Work meetings are more about therapy than productivity – giving employees a chance to complain and show off to colleagues, study claims
- The number of meetings that people are expected to attend is going up
- Meetings where people of the same level come together can be therapeutic
- Meetings will expand to fill whatever time is available even if the work is done
- Meetings often bring the organisation together, according to study authors
Long meetings can be a form of therapy, where work colleagues at the same level of an organisation can come together to work out their problems, a new study claims.
They can be a good way to motivate people, allow them to complain and be acknowledged by colleagues, which is ‘a kind of therapy’, according to the author of the study, professor Patrik Hall.
Too frequently the effect is the polar opposite due in part to the fact few decisions are ever made at meetings, the Malmö University study found.
Meetings are not always seen as important by employees, with some distracting themselves on their phones or failing to attend in the first place (stock image)
People can spend half their working hours each week in meetings and Swedish researchers say the number of meetings people have to attend is going up.
The increase is due in part to new professional jobs with titles like ‘strategist’ and ‘project manager’, says professor Hall.
There are ways to improve meetings and make them more useful, including not booking one or two hour meetings as they will often expand to fill the allocated time even if the work is finished.
He says meetings aren’t necessarily a bad thing, particularly if people at the meeting are at roughly the same level in the organisation.
‘When you have meetings with colleagues at the same level, as a professional, you get to discuss different issues that interest you’, professor Hall says.
The problem comes from meetings between managers and staff, where there can be a ‘subtle power struggle against the leadership’ or even a resentment of the manager that called the meeting.
There are ways to improve meetings and make them more useful, including not booking one or two hour meetings as they will often expand to fill the allocated time even if the work is finished (stock image)
Researchers found that many managers don’t know what to do and when they are unsure of their role within the organisation, they respond by generating more meetings.
‘People like to talk and it helps them find a role,’ professor Hall told the BBC.
He says meetings have become ‘maligned somewhat unnecessarily’ as they can play an important role.
‘Meetings often bring the organisation together and remind employees of the organisation, department or unit to which they belong.
‘The purpose is connection and identity, rather than decision-making’
Meetings often bring the organisation together and remind employees of the organisation, department or unit to which they belong (stock image)
Professor Hall says not all meetings are created equally.
They are not always seen as important by employees, with some distracting themselves on their phones or failing to attend in the first place.
‘Sometimes meetings come in disguise, the Swedish border police, for example, refer to their meetings abroad as ‘power weeks’.
‘Sometimes pre-meetings are held, a meeting before the meeting. You can add to those status, structural, and lunch meetings — the list goes on!’
So why are we so dismissive of meetings? Perhaps it’s not about the meetings as such, says professor Hall.
‘People often feel marginalised. They feel that they have no influence or position. In these cases, the perception is that meetings do not improve anything, but actually cause even more frustration.’
HOW TO ORGANISE A PRODUCTIVE MEETING?
Meetings have a place within an organisation. They can help bring an organisation together build a shared identity
The number of meetings people are expected to attend is increasing according to researchers (stock image)
Where possible hold meetings with people at the same level in the organisation as they are more likely to be engaged and enthusiastic.
Don’t book a one or two hour slot for a meeting as they often expand to fill any available time even if the business has been completed.
Explain the reason for the meeting to employees in advance, keep it on topic and try to keep it short.
Meetings can be useful for helping people get to know each other, the organisation and their role within the business.
They can be useful for boosting and motivating people attending the meeting and for colleagues to ‘let off steam’.
SOURCE: Malmö University
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