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A Career Counselor Tells You How To Not Be “That Guy” At Work Meetings

A Career Counselor Tells You How To Not Be “That Guy” At Work Meetings: © Oivind Hovland / Ikon Images / Corbis

© Oivind Hovland / Ikon Images / Corbis

Every guy gripes about frivolous, unfocused, afternoon-obliterating work meetings. But like bad breath or bad jokes, you probably struggle to spot your own unseemly meeting behaviors.

Before you criticize your colleagues for their discourteous ways, pop a breath mint and ask yourself if you’re causing or contributing to the problem. If any of the descriptions on this list apply to you, the answer is “yes.”


THE CONTRARIAN
This guy feels compelled to vocally challenge every point or suggestion the meeting’s leader raises. We get it, pal. You’re a brilliant “ideas man” who thinks outside the box. You’re also an asshole. “It’s far more productive to the group to be collaborative than confrontational,” says Roy Cohen, career counselor and author of The Wall Street Professional’s Survival Guide. The people running the meeting have probably given the subject matter a lot more thought than you have. So give you insights a day or two to marinate, then follow up with an email if you still think your objections are valid.

THE INVITATION OVER-EXTENDER
“The more the merrier” does not apply to work meetings. If you’re firing an invite-canon at the whole office, you’re wasting a lot of people’s time. The damage is compounded if you’re a company bigwig, and so people won’t feel comfortable declining your requests. If someone doesn’t absolutely have to be present, leave him or her out. You can keep people in the loop with a quick summary email, which might take you 10 minutes but will save everyone else an hour or two of their day.

THE HAND-RAISER
Rough estimate: 75% to 85% of all questions posed during a meeting are either the asker’s attempt to look clever, or queries that pertain only to one or two people present. If your inquiry falls into either category, don’t ask it. “You’ll make your colleagues impatient and your manager will be annoyed by your lack of social intelligence or your need to show off,” Cohen says. Unless what you have to say meaningfully contributes to the proceedings, please, keep you mouth shut so we can all get out of here. You can follow-up with the relevant parties after the meeting’s adjourned.

THE SMARTPHONE-CHECKER
Yeah yeah, you told us. You’re expecting a time-sensitive email, so you have to keep an eye on your inbox. But we could all make the same claim—and you could set up an alert if you’re really concerned about missing a specific email, text, or call. Not only is your fervent device thumbing distracting, but also, “when your attention is divided, you shortchange your company, the meeting process, and your colleagues,” Cohen says. Leave your phone back at your desk. The wired world will keep spinning without you.

THE SLIDE-READER
He’s the dude who launches his PowerPoint presentation… and then proceeds to read exactly what’s written on each slide. Listen, brother, I could have read and absorbed that at my desk in about a tenth of the time it’s going to take you to plod through it. Hit the highlights and give me some analysis or context, and let’s all move on.

There are more bad behaviors we could cover here, but they all revolve around the golden rule of work gatherings: Don’t waste everyone’s time.


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