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Businesses Science

Meetings are Bad For You 283

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the listen-up-ostg dept.
19061969 writes "Though this is obvious to most of us, your PHB's might benefit from knowing that meetings are bad for you. Two psychologists have found evidence that the number of and the time spent in meetings has a detrimental effect on mood. "...a general relationship between meeting load and the employee's level of fatigue and subjective workload was found", write the authors after conducting a diary study. Perhaps we should be more understanding with our moody bosses?"
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Meetings are Bad For You

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  • by Tx (96709) on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @08:32AM (#14489749) Journal
    Memo from your PHB

    We need to have a meeting to discuss these findings!
    • by DuctTape (101304) on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @08:37AM (#14489775)
      ... after you turn in your TPS report. You got the memo on that, right?

      DT

    • Memo from your PHB We need to have a meeting to discuss these findings!

      That's okay - I have a doctors' note.

    • by artificialnews.com (942466) on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @08:46AM (#14489838) Homepage
      I know that most people here work on the "create the product" part of industry, or so it seems, but when you're like me, meetings are a wonderful thing.

      I work in sales. The more that I can understand our products, the better of a salesman I can be. I"m not the type of person that will try to make up things because they want products to look good -- instead, I try to be as knowledgeable as I can, because from what I have seen, the more knowledgeable that the buyer sees that I am, the more trusting they are of me, and therefore more willing to buy what I am selling.

      I don't spend a large amount of my time in meetings, but at least for me, the meetings that I am a part of, each bit of information that I receive on a product ends up selling at least another few units, so they're great for me.
      • by acvh (120205) <geek.mscigars@com> on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @09:22AM (#14490008) Homepage
        A thoughtful, intelligent, insightful post.

        Therefore, you CAN'T be a salesman.

        Except for the part about liking meetings. Every sales guy I've worked with loves meetings. They want to have meetings for everything - except when they're booking my time on conference calls.

        • I work for a large corporation that has a lot of salespeople. What the grandparent said is absolutely true, people can tell the difference between product knowledge and bs sales tactics. The best out there know the products very well. There's no need to swindle if you can earn a client's trust by knowing what you're talking about and not making things up when you have no idea. After the sale, your salesperson is your primary contact for issues that arise, so you're going to buy from the most knowledgeab
          • by ceoyoyo (59147) on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @02:07PM (#14492569)
            There are some good salespeople out there. It always impresses me when they have some technical knowledge, and as soon as you step outside that they say "I don't know... let me put you in contact with one of our engineers."

            On the other hand, when I ask a question and they obviously don't know but make something up or change the subject or tell me I don't want to do that anyway....
      • by gstoddart (321705) on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @10:15AM (#14490386) Homepage
        I work in sales. The more that I can understand our products, the better of a salesman I can be. I"m not the type of person that will try to make up things because they want products to look good -- instead, I try to be as knowledgeable as I can, because from what I have seen, the more knowledgeable that the buyer sees that I am, the more trusting they are of me, and therefore more willing to buy what I am selling.

        Gak! One of them has breeched the outer perimeter and is posting on Slashdot.

        Rally the forces, we must stop the incursion of salesmen onto technical forums before the damage is too great.

        I sense a great tremor in the force.
      • I work in sales. The more that I can understand our products, the better of a salesman I can be.

        Not to mention all the meals, drinks, swag, gifts, bribes, etc that you probably get. Oh, and the commission, for selling things that don't exist. Oh, and for promising ridiculous things to the clients that cause many people to work extra hours to deliver it.

        At least, that is what our sales team does.

      • OK you like meetings becuase you learn more about your product but couldn't you get even more information by simply researching and shooting a few e-mails to people. That way you don't clog everyone elses day by asking the same questions that has been answered by these people 200 times already. Now I have to go to a meeting with our sales guys about something I have already explained twice just this morning. No, I'm not being sarcastic that is exactly where I'm headed. So to all the sales guys out there
        • That way you don't clog everyone elses day by asking the same questions that has been answered by these people 200 times already.

          I don't know what kind of meetings you go to, but this is exactly WHY they have sales meetings. Instead of having all those people running around making their own interpretations about the product, coming to possibly different conclusions, or getting incomplete information, then having to contact the vendor and clarify, they get them all into one room and do it all at the same tim
      • Quite apart from the objective question of how useful a meeting is, there is an orthogonal dimension: whether a given person is temperamentally suited to meetings.

        It seems to me that extraverts (who tend to predominate in sales, marketing, and the upper strata of management) are obviously going to enjoy the atmosphere of a meeting far more than introverts (who tend to predominate in programming and other nose-to-the-metal jobs). Other things being equal, an extravert actually gains energy from being with a
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @09:00AM (#14489899)
      Agenda:
      1. Mad dash to grab the last available seat.
      2. Fiddle with starfish phone to find status of people conferencing in.
      3. Figure out how to get slide projector to work.
      4. Shoo away the person at the door looking for the sales meeting, after a brief standoff.
      5. Show PowerPoint slides starting with new org chart
      6. Ask if everyone can read the slides. "Well, maybe you can move up."
      7. Someone asks a tough question. After a quick deflection fails: "Let's take that offline".
    • We need to have a meeting to discuss these findings!
      Just reading that post raised my stress levels. Whoever modded that up as funny should be sentenced to death by meeting.
  • by w.p.richardson (218394) on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @08:33AM (#14489757) Homepage
    More meetings = less time to do real work = perception (reality) of more stress!

    In other news, the sky is blue.

  • Yeeeaaaahh... no. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lewp (95638) * on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @08:33AM (#14489759) Journal
    "Perhaps we should be more understanding with our moody bosses?"

    Perhaps not. Most meetings are scheduled by said moody bosses because they can't be bothered to read their email or meet one on one with the people who are actually getting work done. Sure, they're busy otherwise, but most of the reason they're busy is because of this meeting culture that equates sitting around a table talking about what you're going to have your minions do (as soon as they get out of the meetings you force them into) with getting code written and products shipped.

    The main reason I hate meetings so much is because I get the impression that the only people getting anything out of them are the ones contributing nothing useful to the project in the first place. I don't care if your job is to sit between me and your boss, if you can't keep up with a project you're a part of without dragging me away from my actual work to hand-hold you through what's going on twice a week, you're wasting my time.

    That was 90% of the meetings last place I worked, and this accounted for probably half the reason I got fed up with the place and quit before Christmas. Maybe I'm just not cut out to work somewhere that has more than a few employees, and I've never claimed to be a people person, but everybody I talked to felt much the same way, so I feel at least somewhat validated.

    Face to face contact is great, but the instances where that face to face contact's value outweighs the cost of herding a bunch of people into a conference room for a chit chat are few and far between when there are deadlines to meet, IMHO.
    • At one of my former jobs, fully half of each meeting was dedicated to other meetings. We'd spend about 15 minutes recapping the last meeting, and another 30 setting the agenda for the next one! I think it may just be for the reason you cited - even though the higher-ups in the meetings were 'constantly in touch with each other', they never really seemed to know what anyone else was doing or if any progress had been made. The net result was that I was pulled away from my work for twice as long as should h
    • by brunes69 (86786) <slashdot@NospAm.keirstead.org> on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @09:51AM (#14490212) Homepage

      That was 90% of the meetings last place I worked, and this accounted for probably half the reason I got fed up with the place and quit before Christmas. Maybe I'm just not cut out to work somewhere that has more than a few employees, and I've never claimed to be a people person, but everybody I talked to felt much the same way, so I feel at least somewhat validated.

      Indeed, maybe you aren't. But assuming you want to join a successful company that will be around next year, you won't be able to avoid it.

      I have gone through a few start-ups and can tell you, the number of and importance of mettings is directly proportional to the number of employees at a company. When you first start out and have 4-6 engineering people working in a small office, you don't need meetings. Everyone is on the same "team", everyone knows what everyone else is doing, if you have a question you just spin your chair around and ask.

      Fast forward ahead 6 months to a year, assuming the company is a success, you now have 15-20 engineers. You are no longer within casual talking distance without shouting across the office and disturbing everyone. As well, there are at least two teams with different taksk, each having their own project leader, eahc of which reports to some kind of head-hauncho. Now, said hauncho must also report to the sales guys, the CEO, the board, deal with employee issues, overall project planning, etc. He absolutely does *not* have time to do all this, and also keep tabs on 20 other people, no matter what kind of superman he is. This is why authority is delegated to the team leads, and why there *has* to be a meeting between him and the team leads ot keep him up to speed. There are certian things that just go way faster face-to-face than via email communications, and weekly status updates are one of them, because they involve a lot of back-and-forth questioning.

      Now, assuming said company stays successful, in another few years you'll have some 50-100 engineers working on multiple teams, which not only need to report to the boss, but also interact with each other, as their projects likely overlap. Of course there has to be meetings for this as well.

  • "...a general relationship between meeting load and the employee's level of fatigue and subjective workload was found"

    OK then. To counter that, bosses should never assign work, or require work be done for a meeting. Make it more like, "Yo dude, what's up?" "Cool." "See Ya."
    • I like fast meetings:
      "I gots this"
      "This thing sucks, and I did this -- how 'bout you?"
      "Oh, I did this thing, and broke the build."
      "Ah-ha, you get the chicken!"

      Meetings should be over before your coffee gets cold. More time for work = more productive. People typing in meetings shouldn't be there.
    • "Yo dude, what's up?" "Cool." "See Ya."

      Depending on dialect, this meeting may be one of the best, most concise meetings you'll ever be witness to.

      Project manager: Yo dude, what's up?
      Translation: Good morning and thank you for coming to this little impromptu meeting. Please provide me with an overview of our status on the widget project.

      Programmer: Cool.
      Translation: We are currently on schedule and there are no projected changes to the future schedule. I am unaware of any outstanding problems or decisions re
  • by gEvil (beta) (945888) on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @08:35AM (#14489766)
    I'm not sure I understand the findings. I know I'm always pleased when my boss "delegates" his full workload to me at a meeting.
    • by dkleinsc (563838)
      A possible response to this situation:

      1. Get to know your boss's boss(es). It never hurts, and gives you some leverage over your boss.

      2. The only thing a boss like that is going to know about what you're doing (and therefor what his job is) is what you tell him you're doing. Start leaving out information that your boss is likely to be asked about in his meetings with his bosses, without being obvious about it.

      3. Eventually, due to step 2, your boss will find himself unable to answer questions on a regular b
  • by FidelCatsro (861135) * <fidelcatsro@@@gmail...com> on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @08:37AM (#14489776) Journal
    "Meetings are Bad For You"
    No shit .. having an informal conversation with someone from a marketing Department for 5 minutes is bad enough.
    Having to sit with them for an Hour as they drivel total Bullshit, is enough to give anyone a nervous breakdown
    • by FidelCatsro (861135) * <fidelcatsro@@@gmail...com> on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @08:42AM (#14489819) Journal
      Come to think of it ..
      Do you think that "Meeting related stress and depression" would get me off with diminished responsibility , if i perform a killing spree.
      If so , I am going to invite the marketing department on a hunting trip ..A hunt for the ultimate Prey .. MAN
    • You have no idea.

      I'm contracting to do web development for this company right now, and they put me under the marketing department because my work "Has more to do with marketing than it does with IT."

      While I can see the point they're trying to make, it still doesn't shield me from all the crappy ass copy rewrites these guys do.

      I once saw these guys argue over whether to use the word "synergistic" or "co-operative".
      • "While I can see the point they're trying to make"
        I think the Point they are trying to make is

        Boss : My ex-wife was a Web Developer , she ran off with my brother and half my money . SO YOU MUST PAY FOR HER SIN
  • by CoderBob (858156) on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @08:37AM (#14489777)
    Rogelberg has delivered this insight in a talk called "Meetings and More Meetings," which he presented to a meeting at the University of Sheffield. He also does a talk called "Not Another Meeting!", which has been well received at two meetings in North Carolina.

    Am I the only one that found this whole statement funny? I would think that they would release the paper to trade magazines and such to get their findings out, rather than waste time with meetings about how meetings are bad. That sounds like shooting yourself in the foot to me.

  • by 706GL (172709) on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @08:38AM (#14489778) Homepage Journal
    While number of meetings is important, I think that spending all day, every day in your office with no idea what anyone else is doing could be just as detrimental. I go to like 3 meetings a month so it takes me forever to find out what other people are doing.
  • by gregarican (694358) on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @08:38AM (#14489780) Homepage
    I worked at a remote office for my previous employer. One time they flew me into their corporate headquarters to participate in a software replacement plan. I spent the better part of each day going from meeting to meeting. At the end of the last day I asked one of the people escorting me around "With all of these meetings how do y'all get any work done?" He looked at me seriously and said, "That's the idea." I went back to my remote world with even less respect for CHQ...
    • $5 says that your escort was being ha-ha-only-serious [catb.org].
    • by markov_chain (202465) on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @10:00AM (#14490267) Homepage
      I always found this part of the Tao of Programming a good way to think about bureaucracy:

      A novice asked the master: ``In the east there is a great tree-structure that men call `Corporate Headquarters'. It is bloated out of shape with vice presidents and accountants. It issues a multitude of memos, each saying `Go, Hence!' or `Go, Hither!' and nobody knows what is meant. Every year new names are put onto the branches, but all to no avail. How can such an unnatural entity be?"

      The master replied: ``You perceive this immense structure and are disturbed that it has no rational purpose. Can you not take amusement from its endless gyrations? Do you not enjoy the untroubled ease of programming beneath its sheltering branches? Why are you bothered by its uselessness?''

      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @10:12AM (#14490373)
        The novice replied: "Branches fall from above and strike my head. Roots from below come up from the ground and try to strangle. The fruit the tree produces is rotten to the core. I tried to climb it once but the vulture in the branches wouldn't let me pass as I wasn't part of his species."

        *****************
        (I do like the original story though... ;) )
  • Because- (Score:5, Funny)

    by Hao Wu (652581) on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @08:39AM (#14489788) Homepage
    There's NOTHING more important than feeling good. We learned that in the '90s.

    Something needs to be done about meetings... Perhaps more laws, counselling, medication... for the children.

  • Isn't this just an extension of "a happy worker is a productive worker" that was the foundation of casual Fridays etc?

    Considering the cash blown on the .com boom you'd hope a lesson or two would have stuck.

    __
    Funny adult videos daily [laughdaily.com]
  • Balance is the key (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    You need a balance of meetings.

    Key is to not invite non-Stakeholders. Certain meetings are needed for people to feel empowered to produce and cetrain meetings just make people wither on the vine. What you want to accomplish at the meeting?
  • by digitaldc (879047) * on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @08:40AM (#14489798)
    A friend of mine told me once how badly their office was run.

    The biggest problem, in his opinion, was the number of meetings that they had in order to discuss the projects they were working on. Frustration built up among employees due to not having enough time to actually do the work, as well as the number of times that he was interrupted in the middle of doing something productive - simply to go to another pointless meeting.
    In his opinion, these meetings caused just as many problems as they tried to solve, and ironically, they would sometimes generate more meetings to discuss how far they were along in meeting their original deadlines.

    I would tell you more about it, but I have a meeting to attend.
    • My last job (that I quit in frustration) was very much like that.

      We used to have meetings. All the time, even to the point where our projects would run late because of the damn meetings.

      Our PHB's solution?

      Mandatory overtime for the entire department. And - the punch line - an additional meeting every morning for status reports.

  • by TFGeditor (737839) on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @08:41AM (#14489802) Homepage
    I read in Reader's Digest many years ago about a plant manager who loathed meetings. A worker was injured on the job, which prompted a series of long "safety meetings." This propmpted the manager to post signs throughout the plant that read:

    Work Safely! Accidents cause Meetings!

  • ...a general relationship between meeting load and the employee's level of fatigue and subjective workload was found

    Maybe an employer who schedules a burdensome number of meetings is also likely to encourage a workplace that increases employees' fatigue. I don't see any proof of causation here.

  • Objectives. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Tethys_was_taken (813654) on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @08:42AM (#14489815) Homepage
    I remember reading that meetings are an ideal way to get some things done:
    1)Pool expertise from different departments
    2)"Gather" authority for cross-department tasks
    3)Get feedback and progress reports from different departments
    4)Discuss critical issues that require human interaction
    5)Criticise new products and techniques from different points of view
    6)Brainstorm

    When used properly, meetings can be powerful tools... But the ONLY reason I see meetings being used anymore is POLITICS! To palm off responsibility, blame someone else, avoid work, act important, establish power ("I called a meeting because I can"), or just generally be a waste of organizational oxygen. No wonder people hate them... The last thing most techs and researchers want is to get mired in office politics.

    A meeting conducted properly is a huge help. It can speed up things and make your goals and objectives a whole lot clearer than they ever were, but unfortunately some people just don't seem to get that.
  • They give you more time to sleep in.

    In most meetings at least one person is dozing off a bit.
    The problem isn't meetings, it is too many meetings to the extent that the time taken to do the job is occupied by meetings so there is no time to do the work in hand.

  • by COredneck (598733) * on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @08:45AM (#14489834)
    I use to have this at my old job that was posted. Some of the high-ups were not impressed.

    Are you Lonely ?

    Don't like working on your own ? Hate Making Decisions ?


    Then Call a Meeting !!!!

    YOU CAN...

    SEE people
    DRAW Flowcharts
    FEEL Important
    IMPRESS your collegues
    FORM subcommittees
    MAKE meaningless recommendations
    All on Company Time

    MEETINGS

    The pratical alternative to work.
    • Yeah, I used to work for a client who applied to just those rules.
      The guy took 45 minutes to 1 hour EVERY DAY of a 10-man team (all consultants and payed by the hour) for the purpose of making himself look useful.
      A couple of guys slept during most of it, another instant-messaged and the rest of us felt our life-force been sucked out of us, slowly.
      The meeting where 95% of the time pointless, and the guy scratched endlessly on his notepad every single word, nice and slowly (we had to speak slowly so he cou
  • by grag (597728) on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @08:51AM (#14489858)
    There is something disturbing about this paragraph from the article:

    Rogelberg has delivered this insight in a talk called "Meetings and More Meetings," which he presented to a meeting at the University of Sheffield. He also does a talk called "Not Another Meeting!", which has been well received at two meetings in North Carolina.
  • I'm sure it would be as bad at the other extreme - if you never met anyone, hwo well would you do your job then?
  • by BuR4N (512430)
    Best manager I've worked for hated meetings, when a meeting was unavoidable he made us stand up during the meetings. The effect on the meeting was amazing, people got very snappy during the meeting, only discussing the core problem and was well prepared when they arrived at the meeting, since no one was thrilled of a 4 hour stand up meeting :)
  • In my old job, the project was split between a Colorado Springs and Gaithersburg, MD location. The big shots were located on the East Coast in G-burg. There was one particular meeting that I had to attend every two weeks. I was Assistant Lab Manager. The meeting was a video conference hosted by G-burg. It was suppose to be a simple status meeting. A few years back when the meeting started, it was simple and short until the Sr. Mgt got involved. Today, the meetings last as long as 5 hours and one thing I not
    • Also in that group, it seems like they liked to have late Friday afternoon meetings which I of course, ignored, unfortunately to my detriment.

      I worked in a group - developing marketing software for MCI back in the mid-1990's. Our manager decided to order 4 pm meetings everyday especially on Friday. These meetings lasted until 6 or 7 every night. He of course did not show up, his staff people ran the meetings. After attending a few of those meetings, I came to the conclusion they were a waste of time. I
  • by Anonymous Coward
    To play the devil's advocate, I think meetings are a cost to an organization, and with all things with a cost need to be considered carefully. However, I have found, from both sides of the fence, that small team meetings to go over what other folks are doing on the team to be helpful. I've been working in product development for some time and the 30-45 minutes spent almost always reveals something of use to other team members. Also, it makes the team stronger sitting together and talking once a week. Yo
  • Like the URL says (Score:2, Informative)

    by denison (735014)
    This is improbable research.

    The article is poking fun at the study. The author of the article is the organiser of the Ignoble Prize competition.

  • tps (Score:2, Funny)

    by mjohnsond (848603)
    What's happening? Ahhh, we have a sort of a problem here. Yeah, you apparently didn't put one of the new cover sheets on your T.P.S. report. It's just that we're putting new coversheets on all the TPS reports *before* they go out now. So if you could just remember to do that from now on, that'd be great.
  • I enjoy meetings (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Yahweh Doesn't Exist (906833) on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @08:57AM (#14489888)
    when I have meetings with my phd supervisors I usually enjoy them a lot. if you're discussing something with funny, intelligent experts who help you get things done it's not surprising it's enjoying.

    so don't blame meetings. I expect most meetings are bad for you just because most *people* are stupid, boring, selfish, ignorant, incompetent and more likely to get in your way than not.
    • Damn I wish I had mod points to give you for that comment. Insightful, to say the least.
    • My experience was 50% good - one supervisor would have ten minute meeting where he would give you about a hundred ideas of what to try next, while the other supervisor's meetings were mostly taken up with my explaining what the hell my PhD was about again.
  • From the bottom of the article:
    "Marc Abrahams is editor of the bimonthly magazine Annals of Improbable Research (www.improbable.com) and organiser of the Ig Nobel Prize"
    (emphasis added by me)

    ie, to all the people complaining: this is supposed to be flaming obvious.

    Cheers,
    Ian

  • Most of the meetings I've had to attend could have been performed via IM and/or email exchange.

    This whole face time thing is ridiculous. We've got technologies to handle that these days.

    When I was a director of an I.T. I had two meetings I had to attend per month. One was a weekly meet with my unit for status updates, the other the weekly senior staff meeting. Then once a month I had the technical advisory meeting which I actually blew off a couple times because the office came first.

    Otherwise ever
  • Academics in psychology seem to have run out of meaningful topics to pursue, so are concentrating on trivia now. I get particularly annoyed at how they are converting outliers of human behavior into diseases these days- e.g. shyness, energetic kids, etc.
  • by Flying pig (925874) on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @09:11AM (#14489946)
    Years ago we had a major crisis on an engineering project. The phbs decided there would be an engineering group meeting of the entire engineering department (!) every day at 4 for 2 hours to review the work being done to resolve the issue and to plan the next stages.

    At this meeting was a very old and experienced PhD who knew everything about the project. He regarded the meeting as an opportunity to display his knowledge at length, but had nothing of substance to put forward; after all, it was his design decisions that had caused the mess in the first place. Did I mention he was now a contractor and paid by the hour?

    I know nothing about the branch of engineering concerned but I did go and ask the technicians what they thought. They knew the answer perfectly well - the material of a major tubular component was completely underspecified and was leaking gas when the plant got hot. But the PhD refused to accept it.

    We didn't exactly draw straws for who would bring it up - but suffice it to say that I ended up with the short one. The result was an hour or so of listening to the worst metallurgical bullshit I have ever endured. But in the end we got our way, the components were replaced, the system started to work, the PhD was let go, (and a year later I was the engineering manager - it seems the MD had been reading the minutes).

    Proof if proof were needed that the real reason for meetings is to drive the engineers to the point at which they will risk their jobs and their credibility to find a solution that means they don't have to go to any more meetings.

  • by ScentCone (795499) on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @09:12AM (#14489952)
    I've got a productive relationship with peers/partners/co-workers (and even some big-ticket customers) that, despite years of working together, I have never met in person. We make excellent use of (get this!) the telephone. I know, it's quaint.

    But the most important thing is that we keep those calls short, and don't need to use them to convey basic information to each other because we do that all the time using e-mail, IM, and a rich portally-intranet-ish web presence.

    But the only thing that really makes those supporting technologies a viable replacement for endless facetime is decent communications skills. Being able to cogently write what's on your mind, provide a usable spreadsheet or document that illuminates the matter at hand... even being able to use IM without it decaying into a meandering social tarpit.. those things require a little bit of practice and discipline. But they buy you productive, asynchronous communication that liberates you to work on your actual job on your own schedule.

    In-person meetings are saved for when it really matters: gaining and keeping paying customers. Oh, and free food.
  • Rogelberg has delivered this insight in a talk called "Meetings and More Meetings," which he presented to a meeting at the University of Sheffield. He also does a talk called "Not Another Meeting!", which has been well received at two meetings in North Carolina.

    Oh, the irony...

  • The instant the topics start to repeat themselves, I (loudly) move to adjourn.
  • by creimer (824291) on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @09:18AM (#14489984) Homepage
    When I worked at Atari, those of use who worked on Gameboy Advance titles could keep on working during a meeting as long as we could nod our heads and look interested at the right moments. Everyone else who didn't work on a Gameboy Advance title had to leave their joysticks outside and try not to look too bored.
    • At the company I just left, sometimes we would lose half our work week in pointless meetings. So if I knew we were going to have a long meeting, I'd bring in a bunch of printouts and scatter them around in front of me. And bring a notepad and scribble until someone asked me a question.

      But I wasn't coding. I'm a hobbyist woodworker, and I would be making plans for stuff I'd want to do at home later on that day.

      The way I see it, it's kind of like running SETI @ home, but for your brain not your PC. Th

  • Everytime I go to a meeting I get paid to procrastinate. It's very relaxing.
  • by pvera (250260) <pedro.vera@gmail.com> on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @09:21AM (#14490002) Homepage Journal
    1. Changing paradygms.
    2. Drinking the kool aid at a meeting where business developers are present.
    3. Falling for the "everyone please send HR a fresh copy of your resume to update your files" ploy
    4. Trying to calm down a frantic coworker that is freaking out for a very minuscule thing without at least some caffeine courage.
    5. Drinking the last cup in the coffee urn. I can promise you this: it will taste like boiled crap.
    6. Eating that last donut from the meeting 3 days ago. The Krisky Kreme box has not moved from the coffee pot table and that one donut looks tempting as hell, but trust me: you don't want it.
    7. Come-to-Jesus meetings for a project that is not yours.
    8. Any brainstorming meeting involving your newly hired business developer, especially since you don't have a formal "business development" function.
    9. Trying to explain to a frantic coworker that mail.app is not crazy and it is not ignoring rules.
    10. Trying to explain the same coworker that classifying mail as "ham" helps the filter learn what makes a good email and avoids false positives.
  • by ledow (319597) on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @09:21AM (#14490006) Homepage
    I work in the IT field (obviously) but I work freelance. Basically, I choose who I work for, so I don't get stuck working under/alongside/above people that I don't personally like. I naturally veer away from meetings. Most meetings I've ever had were a waste of time and they were paying me a phenomenal amount of money to sit and talk, or sometimes even just sit. I don't doubt that meetings can be useful, quite often I've been keen to be involved in ones that affected me directly but been refused (yes, I've actually been politically blocked from attending a meeting with a supplier that would affect my work directly and drastically as I would be in charge of running and maintaining whatever they supplied!).

    I've had three hour meetings where the only conclusion and main focus of the chat was what colour green to place on a website background (the website, incidentally, never got off the ground). And they paid me for that time. Now, I don't mind doing stuff that people are paying me for so long as it's something that I can do (I wouldn't say I could fix something if I couldn't), however I try to avoid all meetings now with those same people because it degenerates into a waste of five or more people's time, money and effort, distracts them from the real work and doesn't actually achieve anything we couldn't do with a poll on a webpage. I could make money from sitting in a room and gabbing nonsense but I consider it a real waste of my own time and talent.

    One of the reasons that I won't work 9-5, mon-fri, for someone I don't like is that I can call things what they are if people ask. I've never sucked up to a boss in my life because I've never had one. I've had clients, whom I visit initially to determine their needs and then work for, but I avoid "meetings" at all costs.

    Meetings are generally without any sort of focus, any conclusions, any change of opinions. They usually are either explaining things that people don't need to understand ("the network is broke, we're fixing it, it'll take a day and cost us X amount of money" is a perfectly good explanation for someone who's not technically minded), letting people spread responsibility for difficult decisions (or even just a comfort blanket for those same decision-makers) and attempts at micro-managing things that those people just don't understand.

    If you have a group of colleagues who are all working on very intertwined things, they will form their own meeting either 1-1 or in small groups. They'll have to, and they'll do it a damn sight better than you organising a meeting for them all to check up with you. If you are managing people whose job you could not do yourself, stay out of their way. Maybe find them once a month or so, just to check that everything's working and that you're aware of any major problems. You hire people into a job to do that job, not to make them spend hours in a meeting explaining things they learned twenty years ago to you because you know nothing about that area.

    I find that nonsensical meetings only come about through management. Managed-meetings are rarely productive. Having said that, there is a difference between a meeting and a chat. Chat to your staff, make sure they are okay, make sure things are on track, congratulate them on a job well done but bow to their expertise. If you invite someone to a meeting, it's because they absolutely HAVE to be there. If you are having a meeting with a IT vendor and you couldn't tell the difference between two products without the salesman's help, you need your IT guy there, to tell you and the vendor exactly what you want and don't want. But then, why are you there in the first place if you don't know what you're buying?

    Meetings can be so useful in the right hands, but 99% of the really important decisions are made or can be made when those self-same people pass each other in the corridor, or pop into each other's office/cubicle/cupboard to chat. That way, there's also no problem with disturbing each other from important work (they won't chat
  • Two psychologists have found evidence that the number of and the time spent in meetings has a detrimental effect on mood. "...a general relationship between meeting load and the employee's level of fatigue and subjective workload was found"

    And the number of Prirates in the world is inversely related to the rate of global warming. Honestly, people who are in more meetings usually have to balance multiple projects for multiple people. Multiple projects means more work, and more stress, whether you are in m
  • In Summary (Score:4, Funny)

    by timbck2 (233967) <<moc.liamg> <ta> <2kcbmit>> on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @09:33AM (#14490091) Homepage
    Meetings = Bad.

    Wasting time posting to Slashdot to complain about meetings = Good.

  • We use stand-up meetings in my workgroup every morning. The meetings are useful because it starts the day with everyone on the same page. By standing up, we discourage long-winded discussions and get to the point faster.

    It works for us.
  • by houghi (78078) on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @09:36AM (#14490112)
    There is a difference between what is claimed in the subject Meetings are Bad For You and what is claimed in the article ... having too many meetings and spending too much time in meetings per day may have negative effects...

    A well lead meeting, kept short and on the subject, can be extremely effective. These do not have to be meetings where you book a meetingroom and order sanwiches. This can be a standup-meeting at the coffeemachine for 5-10 minutes in the morning as well. It can be sitting together around one desk, comparing notes. It can be two people calling in a third one by one to handle things and thus not taking up the time of the other people that are NOT needed for sayd problem/discussion/whatever.

    As strange as it sounds to some here, this will have a much better impact then sending a umpteenth email with ALERT! as subject and marked as high priority.
    Some people do actually pay more attention to what others have to say, even if that person is saying exactly word for word what has been mailed to them.

    As strange as it sounds, that is a given. This does not take away that meeting to schedule future meetings, so a dicussion can be held on a workgroup to form a thinktank to make a comite are good. At best they then become the equivalent of the watercooler gossip on management level (and they drink perrier).
  • The meetings will continue until we discover why no work is getting done around here! Am I clear!

    -The Boss
  • Do you keep falling asleep in meetings and seminars? What about those long and boring conference calls? Bullshit Bingo is a way to change all of that!

    http://www.bullshitbingo.net/cards/bullshit/ [bullshitbingo.net]
  • by Jerky McNaughty (1391) on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @10:16AM (#14490394)
    As an engineer, I often have to give a presentation to middle and upper management to justify my existence at the company. (Thank you, Company, for accepting me. I love you, Company.) Often times, my manager wants to review my presentation before I give it, presumably to make sure I haven't littered it with pornography or disparaging remarks about his incompetence.

    Having your manager review your presentation is bad.

    Invariably, they will have recommendations to make. You could have spent your every waking moment working on this presentation, but that doesn't matter. They'll want to change a word here, make this boldface over here, change this color here, make this a line chart instead of a bar graph. They will want things changed. They'll want you to add tons of things which turn a simple presentation into something more like a narrative, a paper, or a book---something that someone could read without you even presenting it. Often, this has little actual affect on what's really being delivered by the presentation.

    And, invariably, they'll want to review those changes again. And, of course, you see this coming, they'll want to change things again. Sometimes they'll even change things back to the way you originally had it. This process of change, review, change, review happens continuously up until the meeting is actually given.

    What this has taught me is that it's best to hold your presentation materials until the day before the meeting, if possible, because it will dramatically reduce the amount of time allowed for the reviewer(s). Remember: The reviewer(s) are often people that have no real ability (or need) to contribute to the project that you're working on. These people exist solely to facilitate (i.e., add overhead). The less time you give them to review, the less time you'll be forced to make meaningless changes.

    The most recent presentation I gave was reviewed by at least 50% of the group to whom I was presenting, including the two VPs (presumably the people who most needed to see the presentation). They all made recommendations. So, what's the point of me giving it exactly?

    (Sigh.) I guess I'm feeling a bit demotivated today.

  • Uhm... I know everyone here wants to rush to accept this because it fits with all their preconceived notions... ...but did anyone even look at the source? Marc Abrahams, editor of the bimonthly magazine Annals of Improbable Research and organizer of the IgNobel Prize.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Annals_of_Improbable _ Research [wikipedia.org]

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ig_Nobel_Prize [wikipedia.org]

  • by tompaulco (629533) on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @11:58AM (#14491278) Homepage Journal
    I've had my share of bad meetings in my life, to be sure. But where I work now, I have been really lucky.
    My boss is extremely hands off, recognizing that I know what I need to do and that I get it done. When we have meetings, he usually takes us to lunch and discusses things over lunch. Usually less than half the time is devoted to work topics.
    I have not yet had to go to a meeting that I felt was a time waster. The closest one so far was a meeting to discuss how we were going to prepare a response to a Request For Information.
    Many of the meetings I go to are actually presentations to customers. Sometimes I am even presenting. In these meetings, I get to meet and converse with new people, and there is usually food, which is always good with me.
    I guess the reason I don't have a problem with the meetings I end up going to is that they are not a distraction that takes me away from my work. When I go to a meeting it is because it IS my work.
    Perhaps companies ought to give you a 1 hour project slippage allowance for every one hour meeting that they require you to go to.

"In the face of entropy and nothingness, you kind of have to pretend it's not there if you want to keep writing good code." -- Karl Lehenbauer

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