In most organizations, more teamwork usually means more meetings, which can be productive and positive or quite the opposite. Individuals who exhibit bullying behavior by dominating discussion can damage trust in the meeting and within teams.
In my more than three decades as an executive, consultant and executive coach, other than complaining about bosses who exhibit bullying behavior, frustration with unproductive and unpleasant meetings ranks very close. And a meeting bully inside the meeting room can have a negative influence outside the meeting room as well.
We have all seen or had experience with these meeting bullies. They dominate conversations in the meeting, intimidate their colleagues so that they are reticent to disagree with the meeting bully, or they withdraw and participate at a minimal level.
A recent study by Lise van Oortimerseen at Wageningen University shows that the frequency and length of time that individuals speak during meetings reflects their underlying relationships and the effectiveness of meetings. Her research data shows growing trust between collaboration partners is visible in the conversations they have during meetings. As trust increases, the participants talk not only more frequently, but also more briefly. Further, discussions in meetings visibly gained speed as participants went into a “flow,” elaborating on each other’s ideas and often arriving at creative solutions. Lise van Oortemerssen also concluded that the role of the meeting chairperson was critical by discouraging lengthy monologues and inviting others’ contributions.
Here’s some suggestions that could be of help for those running meetings in dealing with meeting bullies:
Meetings are not automatically productive, and nothing can derail a team or meeting like a dominating meeting bully. It’s incumbent on the meeting chair or facilitator to deal with this issue early and fast.