• Maureen O'Toole

Managing the Meeting Minotaur


What I’m Thinking About: How to handle people who manhandle meetings

Why You Might Be Thinking About It: It happens to meetings that you manage.

Why It’s Worth Thinking About: It doesn’t have to happen.


You’re running a meeting. Or, rather, the meeting is running you into the ground.

Most business schedules bustle with business meetings. And a big distractor to business meeting success is the Meeting Minotaur. With the body of a human and the head of a bull, the Meeting Minotaur charges through the meeting with a forceful, self-important demeanor. You’re trying to keep the meeting on track while navigating the maze of personalities and topics.

Armed with a grim expression, the Minotaur’s demeanor is forceful and the conversational style is confrontational and she/he interrupts, talks over people, criticizes and speaks volumes with body language – eye rolling, sighing, groaning, pen tapping, knees bouncing. The bullheaded employee derails conversations to ensure that what he/she wants to talk about gets maximum attention even if this means that other topics are tabled for lack of time.

Other team members sit silently, eyes averted, busy themselves with a cellphone or laptop – modern day shields – loath to step into the fray. You’re trying to figure out how to handle this person who’s manhandling your meeting because if you don’t the Meeting Minotaur winds another round of domination dynamic and you’re still in the bullpen when the meeting ends.

How can we reign in Meeting Minotaurs? What can we do to arm ourselves to move the situation from Lose-Win (Minotaur vs everyone else) to Win-Win?

You don’t need a shield or cape to reign in the bull. Just a few simple techniques.

  1. Establish and enforce meeting norms/rules.

  • Create an agreement on how team members participate in meetings. The team leader can craft the norms or include team members in creating them. Effective norms reflect the value of each team member and the importance of mutual respect to nurture teamwork and creativity. Meeting norms often reflect organizational values like respect, inclusiveness, professionalism, openness, disagreeing without being disagreeable. Simple rules can include: not interrupting or talking over anyone, staying on topic, no sidebar conversations, constructive comments, be polite and respectful or be silent.

  • Put meeting norms on the agenda. Post them in meeting rooms. Start meetings with a reminder of the norms. Making reviewing meeting norms the norm.

  1. Provide professional development sessions for all employees on constructive communication and meeting manners.

  2. Have HR representatives or find coaches and mentors to work with employees on meeting manners and the importance of positive interactions in the work environment.

  3. Have consequences for Minotaur behavior.

  4. Remove the offender from meetings.

  5. Provide negative performance counseling with a performance improvement expectation.

  6. Making learning constructive communication a professional development requirement.

  7. If behavior doesn’t improve, the Minotaur has to move. Move on, that is.

No bull, with practice and consistency, these ideas work.

#meetings #management