Meetings, meetings, meetings…Never ending meetings…I can hear you say “Tell me about it!”

Most managers think that meetings are a necessary and important part of work life. But I’m sure you remember participating in many unproductive and wasteful meetings. Are all meetings that bad? Not exactly. Let’s look at why and when meetings can be a burden or a waste and which conditions they can provide resources for employees.

It’s true that most of the time meetings are viewed as a poor use of time and source of inefficiency. Bad meetings have many negative consequences on employees such as lowered wellbeing, job satisfaction and morale, and intentions to quit. Besides, when meetings are not successful, both managers and other employees are dissatisfied which may lead to decreased productivity. These, then, can all impede an organization’s ability to achieve goals, not to mention the financial costs they bring.

However, in most cases, it’s not the meeting itself which is the problem; rather, it’s the structure of the meeting, the information shared, the time spent, and the extent to which the meeting is productive. For instance, according to research, when the information shared is relevant to the attendees, most of the people find the meetings useful and they look forward to it. Conversely, well-run meetings may have many positive consequences. For example, meetings in which people can openly discuss problems and solutions, and participate in decision-making may promote employee engagement and motivation. In fact, research shows that participation in decision-making in meetings is closely related to employee engagement. This relationship is even stronger when perceived supervisor support as well as meeting load is high.

Another issue with the meetings is the lateness. You go to the meeting room on time just to see that nobody is there (in many cases the host of the meeting). Meetings become more dreadful for people because of lateness. There is no doubt that meetings absorb a lot resources of employees since attending more meetings means having less time to do other parts of their job which may lead to increased stress. However, when meetings are structured in a good way, that is, when planning, problem solving and collaboration are part of meetings, these can provide employees with valuable resources. No one would look forward to attending a meeting where they would wait for a long time for others to arrive which would create ambiguity or decrease trust.

Another interesting thing is that meetings do not have the same impact on all employees. Those employees who are very much success-oriented are affected from meetings in a negative way especially if the meetings are frequent. On the other hand, for those who are less success-oriented, meetings may have positive effects such as increased wellbeing and job satisfaction. researchers speculate that this is because success-oriented people think that meetings would interrupt their work and make it difficult for them to concentrate on things they really want to work on.

The message for the organizers/managers is that meetings should be improved in a way that can make sense to attendees. Discussing a problem openly, developing solutions, identifying a course of action are some ways which can help participants make better sense of the meetings. If meetings can provide positive experiences, employees would be less inclined to perceive these meetings as a waste of time. Managers should be mindful of the structure of the meeting, how the meeting is handled, and how much time it takes. Make meetings more focused and goal-oriented and you will find that it limits mind-wandering. Produce a committed action plan in meetings and participants would be more willing to attend the next one. The person who mediates the meeting should also inspire constructive contribution from participants and discourage counterproductive behaviour, track time, and facilitate turn taking.

Let’s not make people’s job more difficult and waste their lives with inefficient and useless meetings.

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