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Top 5 Most Annoying—And Productivity-Stealing— Personalities in a Meeting

Young professionals, learn how best to navigate an unavoidable part of business

As we all know, meetings are a prevalent and essential part of the business world. They can also be a major hindrance to productivity if they’re not conducted efficiently and with a specific goal in mind.

I’ve been to what seems like millions of meetings at various companies and in various capacities in my career. Learning to effectively navigate a meeting can be a challenge to say the least, especially when there are oftentimes several diverse personalities at play during them. Some of these personalities only help to make issues that much more difficult to table, or create a snowball effect of breakdowns in team-building or leadership.

Take a look at five such personalities to determine whether you’re an offender—or how to manage when you’re at the mercy of one:

1. Ms. Repeatedly Re-word The Same Question … Over and Over Again: This person, whether they actually understand something or not, will keep asking the same question over and over, or oftentimes will ask irrelevant questions that halt progress of the meeting.

You’ll want to side-eye them—maybe even kiss your teeth—but fight the urge. It’s not really your concern whether they’re deliberately oblivious or are just having a hard time keeping up with everyone else in the meeting. Remain focused, take the notes you need to take, and listen out for clarifications—if there are any.

2. Mr. Talk Alot: The sound of their own voice is typically what delights them most. They may add unnecessary elaboration to points of the meeting that should be concise, or they may hold extra conversations on the side while others have the floor. Either way, they are typically rude, oblivious to their diarrhea of the mouth or a combination of both.

If you’re an innocent bystander, take a deep breath, look over the agenda, write your own notes or ideas, and if there’s a pause, interject a quick question or point of your own—directed at someone else.

3. Mr. No Elaboration: This is the person who doesn’t talk enough. They will constantly answer questions or respond to comments with a terse, “It’s in your notes… It’s in the e-mail… It’s on the slide.”

Give this person the benefit of the doubt. They just may not be great communicators in front of groups and use the defense mechanism of short responses or blind references to their presentation. It might be a great idea to take them to the side with your questions or become an advocate by working with them to get information that directly affects the job you do. 

4. Ms. Micro-Issue: She’s that person who will talk about an issue or question that only affects her, not the whole department or company—in a departmental or company-wide meeting. In managing your reaction to this personality, focus your attention on other points of interest or write notes on other tasks you’d like to focus on relevant to the meeting. Another option is to actually listen closely to her issues since a micro issue may actually be linked to your job or a change that the overall company or department needs to make.

5. Mr. She-Just-Said-That-But-I-Get-The-Credit: This can happen quite often in meetings, and I have yet to see this happen in reverse (ie. a woman saying something that a man said and she gets the credit for the great idea.) Throwing a temper tantrum—or a chair—won’t get you the positive attention you need. Put your team hat on. So, it was a great idea, and he (or she, just to be fair) totally took your shine. Be sure you’re on the team to turn the idea into reality, and if there’s an opportunity for you to lead the charge, take it. Also, try to make the person who does this an advocate, not an enemy, especially if their reputation holds more weight at the company than yours.

The moral of this story: If you’re at the mercy of any of these personalities, fight the urge to pull your hair out or play Candy Crush during meetings. Learn how to leverage your involvement with them so that it works for you.

If you are one of these personalities, find ways to reverse your meeting habits. Be more conscious of your role in the meeting and whether it’s adding to solutions or problems.

As a young professional, you’ll have years of meetings to schedule, lead and be an active part of, so you might as well make the best of them.

What other personalities have you noticed in meetings that hinder productivity? #Soundoff and follow me on Twitter @JPHazelwood.

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