You know what I mean – the one who won’t participate, who doesn’t want to be there..

We all have these sometimes, when we’re working with groups. And it is easy to take them at face value, and hope you can get away with either ignoring or containing them.

But I was reminded again this week of how important it is to go behind that behaviour, and remember the human being. We had someone who really didn’t want to be there – it was irrelevant to her, and a waste of time, she said.

And we listened, and realised that it was driven by a frustration of long standing – she had expressed her ideas for improvement before, but no-one had ever taken them seriously. As it happened, we had senior managers coming to hear this group’s views. She was encouraged to speak out, and once the bit of moaning had gone through without rejection, she began to speak passionately and articulately about her plea for being treated as a sensible, committed grown-up. It was moving and powerful, and we know that, this time, something will happen as a result.

She could so easily have been sidelined. Thank God, we remembered that awkwardness is a symptom not a cause!


  1. Next time you have an awkward one, just take a little time to listen and find out what’s really going on.
  2. And when you feel like being awkward yourself, in meetings you attend, experiment with tracing it back and explicitly stating what’s really going on with you.


About Di Kamp

Di Kamp is chief executive of Meta and has been involved in the field of developing people and organisations for 35 years. She has worked with a variety of organisations, and specialises in enabling senior managers to guide their organisations from good enough to excellence, and enabling management teams to lead their people in a way that will enhance their performance. Di has written several books, including manuals for trainers, one on staff appraisals, one on workplace counselling, one on improving your excellence as a trainer, one on people skills, and one on being a 21st century manager. She is currently preparing a further book on the secret of sustainable successful organisations.

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