You are in a important meeting debriefing the team about how to win the next big contract and here you have a team member who is asking stupid questions or reducing the depth of thought by cracking jokes, what do you do? Throw him out, or continue as it is? And sacking the employee is not an option.

Dysfunctional or disruptive behavior is generally unintentional; nevertheless it can seriously inhibit your meetings progress and derail you from the set agenda. Disruptive behavior intimidates some and angers others, put simply it shifts focus towards wrong things. Most of your team members, would have done it once in awhile, in these instances, it’s best to let it pass. However if you are plagued with repetitive disruptions you ought to take action. Here are some tips to deal with disruptive behavior.

Be Firm and Friendly

To effectively confront the troublesome individual, you should focus the attention on the dysfunctional behavior and avoid labeling or classifying the person; personal labeling will increase individual defensiveness, serving no purpose. You should point out the effects of dysfunctional behavior in the group, more often than not, the person who is displaying such behavior is unaware of the negative impact of his/ her actions.

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It may also make sense to recommend alternative behaviors that will lead to more productive, satisfying participation for the member causing such actions. For example, if one your colleagues, keeps moving in and out of the meeting room, you can say “Continually, hopping up and down and leaving the room and coming back is distracting others, could you hold all the messages and phone calls till we finish the meeting, In case there is an emergency, Can I be of any help?”

Thus you are emulating direct, firm behavior in a friendly style that is not demeaning the other party.

You are not alone

In the meeting you should encourage other participants to share the responsibility as well, if everybody chips in, the peer pressure will reduce the chances of disruptive behavior. Group censure puts pressure on the disruptive members to meet the group’s behavioral norms.

Use non-verbal cues

Sometimes symbolic gestures can be more powerful than words, making a eye contact, moving in close, placing a hand on a person’s shoulder (same gender). Giving a negative head nod, stopping in mid sentence are few techniques for verbally communicating displeasure.

Reinforce the good behavior

Disruptive behavior is often either consciously or unconsciously, a bid for attention. When you l focus on the positive behaviors of the person and reinforce it with praise, the negative behavior will often subside. Research shows that people tend to repeat the behavior that receives the most attention. Try using this technique and see the difference.

Have a private chat

If the above-mentioned techniques fail to dampen the repetitive disruptive behavior, a private conference is in order. A private conference, in which your concerns are presented and the disruptive members views are solicited too, provides confidential opportunities for both the parties to explain their feelings and increase the chances of an agreement. This strategy preserves precious meeting time and linen is not washed in the open. It is important to focus on the member’s disruptive behavior and you should not link it to the member’s personality or past history. Making it personal and using words like “You are like this only, you have not improved or this is your nature” will yield no results, other than triggering defense reaction to counter your personal attack.

Jappreet Sethi

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