Bad Meetings

Many of us have experienced tension and conflict in meetings. This can be exciting and energizing, but it can also hurt the team’s progress and morale. If you’re in charge of a meeting and conflict occurs, what is your role? How do you restore peace? How can you assure that these conflicts don’t harm your work?

Conflict in business meetings usually falls into two categories:

  1. Real professional differences: Conflict can arise from very real differences in professional opinions. In many cases, these differences don’t develop into open conflict. But conflict is more likely when the outcome is extremely important, when the decision being made is irreversible, or when the impact of making the wrong decision will reflect badly on those involved.
  2. Power struggles and personality issues: Conflict can arise when individuals or groups dislike one-another, or feel that their positions are being threatened. This type of conflict tends to be more about people’s personalities than about “facts” or decisions being made.

The best way to avoid conflicts in your meetings is to prepare properly, taking all factors into consideration. It’s particularly important to make sure your expectations match what the group is capable of handling. Know yourself, and your team, well enough so that you’re aware of tensions that may exist between people – and have strategies in place to deal with them.

If anger and conflict arise, move back to your agenda by questioning people to determine the immediate cause of the conflict. Develop questions to get people to clearly state their problems and issues. By doing this, you’ll guide people back to rational thinking, focus group energy, and encourage learning and problem solving.

Summing-up: The next time you’re in a meeting, closely watch the body language of participants. If you’re chairing the meeting, consider a brief questioning session to reduce tension in anyone who shows signs of anger or frustration. This may not only help prevent a conflict, but it should also bring useful clarity to the situation.

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