The dirty little secret about business meetings

By Scot Herrick | Job Performance

Dec 13

Business meetings are the biggest time-wasters on the planet. Yet, despite all the advice, all the complaining, and all the meeting tips out there, we ignore all that and have 5,000 meetings on our calendar. It makes no sense. Except for the dirty little secret about business meetings: we love them.

Now, I can hear you saying to yourself that I’m crazy. Perfectly understandable. Doesn’t change the truth: our behavior says we love meetings. Love going to them, love setting them up, and love them even though nothing gets accomplished at them. We can say all we want about how much we hate meetings — but our behavior says we love them.

There are reasons, perhaps. And, there are:

Business meetings are a Badge of Busyness

Want to show that you’re really busy and working on important stuff? Complain about how many meetings you have to attend. Want to garner even more sympathy? Complain about how many meetings you have to attend and then complain about how unproductive they are to your work!

Your coworkers are happy they are not in your situation, know that you are incredibly busy and give you sympathy for your trials and tribulations. Ahhh…the attention to ourselves is so nice, isn’t it?

Before you blow me off on this — perfectly understandable — check yourself the next time you are complaining about how many meetings you need to attend. Are they really all necessary? Does any of your work get done at them? And your reason for complaining about the number of meetings you attend is…..?

Business meetings confer status

Are you the one heading up the meeting? There is power there. Are you participating in meetings with people in management two levels higher than you in the organization? Helps your visibility in the company as well.

In fact, if you are heading up the meeting, you’re not real likely to think the meeting is a totally unproductive waste of time, are you? No, you’re going to think important stuff is happening because you are the one running it.

Or, if you’re participating in meetings with higher levels of management, you’re not likely to complain about how unproductive the meeting is, are you? With that “Vice President – Everything” heading up this meeting, you can bask in the glow of the importance. Even if you think the meeting is a total waste of time, will you really complain about it so that your complaint could get back to the Vice President? Naw. The complaint would jeopardize your job security.

Business meetings are social events

Business, of course, is social. We tend to forget that in the midst of data driven analysis and Very Important Decisions that need making. Yet how many meetings do you come out of where you have learned something new — not related to business — about someone in the meeting? How often do you take part in meetings where the business part was half the time spent and socialization was the other half — talking about what other people are doing in their jobs, what is happening in the company or family events unfolding?

The next time you are ready to complain about all the meetings you attend, take a gut check. Is it really the meeting? Or are you getting some satisfaction from one of these three areas of meetings that people really love?

  • Paul Smith says:

    That’s another article very helpful. It is essential to point out that meetings are a good way for the employees to socialise and get to know each other, so allowing a bit of time for talking about their jobs, etc is brilliant

  • Briana 3310 says:

    I thought that this article was well written and very correct! it points out the little rush that we get complaining about our hectic schedules and getting sypathy from others.

  • Great article, good recommendations. I’ve suffered from “meetingitis” in all companies I’ve worked 🙂 Non productive meetings seems to be the preferred sport in certain companies. Some of my ex-colleagues really liked to stay at meeting-rooms without no clear objective and no planned ending time. In my current job I’ve changed by myself these annoying practices by many of points above and some others like limit the number of participants. To be able to provide numbers of hours saved from meetings and monitor the evolution of many other productivity factors I installed a monitoring tool ( WorkMeter ) BEFORE applying the new rules. The result was impressive… more than this, not only meetings were shorter, but there were less meetings because of the key point: “Don’t go to a meeting without clear objectives” 🙂

    Thank you,


  • A lot of truth in this. From a freelance / contractor perspective there is a good solution: pay people to deliver projects, not to spend time doing stuff (like going to pointless meetings). How many pointless meetings have you been in when half the attendees are getting paid by the day!

    • Zack Pike says:

      John – The problem with paying people for the project and not time is that it’s difficult… What if they get done before 5pm? Then what?

      Obviously I’m being sarcastic… I totally agree!

  • I do agree with all the points and I salute you for this courageous article, the business world is full of lots of odds that need truthful professionals who can uncover them…

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