Does the Meeting Monster work at your office?

"Meetings are an addictive, highly self-indulgent activity 
that corporations and other organizations habitually engage in 
only because they cannot actually masturbate." 
- Dave Barry, Pulitzer prize-winning American humorist

Have you ever worked in an environment that was driven by meetings? Meet to decide on a time to meet. Meet to discuss the agenda for the next meeting. Meet to analyze how the meeting went. Meet. Meet. Meet.

I once worked somewhere where I did nothing but go to meetings all day. As I rehashed my day with my family or friends, they'd quickly say, "Do you do anything but go to meetings?" or "How do you get any work done when you're tied up in all those meetings?".  On many days, I had to scramble to get my actual work done between the daily meet-fest and frequently took work home.

It may sometimes be the politics of a company that require excessive buy-in, via face-to-face meetings. Sometimes, people don't want sole responsibility for a project and call meetings to assign tasks and appoint additional stakeholders. And, other times, meetings are set because it's the culture. Not sure how to fill your day? Call a meeting. 

Can meetings serve a purpose? Absolutely! Can you resolve important issues and push projects forward thanks to meetings? Of course! But, do some organizations have a culture of meeting abuse? Heck, yeah!

As the economy continues to struggle, many employees are tasked with doing more with less. Time is at a premium and expectations are higher than ever. Meetings can serve a purpose, but if you are the one calling the meeting, be sure that it's warranted. Here are my some of my favorite suggestions for being respectful of your colleagues' time and ensuring a productive meeting:

  • Set a start time and a firm end time for the meeting (and stick to it!). This will prevent meandering and keep people on point. After all, the clock is ticking. Tick. Tock. 
  • Create an agenda and set a time limit for each item. This will help attendees come prepared and keep the discussion moving. 
  • If you invite someone to a meeting, make sure they know why they've been asked to participate. This will allow them to collect any necessary information prior to the meeting. Two other benefits are that the person can opt out if you've tapped the wrong individual and also that he/she can send you the necessary information in advance if all you really needed from them was to rattle off a statistic. (Nothing is more aggravating than being told you have to be in a meeting and then realizing two hours later that you didn't need to be there at all.)
  • If it's a recurring meeting for a project, move attendees to "optional" status once their contribution to the team has been made. This will allow them to continue attending the meeting, if they so choose. However, if they have met their obligations and are no longer an active contributor to the team, this will empower them to opt-out. 

Have you been the victim of a meeting-centric culture? Do you have a good or bad example to share? A favorite suggestion for running a good meeting? Let's hear it!


  1. Amber, I'm interested in seeing what kind of responses you'll get to this post.

    At my company, we normally set meetings to end early. By that I mean we never use a full hour or a full half-hour. We also have timers in our conference rooms. Meeting organizers are supposed to have agenda's and the weekly meetings normally have assigned meeting minutes takers.

    I'm pretty lucky because nobody here really likes meetings and we generally as a company don't tolerate unnecessary ones.

    Great post!

  2. Ah, I'd like some people to see this. Meetings seem to be the way anything around here gets done. A lot of times though, I feel like meetings have become unnecessary consensus building forums where one person with an idea wants to call a meeting so the X isnt on his/her back when the idea falls flat when implemented. "Werent you the one that proposed this?" "Yes, but I ran it by 10 other people! And boom, it then becomes a collective buck passing bonanza. Meetings take up at least 50% of my time every week. And thankfully since I'm remote and dialed in to most of those meetings, I get to pick which ones I actively listen in on and which ones I get to tune out on. Gotta love that mute button!

  3. OMG! This was the environment at good ol' B of A. For 3 years, I did nothing but sit in meetings until I got laid off last year. We didn't accomplish much and sometimes I was tagged along just because I was affiliated with a project but not really in it. I like your ideas for meetings. A set agenda and set start time are the way to go and only invite people that can contribute, not those by default.

  4. Meetings are the other alternative to work.

  5. Tom: You're one of the lucky ones! Curious though, how large is your company? I wonder if this is more of a problem at big companies opposed to smaller ones.

    Kartik: Thanks for visiting and commenting. You're not as lucky as Tom, but nice that you can multitask if needed. And, yes, I agree with you. I think consensus building and CYA plays a big part in why so many meeting happen in certain environments.

    Sukhraj: So glad all those meetings the banks are having saved them from implosion in 2009. Oh wait, they didn't! :-> It's amazing how many people make up an invite list for a meeting as if it were their 20th wedding anniversary party, isn't it? Invite those who have something to add to the project, advice to contribute, or insight to provide. Then move on and executive.

    OS14: Meetings certainly can be counterproductive, can't they? At the end of the day, you might have been in 5 meetings and still have absolutely nothing to show for your time. People need to start rethinking how to move the needle and create a productive and efficient work environment.


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