'I've Been Told I'm Too Serious During Meetings. Should I Change My Style?'

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In the interest of saving time, whenever I lead meetings at work, I always skip the chitchat and get straight to my point. A male supervisor told me that I need to be friendlier at meetings and that male co-workers have complained about how direct I am. How should I respond to these suggestions?

We can’t blame you for jumping to the task at hand, or feeling like this resembles the infuriating “you should smile more” critique from insecure men. But it won’t take much time to begin with banter, and it can actually improve your presentation by strengthening your connection to your co-workers. “Don’t underestimate the importance of pleasantries that precede the formal time with your colleagues,” says Lauren McKenna, partner at Philadelphia law firm Fox Rothschild LLP and co-chair of the firm’s Women Initiative. “That time can grow relationships and develop camaraderie.”

If chatting before meetings derails them, then catch up with colleagues afterward. According to McKenna, post-meeting talks might be even more valuable because “people have had a chance to think about the issues on the table and are more free to discuss them, as well as to connect more personally.”

Buffy Simoni, president of discount packaging supply company Paper Mart, adds, “Engage with colleagues during the day and get to know them through personal gestures, such as asking how they’re doing.” It seems obvious, but it’s crucial for happier interactions.

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