Author Topic: When someone's inability to understand holds up a meeting  (Read 4412 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Grancalla

  • Jr. Member
  • *
  • Posts: 95
When someone's inability to understand holds up a meeting
« on: December 02, 2012, 01:41:03 AM »
I posted in the Exchanges that Make Your Brain Hurt thread about my coworker I'm calling Granite. Granite is a nice guy, and good at the parts of our team's function that he's responsible for, but he doesn't understand the other parts (which I am partly responsible for) as well as he thinks he does.

The problem is that when he misunderstands or doesn't understand something, he'll argue about it until he's blue in the face. I don't know if we aren't explaining things well or he's just being dense, but this always results in the team going around in circles, us trying to explain in increasingly simple terms and Granite missing every point we throw or deflecting it because cuss it all to tarnation, he's right, the sky *is* green paisley! Friday's meeting was supposed to be half an hour, but it dragged on for more than an hour because no matter how simply we explained things, Granite either couldn't or wouldn't accept that he'd misunderstood how the piece in question works and the functionality he was trying to shoehorn in was completely out of our scope. It's interfering with my work because it wastes time that I need to complete my components, and it's gotten so that I cringe internally every time he opens his mouth.

So, I guess I'm looking for a polite, professional way to tell Granite "You're holding up the meeting. Drop it because we have work to do and I want to get my component built before midnight!" I know I can't flat-out day "No, Granite, you're WRONG." and I can't just brain him with my notebook and be done with it, as tempting as it is. Hopefully it wouldn't be too unprofessional to just say "I have to go work on my green flibblewobbles now" and leave when he gets going.
My gallery

I sell art and crafty things! Linky

SoCalVal

  • Hero Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 2381
Re: When someone's inability to understand holds up a meeting
« Reply #1 on: December 02, 2012, 01:57:44 AM »
Whoever is leading the meeting needs to redirect the meeting.  If no one is leading, then someone needs to be selected who is good and keeping things on track.  In response to his repeated attempts to derail the meeting, the response would be, "Granite, John Doe will go over this with you after the meeting.  Now, Jane, status on the whatchamacallit deal -- where are we?"  Essentially, bean dip him.  If that doesn't work, then someone needs to take him aside and tell him his behavior in meetings needs to cease (like a supervisor).



artk2002

  • Super Hero!
  • ****
  • Posts: 12766
    • The Delian's Commonwealth
Re: When someone's inability to understand holds up a meeting
« Reply #2 on: December 02, 2012, 02:05:31 AM »
"You're holding up the meeting. Drop it because we have work to do and I want to get my component built before midnight!" is pretty close to it.

"Granite, I understand that you have some issues with the current topic. In order for us to move forward let's have an offline discussion about those issues." Even better if you can give him a task of documenting and explaining his issues. You can then give his document all the consideration that it deserves.

You need someone in charge of the meeting (you?) with a spine of steel. Don't be afraid of saying "I hear you, but we're not considering that point today. Now, Betty, about the horizontal bearing in the scoop, should it be red or green?" I've been blunt and told people "sorry, that aspect isn't under discussion today." Or even "no, we're not going there."

One technique is to have more, shorter meetings. Keep them to a specific topic  or limited agenda and don't go over schedule. It's amazing how you can keep people focused after they figure out that 30 minutes is 30 minutes and they have to stay on topic.

Why yes, I've got one of these people to deal with. Now, can you help me figure out to how to keep my cool when someone says "why are we doing/not doing X? There are very good reasons why this is the wrong path." I wouldn't mind, except that he does it 3-6 months after we've made the decision and he said nothing when the decision was first made. Yes, it's the same person.
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bow lines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. -Mark Twain

Slartibartfast

  • Super Hero!
  • ****
  • Posts: 11617
    • Nerdy Necklaces - my Etsy shop!
Re: When someone's inability to understand holds up a meeting
« Reply #3 on: December 02, 2012, 10:45:30 AM »
I posted in the other thread that I'm not a huge fan of the "Let's talk afterward" tactic, because nine times out of ten that means "I've decided not to take you into account while we make the decision, so when we talk it will be futile whether or not you're right."  It's a pretty public blow-off.  If Granite sees that you're all hell-bent on painting your widget pink and the customer is extremely likely to want it pink today and blue tomorrow and purple on Saturday, I can understand not wanting to waste his time or yours with painting it just yet.

That said, the best thing to do is to take his argument into account.  "Granite, I don't think your point applies at the moment, and I'm afraid we don't have time in the meeting to address it.  Please send me an email explaining your argument after we finish and how you best think we could change from our current path to the one you're advocating, and I'll take a look.  We will make changes if they need to be made.  For right now, let's get back to deciding which shade of pink we want."

(Email --> he has to explain his argument in one place, and can't just keep filibustering like he could in an in-person exchange.)

LadyL

  • Hero Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 2835
Re: When someone's inability to understand holds up a meeting
« Reply #4 on: December 02, 2012, 11:16:41 AM »
I have a collaborator who is like this. He is actually senior to me by a long shot but respects my views and is ok with taking direct feedback. What I've said in the past is something like "In the interest of time, since we only have 20 minutes left to meet, can we get back to this later and move on to X?" It helps if others pipe up and say "yeah that's a good idea, we running out of time."

Hillia

  • Hero Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 3863
Re: When someone's inability to understand holds up a meeting
« Reply #5 on: December 02, 2012, 01:53:04 PM »
In my office, the code for this is 'Let's take this offline'...in other words, you and I can meet separately to discuss this, but right now we're dropping it and moving on.

            Created by MyFitnessPal.com - Free Weight Loss Tools

Missy2U

  • Where are we going and why am I in this handbasket?
  • Member
  • **
  • Posts: 884
Re: When someone's inability to understand holds up a meeting
« Reply #6 on: December 03, 2012, 01:23:12 PM »
We had a coworker who would whine and complain every single meeting.  We are all THRILLED she's retiring at the end of the month!!

The only way we've found to shut her down is to tell her to take it off line, or we break in to the conversation and ask the manager, "Are we done?" so that we can get off the call and get back to work.  That seems to have helped as well.

bopper

  • Super Hero!
  • ****
  • Posts: 12213
Re: When someone's inability to understand holds up a meeting
« Reply #7 on: December 03, 2012, 02:47:28 PM »
When we get too technical at a status meeting, someone will say "Let's take this off line" (discuss it elsewhere).
What you need is someone with an agenda to run the meeting.  Tell that person you can only stay for the 30 minutes because otherwise you will fall behind in your workload and you don't think it best use of company resources to try to get Granite to understand something he doesn't need to understand.

LA lady

  • Jr. Member
  • *
  • Posts: 77
Re: When someone's inability to understand holds up a meeting
« Reply #8 on: December 04, 2012, 04:49:52 AM »
Now, can you help me figure out to how to keep my cool when someone says "why are we doing/not doing X? There are very good reasons why this is the wrong path." I wouldn't mind, except that he does it 3-6 months after we've made the decision and he said nothing when the decision was first made. Yes, it's the same person.

Not in the workplace, but still a similar situation:  Years ago, a friend and co-member of a club was a nice person but ALWAYS a negative Nellie.  And no matter what anyone had done, the first word out of Nellie's mouth were,"But why didn't you do so-and-so."  It was like a slap to the people who had done the work.

I began answering her, every single time, with, "Nellie, where were you when the vote was taken/ the decision was made/ ideas were solicited/ the work was being done?" I always said it cheerfully and with a smile, but I no longer listened to her implied criticism, and I turned it back to her failure to provide useful input at a useful time.

  One day, my committee members and I had just completed a large project that was a lot of work and on public display as part of a significant community event.  Nellie shows up just in time for the working hours to be closing, and again she starts, "Why didn't you. . .  I know, where was I when the work was being done."  She then laughed at herself, and I never heard those words directed to me again. 

bopper

  • Super Hero!
  • ****
  • Posts: 12213
Re: When someone's inability to understand holds up a meeting
« Reply #9 on: December 05, 2012, 11:43:02 AM »
Now, can you help me figure out to how to keep my cool when someone says "why are we doing/not doing X? There are very good reasons why this is the wrong path." I wouldn't mind, except that he does it 3-6 months after we've made the decision and he said nothing when the decision was first made. Yes, it's the same person.

I work in software and you are either a key person to the process or you are not.  If you are a key person, then you have to approve the requirements for the software.  If don't agree, then we work it out until you do.  Then you are saying you commit to building this software to these specs.  But if you are not a key person and say something at the end about the software, most likely we will ignore you because this is not your project.  We would say that we have baselined these requirements and gotten customer concurrence and this is what we are doing and that if they were interested they should have provided comments earlier in the process.  Also it is good to document the decisions you made so if they said "Why are you going down this path" you can show where you considered other paths but chose this one based on various reasons.

However, if someone did that alot and actually had good ideas, we would start including that person as a key person and made sure s/he signed off earlier on.


artk2002

  • Super Hero!
  • ****
  • Posts: 12766
    • The Delian's Commonwealth
Re: When someone's inability to understand holds up a meeting
« Reply #10 on: December 05, 2012, 09:20:13 PM »
Now, can you help me figure out to how to keep my cool when someone says "why are we doing/not doing X? There are very good reasons why this is the wrong path." I wouldn't mind, except that he does it 3-6 months after we've made the decision and he said nothing when the decision was first made. Yes, it's the same person.

I work in software and you are either a key person to the process or you are not.  If you are a key person, then you have to approve the requirements for the software.  If don't agree, then we work it out until you do.  Then you are saying you commit to building this software to these specs.  But if you are not a key person and say something at the end about the software, most likely we will ignore you because this is not your project.  We would say that we have baselined these requirements and gotten customer concurrence and this is what we are doing and that if they were interested they should have provided comments earlier in the process.  Also it is good to document the decisions you made so if they said "Why are you going down this path" you can show where you considered other paths but chose this one based on various reasons.

However, if someone did that alot and actually had good ideas, we would start including that person as a key person and made sure s/he signed off earlier on.

Oh, he is a key person. Who just hand-waves his approval at the time and then raises the issues when he actually has to deal with the results. Next to me, he's the most key person we have.
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bow lines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. -Mark Twain

blue2000

  • It is never too late to be what you might have been
  • Super Hero!
  • ****
  • Posts: 6768
  • Two kitties - No waiting. And no sleeping either.
Re: When someone's inability to understand holds up a meeting
« Reply #11 on: December 06, 2012, 01:16:41 AM »
Now, can you help me figure out to how to keep my cool when someone says "why are we doing/not doing X? There are very good reasons why this is the wrong path." I wouldn't mind, except that he does it 3-6 months after we've made the decision and he said nothing when the decision was first made. Yes, it's the same person.

I work in software and you are either a key person to the process or you are not.  If you are a key person, then you have to approve the requirements for the software.  If don't agree, then we work it out until you do.  Then you are saying you commit to building this software to these specs.  But if you are not a key person and say something at the end about the software, most likely we will ignore you because this is not your project.  We would say that we have baselined these requirements and gotten customer concurrence and this is what we are doing and that if they were interested they should have provided comments earlier in the process.  Also it is good to document the decisions you made so if they said "Why are you going down this path" you can show where you considered other paths but chose this one based on various reasons.

However, if someone did that alot and actually had good ideas, we would start including that person as a key person and made sure s/he signed off earlier on.

Oh, he is a key person. Who just hand-waves his approval at the time and then raises the issues when he actually has to deal with the results. Next to me, he's the most key person we have.

If he has to approve it and then disapproves later, I would go with "Then why did you say you agreed with this earlier?". Let him explain to the whole group why he is not paying attention. It might make him think twice about what he says next time.
You are only young once. After that you have to think up some other excuse.

bopper

  • Super Hero!
  • ****
  • Posts: 12213
Re: When someone's inability to understand holds up a meeting
« Reply #12 on: December 06, 2012, 09:37:31 AM »
The other think we do after a software release has gone out is have a "Key Learnings" session.  We talk about what went right and we should do more of, and what didn't go so well and we should change.  We pick some items and have a Quaility improvement plan for those.  Perhaps you should suggest having a "post mortem"  or "key learnings" and bring up the fact that "getting comments at a late stage in the game is putting in quality at the end and not the beginning"

CookieChica

  • Member
  • **
  • Posts: 321
Re: When someone's inability to understand holds up a meeting
« Reply #13 on: December 10, 2012, 10:35:09 PM »
In my office, the code for this is 'Let's take this offline'...in other words, you and I can meet separately to discuss this, but right now we're dropping it and moving on.

Wonder if we work for the same company because that's what is said where I work, no matter what department it is.

YummyMummy66

  • Member
  • **
  • Posts: 721
Re: When someone's inability to understand holds up a meeting
« Reply #14 on: December 11, 2012, 06:10:52 AM »
Does he need to understand how these other things work? Are they in any way affiliated with the work he does or needs to do?

If not, I would stop explaining.

"Greg, this really does not affect the work you do anyway.  We cannot keep explaining this and we now need to move on in this meeting".