Here are 5 useful ways to manage aggressive team meetings. Are there any that you use that aren’t on the list?
Aggressive team meetings aren’t fun. Not for you, the PM, nor for the other team members. Here are five ways that you might find useful to change things up:
1. Be Silent
An angry or aggressive person wants to let off steam and sometimes no one or nothing will stop that. They are believing something that has triggered their anger. If they don’t know how to manage that emotion they will automatically express it. One of the best things that you can do is to be silent. Don’t respond in any way. Let the person vent their anger. This may take a while, and that’s okay. Very soon they will realise that others are silent and they will hear themselves. When this happens, they too will become silent. They won’t necessarily like or recognise what they hear.
2. Stop the meeting
No one says that you have to continue the meeting. Stop the meeting right there and then. Some time after the meeting has ended go and approach the people who were most aggressive (if there were more than one of them) and talk to them about what was happening for them in the meeting. This is time to explore with them what they felt they weren’t getting. You may be surprised to find that they didn’t feel heard, for example. Really listen to their concerns or issues and let them know that you’ve heard them (if this is what they have had an issue with).
3. Consider who has the problem
Notice the dynamics in the room. Are there one or two participants who appear to have a problem with each other, or the way that they are working. In that moment of noticing call a time out and suggest that you tackle the discussion about that item or issue in a different way. Then set up a meeting between those two people and yourself. Enter that discussion with the ground rules that each person has a right to speak, a right to be heard. Ask one to go first and express what is happening for them. Take note of the key things that they are expressing, their concerns, or what they have issues with. Then ask the other person to speak and do the same thing. Again, you listen and take notes. Once both people have spoken (and this works for teams too), summarize what you heard from each of them so that they can confirm if you captured things correctly. Then it’s time to openly discuss their concerns or issues one at a time to come to a mutual resolution point. This might sound hard, and when you get into it, it’s not.The more calm and non emotional you are, the easier this is for you and the other team members. The key here is in having all parties involved feeling they have been heard.
4. Notice your thoughts
Notice in the moment when you hear the raised voices or perceive someone as being aggressive what thoughts are going through your head in that moment. Are you noticing that you aren’t feeling safe? Do you have a fear that it will escalate into something more. What are all of the thoughts that are running? What story do you have about the whole situation and what will or won’t happen? In that moment, are you OK? Are you sitting at the table, on a chair? Are you holding your book and standing leaning against the wall? Are you okay? I am pretty certain that in that moment you will notice that you are okay. You might have a great story running in your head about what’s happening or going to happen, and it is just that, a story. Other than what you are thinking and believing, you are okay. You are safe and nothing is hurting you at all in that moment.
5. Remember “Rule Number 6“
I have recently been reading a book titled ‘The Art of Possibility’ by Rosamund & Benjamin Zander. In it they introduce ‘Rule Number 6.’ They explain it this way: “The practice of rule number six is to lighten up, and not take yourself too seriously. By doing this you may notice that the whole room might lighten up around you. This is not about telling other people not to take themselves so seriously, unless the whole group has voluntarily adopted the practice. What might work is telling a joke in the midst of a tense situation as an invitation to camaraderie. Humor and laughter are perhaps the best way we can ‘get over ourselves.’ Humor can bring us together around our inescapable foibles, confusions, and miscommunication, and especially over the ways in which we find ourselves acting entitled and demanding, or putting other people down, or flying at each other’s throats.” This approach might work in some situations. You will need to read if it is appropriate or not.
I would love your feedback on which one of these worked the most effectively for you? Give them all a try and post a comment or send me an email.