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Disruptive Meeting Participants

© 2014 Katherine Williams. All rights reserved.

Chicago, Illinois 60615 (773) 405-5916

How to Deal With Five Difficult Behaviors Among Meeting Participants

Meetings provide a means for solving problems, sharing ideas, disseminating information, learning new things, achieving goals, and building relationships. But all of us have probably participated in meetings that were boring, conflictual, unproductive, or an utter waste of time and energy.

Interpersonal dysfunction is one reason why meetings go awry. For example, participants might not interact well with each other, thus making it impossible to successfully address the topic of the meeting. Conversely, the group may work well together in general but one member might be disruptive, thereby making it difficult to accomplish meeting goals.

In her book, Dealing With Difficult People, Roberta Cava discusses several types of behaviors – including those listed below – that can curtail meetings. She also provides reasons for these behaviors and suggests ways of dealing with them.

Excessively Talkative

The participant talks too much and prevents others from sharing their knowledge, ideas, and opinions.

Reasons for the behavior:

Ways to manage the behavior:


The participant is aggressive or hostile, dismisses others’ ideas, or treats others unfairly.

Reasons for the behavior:

Ways to manage the behavior:

Approval Seeking

The participant says and does things to be accepted, praised, or validated.

Reasons for the behavior:

Ways to manage the behavior:

Overly Quiet

The participant is unwilling or incapable of contributing to the meeting.

Reasons for the behavior:

Ways to manage the behavior:

Overly Critical

The participant blames others for any negative occurrences or outcomes and does not readily accept new responsibilities.

Reasons for the behavior:

Ways to manage the behavior:

Unproductive meetings are a waste of resources (time, money, and labor), can lead to or exacerbate workplace conflict, and can impede goal achievement. Therefore, it is imperative to create a supportive environment where participants can openly share their knowledge and ideas to accomplish the meeting’s goals.


Cava, R. Dealing with Difficult People: How to Deal with Nasty Customers, Demanding Bosses and Annoying Co-Workers, Buffalo, New York: Firefly Books, 2004.