In today's team-focused work environment, organizations recognize the benefits of input from a variety of perspectives and people. Unfortunately, more teamwork means more meetings which translate into more interactions with diverse personalities. Generally, we can all work through individual socialization styles, but occasionally, we must work with someone we find curt, coarse, and crass!

Nostrils Flare, Blood Pressures Rise, Veins Pop
Meeting Bullies intimidate, interrupt and interrogate other meeting members, causing upset and internal political havoc both inside and outside the meeting room. Meeting Bullies are bossy, rude and create an unpleasant work environment. Often, the climate created by a Meeting Bully prevents other team members from contributing to group discussions or suggesting new perspectives. What's more, bullying can also affect the health of those being bossed around. According to a 1997 international study, between one third and one half of all stress-related illness is directly attributable to bullying in the workplace.1

Furthermore, Meeting Bullyism is not uncommon. A recent survey indicates that 1 in 2 employees have been bullied during their working life.2 Who's the Bully you have in mind right now?

Why Is Overcoming Meeting Bullyism Important?
Interactions with a Meeting Bully inside the meeting room can influence attitude and team productivity outside the meeting room as well. The ability to work with other people is critical in today's workplace. According to a recent survey conducted by HR Magazine, one critical characteristic in determining employee success within an organization is the ability to work effectively within and across teams.3 So learning how to handle the Meeting Bully may not only affect your day-to-day work, but it may actually influence your long-term status with the company and future promotion opportunities.

So you're dealing with a Meeting Bully. What can you do?

Seven Helpful Tip for Handling Meeting Bullies
Ask Questions
Ask questions for clarification instead of making accusations or directly provoking a disagreement with the Bully. Questioning allows you to steer a conversation without making the Bully feel awkward or possibly arousing offense.
Tone Is Half the Message
Consider not only what you say, but also how you say it. Addressing the Meeting Bully's behavior requires delivering a message – carefully. We've all been put-off by someone with a snarky, bossy tone. Voice intonation can sneak across without our awareness. For example, consider the difference between the meaning of these sentences depending on which word is stressed:

Notice that the second way of saying the sentence sounds harsher and more obligatory, even derogative. Although the difference is subtle, tone and word-emphasis contribute to how others interpret and respond to what you're saying. To prevent potential blow-ups when working with a Meeting Bully, always be aware of your tone of voice.

Calm, Cool and Collected
If you approach the Meeting Bully when you're charged from a previous run-in with him, it's likely you'll be easily fired up, which could easily result in another conflict. Wait a little while before facing the Bully. Go for a walk to get some fresh air or postpone your discussion until tomorrow if possible. Taking a night to think through the issues and cool off will allow you to put things into perspective. You'll come back to the table more clear and calm – ready to deal effectively with the real issues.
Focus on the Positive
Start discussions with the Meeting Bully by emphasizing things on which you agree. Finding common areas of understanding will put you both at ease before you begin discussing the issues which you see differently. Demonstrating that you and the Meeting Bully have common views can serve as a segue for addressing items under dispute.
Select the Appropriate Medium
If you need to address the Meeting Bully's meeting-room manner, do so in an appropriate mode of communication and setting. Face-to-face interaction is best. Remember, communication is 90% visual with more than half of a conversation's meaning stemming from body language. Using the telephone, written notes or e-mail can work against you in several ways. Not only can these forms of communication create ambiguity, but they don't allow for immediate clarification. The best solution is to sit down on neutral territory, such as the cafeteria or outside the office, to discuss the Meeting Bully's behavior.
Stay Fact-Focused
Use as many facts as possible when working with the Bully. Stick to dates, data, customers and documents to avoid sidetracking to personal differences. By staying fact-focused, you can avert intangibles such as opinions and feelings.
Consider a Mediator
If the attempts at diffusing conflict with the Meeting Bully fail, you may want to seek the help of a mediator. Conflict management with a third party allows for a neutral source to communicate the issues clearly without bias. Mediators should not work directly with your team and should be impartial to both parties. If you can't find an impartial individual, you may consider contacting an outside source. Contact a professional organization such as the Society of Professionals in Dispute Resolution to locate a mediator in your area http://www.spidr.org

In defense of the Meeting Bully, people aren't always aware when they're being difficult. Is it possible that the Bully simply has a strong belief or passion regarding the issue? If your team is to move beyond personal differences, everyone must realize that proving a point or being right should be secondary to your team's objectives.

Finally, remember that you only have control over your own actions and not over the Bully's. Keep this in mind when dealing with conflict. By following these suggestions, you'll demonstrate leadership, maturity and most importantly, you'll be putting your energy towards a solution that will move your group forward.

Want to learn how to avoid bullyism in your next meeting? Follow these Bully Prevention Tips:

Bully Prevention
Make your meeting room a bully-free zone with the following meeting-room rules:
Try to see things from the other person's point of view.
Take breaks if your meetings last longer than an hour.
When someone is speaking, never say, "You're wrong".
Avoid "right or wrongs" –- treat alternate points simply as a different way of looking at the same issue.
Remind yourself and others that you're all working towards a common goal.
Encourage feedback from others.
Try to keep the mood light – keep treats on hand or start meetings with a joke.
Don't use your finger to point at people.

1. Andy Ellis, Workplace Bullying , A project for Ruskin College, Oxford, UK,1997.
2. Carole A. Townsley, Resolving Conflict in Work Teams, University of North Texas 1998
3. Elizabeth Sheley "Talking Numbers with the CEO," in HR Magazine (June 1996 [cited 26 July 1999])


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