The Six Types Of Meetings People Despise

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Productive Meetings

B& – 19 Sep 2018

I once heard a very senior leader in a global organisation remark, ‘You can have a long career here by going from one meeting to another and never actually doing any real work’. Can you relate?

This unspoken requirement to attend poorly executed meetings, while also managing to get stuff done is what drives down employee engagement scores and drives up feelings of discouragement.

A Harvard survey of 182 senior managers found 65 per cent thought meetings kept them from completing their own work, and as much as 71 per cent said meetings are unproductive and inefficient.

We sit through meetings, wishing we were somewhere else, doing something else.

Here are six kinds of meetings that we have all experienced and hate:


Here people talk at such a high level about things that need to be discussed, but then never actually discuss the real issues. Count the number of times people say “Let’s take that offline”. Unless you send out a clear agenda 24-hours ahead of time, then you’ll end up with five more follow-up meetings about the meetings


Have you been CC’d into the meeting invite? You have been invited as a “spectator” to watch and listen, but not participate – oh no! That means there’s a cast of thousands, but no-one is really sure why they are there. As soon as you get one of these invites, just ask the organiser: What do you need me to do at this meeting?’


It’s usually one person sitting at the head of the table telling you what they think and then shooting down any other ideas. They are usually (but not always) the most senior person in the room, and in many cases, no-one is willing to interrupt or speak out because it may be a career limiting move. Find a reason to exit – pronto!


No one is moderating the meeting, so it’s only the loudest, most passionate voices that are heard. Those that may be more introverted may not be able to get a word in, or have the time and space for their usually well considered opinion. Take a timer in with you and give everyone one minute to share their point of view before moving on.


This can happen both physically and via distance. I’m not sure which is worse, but in both cases, it involves a deck of at least 150 slides, most of which you can’t read because the text is so small. The only way around this is to announce the meeting completely tech-free. No laptops, no phones, no devices means no PowerPoint. Phew.


The purpose for the meeting has probably been tagged as “let’s touch base”. But the question is, on what and, more importantly, why? Ask the organiser the purpose of the meeting so that you can prepare. If you don’t get a straight answer then you’re in danger of this turning into meeting type 1. So run!


Begin to think about how you might transform some of these bad meetings to good.

  1. Pay attention to what percentage of your time is currently spent on each of the meeting types.
  2. Notice how much of this is within your control (or not).
  3. Think about what you could change right now to make your meetings more purposeful. (HINT: It might be as simple as saying ‘no’.)

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