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A Dive into Context and Virtual Meeting Behavior

Have you ever been on the other side of someone flipping you off from their car and screaming something at you that cannot be very nice (given their facial expressions and body language)?

I had this happen to me the other day on the freeway, and I genuinely have no idea how I set that person off.

It did bring up a point though – that everything we do is influenced by the situation we do it in. We do things very differently as an effect of context (including our places of work).

I can almost guarantee that if that person and I were walking past one another on the street they would not have had the same intensity of reaction. But they were in their car and it felt appropriate to react that way (influenced by context).

What else do we do one way under a certain context, that we do differently in other situations? The workplace is a fascinating context for such a question (*insert mischievous smile*).

Certain contexts allow for situational opportunities or constraints that affect our behavior and functional relationships. Most people act very differently in the workplace than they do at home or otherwise. And the ‘flavor’ of context at one particular organization, may look very different when compared to another. Do you work at a funky Google office or a quiet community library?

The way we behave and speak vary, and even social cues and the meaning or use of an object or word can change based on context.

Where are we seeing this show up the most now? In the remote and hybrid world of virtual meetings.

Have you ever attended a meeting…

  • where half the people turn off their videos? Would they show up to an office meeting with a bag on their head?
  • and someone on the call is obviously in workout clothes and they have not showered? Would they go to the gym and then attend a business meeting still ripe?
  • when someone is obviously not paying attention and doing other work like answering emails? Would they be that audacious if someone were sitting next to them and could look over their shoulder?
  • and someone is doing a home task like emptying the dishwasher or clipping their fingernails? Yes, that has happened…
  • where you are in the middle of speaking and the other person mutes themselves to talk to someone else? Would they step on your sentence and stop listening if you were face to face?
  • when the other person is sitting on their bed during the meeting? Would they bring their blanket to the conference room if they were in person?


So, what makes us think this behavior is acceptable? – A context of separation. Just like that person flipping me off and yelling at me from their car. We are not face to face, the element of personability and human connection is removed, so people act very differently.

(*now every body put your hand on your chin and say “hmmmm, interesting…”).

Now think about any of your accountability concerns of late. I wonder if changes in context have had more of an impact than realized on the way people work and the way you lead.

QUESTION > What is one of the most audacious or strange things you have seen someone do on a virtual meeting? How does your organization set virtual meeting expectations and hold people to a standard?


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