In my previous post, I reacted to an editorial in the Guardian by Simon Jenkins, who came to the conclusion that meetings are killing people and destroying organizations. His article failed to consider all the good reasons why you go to meetings, so I decided to defend meetings and the many positive contributions they make. This week, I’m reconsidering Jenkins’ disdain for meetings and documenting all the lousy reasons you use to defend going to meetings. If you give up precious time for any of these reasons, it’s time to stop.
You don’t have the courage to decline the invite
I bet that you often know in advance that the meeting you are about to go to will be terrible. In this case, you just don’t have the energy (or maybe the guts) to say no. To do so would be to buck the trend and to stand out in the stream of half-awake corporate automatons making their way toward the meeting room. If you’re knowingly going to useless meetings, you’re on the short path to disengagement and on the road to those horrible health impacts Simon Jenkins was warning about. I’ve already written the full instructions on how to decline a meeting invite without becoming a pariah. Read them here.
You don’t trust anyone else to speak on your behalf
Some of the meetings you go to likely have relevant bits, but they’re few and far between. In these cases, you could have someone who is more central to the meeting share your updates for you, but darned if you’re going to trust your teammate Bob to present your ideas. What if he’s not as compelling as you? What if he’s not as funny as you? What if they ask him a question he can’t answer? So you attend a 2-hour meeting for the 10-minutes when your project might get mentioned on the 10% chance that Bob can’t handle it. That’s a bad return. How about prepping Bob well and agreeing to follow up on any questions that he can’t handle to the team’s satisfaction.
You are too lazy to read the information another way
While I’m on the topic of follow-up, I’d like to touch on another terrible reason you go to meetings: you’ve lost the ability (or at least the willingness) to read. There are lots of meetings where the information is distributed in advance (you know the ones where the guy says, “I’m not going to read the whole deck because you’ve already seen it,” and then he reads the whole deck). Sadly, you can’t be bothered to read more than two paragraphs at one sitting and it’s just easier to go to the meeting and do the audio book version.
You are desperate for connection
The last reason you might go to unnecessary, inefficient, and ineffective meetings is more tragic. I’m becoming more and more convinced that you just might be starving for genuine human connection. Everyone around you is so busy and even at home, you barely see your family as you rush in opposite directions to keep up with the pace of modern life. You try to make up for it with Facebook and email, but you just can’t replace a good old fashioned conversation. So you go to meetings to try to make a connection. If that’s what you’re in search of, you won’t find it. Meetings with no clear purpose and no progress will just make you feel more empty. If you want to make a genuine connection with a coworker, go grab a coffee and share what you’re excited about and what you’re struggling with.
As I said in my last post, there are lots of great reasons to go to meetings and if that’s what you’re getting out of them, a few meetings a week are a good investment. Unfortunately, you probably go to more than one meeting a week that could be eliminated if only you were willing to expend a little effort rather than just go with the flow. Of course, you decide. Do you want to invest a little effort to save a lot of time? If not, you’re probably late for your next meeting.