Why Your Staff Hates Meetings


It’s nothing new.

In most companies, in every country, regardless of their position, people hate meetings. And rightfully so.

The Meetings Will Continue Until Morale Improves

Business meetings can be so bad – and inescapable – that Patrick Lencioni, the founder of The Table Group, was able to write a best-selling book on the topic entitled Death By Meeting. And, yet, the bad meetings continue. Productivity suffers, or stalls. And people hate going to them.

But why is that?

I propose that there are probably a myriad of reasons working together in a toxic matrix that infects most meetings in most companies all over. But for the purposes of this blog post I want to focus in on the three main reasons why your meetings suck:

Reason #1 – They are boring

Face it: most of your meetings are not as exciting as the big box of donuts that Susan from HR thought to bring in. Imagination, creativity, and novelty almost never see the light of day in a typical business meeting.

We have all sat through meetings where the most interesting thing said was, “Well, that about wraps it up. Any questions?”

But boring is a function of the leader, not the meeting. Meetings do not have to be, nor should they be BORING. But it takes a leader with the appropriate degree of awareness and preparation to conduct a business meeting that keeps people not only awake, but engaged and eager to do it again.

Reason #2 – They are unstructured

A big contributor to the boring-icity (new word!) of business meetings is the lack of structure. There should be a Federal statute against calling and conducting any meeting without an agenda. And I mean a bonafide business agenda that is on paper (or the digital equivalent thereof). Not some disenfranchised manager’s twisted personal agenda…

How often have you sat through a meeting that ran off the rails onto tangents that meandered back (or didn’t), were abruptly forced back, or simply disintegrated into some sort of vague free-for-all discussion? Meetings without a structure, an agenda, and a ruthlessly diligent timekeeper and chair will always be prone to going long, going shallow, and going nowhere.

Reason #3 – They are unproductive

And the third reason rides on the coattails of the previous reason. The end result of far too many business meetings is a lack of any tangible results. What in the heck did we actually accomplish in the last hour and a half?!

A Wall Street Journal poll showed that CEOs list meetings as the single largest category of unproductive time on their schedules. And another study revealed that the average employee  spends approximately 25% of their business days in meetings on average.

Just shoot me now.

But Your Meetings Don’t Have to Suck!

According to Lencioni,

“There is nothing inherently boring or unproductive about meetings. They are the activity at the center of every organization, and should therefore be both interesting and relevant in the lives of participants. If we can just turn everything we know about meetings upside down – replace agendas and decorum with passion and conflict – we can transform drudgery into meaningful competitive advantage.”

That’s weighty stuff, but it is true. Our problem is that we have, for the most part, bought into the misconception that meetings are a necessary evil that we are wise to avoid, doomed to endure, and assume will always be that way.

But they don’t have to.