Virtual Meeting Miscues Can Get You Fired

Virtual Meeting Miscues Can Get You Fired

If you don’t think a blunder on Zoom could hurt your career, you might want to listen up. The truth is, nearly one in four executives have fired someone for screwing up during a video or audio conference. Even if the executive didn’t fire their employee over the gaffe, other unpleasant consequences waited in the wings. Quite often, virtual meeting miscues prompted some other sort of disciplinary action.

The Ongoing Perils of Remote Work

Vyopta Inc, a firm that helps organizations manage workplace collaboration and communication systems, recently commissioned a survey of 200 managers at large companies. The apparent goal of the survey was to determine how much trust executives had in their remote workers. The survey also explored how executives dealt with virtual meeting miscues and mistakes.

One of the biggest takeaways is a huge wakeup call for many. Nearly 25 percent of the 200 managers surveyed had fired an employee for screwing up in a virtual meeting. These virtual meeting miscues included being late to join the call, suffering from a bad Internet connection, accidentally sharing sensitive information, or just not knowing when to hit the mute button.

The survey found that these slip-ups can hurt business, cost the company clients, and create lost sales opportunities or missed deadlines. Nearly three out of four managers still support working from home. However, they don’t fully trust a third of their staff to perform effectively when working remotely.

This revelation isn’t really a surprise. We’ve seen several attempts by tech giants to get their employees back into the office. Apple and Facebook have both announced such measures, then been forced to put them on hold until 2022, at the earliest.

Other Consequences of Virtual Meeting Miscues

Even when a mistake related to a virtual meeting doesn’t lead to getting fired, there are plenty of other measures the executives have taken. The majority of those surveyed said they’d shifted the responsibility for managing calls to someone else or gave the offending employee an informal or formal reprimand. Nearly 40 percent also reported removing the staffer from the project altogether.

Wakefield Research conducted this survey between July 30 and August 10. The study polled 200 executives at the vice president level or higher at companies with at least 500 employees. If you’re responsible for running virtual meetings, you probably want to take that task seriously.

One thought on “Virtual Meeting Miscues Can Get You Fired

  • Jeff:

    This is a fascinating insight into cultural adaptation and change in near real time. 

    The virtual meeting venue, and the social pragmatics and rules associated with this medium, are new, and so it should not be surprising that there is an associated learning curve, along with measurable collateral damage (disciplinary actions, terminations). For anyone who has moved to a different cultural setting, be it a country or simply a new institution with its own culture, the experience of making mistakes, social mis-cues and misfires, and at times, feeling like a bull in a china shop, is readily appreciated. The difference here as that this is a universal experience shared by people around the globe at the same time. 

    The unfamiliarity with the technology, resulting in gross human error and miscalculation, is a major contributor, with the mute button and the video on/off button being chief modifiers of offence. In an age of digital media consumption, not everyone on a call or a meeting appreciates the thin line between exposure and anonymity, or at least concealment, of their words and actions; and will lapse into the behaviours associated with passive consumption or anonymity whilst they are on full visual and audio display. 

    All one need do is to pay attention to drivers on any road, and their behaviour towards other drivers to appreciate the change in our civility and norms when we believe we have the relative anonymity (and safety) of metal cage moving at high velocity vs what they might do when face to face with that same party. 

    BTW, it’s not just employees, but their bosses, as well as sis-level colleagues where these offences and faux-pas occur. In one of my global conferences this past year, one of the presenters did not realise that, although he was on mute, his camera was still on whilst he and his wife dressed while awaiting his turn to present. Thankfully, alert tech staff cut his camera feed to active presenter mode just in time, but it could have gone gnarly. I’m sure he presumed that the conference was already in active presenter mode, but he wasn’t paying attention. 

    In short, but we and the technology are in the earliest stages of cultural adaptation.

    Cultural change and adaptation is a gradual, generational process beset with pitfalls before we achieve equipoise. 

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