8 Strategies to Managing Conflict in Meetings 

By | December 22, 2014

Kool Derby

As a meeting coordinator, it’s important to control what takes place in the get-together, including the agenda, conflict, and apathy. Most of us are aware that many people think meetings can be a waste of time.

Here are 8 strategies to managing conflict in meetings:

  1. Make sure to invite only the people who will bring value to the discussions. Avoid asking people to attend if they have little to no role. If someone is going to have a minor part, you can collect the information directly from him and share it during the meeting.
  1. Avoid scheduling meetings longer than 1-hour. My feeling is that most meetings can be done in half the time for which they are scheduled. I’ve attended meetings that go on for hours only because the meeting coordinator failed to stay on point.
  1. Distribute the meeting agenda at least 48 hours in advance. I’ve heard people say the following: “I have no idea why this item is on the agenda. Why are we discussing it now?” You must avoid surprises. Make sure that meeting attendees are clear regarding the topics. If there is a problem or issue, it should be resolved in advance. Avoid wasting meeting time to issues that fall outside the scope of the discussion.
  1. Ask meeting attendees to participate. In far too many meetings, people are reviewing email, checking their social media accounts, or buying an airline ticket. In other words, you do not have their attention. I recommend that you give everyone a clear role. By doing so, they are more likely to be engaged.
  1. Anticipate conflict and resolve it immediately. When you notice that a disagreement is getting out of hand, you must confront it. Of course, you are going to be professional, but you cannot allow it to escalate. “John, I see that you have a different perspective, and I’m glad that you raised it. If it’s okay with you, let’s discuss the Tokyo project deliverables.” The point here is to focus on the requirements, and not on personality issues.
  1. Avoid making big project assignments during the meeting. Discuss the work offline. In some cases, employees are embarrassed to turn down a big assignment, and they will resent that you put them on the spot.
  1. Make sure the meeting has a clear end time, and that you adhere to it. In most cases, people have other meetings, or they have pressing work. Even if the topics have not all been covered, end the meeting on the scheduled time.
  1. Avoid praising the same people in the meeting. While some individuals are better performers, patting only a select few people on the back in all meetings is counterproductive. When you acknowledge the efforts of “average” performers, they are more likely to excel in future work.

A meeting coordinator must have a clear plan, and must be prepared to manage unexpected events. An out-of-control meeting is usually a reflection of the person leading it. It’s best to be prepared, confident, and action-oriented. Finally, it’s far better to avoid conflict than to deal with it after it has occurred.

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