It happens in practically every meeting. You’ve done it. I have too, many times. Piling on. What’s piling on? Think of football – a ball carrier gets knocked to the ground by one player and other defenders throw themselves into the mix. Piling on a downed runner may make the other defenders feel like their contributing, but it doesn’t change anything. The play ends once a knee hits the ground, no matter how many people participated in the tackle.
We’ve all seen this in our meetings countless times. One person makes a point, usually the senior person in the room, and someone follows with a long, concurring statement echoing what’s just been said. It can get really bad when the entire meeting turns into a parade of people chiming in with different words but basically saying the same thing. At that point your meeting has basically devolved into an exercise class with everyone mimicking the moves of the instructor.
Piling on wastes time and is particularly annoying in virtual meetings, which are the only kind of meetings most of us are having these days. However, it also can be a warning sign of more serious issues looming within the culture.
Do more junior team members feel they are safer and more likely to be rewarded by agreeing with the boss? Have leaders become so accustomed to people agreeing with him that they resist the notion that they could be making the wrong decision? A culture of piling on is potentially a leading indicator of serious trouble.
Healthy corporate cultures depend on transparency and an openness to alternative points of view. That doesn’t mean decisions come down to a vote. Corporate decision making doesn’t function like a democracy, for good reason. But corporate leaders that preside over a culture that breeds “piling on” in meetings are likely not supplied with the data needed to make consistently good decisions.
I’m not saying it’s a negative when everyone agrees. Of course, alignment is good. But a team that consistently piles on won’t be a winning one.