3 Common Meeting Dysfunctions and How to Handle Them

While we are editorial independent and recommend the best products through an independent review process, we may receive compensation if you click on links to partners we recommend.

Sections of this topic

    Here are three common dysfunction types I’ve seen in the meeting room. (Haven’t we all?) Let’s look at these specific dysfunctions and simple actions you can take to address them.

    1. The Late Arriver/Early Leaver

    Dysfunction
    The Late Arriver/or Early Leaver

    Behavior
    Habitually arrives late to the session or leaves early

    Action

    • Remind the group of the ground rules (i.e., start and end on time).
    • Discuss privately during the break to ensure there is not an additional problem.

    2. The Loudmouth

    Dysfunction
    The Loudmouth

    Behavior
    Dominates the discussion

    Action

    • At the start of the next process, use a round-robin discussion to get everyone involved.

    You (Facilitator): “Let’s hear from everyone on this next point. With this question, I would like to start with Sandra and go around the room. The question is…”

    • At the break, solicit the person’s assistance in getting other people to speak. Remember to empathize with the symptom. Let them know that from time to time you will purposely not call on them to encourage others to speak.

    You (Facilitator): “I appreciate you being willing to speak, especially given that most have been pretty quiet. I need your assistance, though. I need to get other people speaking more. Any thoughts on how we might do that.”

    Participant: “You’re right. I often find myself dominating the discussion because no one else is speaking up.”

    You (Facilitator): “Why don’t we do this: after the break, I’m going to be using a lot more round robins to try to engage more people in the discussion. And from time to time, you might want to say something, but I will intentionally call on others to get them involved. Will that work for you?”

    Participant: “That’s fine. Thanks for letting me know.”

    • Occasionally, make it a point to acknowledge the person’s desire to speak, but call on someone else.

    3. The Drop-out

    Dysfunction
    The Drop-out

    Behavior
    Silent, lacking participation, facing door or window

    Action

    • Remind the group of the ground rules (i.e., every one speaks).
    • Employ a round-robin brain-storming activity to get everyone involved. Start two or three people before the drop-out to avoid putting the person on the spot and to provide the person time to prepare an answer.

    You (Facilitator): “Let’s hear from everyone on this next point. With this question, I would like to start with [Jeff] and go around the room. The question is…”

    • Discuss privately during the break to ensure there is not an additional problem.

    What about all of the other dozen or so dysfunctions in your meeting room? How do you deal with the Whisperer, the Workaholic, or the Naysayer? Surely, you’ve seen those in your meetings too. Leadership Strategies’ course, The Effective Facilitator, teaches you techniques on how to handle those dysfunctions too. Plus, you’ll learn the general formula for responding to and preventing dysfunction so that your meetings don’t turn into disasters. Download this free eBook – Managing Dysfunction – for extra support.

    ________________________

    Certified Master Facilitator Michael Wilkinson is the CEO and Managing Director of Leadership Strategies, Inc., The Facilitation Company and author of the new The Secrets of Facilitation 2nd Edition, The Secrets to Masterful Meetings, and The Executive Guide to Facilitating Strategy. Leadership Strategies is a global leader in facilitation services, providing companies with dynamic professional facilitators who lead executive teams and task forces in areas like strategic planning, issue resolution, process improvement and others. The company is also a leading provider of facilitation training in the United States.