Safety in numbers? – why I hate meetings

I’m no lover of meetings.

I find them inefficient, productivity sapping and on occasion downright divisive. I’ve laboured for many years under the illusion that; by putting more effort into the control and organisation of meetings I can get more out of them. I think all I’ve really achieved is to waste more of my time and cause my coworkers to hate me more than they did before!

I know it’s been fashionable for some time now to bash meetings. I mean they do present an obvious and easy target. Do a quick google on the subject and the majority of opinion pieces seem weighted against them. Current culture, especially in the IT / Web industry is often vitriolic towards meetings. 37 Signals call Meetings “toxic” and they present some compelling arguments.

But what about more traditional top down industries? CBS news cite the fact that “professionals lose 31 hours per month to unproductive meetings” and that “73 percent of professionals admit to doing unrelated work in meetings” and I can well believe it.

Everyone seems to attend meetings (especially long ones) with their laptop/smartphone these days, and counter to all known logic regards focus and productivity, it seems acceptable for them to be used indiscriminately. I’ve regularly attended meetings in the past where Senior management have brought laptops for the sole purpose of getting on with other work. What’s the point? surely someone with balls needs to question what the hell are we doing here??

The invariable counter argument is “you’re doing it all wrong..” well run meetings are are critical to business success. Really? I’d love to see the statistics on that. I’m sure in some industries there may be benefit in holding meetings, but I suspect these are in the minority rather than the majority. At some point you have to question the worth of any medium of communication where so many people consistently get it wrong for so many years and on so many levels. Is that the signature of a useful tool?

It just seems that the meeting is so baked-into business process these days there’s some kind of innate fear of abandoning them, or even just trying something a bit different.

If it’s collaboration you’re after there’s loads of ways for teams, clients and managers to collaborate in the modern workplace that don’t involve meetings.

If it’s safety in numbers and arse covering you’re after, please, gimme a break and leave me out of it.

If it’s the human and personal touch you’re after, well that’s fine, just don’t try to tell me that meetings are really helping productivity and the key to success, because they’re not.

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