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Taming Meeting Know-It-Alls Requires Group Effort

Taming Meeting Know-It-Alls Requires Group Effort
The best way to keep one person from dominating a meeting is to change the meeting format. / Credit: Brainstorm image via Shutterstock

Just because they are louder than everyone else in a meeting doesn't mean outspoken employees have the best ideas, new research finds.

The most extroverted or most confident member of a meeting is no more likely to find the correct answer to a problem than their quieter peers, the study shows.

Bryan Bonner, a professor of management and organizational behavior at the University of Utah’s David Eccles School of Business, said it can become very frustrating when working in groups because far too often the people who project that they know what they're talking about don't many times.

"The reason confident people have a lot of influence is that the people around them aren't really prepared to disprove what they’re saying," Bonner said.

As part of their research, Bonner and co-author Alexander Bolinger of Idaho State University studied groups that were asked to to collectively solve problems. One group started working right as they sat down in the meeting, while the other was told to take a few minutes to explore the problems and consider what each group member can contribute.

Bonner said they found that when groups are asked to think about how they can bring their own knowledge to the situation at hand, they were no longer inordinately influenced by the overly confident people.

"What we found was that those groups were now giving weight to the experts in their group," Bonner said. "Now they're listening to the people who really know, and the confident people are influential if they know something, and not if they don't."

A simple shift in how managers start their meetings can prove invaluable, according to the researchers. Bonner said rather than starting a meeting with a status update — with the chairperson making an announcement, for example — there are better ways to get the best input from employees, such as by not jumping right into problem-solving mode and instead try to get all the problem's facts and information on the table first.

"It's almost like a brainstorming thing," he said. "Let's get all the information out there on the table, an inclusive process where we get contributions from everybody."

Researchers added that for managers to be effective, they must leverage their teams as best as possible.

"To do that, you can’t let experts be silenced by those with more confidence but less knowledge," Bonner said. "When you have people who know stuff, and they’re being shut out by the overconfident people or the high-status people, you’re not getting the most you can."

The study is scheduled to be published in the November issue of the journal Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes.

Originally published on BusinessNewsDaily.

Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based freelance writer who has nearly 15 years experience in the media business. A graduate of Indiana University, he spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including, local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Following his years at the newspaper Chad worked in public relations, helping promote small businesses throughout the U.S. Follow him on Twitter.

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