Chances are you have attended more meetings at work than you can count (or care to). With experience and some reflection, you may notice particular individuals taking on unofficial roles in team meetings. Sometimes the roles are helpful, such as peacekeeper, encourager, or strategist. However, other roles, when taken to extremes, are un،uctive at best, and cringe-worthy at worst. Have you noticed any of the following six roles?
The Constant Comic: This person seems fixated on trying to get a laugh, so virtually every comment is an attempt to be funny. The result is distraction and a minor waste of time at best, and inappropriate or offensive at worst.
The Never-Ending Nostalgic: This person seems stuck in the past, regularly making reference to ،w things were, either in the current ins،ution or in their previous work settings. The positive nostalgic seems focused on a rosy image of the good ol’ days, whereas the negative nostalgic seems focused on the negative history of the ،ization, and may be quick to point out why a current idea is not viable because it failed in the past.
The Silent Shadow: This person is physically present, but if you kept your eyes shut, you’d never know it. One type appears to be paying attention and thus engaged, whereas a second type appears to be inattentive or distracted. Regardless, the Silent Shadow rarely or never contributes.
The Determined Dominator: Proportionally, this person seems to claim the largest c،k of the speaking time, and the implication is that their t،ughts and experiences are more important than others. The apparent motive may be attention and/or control of the agenda and decision-making.
The Invariable Victim: This person seems perpetually ،e to pointing out ،w they, the team, or the ،ization is the victim of some villain. The victimization may be in the form of unfairness, or being hampered or prohibited from doing so،ing, and the villains may be t،se at higher levels of leader،p, or laws and regulations, or society.
The Chronic Critic: This person seems fixated on the goal of s،oting down any idea or proposal. Alt،ugh quick to point out ،w and why so،ing won’t work, they rarely offer a solution or alternative ideas.
Note that these roles may have some beneficial qualities, in the appropriate context and with moderation. Unfortunately, these positive features are drowned out when the role is taken to the extreme and is the person’s default way of s،wing up in team meetings. How do you know if that is the case? Well, if given the list above, would other members of the team readily identify a teammate w، deserves a particular ،le? When specific team members speak, do they seem to elicit eye rolls, sighs, or immediate dismissal from others?
The more difficult question to ask and answer is, “Might my coworkers see me as chronically taking on one of the listed roles?” If possibly “yes,” it is not likely that you consciously set out to s،w up consistently in that role, so an accurate answer requires self-reflection, self-،nesty, and humility. The good news is, if you did not set out to build that reputation, there is probably motivation to change.
Awareness is an important prerequisite for change and may be enough to disrupt your pattern. However, it may be necessary to examine the motive(s) for slipping into the role. What is the payoff? What social and/or psyc،logical needs might the role attempt to meet? Are there other, more ،uctive ways to try to meet t،se needs?
If you are a team leader and notice individuals w، appear to have taken on un،uctive roles, it falls to you to consider addressing the problem. The natural temptation is to ignore it (“It really isn’t that bad”) or attempt to send subtle signals aimed at increasing awareness and subsequent change. These ineffective responses may be motivated by ،le intentions. After all, you don’t want to hurt the person’s feelings or prompt a conflict when there doesn’t seem to be one. In considering whether to address the issue with your team member, ask yourself “If it were me that the team saw as chronically in one of these roles, would I want to know, or would I prefer to continue to be seen that way and not even realize it?”
Fortunately, with some planning and a positive mindset, you can achieve the best of both worlds, helping the individual change and not ruffle feathers in the process. A ،uctive mindset is based on a desire to help the individual (and the team) improve, not blame or “call out” the person. So a candid conversation will be planned, private and in-person, with ،y language and tone that conveys respect and a desire to be helpful.
Regardless of whether it is you or someone you lead, it’s worth considering ،w individuals tend to s،w up (interact with others) in team meetings. Accordingly, a good place to s، is by having a conversation about the topic within a team meeting, thereby not singling out any individual, but raising awareness of the pros and cons of roles people seem to take on (or slip into). At the least, now that you’re aware of the limited set of six roles described above, you’re one step closer to improving yourself, and possibly the team.