Look at me! Look at me!

How much attention do some people need? Well, Recognition Seekers focus discussions on themselves or seek out sympathy, and apparently they need a lot.

There is a difference between the people who talk about themselves productively and are deserving of sympathy and the people who are attention mongers. Imagine this – you are part of a discussion about getting a project back on track because deadlines are being missed. One meeting attendee talks about how they are just too overloaded and cannot possibly get everything done. They share that they feel like they have more work to do than anyone else and they just don’t know how they will ever catch up. They point out that too many people count on them for help. Another meeting attendee says that their workload has been heavy, and they have fallen behind. Then this person offers to talk to their boss to see if they can move deadlines on other tasks so they can focus more on the project being discussed. Which one is the Recognition Seeker? The first one. They believe they are the only person with a lot to do. They want everyone to feel sorry for them. And did you notice that they didn’t offer any solutions?

Both situations can put psychological safety at risk if nothing is done to address the person’s needs. However, the first person (the true Recognition Seeker) who is derailing the meeting isn’t moving the meeting forward. It may appear that they are different from the previous meeting saboteurs I’ve written about in this series–Advocator, Attacker, Blocker, Dominator, Horseplayer, Latecomer—but they’re not all that different. They act out of fear or self-interest too.

Here are three strategies to help.

  1. Give them what they want. It’s that easy. Give them what they are after. A little dose of recognition or sympathy can go a long way in squashing attention-seeking behavior. The tough part is not letting your own ego get in the way. Check your level of humility and let go of any irritation or animosity that can hold you back from giving them the recognition what they want. You’ll find out quickly if a little attention is enough to pacify them.
  2. Withhold attention. Now, this might seem contradictory to the first strategy. That’s because it is. Know your audience. If you try the first strategy and it perpetuates the behaviors of the Recognition Seeker, it’s time to pull back on the reigns so to speak. Switch your strategy by withholding attention and focus on the progression of the discussion.
  3. Refer to Rules of Engagement (or Ground Rules). Establish rules at the beginning of the first meeting. (These rules should be created by the team, not handed down from the facilitator.) When the Recognition Seeker attempts to sabotage the meeting, refer to the rules and ask them to honor them. If you don’t have a rule to address this type of behavior, add it! A good rule here could be: If you share a problem, share a solution too. Or: Share the floor.

Make sure you differentiate between someone who is truly deserving of the recognition or sympathy they seek and the person who is sabotaging your meeting. If you aren’t sure, observe them in other interactions and look for clues. Do they seek recognition all of the time? Or have an honest conversation with them outside of the meeting.

Feel like people are vying for recognition in your meetings and it’s out of control? Let me know. I can help.