Jackie Edwards provides advice on dealing with difficult personality types in business meetings.
Office politics is nothing new - middle managers and department heads can sometimes feel more like schoolteachers when it comes to negotiating the gossip, backstabbing and generally childish behaviour that can make the antics at BBC’s 'The Office' look like the height of professionalism.
You might reasonably hope that when reach the senior echelons, you leave all that behind, but the truth is that you can encounter even more difficult personalities in the boardroom than you did in the lower ranks. And with more at stake, it is little wonder that boardroom battles can become the most stressful aspect of climbing the corporate ladder.
Here, we take a look at some of the most common personality traits you will encounter, along with some tips on dealing with them and keeping things running smoothly for a productive and stress-free meeting.
1) The domineering know-it-all
Every meeting seems to have one of these. The trouble is, at senior level it is often the most senior person, for example the CEO, so it is not as simple as just shutting them down. They tend to think there are only two ways of doing everything - either their way or the wrong way.
It is essential to have these kinds of characters on-side, particularly if they are at the top of the hierarchy, so a good strategy is to have a pre-meeting first to discuss the desired outcome of the meeting, and the importance of getting the views of other participants.
2) The distractor
How often have you tried to chair a meeting only for certain participants to decide to break off at the end of the table into their own discussion? In all honesty, it is impolite and is not the sort of behaviour you would accept from your children at the dinner table, yet some senior managers on six figure salaries feel it is perfectly normal.
There are a few strategies that could work here. In the first instance, glancing at the offenders , or holding the meeting up while they finish their conversation is enough to solve the problem. If you have a serial offender, try to make sure you are sitting next to him or her, and they are less likely to start their own side meeting.
3) Mr or Ms Argumentative
If everyone agreed on everything, there would be little point in having a discussion, but there are some who seem to want to argue for the sake of it. This can cause ill-feeling and make others reluctant to put forward a view if they know it will immediately be shot down in flames.
This is where your powers of diplomacy come to the fore. It is important not to take sides, but to try to draw out the objections into a question and involve the whole team in discussing the two sides of the argument.
Meetings are an important part of senior management, and there will always be diverse personality types to handle. One of the most important things to remember is we are all human, so keep the tone friendly, but still professional, and encourage mutual respect.
And when the going gets really tough, there is nothing like a smile and a little humour to diffuse a situation.