Zoom has become an everyday part of millions of lives and part of nearly everyone’s vocab, with 300 million users per day. And yet, there’s one problem that persists — and it comes at a high cost. It’s not the occasional audio issues, reminiscent of the Verizon commercial catchphrase “can you hear me now?” It’s not the “Zoom Ceiling” or video-call burnout. It has nothing to do with well-engineered technology, but instead with well-meaning people.
More specifically, well-meaning people trying to be too well-mannered. But in an effort to have good manners, we can end up having bad meetings.
It’s the type of bad meeting that doesn’t prove productive, and a wave of relief washes over you as the call ends. Most of us have been there. But not because of a big presentation, a heavy problem to troubleshoot, or a high-pressure boss. It’s the deafening sounds of crickets when a question was asked and the team falls silent.
In my experience, it wasn’t that no one had opinions, thoughts, or ideas. Rather, people were trying desperately to avoid one thing we’ve always been advised not to do: interrupt one another.
Without the normal social cues we can see in-person that clue us in on when someone is about to speak, in an effort to be polite, people pause to kindly give others the chance to speak. But moments after, the seconds start to feel like minutes and people fill the gap and respond — often at the same time.
There begins the awkward dance between two people following the classic script that goes something like, “oh, sorry, you go,” “oh, no, you go.” By the time you’ve settled who will take the baton that was feeling more like a game of hot potato, you had lost your train of thought. Or at least I would. And by the time I’d get to say what I was thinking, I had lost it — only to then be left taking center stage fumbling to say something.
The reluctance to respond right away hinders conversation. It’s good to be thoughtful, but when meeting live, being slow to respond is a conversation killer. Being the stereotypical Northeasterner that I am, with a penchant for efficiency, I appreciate a fast-paced and rapid-fire conversation. Admittedly, I typically equate those “bad interruptions” brought on by excitement as a sign of a good conversation.
As poor-mannered as it is to speak while others are talking in real life, online it can benefit companies to have teams that are so tuned in they get fired up to speak.
It helps to effectively increase productivity with less energy, as ideas will be more effortlessly shared, better leveraging the expertise and experience of those on your team. People will become more invested because, as people get more involved, they have more of a stake in the outcome — and with that, they’ll have a more evident purpose as they are heard.
And in the famous words of nearly every infomercial, but wait, there’s more…
Arguably the most important benefit is invaluable for both businesses and staff: increased workplace satisfaction. Which is a major part of the strangest, yet most effective Great Resignation strategy.
So let there be a bit of chaos — and if there isn’t, encourage chaos. In the evolving world of remote work, virtual meetings require a different approach to be successful.
Foster an environment of free-flowing thoughts, where respect doesn’t mean being quiet, but being forthright. If your team doesn’t speak up in meetings, there are things you can do about it. For example, keep collaborative meetings small (and the right meeting size is even smaller than most think), ensuring there are only participants. After all, to have a winning team, everyone needs to have skin in the game and a voice on the team.