October 1, 2022
“The worst mistake a boss can make is not to say ‘Well done’" – John Ashcroft (b.1942), An American lawyer, lobbyist and politician.
Some bosses seek and attract appreciation for themselves by holding frequent long meetings that have now become subjects of media concern and coverage as in the following excerpts from Bloomberg feature article released on September 28, 2022 which has been widely reproduce and commented on.
Are meetings a waste of time? Non-critical huddles cost companies $100 mn, reveals survey..
Employees say they don’t need to be in nearly one-third of the meetings they attend, a new survey shows. Unnecessary meetings are a $100 million mistake at big companies, according to a new survey that shows workers probably don’t need to be in nearly a third of the group meetings they attend.
The survey, conducted by Steven Rogelberg, a professor of organizational science, psychology and management at the University of North Carolina, asked 632 employees across 20 industries to study their weekly calendars and gauge how much time they actually spent in meetings, what they got out of them and how they responded to invitations. Employees spend about 18 hours a week on average in meetings, and they only decline 14% of invites even though they’d prefer to back out of 31% of them. Reluctantly going to noncritical meetings wastes about $25,000 per employee annually, and projects out to $101 million a year for any organization with more than 5,000 employees.
“Meetings do control us, and bad meetings have an enormous cost,” said Rogelberg, who’s been researching meetings for two decades. “You get a meeting invite and say, ‘I don’t need to be there,’ yet you say yes — why?”
Employees want to skip nearly one-third of their meeting invites.
Many say yes because it’s a workplace norm — nobody wants to offend the meeting organizer by skipping out, or have co-workers think they’re not engaged. Others hate having to chase down updates on what happened. Most managers don’t talk to their staff about how and when to decline meetings, in part because they’re typically the ones leading them and like the sense of control they provide, Rogelberg said. The survey found women were more concerned than men about declining meetings for fear of bugging colleagues to bring them up to speed later.
Rogelberg’s earlier research found that poorly managed meetings can hurt employee engagement and even boost their intention to quit, and the morass of meetings got worse during the pandemic due to the shift to remote work and videoconferencing. Data from Microsoft Corp. based on thousands of users of its workplace software found that time spent in meetings has more than tripled since February 2020, and the number of weekly meetings has more than doubled. Those virtual meetings “tend to be more cognitively demanding, more prone to distraction, and less effective in many ways than their in-person counterparts,” a team of researchers concluded in a recent study that examined how communication patterns changed right after pandemic lockdowns hit in 2020.
Managers, who spend about 20% more time in meetings than the average employee, need to be more judicious in calling them and more upfront about letting people decline them, Rogelberg said. Meeting declines did rise 84% over the past year, according to more recent data from Microsoft, but that’s likely due to the fact that overlapping meetings increased 46% during the same period.
Agendas should be framed as a set of questions to be answered, not a set of topics. “If you can’t think of any questions, you shouldn’t have had the meeting,” he said. Inviting people to just part of a meeting also helps improve their efficacy, the survey found. Otherwise, people tune out: Respondents to Rogelberg’s survey said they end up multitasking during 70% of unnecessary meeting.
To estimate the cost of unnecessary meetings, Rogelberg calculated employees’ hourly pay based on their self-reported salary and hours worked per week, then extrapolated those figures to represent firms of different sizes.
The article released by Bloomberg provoked widespread comment, including an editorial in The Times of India –also excerpted below.
It’s up to bosses: For good office meetings, set a specific goal. Otherwise, you are wasting everyone’s productive time
Meetings are both a fact of white-collar working life and a colossal waste of time, and they cost big companies $100 million a year, says a new survey… Most employees feel that they would be better off refusing at least a third of all meetings but are reluctant to say so. Women are especially uncomfortable refusing a scheduled meeting. Too many meetings just meander on and drain the sense of autonomy that fuels creative work. Often, they don’t end up with the best decision, but poor or low-commitment agreements. In-person meetings have not been supplanted, but supplemented by virtual meetings, which bring their own special protocols and challenges. On the other hand, meetings are the only way for big and complex organisations to work. They are the forum to pitch new plans and arrive at collective decisions, they can spark serendipitous new ideas, they are a way to discover each other’s capacities and interests, and forge fellowship. People react spontaneously, reading each other’s cues.
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