Bad meetings are the bane of the corporate world, and yet despite what appears to be an overwhelming consensus that they’re often unnecessary and unproductive, many workplaces continue to struggle to avoid them.
Why do bad meetings feel inevitable? Are we really resigned to sitting in or worse, leading pointless meetings? We shouldn’t be. Here are common reasons you might be back-to-back every single day, and how you can get your (and your team's) schedule under control:
• FOMO. Too often, we worry that our colleagues will judge us — or worse yet, forget about us, if we don’t accept every invitation. Instead of RSVPing “yes,” demonstrate your value and engagement outside of meetings, and encourage your team to do the same.
• Meeting amnesia. Do you feel like you’re having the same meeting over and over again? You might be. Make it routine to take notes and share those summaries with attendees and any relevant stakeholders who weren’t present. Keeping consistent and accessible synopses of your team’s meetings will help you avoid retreading the same ground.
• Lack of accountability. If you're using a meeting as a way to check that work is actually getting done, consider telling your colleagues in advance that you’ll cancel and give everyone the time back if they meet their deadlines ahead of the set time.
Of course, there’s no once-and-done cure for the modern workplace’s meeting addiction. The pitfalls we’ve identified stem from universal human biases, and those biases are exceedingly difficult to overcome. But by understanding the psychology behind bad meetings, both managers and their teams can work towards healthier communication norms, more-effective interactions, and cleaner calendars.
How many meetings do you have per week?
Do you always send the agenda before the meeting?
Whillans A., Feldman D., Wisniewski D. (2021, November). The Psychology Behind Meeting Overload. Harvard Business Review.
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