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When Bad Meetings Happen to Good People

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Let’s schedule a meeting.

Of course, before our meeting, we will need to schedule a pre-meeting to discuss what we will be discussing at our meeting. And we better schedule a follow-up meeting as well, to discuss whether we have fully discussed what we agreed to discuss in our pre-meeting discussion.

Sound familiar? It’s called meeting hell, friends, and these days we’re all living there.

Much of the blame can be attributed to covid-19. Because we work from home, we were able to create our own working hours. Now our corporate lords seek revenge. By planning meetings, meetings about meetings, and meetings about meetings about meetings, management reaffirms the fantasy that individuals cannot accomplish anything of significance on their own.

As a result, meeting inflation is at an all-time high.

At least that’s what I learned in “That’s What Happens When There’s Too Many Meetings,” a recent article by Derek Thompson in The Atlantic.

Thompson cites Mary Czerwinski, head of research for Microsoft’s Human Understanding and Empathy group (a very small group, I imagine), whose research has shown that “people are having 250% more meetings every day than before the pandemic”.

Another disturbing statistic, also from bad news from Microsoft, suggests that “the average workday has increased by 13% – about one hour – since March 2020 and the average after-hours work has increased twice as much” .

The fact that our extra dose of workflow happens in the evening is a surprise. Previous research has shown that knowledge workers have “two productivity peaks in their workday: just before lunch and just after lunch.” It’s unclear whether the researchers considered the outcome of your Taco Bell Volcano Nachos lunch choice. If so, assume that your productivity peak will occur just before lunch and just after your ER admission.

With the meeting craze clearly out of control, we need to understand that not all meetings are the same.

For example, there’s the brainstorming meeting, where everyone is supposed to pontificate at length on a single key question – usually: why did the brilliant idea that came out of the last brainstorming meeting happen? it gone so wrong and who are we to blame?

It could be fun, as long as the loser in this business game of pinning the donkey’s tail isn’t you. One thing is certain, it will not be the person who called the meeting.

There is also the status meeting, in which a high status person, who rarely does the work, wastes the time of all those of lower status, who do. Finally, there is the Team-Building Meeting. It’s a misery-love-business reunion where the goal is to have no purpose, to let everyone get close by marinating in the futility of coming to work in the first place.

Once you understand the real agenda of a meeting, it may be possible to limit the torture. If you come up with a great idea in a brainstorming meeting, keep it to yourself. The longer your colleagues grope in the dark, the less work you will have to do.

If you are unsure of your position in regular status meetings, simply stop attending. If no one notices your absence after three months, congratulations: Your colleagues consider you management material and far too important to attend.

To short-circuit a team-building meeting, demand that everyone in attendance express their appreciation for having had the privilege of working at the company. It’s guaranteed, after this kind of talk, no one will want you on their team.

In fairness, it must be recognized that some meetings are in fact essential, such as when the company has made another giant mistake and a crisis meeting is called to tell staff how to deny that the big mistake really happened. . (This is a regular occurrence in political organizations.) This is the only meeting you should attend, especially if the person who caused the blunder is you.

For meeting mania to be brought under control, the ability to schedule meetings must be rationed. The higher the manager rises in the organization chart, the fewer meetings he should be allowed to call. At lower levels, where participants understand that working together can be helpful in getting things done, more reunion permits would be allowed.

But never more than one per month. And only on full moon nights.

You do not agree ?

We will have to organize a meeting about this. In the meantime, pass by the Volcano Nachos.

Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on to

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