Meeting Poopers – How to deal with them?

We’ve all been in a position where we’ve planned a meeting for the longest time and finally all the key players are here – well except for the one who are late. Now all you’ve got to do is work through the agenda, approve a decision and your dream meeting is finished. And everyone rushes off back to work with fresh ideas from the meeting and produces actionable results.


Unfortunately, all of a sudden Murphy’s law kick into action and everything that could go wrong, gone wrong. Or was it the people who you’ve invited? Have you accidentally incurred the wrath of “Meeting Poopers”? As strong personalities clash resulting in a failed meeting, you can’t help but wonder to yourself: was there something I could have done to prevent this?

This is a classic example of how meetings can quickly turn into casualties of meeting poopers, similar to every party we’ve ever gone to, there is always that one group of people who shows up late, comes unprepared and interrupts every important moment in the party. These folks wouldn’t have a clue of what meeting etiquette is even if it landed on their heads.

Like most problems in life, meeting poopers come in all shape and sizes. And if you want to know how to get rid of them, all you have to do is follow these few tips and tricks and your next meeting will leave you feeling inspired with actionable insights, rather than annoyed and frustrated that you just wasted precious time.

Step 1. Disarm your meetings, don’t allow mobile phones or smart devices into the meetings

Our first culprit of the day would be handphone addicts, by preventing the use of mobile phones, you eliminate meeting poopers from texting under the table or showing fellow members their holiday weekend pictures. It is advised that you ask or even impose your colleagues to leave their phones off or even better, don’t bring them in at all! As the saying goes ‘out of sight, out of mind’, by removing the object of power from these meeting poopers you can be sure that your participants can channel their attention to you and not get distracted by mobile screens. If all else fails, suggest (before the phone is answered) that the individual take the call outside the meeting to minimize any distractions.

Step 2. Diminish the flames of dominating people, stay in control and steer your meeting

In every meeting, there is bound to be people of different personalities clashing against one another. It is up to you as either the speaker or a fellow participant to ensure that the meeting does not turn into a dictatorship. A good meeting encourages productive discussions when it is required, bad meetings however, degenerate quickly into arguements. The key difference between the two is that discussions leaves you with creative ideas, while arguments involves one or more individuals continually restating a rigid position. If this is a recurring problem, you should address the situation before it even begins, saying something simple like:” I think we understand your position, what do we need to do to make a decision?” can often times defuse the situation.

Step 3. Know when to start the meetings and when to shut the door on latecomers

If you are chairing the meeting, know when it is appropriate to start the meeting and prevent latecomers from holding it back. I’ve attended too many meetings where the results of a latecomer would often time create unnecessary backtracking. Not only that but a latecomer’s presence will disrupt the meeting’s train of thoughts. One simple silver bullet solution would be to close the door as soon as the meeting starts, this usually signals to potential latecomers that they aren’t welcome. However, if you are inviting a colleague who is known to be late, it is advised that you explicitly state in your next meeting invite that everyone be a few minutes early to prevent holding things up.

Step 4. Keep calm and breathe. Don’t stoop to their level

Nothing and I mean nothing can stop a meeting dead in it’s track as compared to folks who are socially inept or those who choose to be rude and insulting on a personal level. However, it is up to you as a participant or chairperson to keep a level head and ensure that you do not let yourself or others be baited by this kind of behavior. If you find yourself having the need to defuse the situation, tactfully address the behavior of the individual with a well-chosen phrase and offer them a graceful way out. It is entirely possible that the individual is genuinely unaware of the effect of their words, it could be a newcomer to the company who hasn’t figured out the company’s culture yet. However, if you realize that the participant is clearly belligerent as is no longer contributing constructively, kindly ask them to leave and speak to them in private about their behavior after the meeting. Remember, these folks are still human whatever you do, do no reprimand them whilst in the meeting. It could be that they are having a bad day or maybe the Monday blues got to them.

Follow these nifty tips and tricks we’ve prepared for you and you’ll find your next meetings productive and free of these pesky ‘meeting poopers’.

Discover how to get participants fired up at your next meeting