There’s one course that every company should make mandatory for all its employees: How not to be annoying in a meeting!
We’ve all been in meetings with annoying and obnoxious people who seem oblivious to the niceties of meeting etiquette.
In fact, as soon as you read that sentence, I’m sure a number of people popped into your head.
But in case you’re patient as a saint and have no idea what I’m talking about, let me point out some of my biggest pet peeves when it comes to annoying business meeting behaviors:
1) Texting, Taking Calls And Answering Emails
Hello, you’re in a meeting! Answering texts, getting up to take a call or answering emails is just downright rude and disruptive.
Some people think they’re slick and try to do it on the down low, but guess what? We all see them doing it.
USC’s Marshall School of Business conducted a nationwide survey of 554 full-time working professionals and found:
- 87% believe it’s rarely or never acceptable to answer calls in business meetings
- 76% of respondents said it was unacceptable behavior to check texts or emails in business meetings
- Only 34% of women, as opposed to 59% of men, thought it was OK to check text messages at a business lunch, and
- More than 30% of respondents still found it to be rarely/never appropriate during informal/offsite lunch meetings to take a call even if the person said excuse me.
Sure there are occasions when there may be an emergency and you’re waiting for a call. But if that’s the case, before the meeting starts tell the other attendees you may have to leave to take an important call.
Some people say it’s OK for a boss to answer a text or an email in a meeting, but all that says is they aren’t paying attention to the meeting and if they don’t, why should you?
So either silence your cell or leave it and your laptop at your desk.
2) Arriving Late . . . Every Time
Sure, everyone forgets or is late for a meeting at some point in time … even me! But there are those who are late for EVERY meeting.
Really, how hard is it to arrive at a meeting on time?
We have cell phones, Google calendar, paper calendars, etc. to remind us!
When people are constantly late to meetings it sends the message that their time is more important than everyone else’s.
These people just delay meetings, eat into your and everyone else’s time and make you less productive than you could be.
If you know one of these people, the best thing to do is sit them down and remind them that being late to a meeting is disrespectful … not charming.
3) Eating A Snack Or Beverage
We are all adults, so do you really need to have a snack during a meeting? NO!
We aren’t 5-years old any more. So have your snack before or after your meeting.
And if you eat a snack before a meeting, check your teeth for any leftovers. There’s nothing more distracting than someone who’s talking with food stuck in his or her teeth – it’s like you can’t see anything else but that tiny bit of leftovers.
Drinking is another story.
Drinking water is good for you so you should be able to have it in a meeting. However, don’t slug it back or chug it like your slamming down a nice cold brew. Little gentle sips are all that’s required to wet your taste buds. You won’t die of thirst before the meeting is over.
When it comes to coffee and tea, remember if you just got it, it’s going to be hot! So let it cool before taking a sip, because there’s nothing, and I mean nothing, more annoying than a “slurpper” in a meeting.
4) Constantly Fidgeting Or Tapping
This may be an obvious one, but people who can’t sit still and pay attention to a meeting are distracting to everyone else in the room.
Whether it’s tapping their toe, wiggling their leg or foot, shifting from side to side, twirling their hair, tapping or clicking a pen or picking their nails, it’s annoying and distracting.
Sometimes a subtle glance at whatever they’re doing will deliver the message “stop it” clearly. Other times, you’ll have to pull the person aside after the meeting and talk to them. It might be a nervous twitch or bad habit that they’ve had for so long they don’t even know they’re doing it. Calling their attention to it can help them stop.
5) Talking Nonstop
Every company, department and meeting has at least one rambler who loves, loves, loves to hear himself talk about anything and everything. And even though no one else in the meeting thinks the person is adding anything important through their incessant chatter, the “Spotlight Lover” thinks his input is indispensable.
Ramblers are detrimental to meetings because everyone else has a tendency to tune out. This leads to long, unproductive meetings, which often means another meeting will be needed. To avoid this, interrupt the person and paraphrase (if you can) what they are trying to say to get their point across and make them shut up!
6) Repeating Points
What some people fail to understand is they don’t have to make an earth-shattering statement at every meeting. It’s actually OK to nod in agreement or say, “I agree.” Instead, they repeat someone else’s point – sometimes creatively, but often times not – just to let everyone else in the room know they’re there and have added some “noise” to the meeting.
Problem is, these people waste time just like ramblers do.
Feel free to call them out by asking them if they have anything new to add. Making people aware of their annoying habit can embarrass them once or twice, but hopefully they’ll get your point and stop.
People who pontificate during meetings think the world revolves around them, because they are the smartest, hardest working, most creative person in the room.
In reality, they’re some of the most annoying human beings on this planet.
They use meetings as their stage to get pats on the back from superiors and take credit for anything and everything they can – even if they don’t deserve it – because they have to show how valuable and important they are … or think they are.
With pontificators, you have to interrupt them and quickly move on to another point so you can stay on track. This will catch them off guard and make them stop talking for a split second, because who in the heck would have the nerve to interrupt their brilliant speech. Be ready to jump in and get the meeting back on track.
8) Being An Endless ‘Negative Ned’ Or ‘Negative Nelly’
These people are solely in meetings to point out everything that’s wrong with everyone else’s ideas. But they never offer a solution of their own.
Instead they tear everyone else’s ideas to shreds making the other attendees so self-conscious they don’t want to participate any more.
The best way to deal with Negative Neds or Nellys is to let them express their opinion once or twice, and then remind them that if they don’t have anything positive or constructive to add, it’s best to remain quiet and listen.
When we were young our parents taught us to share. But there are those, who now that they’re adults, take it to the extreme.
A meeting is not the place to share the intimate detail of their personal life. Honestly, no one wants to hear about what a great drinker they are or even how sick they were.
Maybe it’s the trapped meeting audience that gets them going or maybe they just like everyone to know how cool … not cool … they are. Whatever it is, if they don’t stop in a few minutes – and I mean two minutes, not five or 10 – interrupt them and remind them you want to keep the meeting to the allocated time and still cover the agenda so you’re going to move on.
They may not care for you much afterward, but they’ll know you don’t tolerate their inappropriate oversharing and all the rest of the attendees will love you!
10) Interrupting Others
Unlike the pontificator or the oversharer, the interrupter never lets anyone finish a sentence or thought without interjecting their own brilliant opinion, which of course is better than everyone else’s opinion.
Luckily for them they have a never-ending stream of opinions and ideas they feel are absolutely necessary to share.
They’ll often change the subject too before you’re finished with it, because they have something else that they just have to share.
To get the meeting back on track, beat them at their own game – interrupt them. Thank them for their opinion, but let them know you weren’t ready to move on.
Sure, it’s not nice to embarrass people, but sometimes it’s necessary for certain people to get the point.
11) Whining, Pouting And Sulking
OK so how old are we? In a professional meeting there shouldn’t be anyone who’s whining, pouting or sulking, but there are.
You’ve seen them!
If they don’t get their way or their idea isn’t embraced with open arms, they whine, pout and sulk, and they do it each and every time.
Your best bet with these people is just to ignore them. Giving them more attention just encourages their childish behavior.
No matter which behavior annoys you most, the bottom line is they’re disrespectful to the other meeting attendees, and they’re distracting.
Just think how productive all meetings would be if we could eliminate these behaviors!
Another one would be the daydreamers that have no idea of what is going on in the meeting or what was said.
Renee Cocchi says
The daydreamer is a good one to add to the list. Granted, we’ve all had times when we’re distracted from work by something else going on in our lives, but in this case we’re talking about people who do this consistently and add nothing to the meetings they attend.
Good reminders for us all; I have caught myself interrupting others which can be done quite innocently while on a conference call since there is no eye contact or any other indication the other person is finished speaking. I try to wait a few seconds and then speak.
Renee Cocchi says
At some point in time I’m sure we’ve all been guilty of being annoying in a meeting. But it’s doing these things time and time again that make them an issue. Conference calls are a whole other ball of wax. I wish everyone waited a few second before speaking on a conference call. It’s just common courtesy.
The worst for me is the guy who is engaging someone in a side discussion while the main meeting is happening. Incredibly rude to the speaker and everyone trying to listen.
Renee Cocchi says
That’s a great one to add to the list! Not only is it rude, but it’s extremely disrespectful. And you know if someone did it to them, they would have a fit about it!
Pranksters, Players and Pals……should be banned from meetings. These are the ones with the inside jokes, hand signals, pre-plan to disrupt or take the meeting off base – unless and until they can claim “center stage” for a few brief moments of fame. Even if it’s to tell them to straighten up and get into the meeting.
Renee Cocchi says
Definitely, and I’ve known plenty of them. All you want to do is tell them to grow up! Thanks for adding them to the list.
Adam Lofquist says
The only problem with this article, okay not with this article but in general. The people that are reading this are the ones that do not do this. How do we share this with people that are not on the wagon?
Renee Cocchi says
Adam, that’s a very good point, and if you figure out the answer, please share it with me. I myself would leave this article anonymously on people’s chairs, or maybe have a mandatory meeting on meeting etiquette.
Adam Lofquist says
Thank you Renee, I could see maybe leaving it on the person’s desk but I am not sure how that would affect the culture of the organization.
Renee Cocchi says
Adam, it probably wouldn’t be the best idea that’s for sure. I would probably hold an etiquette meeting or just send a company-wide email on best meeting habits and then throw in a few “don’t do these things” at the end of the meeting/email.
In reading through your list, what I gather is you are griping about people who behave as though they don’t want to be in the meeting. Guess what?? They’re behaving that way because they don’t want to be in the meeting!! Arriving late, not participating, fidgeting, looking bored. . . Those are all signs that the person/people don’t want to be there. Duh!!
We all know that meetings are a necessary evil in the corporate world, but often times they are too frequent and a waste of one’s time. How often do you attend a meeting for an hour and maybe 10 to 20 minutes of what is discussed is pertinent to what you are working on?
Every minute you spend in a meeting is a minute not spent doing actual work. You’re not accomplishing anything concrete in a meeting. You’re just running your mouthes. THAT’s why you get so many bored, unenthusiastic and innattentive attendees. Many probably don’t participate because they want it to hurry up a be over. In other words, they want you to STFU, so they can get back to actual work.
My solution as a Program Manager is to have fewer and smaller meetings where others get more out of it. Don’t waste so much time just talking.