To a most working Americans, going to work means sitting in meetings. Meetings are the place ideas go to be talked to death. Have a pretty good idea? Meet about it with your colleagues. It will be transformed into a grisly shell of the original idea, with all previous passion about said idea extracted and left to rot under the conference table. The worst part of meetings is not that they always run late or even their propensity to result in more meetings; those things are merely symptoms. The people are what make meetings borderline insufferable. (Cue Jean-Paul Sartre to enlighten us with his always-uplifting phrase “Hell is other people.”) Specifically, these five types of annoying people in meetings consistently manage to worsen an already bad thing:
1. The Naysayer: This person’s sole goal is to point out everything that is wrong with everyone else’s ideas. Never does it occur to the Naysayer to, perhaps, suggest a solution. He or she would rather curse the darkness than light a candle. Every idea that is shared is brutally torn to shreds by the Naysayer, until every other meeting attendee is self-conscious about sharing, well, anything.
2. The Over-Sharer: Contrary to the Over-sharer’s belief, this meeting was not called to talk about intimate details of personal life. Shamelessly casting aside the meeting’s original goal, the Over-sharer is committed to revealing personal details, especially those that should likely only be shared with the closest of kin. The meeting attendees are naught but trapped audience members, gathered together to listen (and gawk) at personal anecdotes that belong at least in the break room and, at best, outside of the office altogether.
3. The Non-Contributor: The worst part of the Non-contributor is that he or she somehow falsely believes that people don’t notice the blatantly obvious ring of apathy exuding from his or her chair. It’s evident to everyone in the room that the Non-contributor is checking Facebook or fantasy football or social email but the Non-contributor is convinced that the occasional head nod solidifies involvement. The most painful meetings are when the number of Non-contributors reaches a critical mass, and nothing (except a lot of listless nodding) gets done.
4. The Talk-overer: Not to be confused with the Over-sharer, who focuses exclusively on dirty life details, the Talk-overer does focus on work-related topics, but is convinced that his or her opinion trumps all others in the room. The goal of the Talk-overer is never to let another attendee complete a sentence without interruption. The Talk-overer has a stream of never-ending thoughts that are ostensibly worth their weight in gold. Everything the Talk-overer thinks is worth sharing (loudly) and repeating (many times.) The most entertaining meetings are when the Naysayer and Talk-overer go at it. Those are also the least productive meetings.
5. The Pontificator: This person likely has an MBA, or has at least memorized every single business buzzword ever uttered. Infamous for talking in endless circles of business spew, the Pontificator is obsessed with “synergy” and “getting on the same page” and “circling back” and “taking things offline.” Convinced these platitudinous remarks somehow prove his or her intelligence, the Pontificator injects them into meetings until all semblance of meaningful discussion has died a slow, painful death by buzzwords, and fellow meeting attendees start job searching.
So, the next time you congregate with co-workers around the dull hum of a projector, try your best to avoid embodying the above archetypes. Who knows? You might even accomplish something. If not, you can always meet again.