Let’s Get Real
Lately, almost every week, I’ve been involved in Zoom business meetings. They’ve been productive — almost like the real thing, except that they’re like the real thing in a way that gets under my skin. There’s always a coworker showing up on my computer screen who constantly interrupts everybody else, taking control of the conversation. More and more, I realize that’s what’s been going on in non-virtual meetings. I wouldn’t have confronted him at those meetings, but he’s eating up the time we have to get our work done. I think I should call him out so that our meetings can move on, but I don’t know what to say. Should I just keep my mouth shut, or should I speak up? It’s making me crazy. — Anonymous, Bellevue
When we’re living an unconnected life, getting connected can be good or maddening. Sometimes, people who are jerks in real life turn out to be jerks in virtual life, too. As we live, we sometimes learn unpleasant things — sometimes, in new ways.
Unless you’re in charge of organizing these meetings, however, it’s not your job to lay into your boorish coworker. There’s probably a boss out there somewhere. Give him or her a call (not an email, a text message, or, God help us, a Facebook post), and trust that the fellow’s behavior will be handled.
In these virtual meetings, you can watch all the other faces on your computer. Maybe you’ll see other people staring forlornly at the ceiling, in a way they wouldn’t do in real life. That would at least confirm your feelings.
When you get back to the actual meetings, you may want to speak up. But if it’s not OK then, it’s not OK now.
I recently joined the board at a not-for-profit organization. At the first meeting, I was surprised when the chairman went around the table asking each of us if we had a conflict of interest. This seems to be standard procedure when new people come on the board. I said no, of course. But across the table from me, a woman, who’s also new to the board, said no, too. I’m not sure she’s telling the truth. I’m pretty sure that she’s involved with a group that, quite honestly, competes with ours. But I don’t know what to say, if anything. Should I mention it to her, to the chairman of the board or to the executive director? I feel uneasy about her. — Anonymous, Sylvan Park
Before you start snitching, make sure you’ve got your facts correct. You’re fresh to the table. You have every right to be concerned but not to stir up confrontations.
Take your questions about the other woman’s history to the executive director. He or she has, let’s hope, knowledge about everyone and everything. (Board chairs come and go.) You have every right to express your concerns, but do that privately. Don’t use the internet, in any form; steer clear of gossip.
You may have no reason for worry. But at least you’ll have cleared your conscience so you’ll be able to get down to the good work that you’ve been asked to do. It takes level heads to get the job done. Sit through another meeting or two. Take a deep breath before you plunge in. Just by observing, you’ll probably be amazed by what you learn. Consider it a leadership skill.