Whether it’s a big meeting or a quick huddle, the last thing you need is someone turning it into a personal gripefest.
Negative or “toxic” people who complain or point the finger are one of the chief reasons employees can’t stand meetings. Other common reasons:
- they run too long (or are held too often)
- some folks forced to attend don’t need to be there, and
- progress on a project can be shared via email, pings, chat, etc.
But few things run a meeting off track and put attendees in a foul mood more than complaining. All gripers do is waste everyone’s time and potentially cause problems between people.
Don’t let it go bad
When a productive meeting starts turning into a blame game, try these tactics to get back on course:
- Break into the chatter ASAP. Start out by agreeing with some positive point that’s been made and credit the person who made it.
- Lead the conversation in the right direction. The majority in the room want to talk about solutions, not blame each other. In most cases, the griper (or gripers) will get the hint and get off of their soapbox. If they don’t, offer to talk more about it with them after the meeting so that business can be discussed.
- Have a chat with the gripers after the meeting, particularly if they’re staffers who report to you. Remind them that the right time to blame others for problems on a project isn’t in front of the entire group. They should aim for a one-on-one conversation with you, or a meeting with the appropriate people beforehand.
Bottom line: Airing grievances in a group setting where, let’s face it, most people just want to get back to work, is unproductive and rude. Failure to abide by normal etiquette shouldn’t be tolerated by anyone.
Let the person know you’ve given them a verbal warning and more serious discipline is warranted should there be a second occurrence. If necessary, get HR involved in the meeting to make sure the message is heard loud and clear.