Upset and Indirect
Updated: Jan 7
Sally left the meeting, and within a few minutes, was on the phone with Taylor.
“I can’t believe what just happened! No one said a word when I said Jim’s marketing and sales plan was too fast and no one would we be successful. Jim, once again, is just running ahead without any awareness of the impact his plan has on operations. People are leaving under the pressure.”
Taylor, who had also been on the Team call said, “Look I agree, but there is no point in arguing. He’s going to do it his way. Plus, with these virtual calls, there really isn’t any way to have a good debate.”
Sally sighs, “I guess, but I’m so tired of being the one to even attempt to say something and no one else says anything.”
“Look, you know I agree with you and others do too – it's just hard to stop Jim when he’s on a roll.”
Sadly, this is a conversation that happens way too often and not just at lower levels in organization. We’ve seen executive teams fail due to the same dynamics. The results can be devastating inside the team, inside the company, and to the bottom line.
Inside the team:
Trust breaks down.
People work in silos.
Issues aren’t resolved.
Inside the organization:
Operations can’t fulfill sales.
Pressure mounts while morale tanks.
Customers are dissatisfied.
The company gets a reputation for not being able to deliver.
Going silent in a team meeting is toxic to the people and the business at any level of the organization.
CrisMarie and I are often coaching executives who are challenged by either:
going silent during the meeting and then listening to a teammate’s pain after the meeting
Like Sally, getting silenced when speaking up to disagree, and then seek support indirectly after the meeting.
Both behaviors are deadly to teams.
It is incredibly toxic for teams to be operating in what we call UPSET and INDIRECT.
What is upset and indirect?
A topic is brought up in a meeting and someone shares a perspective that’s counter to the norm, or brings up a problem they have identified, and no one comments.
There is no agreement or disagreement.
But instead of saying anything directly to address the silence, like,
What do you think?
Why isn’t anyone else speaking up?
Do you think this is going to work?
The team member leaves the meeting feeling upset, unheard, and unseen, and talks to someone else on the side to confirm their pain.
Of course, I can imagine if you are reading this you are thinking, “No. We don’t do that. I’m willing to talk to my teammates directly. I speak up when I disagree.”
Really? Maybe you do, but do others?
How about when the boss says something you disagree with? Do you speak up then?
Here is an invitation, a challenge, of sorts. Start to notice in your meetings:
When are there times when the conversation just stops?
When do you assume, of course, your teammate knows no one agrees with them?
When do you think it’s simply not worth it to try to have the conversation on Teams or Zoom?
Those are times where a conversation needs to happen.
When issues and problems go indirect, the problem gets worse and even more toxic, trust breaks down.
It is hard to disagree with someone. It is not easy to speak up and say, “I don’t agree with your approach. I think you are being too aggressive.”
In person, this is hard and uncomfortable. Virtually it is even harder.
We have found the need for facilitation during this virtual meeting environment is even more important. It’s easier for people to go silent.
When we are facilitating a virtual strategic or tactical meeting or even a virtual team “offsite”, we don’t let those moments go by. We support the team having the difficult conversation – successfully.
Leadership teams need to find the vulnerability and the courage to say these things directly.
Virtual or not, these difficult conversations need to happen in the meeting. Not later, and for sure not between other team members.
Because staying upset and later talking indirectly destroys trust and breaks down relationships. It also tanks the business.
In some organizational cultures it goes against the norm to disagree with the boss or an expert in their field. However, for healthy collaboration, team cohesion, and long-term profitable business results, it is critical.
If you know your team suffers from Upset and Indirect, reach out to us during these virtual times - we can help.
We can help you and your team find a way to speak up and/or work with your whole team.