Author Topic: Need some help with a difficult meeting  (Read 3674 times)

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POF

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Need some help with a difficult meeting
« on: November 11, 2012, 06:19:11 PM »
I volunteer on an annual toy drive. I am a former board member , long term volunteer and serve on various steering committees. I left the board because of the toxi behavior of one person. This person was allowed to dominate conversations, dictate to people and basically act like a demnted circus monkey. I have been very successful over the last several years in avoiding her altogether.

She has grandiose dreams, but little ability to plan and carry them out. Last year - a section that she sort of took over by eminent domain was a huge issue. Volunteers quit due to stress, work and deadlines were not met and it was just a hot mess.

I was invited to join with another very experienced member to head up this section this year. Note that responsibilites do and SHOULD rotate around yearly. So it is not out of the ordinary that I head this area up this year.

Circus monkey is just having a fit. So this week we have a meeting of section heads. I need a few key phrases for the following situations:

1) She goes on a 30 minute diatribe about the steering committee and how we assigned out work.  I ignore, too late and we can't change assignments know ( note - she has a plum assignment that she is good at. She wants to run the whole thing )

2) She gets in my face - points her finger and says in a loud screeching voince "YOU NEED TO WRITE IN PINK INK, YOU NEED TO PUT SPRINKLES ON ALL THE WORKPAPERS , YOU MUST ANSER THE PHONE BY RECITING THE ALPJABET BACKWARD" i.e a variety of random instructions that aren't heres to dictate.  Should I ingore, say thanks for taking an interest or take a drink of vodka ( seriously my blood pressure is skyrocketing writing this )

3) She keeps on and on and on that she is going to do things her way and not follow process - ignore ?

Just need some helpful ideas so that I do not speak or acr rudely ( and by golly I WANT to shake this person )

Thanks


NyaChan

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Re: Need some help with a difficult meeting
« Reply #1 on: November 11, 2012, 06:26:50 PM »
So are you the head of the committee this year?  If you are, I would say/do the following, or otherwise get the head person to say/do it.

The minute she starts, interrupt and in a firm voice say - "This is a meeting to [insert purpose].  We all need to remember to keep a civil tone.  The assignments for this year have been made and are final.  Each head of their division is in charge of their own activities.  While we can all of course offer suggestions, it needs to be done in a quiet and helpful way."

TootsNYC

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Re: Need some help with a difficult meeting
« Reply #2 on: November 11, 2012, 07:11:21 PM »
Remember that you are protecting everyone's time.

So say things like, "Excuse me, we need to move along--We need to wrap up the business at hand."

Have an egg timer--"It's been 2 minutes, Circus Monkey, I'm sure we all understand your point. Do we have a motion? A second? A vote? I'm sorry, the motion didn't carry, we need to move along."

And take "the floor" away from her. "Excuse me, Circus Monkey--I have the floor now, and we are on a different topic. If you'd like to speak, please wait  until New Business."

Have a TIGHTLY scoped-out agenda. Do not deviate from it.

Basically, turn her own. Turn away from her. Turn the conversation away from her.

doodlemor

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Re: Need some help with a difficult meeting
« Reply #3 on: November 11, 2012, 07:58:51 PM »
I've always thought that you have a super spine, and that you are really great at handling difficult people, POF.  For you to be so flummoxed by this person, she must be world class annoying.

First, the vodka thing.  People are used to seeing others with water bottles at meetings.  Spike yours with something good that you deserve, like Absolut Peach.  You definitely need to take the edge off before your irresistible criminal impulses take over. 

I'm not sure from your post whether you were the chair of the meeting or not.  With a person like this at the meeting someone needs to be, or she will take control and derail the thing completely.  The person who is the chair needs to be firm about sticking to the agenda.  Even if these meetings have traditionally been rather casual, an agenda and some formality here would help, I think.

A phrase that I heard from a chair, when an interrupter started blathering away was, "The chair recognizes................"  Obviously, the person recognized was the original speaker.  I have heard speakers say things like, "Excuse me, but I have the floor right now."

These things likely won't slow monkey down very much, because she is  really *off.*  I think that you would have been within your rights to set your jaw when she put her finger in your face, and tell her very coldly to remove it. 

It seems to me that she has already done damage to the organization due to the fact that you quit the board due to her.  Those on the board need to stand up to her nonsense about not following the prescribed directives.  It would be best for your charity, IMO, if she were gone. 

POF

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Re: Need some help with a difficult meeting
« Reply #4 on: November 11, 2012, 09:37:18 PM »
Thanks

I am a tough cookie ... and this one is a doozy. SHE WILL NOT STOP ! She seriously acts like she is on crystal meth and flits from one thing to another. I am an assistant chair.  I think the main reason I am asking for assistance is that I am really tempted to just turn on the cutting language and mow her down.  I really shouldn't do that.  I am disgusted by people who use volunteerism as a vehicle to exercise control and go on a power binge. 

One thing I learned here is that these types of people rely on the fact that others are so stymied by their behavior that they won't force the issue.  The other chair feels that she will not act up in this group .. because most of them already have her number.  Yes - she is damaging the the entire group.  There are some wonderful volunteers who have left because of her.  We are separating projects into different areas this year because of the number of peo-ple who have said that they cannot work with her.

I'll let you know how we make out - should be interesting.

TootsNYC

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Re: Need some help with a difficult meeting
« Reply #5 on: November 11, 2012, 10:13:55 PM »
If everyone else has her number, then just bulldoze through her (don't *attack*) and trust that they'll have your back or follow your lead.

"Yes, well, right now we want to move on and finish this. Joan, why don't you tell us about whatever..."

Just talk right through her as though she is a telemarketer; it sounds like nobody else really cares about her; they just don't want a huge scene. So don't make one, and especially don't *start* one.

But just interrupt her: "Monkey, I'm going to have to interrupt you--we need for Joan to tell us about her plans..."
Then when she keeps going, "Monkey, Joan is telling us--please have a seat so the rest of us can listen. Joan?"

And if she's not on this committee,right? If so, "Monkey, you're not on this committee--I think we can let you go--I know you have that other project, and that's really enough of a burden on you. I'm sure you'll be glad to have your evening back."

and if she interrupts, "Monkey, you're not on this committee--I'm going to ask you to have a seat so the rest of us can get on with things." Light, pleasant, but FIRM voice.

POF

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Re: Need some help with a difficult meeting
« Reply #6 on: November 11, 2012, 10:24:47 PM »
Great Advice Toots ! Thanks


Deetee

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Re: Need some help with a difficult meeting
« Reply #7 on: November 11, 2012, 10:44:20 PM »
If I can add to Toots wonderful advice, I'd talk to a couple other members beforehand to help with keeping the meeting on track. If three of you agree to help keep the meeting more formal, it may help.

Also it sounds like there are several groups or committee involved so I would have someone ( yourself or the chair or secretary) start off with.

" Let's get an update from the toy drive. The members of this group are Bob, POF and Sue. Which of you wants to let us know what's going on?" This makes it clear who is invited to speak.

If at all possible, I would arrange such that all official group check in is fine first for all groups and then open it up to comments from non committee members. I don't know if that's possible but I do know it is much easier to say ( and hear) "Excuse me, thanks for your idea but let's discuss that later" than "We never want to listen to you"

oz diva

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Re: Need some help with a difficult meeting
« Reply #8 on: November 11, 2012, 11:24:24 PM »
Are there paid staff involved, who manages this woman? Because, it really should be possible to get rid of her, depending on the relevant policies of the organization. If she is putting other people off then she is a liability, not a benefit. I work with the volunteering peak body in my state and really she sounds toxic. Just because she's volunteering doesn't mean she has to derail your organization.

Victoria

DaDancingPsych

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Re: Need some help with a difficult meeting
« Reply #9 on: November 12, 2012, 08:46:36 AM »
Are there paid staff involved, who manages this woman? Because, it really should be possible to get rid of her, depending on the relevant policies of the organization. If she is putting other people off then she is a liability, not a benefit. I work with the volunteering peak body in my state and really she sounds toxic. Just because she's volunteering doesn't mean she has to derail your organization.

This is my thought, too. Certainly use the excellent advice for keeping the meeting on task, but really that's a band-aid on a bigger problem. Why is this woman still around? Who has the power to let her go and why hasn't that procedure started? She might have some amazing qualities, but if she is pushing other valuable volunteers out, then that diminishes her overall value.

POF

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Re: Need some help with a difficult meeting
« Reply #10 on: November 12, 2012, 09:24:31 AM »
I do not know why she has not been voted off the board.   I think that a lot of the members put their head in the sand and avoid conflict. There is a new Prez and some new blood on the board - so I am hoping she will go.


bopper

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Re: Need some help with a difficult meeting
« Reply #11 on: November 12, 2012, 09:52:16 AM »
There was a recent thread about a "Jen" who had similar issues with a group

http://www.etiquettehell.com/smf/index.php?topic=120525.0

She had grandiose ideas, no follow through, people were quitting to avoid her....It was wondered quite a bit if she was a true Narcissist.

I think you have to set very firm boundaries...use the suggestions like having a defined agenda and saying "the chair recognizes XX".
If she keeps it up then you have to say "If you cannot abide by the process and agenda of the committee today, I am going to have to ask you to leave."

oogyda

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Re: Need some help with a difficult meeting
« Reply #12 on: November 12, 2012, 10:42:17 AM »
Interrupt as graciously as possible and redirect. Which is pretty much the advice you've already been given.  I can tell you from previous experience it CAN work.

I've used this method even when Circus Monkey is the Chairperson. Keep at it.  Believe me, others will be very grateful for the savings in time.


It's not what we gather along the way that matters.  It's what we scatter.

Eden

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Re: Need some help with a difficult meeting
« Reply #13 on: November 12, 2012, 10:54:33 AM »
Everyone is giving excellent advice and I also agree with working whatever angle you can to see her removed. The one thing I will add is that if someone stuck their finger in my face, I would not be worried about being polite or diffusing. I'd say, "You need to get out of my face right now. You may have the floor when you can speak in a productive, civilized way. If you cannot do so, you need to leave." If she did it again, I'd adjourn the meeting right then and there.

TootsNYC

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Re: Need some help with a difficult meeting
« Reply #14 on: November 12, 2012, 11:17:15 AM »
Here's another script--

when she's telling you how you "ought to do it," say, "I'm going to interrupt you, Monkey, and ask you to hold your observations for now. One of the reasons for changes this year is so that new people can find new ways of doing things. Joan, please continue."

Basically, think like an air traffic controller, and just direct people to speak.

And the phrase, "I'm going to interrupt you, Monkey..."

Oh, yeah, sure, technically interrupting is rude, but it's not in this situation--not at all. And just be blatant about it. "I'm going to interrupt you, Monkey, and direct us back to the tasks we want to accomplish."

"I'm going to interrupt you, Monkey, so that the committee's actual members can speak."
"I'm going to interrupt you, Monkey, and ask you to hold your comments so that the committee can work."