A Weekly Q&A Column About Professionalism, Etiquette and Problems in the Workplace
by Sue Morem
Dear Sue: I meet with folks everyday. A few folks that I meet
with do not know common courtesy guidelines for meetings. I have one
person, in particular, who constantly interrupts me. I get very
frustrated and have asked this person, very calmly, to let me finish. I
have asked in several ways, for this person to stop interrupting me.
Before I get frustrated, I try to forewarn everyone that I need to have
the meeting respectful and courteous, with no interruptions. My position
relies on the information I obtain from these folks.
Do you have any tips that I can print out and have everyone agree to
before I have a meeting?
I really would love some professional comebacks that I can use when
folks interrupt me.
Sue Says: There are guidelines for effective meetings and a
code of conduct to follow; however, these guidelines are often implied
rather than clearly communicated. Running a meeting with the assumption
that everyone understands what is expected does not assure they do.
Your best bet may be to create your own code of conduct with the
group of people you meet with. Consider starting your next meeting by
getting everyone involved in creating and agreeing upon a set of
guidelines to follow in order to make the most of every meeting.
Get out the flip chart and generate ideas; be specific and clear
about each guideline and make sure everyone agrees to adhere to them.
Have copies made and distributed to each person in the group and then
review the guidelines, which should be posted, at the start of every
Some guidelines you might consider including:
- Begin and end on time. Everyone in attendance is responsible for
arriving on time and for keeping things moving so that the meeting
ends on time.
- Follow the agenda. Create an agenda and distribute to all
participants (preferably ahead of time) and stick to only what is on
- Turn off all cell phones, pagers and, depending on the nature of
your meeting, you might include computers, or ban them from meetings
if not needed.
- Speak one person at a time and listen when others are talking.
Do not dominate the conversation, interrupt, participate in side
conversations or make unnecessary comments.
- Stay on task and on the topic being discussed. Donít bring up
other, non related issues or get off purpose.
- Hold questions and comments until the end of the meeting or
other specified time.
Once you have an agreed upon code of conduct, it should be easier to
deal with those who are not following it. Creating guidelines and adding
structure to your meetings will benefit everyone. However, you may still
encounter individuals who continue to interrupt. If it happens, remain
calm and simply restate the agreed upon code of conduct. It is a good
idea to determine in advance what you will do if someone becomes
disruptive. As you create the guidelines discuss (with the group) how to
deal with people who fail to cooperate. You may decide to have someone
else handle a problem if you are running the meeting, or find some other
way of dealing with problems when they arise.
I hope this helps to get you started. Let me know how it goes!
Sue Morem is a professional speaker, trainer and syndicated columnist. She
is author of the newly released
101 Tips for Graduates and
How to Gain the Professional Edge, Second Edition. You can contact her by email at
firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her web site at
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