16 Februar 2022

When a meeting feels uncomfortable - public complain or constructive thinking?

It can happen. You are invited in a meeting. 

As Expert in a specific area, as panelist or as member of an advisory board. 

You prepare as good as you can, you dial in in time and you are present to contribute with valuable information whenever it is possible. 

Because those meetings, especially online meetings live from their participants. From the lively information exchange. This must be well prepared not only from the participants also from the organizing team. 

Preparation Materials must be provided in an adequate timeframe to invited people and also inform them about the tool which will be used. It is essential to bring everything together, team, speakers or panelists and materials.

Moderators have to prepare themselves too. They have to know what the needs and goals of the meetings are and the themes the group should discuss. It is about leading, time keeping, having a look at the chat for further comments and incoming questions. Another person is responsible for a protocol and maybe for moving the slides forward. 

Every single job in this field is a hard one. No matter if you come as participant or as Organisator. Every single event means a lot of work, preparation and organization. 

I think, you might agree, that it can happen, that something goes totally wrong. The tools don't work, participants see some tools for the first time and have difficulties to work with - I know, we are all Pro's now when it comes to online meetings and we are doing all good in using new tools because of our experience - but it can happen. 

Maybe the moderator has to struggle with unexpected things. This can be a last minute need, unexpected but there, language barriers, technical problems and, last but not least, if it is a patient discussion, problems with concentration or don't find an end in talking, interrupt others and the discussion runs into a complete wrong direction. All these and much more can happen and it can be, that the meeting is a very uncomfortable experience for some. 

Then it is time to reflect. What happened and why and how? This happens mostly on both sides. Participants and organizers. An important impact can have the voice of participants. They are not satisfied, sometimes outraged and mostly those people want to bring their complaints on the table. Some of them do this with an email or a call behind the scene and some start to report the bad experience to the public. Social Media makes that very easy. And this is a very dangerous point.

Lets have a look what happens: 

Do it behind the scenes! 

When a person is not happy with a meeting, mostly it is the best to find out what happened on the other side. There are many factors I mentioned and to know what happened at the organisers team means also to understand the circumstances better. 

To have a holistic picture and to be able to build an opinion. This can happen behind the scenes, with the mentioned call or email. It is about letting the people know what was wrong and how someone felt. It helps to have a valuable and constructive discussion, to have another information exchange and to help a team to make their job better. 

This is constructive criticism. Friendly, in a good atmosphere and moving things to a better direction. 

Nobody has a damage on the reputation, the relationship can become stronger and the organizer could send some flowers or chocolate to say sorry for the inconveniences. But it is a peaceful and constructive exchange to make things better for the future. 

The other strategy or the public complaint! 

The other strategy is to complain in the public. This can happen by a tweet, a Facebook post or Insta post or by a blog. Nicely placed on different channels to reach as many people as possible. A piece about the bad event, the trouble a person has experienced, the bad work of the moderator or the team and so on. Or to say it a bit ironic: a elegy on the super bad meeting. 

Well, of course this is an option. But let's stop here and ask: Is this really the best option? 

Although the company, the theme of the meeting and the team was not directly mentioned by name, people will probably have a clue who or which company was involved. And the goal of a public complaint  is to bring the issue loud and clear to the wider public.

We all know what negative news effects are: bad reputation. Because negative news are shared much more often than the positive ones. It stays more and longer in our brain than the positive ones. The consequence is that it can happen that a community says goodbye to a company, people start to create bad rumors around the news and this can have very negative impact on a business or a company. And mostly it impacts not only the company who acted unprofessional, it has an impact to all.

An unfair situation. Everyone should have a chance to answer. With such a publication there is almost no space left for a valuable discussion. People from the company will find that article and then it's much harder to have a valuable dialogue. The option to be constructive and think for better solutions for the future together has almost gone. A partnership is probably broken. 

And for the author? 

The person has now a negative point on the list. If the author does that for more times, number of engagements can be reduced or canceled because the person is dangerous or a high risk to complain again in the public if something doesn't go well. You never know what comes next. It is also bad for the persons reputation. 

And the winner of this is .... 


Because of the negative mood and also the destructive way of communication. Apart from that there is a unnecessary discussion from people going on who comment a post without knowing the other perspective what would be necessary to have an overview of an issue. 

Of course there must be a conversation, a dialogue or discussion. To feel unhappy and be unsatisfied because of a meeting shouldn't happen, there must be a clear and fair communication. 

What I do in this case? 

- I step back from the issue and review it on the next day again. Mostly a night can change thinking too. 

- I go back to the team giving them feedback and listening to them for reasons or arguments. 

- After that it can happen, that my perspective has changed too, so I rethink the case. 

- I prefer thinking in solutions instead of problems, so less complaining, more constructive thinking. 

- It is important to know, all do their best, but at the end, we are all humans. 

Therefore, instead of doing a big negative piece published on a blog or a network, which is mostly telling just about one side of a case, tagging people who were not involved and can't give a proper opinion, look for contact, discussion and help people to make their job better. 

This is less stress, more positivity and the chance to change the things in a valuable and constructive way. 

How do you think about that? 


Text: Birgit Bauer, Manufaktur für Antworten UG 

Bilder: pixabay.com