of responsibilities and tasks, but it turned out that the woman who became my boss just wanted a personal assistant.

    All she ever had me do was book meetings for her for a big project she was working on. That’s. It. And then she would have me attend the meetings when I had nothing to contribute, because the project was totally unrelated to my field of study and past experience, and I wasn’t working on it in any real capacity. She didn’t actually *expect* me to contribute – I was essentially a pawn in her plan to make herself seem important to people outside the organization.

    I’m sure more than a few of my fellow attendees must have wondered why I was just sitting there and not saying anything, and I really resented being forced in this position.

  35. Anon*

    Can we add the “Clueless Boss”? They’ve popped into the 12th in a series of meetings (think agile style gathering user stories or functional plans) and has no clue what’s going on or any understanding of the new software/project and proceeds to ask all the questions that have no relevance. AND you send them everything they needed in an email earlier.

  36. Scott M*

    The Missing-in-Action – I’m this guy. Because of all the dotted-lines in our department, meetings swell with huge numbers of employees that have no reason to be there… except that they MIGHT, possibly, maybe, sometimes need to be involved.

    So I bring my laptop and work while the meeting is going on. Rarely do I get asked to participate.

  37. MaryMary*

    The Grudge Holder. Not quite a Monopolizer or Naysayer, but someone who never misses an opportunity to point out how this situation could be helped by Proposal Not Implemented, or how this scenario could be avoided if only we were still following Failed Initiative.

    I work with two of these. One has a good idea that isn’t a priority with current resources, and the other tried to roll out a process that was roundly rejected by the staff. They’re driving me nuts.

  38. Jessica*

    It used to be my job to run our weekly meetings. It was the most thankless task ever. No one was ever prepared, despite me sending out an agenda in advance, everyone was always late and would bitch about how long the meetings took and then those same people would jibber jabber about off-topic things for an hour in the middle of the meeting. And of course, I had no power to do anything about it because I was low man on the totem pole. So glad those days are over!

  39. littlemoose*

    We have a variant on the Derailers – the few folks in large meetings who ask multiple tangentially related questions to announcements that are made and pursue the point when it’s really meant to be a broad informational meeting for people with different job functions. At least half of the people in these large meetings have zero to do with the items being asked about. Ask the meeting leader after the meeting, on your own time, and follow up with the other people who also handle that job function via e-mail if something changes. It’s the keeping 20+ people longer who have absolutely no use for this information that you won’t stop nitpicking about that drives me bonkers.

  40. Bee*

    What do you do if the Naysayer is your boss? We have an all-staff meeting on Thursday (all seven of us!) that is a brainstorming session regarding a possible big move for our organization. The possibilities are wide open at this point and I’m working on some big ideas of how I’d like to see my programs grow. However, our director is not much of a visionary or risk-taker and is quick to dismiss things she doesn’t think we’re capable of, aren’t well-proven successes, or are just complicated (especially if it’s involves new technology). Normally for anything I’d like to implement, I’d do my research and bring her a plan which forces her to consider it longer and think it through, but this meeting is just supposed to be brainstorming, plus the whole thing is very preliminary and may not even come to fruition, so I can’t put the time into a lot of research.
    I hope she’ll keep an open mind, but I expect to get discouraged really quickly.

    1. Jamie*

      Come with a plan anyway. Oh, just for fun I worked up a little CBA about Plan A…why don’t we just take a look…

      Always communicate in the language of the person from whom you need buy in. I’m a numbers/fact person. You put some cursory ballpark figures in front of me along with some bullet points of the benefits and resources needed and you have my attention. I work with some brilliant people who are need dialogue first. They don’t want to see a spreadsheet until there has been discussion and reach consensus to explore the plan.

      When you want something from someone use the language of their happy place. I learned this as a kid really young but it’s been ridiculously helpful in business.

      (Whining, pouting, and being adorable never worked with my mom. Not once – what worked with her was a logical argument supporting whatever I was trying to get away with. That never worked with my dad…I think he was incapable of conceding any argument no matter if the evidence came notarized. But a little pouting…and tears if he was being particularly difficult, threatening to never smile at him again if I didn’t get my way…that unlocked a yes every single time. My mom would just roll her eyes and tell me to go point it at my father.

      Anyway, to avoid being shut down out of the gate think about their communication style and tailor your approach.

  41. Cath@VWXYNot?*

    I used to work with a Monopolizer whose specialty was preempting every single thing in any given presentation. I think it was an insecurity thing, to prove to everyone how well she knew the subject, so I have a morsel of sympathy, but it was really annoying when the presenter would load up the title slide and this person would immediately launch into “you should do this, and have you considered this, and then make sure you include this” before you could start the presentation proper, even when the presenter was saying “actually that’s on my next slide, if I could just…”.

    I had to change my whole presentation style when I was in meetings with her – I’m usually not a fan of that whole “tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them, then tell them what you just told them” thing, but then there I would be, with no title slide (GAAH!) and a “presentation outline” table of contents up first (ACK!), and she’d still try to preemptively go over every single thing I was going to talk about! She was much more senior than me (and otherwise very competent and mostly nice), so there was no choice but to roll with it.

    My boss’s boss is bringing in an outside meetings facilitator trainer for our team next month. Overall I’ve become much more confident and assertive at running meetings with time, but I know I could still do better and I’m looking forward to the training!

  42. Kera*

    My director at the moment is an Improviser. By which I mean, she sends out detailed and comprehensive agendas, but when the meeting starts, she throws it out the window. Take that 20-minute mint chocolate teapot presentation she asked for, and do it in three minutes instead! With a focus on raspberry-flavoured teapots!

  43. BadPlanning*

    Sometimes I’m the jumper inner. Someone is talking about something and my brain jumps ahead to the conclusion and blurts it out. It’s rather rude and I’m trying to retrain myself. Sometimes it’s okay to pick up the conclusion early…but often you’re just interrupting someone.

  44. Nonymous*

    We don’t have very frequent meetings (twice a semester more or less) but we have a few people who store all their resentment and unhappiness for the meeting and decide to dress down whoever it is they are upset with at the time. They rarely try to engage the person outside the meeting to for example get clarification or work things out. These are peers, not managers of said person. Unfortunately, our manager just sits there while they spew vitriolic saying the most offensive things.

    I would love to know how to intervene here but am not really sure how to without escalating things. When I’m the one on the receiving end, it is very hard not to get super defensive, which is not effective at all (working on that!) and feel all alone because no one dares speak up, including the manager unfortunately.

  45. Felicia*

    I have a bi monthly meeting and it’s full of monopolizers and nay sayers. I sometimes accidentally become number 2, because these loud negative people who go on and on about everything sometimes intimidate me. I do work for the organization, but I get nervous about talking about it at meetings, because I know I will be told instantly why it’s terrible, or just get overshadowed by more forceful people who want to spend the whole meeting on their thing. It’s something I work on.

  46. Anonymous*

    Not sure if this one has been mentioned but the “sarcastic grudge keeper” is one I hate.

    You mention possibly doing x on a project and you get about 20 minutes rehashing how ABC screwed that up for project Y (even if it was ancient) and turns it into a anger session about all the things that went wrong with that project even if they’ve since been settled and sorted in a productive matter. Everyone leaves the room with a sense of doom of about ever doing anything like X again and rehashing their part in the muck up on project Y rather than devoting their energy to getting THIS project to work.

    For example Team Leader:”So we will use program X to do task G….”
    SGK: “But last time we use program X, A happened, person T got blamed and yada yada yada….”
    TL: “yes, and we had a review meeting after than and implimented extra processes into Program X and its worked fine for the last three projects so thats all sorted now”
    SGK: “And (grudge talk…..)”
    Rest of Team: starts thinking about or muttering about how that mucked THEM up or if only person S had done this or that…

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