Meetings: A Curious Status Symbol

The fact that individuals that are considered high status in an organization often spend a frightening amount of time in meetings has apparently caused some people to draw the opposite conclusion: In some circles, having a lot of meetings seems to have become a status symbol, a sign that one’s input is valued.

This observation to me falls into the category of amusing absurdities of corporate culture that do little harm, are widely echoed, and are rarely challenged. I’m thinking about the complaint muttered in the morning that “today will be another day of back-to-back meetings”. To me this sounds more like a humble-brag rather than a real complaint. If you really wanted to avoid this situation, you could probably do something about it. For most people it would seem doable to eliminate the discussions with the least added value from their agenda. If your meetings are really back-to-back, how do you find the time to duly prepare? Because, if participants don’t prepare, the discussion will be less effective, likely not leading to a conclusion but (you guessed it) to yet another meeting to follow up.

What I find particularly revealing is how we present meetings as an end in themselves. A little exercise: When talking about meetings, try to talk about what they aim to achieve. Instead of saying “Today, I will spend almost the entire day in meetings“ try “Today, I will clarify the expectations for the Rhinozeros project with Anne and convince the Abracadabra team to put the bug fix which is on our critical path higher on their backlog.”

If this turns out hard to do, maybe take it as a sign that some of these meetings do not have enough value to justify their cost, let alone bragging rights.

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