Most employees are required to attend one or more meetings a week. With rare exceptions, they are fruitless, therefore less than a joyful experience. Initially, meetings were only attended by top executives, as in board meetings. Currently, even the lowest paid employee is required to attend meetings. Thus they have become commonplace time wasters, privately loathed and ridiculed by the workers. Management (non-workers) love meetings. It makes them feel important.
Meetings are usually initiated by higher ups who attach more importance to them and themselves than the attendees. Employees attend willingly only if:
1) A spectacular lunch is provided. (Greasy pizzas or cheap subs don’t count. Only a catered lunch will do.)
2) Company profits are being divided among the employees.
3) Benefits to the employees are being substantially increased.
Aside from attaching perceived importance to the meeting holder, in general, meetings are held for 3 reasons:
1) Management is lonely. A meeting provides for a captive audience.
2) There is a single offender of a company policy/rule/procedure or accepted practice. Lacking the courage (female management) or private parts (male management) to discuss the problem one on one with the offender, the whole group has to suffer through a meeting which has no relevance to the group.
3) To boost the morale of the employees. Perhaps the biggest time waster of all because there is an obvious solution. Employees that are well paid, given sufficient time to complete assignments, have the proper tools/materials to complete work and are not fearful or loatheful of management do no need their morale boosted.
There is an unspoken standard protocol by meeting attendees that requires management to send several reminders of the meeting time and place. Failure to do this results in heavy absenteeism. On top of several written and verbal reminders, it is management’s responsibility to gather attendees individually just before the meeting time. This provides the employee with an excellent opportunity to play games. Employees have an uncanny sixth sense about being approached by management. As soon as they sense management is around the corner they feign total absorption in a work project, thus excusing themselves from having to acknowledge the management presence. If the manager clears his throat loud enough or often enough the employee quickly snaps to attention, appearing startled. For extremely difficult cases, shoulder tapping is required. At this point the employee knows the pleasure of his company is going to be requested. Discouragement and denial soon has the manager delegating the responsibility of gathering employees for meetings to a subordinate.
Attendees usually bring writing utensils and paper. This is to let management know that attendees expect to hear topics of great importance that are worthy of documentation. With the exception of occasional doodles, the paper usually remains blank. The exception to this exception is the person striving for management status. This person takes copious notes.
Attendees understand that nothing of importance is to be discussed. The meeting is being called to nurture the ego of the management. Since employees don’t listen to and respect the management, they understand that neither does the management’s spouse, children, significant other or friends; hence the manager has a desperate need to speak. Much of the meeting time will be spent on the manager talking about their personal interests and self-importance. Stories on golf, fishing, sports and the kids soccer games are plentiful. Business talk is sparse, relatively unimportant and could have been sent by E-mail or memos.
Once in the meeting, attendees quickly go into mute mode. It is career suicide to offer suggestions to someone who knows everything. A stupor like trance quickly develops with the most practiced attendees having perfected sleeping with their eyes open. The other attendees know who the sleepers are. They are the attendees that when asked a question don’t respond unless given a quick courtesy kick under the table by a sympathetic attendee, at which point they quickly state: ‘Could you please repeat that’.
If management wanted to accurately assess the value of meetings, it would only be necessary to change attendance from mandatory to voluntary, without any reminders. The head count at meeting time would be embarrassing. Management knows this but chooses to ignore that little voice that is telling them the truth.
Luncheon meetings to reward employees for productivity are good policy. Other than that, meetings take away from the productivity of employees. In today’s environment employees usually are given more work than they can complete in eight hours. Meetings cause unnecessary down time for already overburdened employees who have to somehow make up this time. Company policy should require that information be disseminated by E-mail or interoffice memo as a first preference. Meetings should only be held if they require interactive responses to get work completed or address critical safety and liability issues. Company policy should also state that meetings must have specific agenda and document what was accomplished by taking employees away from other duties.