By Ro Kalonaros, Manager, OMC Hive at Omnicom, and Fishbowl Community Leader
Did he just interrupt me? Or is there a lag in the video…In an online meeting, it’s much more difficult to tell. It’s much easier to blame on technical difficulties. And beyond being interrupted, it’s much more likely to not be invited into a meeting at all. So how can we stand up for ourselves behind the screens?
Even before the onset of COVID-19, remote meetings have become an integral part of workflow, as our businesses become increasingly global and always-on. Now that we’re nearly entirely working from home, it’s more important than ever to change the culture around online meeting dynamics.
We can start by asking our teams to set some standards around online meetings. The person calling or leading the meeting has the power to change the entire dynamic:
- Create an agenda. This ensures each person has their allotted time to speak and questions can be held until the end to mitigate any instances of interruption.
- Start the call by making all participants feel a part of the conversation, emphasizing that this is a forum with equal opportunities to share from all attendees.
- As the call goes on, ask for direct input from participants who haven’t had a chance to contribute.
Not getting what you need from leadership? Always introduce yourself on a call if there are folks you don’t know — even this little moment of establishing relationships with those on the call can limit interruptions. And always speak with volume and confidence, and when you use shorter sentences, your stops in between aren’t as long, making it harder for people to interrupt. Be clear and assertive, using words like “believe” and “will” — and don’t be afraid to keep talking through interruptions!
And when you’re STILL interrupted, here are a few polite, but sharp responses:
- “May I finish?”
- “I wanted to add that…”
- “There are a few more essential points I need to make. Can you delay a moment while I do that?”
- “I know I will appreciate your feedback, but can you hold off until I’m done?”
Start calling it out when it happens to your colleagues, and if there’s one repeat offender, get together with a few of your teammates who share the same sentiment and make a pact to have each others’ backs. A little “I’d love to hear more about what Jane was saying,“ goes a long way and sets a precedent that this won’t be tolerated.
Not getting the chance to speak because you’re not invited to even have a seat at the table (or a screen at the WebEx)? Ask for your team to create shared calendars as a way to better coordinate schedules and share weekly all-team updates since it is difficult to hold large calls with everyone involved. That way, you’re always in the know and can ask to be included if you feel you have something to contribute.
Microaggressions have the power to become more macro when people can hide behind their screens — but if we come together and speak up, both inside and outside the Fishbowl community, we can shape this new digital workplace culture in a positive way.
— Ro Kalonaros, Manager, OMC Hive at Omnicom, and Fishbowl Community Leader