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Jeruba's avatar

What's your best trick for surviving an uncomfortable meeting in the workplace?

Asked by Jeruba (51821points) September 26th, 2011

You’re called to a meeting, and you know that
•  somebody’s going to be in the hot seat, or
•  the status updates are going to displease the presiding manager, or
•  a painful project decision is going to be made, or
•  some kind of unpleasant news is coming down.

How do you get out of this meeting alive and without having to take unfair heat or swallow blame or walk away with too many new action items?

What has your experience taught you to do to protect your hide in a meeting like that?

And no, you can’t skip the meeting.

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19 Answers

GabrielsLamb's avatar

Stay as quiet as possible and think invisible thoughts.

nikipedia's avatar

Can you clarify—is all this unpleasantness clearly my fault, or am I trying to find a way to ameliorate some else’s embarrassment?

Imadethisupwithnoforethought's avatar

Active questioning if I have a relationship with the project manager or meeting organizer. Try to turn it into a discussion of global action steps.

I find that often, even if I am in the hotseat, the proactive partnership approach makes it a “what are we going to do” discussion rather than a “I am sorry we screwed up” discussion.

tinyfaery's avatar

Be as vague as possible when questioned about anything. Respond with words like: sometimes, some people, generally…you get the idea. Other than that I agree with the first answer.

Berserker's avatar

Try to go unnoticed, but still pay attention, especially if it’s something bad.
I denno, I might have a better answer if, in my life, in any of my jobs, I’d have had some higher position other than a mere employee. So far though, that’s what I do. Become one with the chair I’m in lol. I can afford that, since in most of my meetings, it’s just announcements, unless I’m personally being called in for something.
Although if I have a question or a concern, I will voice it. I’ve never been important enough in any of my jobs for whatever I ask to really affect me. I’d rather save my questions and go find a boss, superior or whatever later on and then ask, but they don’t look too kindly on that, unless you can make em believe that you just thought of it right now. XD

blueiiznh's avatar

You don’t let anyone throw you under the bus. You state fact when asked and stay out of political sophmorish stuff.
Keep low and yet if your area is called to the table you answer in simple terms and don’t elaborate unless you have to. Make sure you stay on topic or ask to table some things to different time and place if you don’t have all the resources present or time to handle it.
Stick to the agenda if there is one.
If no agenda was put forward, I always ask for one to be available before the meeting to allow you to be prepared and make the meeting productive.

lillycoyote's avatar

I used to imagine that I was an anthropologist and that I was studying the culture; the customs, habits and norms of some remote, newly discovered society. That approach got me through a lot of stuff in my almost ten years on the fringes of corporate America.

poisonedantidote's avatar

- So poison, the others tell me you was responsible for the decision to buy, is that so?
– Th… they…
– They? they what? speak up
– They…
– What do you mean, are you saying they made the decision?
– No no no! th… th… th…
– For Christs sake man spit it out
– They raped me! ooh hu hu hu, I feel so dirty, all 8 of them, why!?!?

[runs out of room and locks him self in the toilet]

This will buy you 24 hours to think, no questions asked.

bob_'s avatar

Imagine everybody is naked.

Jeruba's avatar

@nikipedia, it is not (necessarily) your fault. It might be the first staff meeting after a layoff, when you get to find out how many other people’s jobs you’re supposed to do. It might be the meeting where nobody wants to explain why the project has been derailed, even though everybody knows the reason. It might be the one where the manager is going to see that the dumb idea she forced on the team isn’t working. You get the idea.

Bellatrix's avatar

@blueiiznh pretty much summed up my approach. Try to obtain clarity about what the meeting will cover before you go in, be as prepared as you can before the meeting starts, listen and observe, stay quiet unless asked to answer questions, stick to the point if you are asked and don’t volunteer additional information.

Cruiser's avatar

Meetings are temporary moments where you get to really shine and earn your pay. Put on your big Boy/Girl pants and demonstrate why you have the job you were hired to do.

nikipedia's avatar

I guess in my experience, finding practical ways to deal with the problem at hand is the best way to manage this. That gets around any finger pointing and circumvents weird ego issues anyone might be having, and ideally, everyone ends up working together to fix whatever’s broken. Plus feeling like there’s a solution alleviates that horrible, “oh, fuck” feeling.

ucme's avatar

Brown nose, the staple diet for all underlings in a work environment.

cookieman's avatar

Don’t work for a corporation where words like “global action steps” mean something.

shirleylopez's avatar

I used to work with HRD or human resource department and often, it is my department that lay off people or suspend people. Therefore, if I know that the head of the meeting will announce something unpleasant, I keep silent, but listen intently and observe the reactions of the people in the meeting. I will only say my opinion when asked and make sure that what I am going to say are factual and will not embarrass or hurt other people in the meeting. I try to feel relaxed and alert to lessen the tension.

Scooby's avatar

The best way to enjoy a meeting with our MD is to bring up the subject of football, we could be there all morning, never mind just an hour or so. :-/ works every time.

blueiiznh's avatar

@Jeruba your question jinxed me. I just got called to go to a high level meeting with 5 minutes notice. ugggggg

dabbler's avatar

When necessary, express ‘understanding’ without being committal unless you want to…
“Yes, I see what you’re saying.”

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