Doing our routine scan of meeting-related articles, I came across an article by the Miami Herald quoting CEOs on whether or not their meetings were a good investment of time. These executives almost unanimously agreed that meetings were worthwhile for their organization, even though they were attending an incredible number of meetings (some had 50+ a week). But something was up. There seemed to be a key perspective missing from this picture: what do the employees think about this?
So, I turned to where a reader can find brutally honest, insightful responses: comment sections. Looking through comments on LifeHacker, Engadget, NPR, and our own Attentiv blog, we found that a huge discrepancy exists between the mindset of the worker and that of the manager.
My research also took me to a jewel of an essay penned by Paul Graham, a renowned programmer and VC. Graham articulated that the schedule and thought process of a manager are drastically different than that of the worker (“maker”). With that in mind, we thought we’d compile some of the opinions we’ve gathered to show you the issue. Take a look at what CEOs/managers said on the left and what employees anonymously commented on the right.
As you can see, there’s some disagreement here over the productivity of meetings (putting it lightly). The CEOs all agree that the investment is worth their time while employees all agree meetings end up killing their actual productivity. It’s important for management to understand that while a one-hour meeting might be productive on their end, if he/she calls ten people into a meeting, that costs the organization ten hours worth of work. Translating that time into dollar amounts reveals a lot of money being potentially wasted, especially when employees admit they could be much more productive outside the meeting.
So many meetings are called unnecessarily and inconvenience workers operating on different schedules. As Graham explains in his essay, a manager might plan out their day in one-hour intervals, easily blocking out an hour for a meeting. However, a “maker” such as a programmer might think in terms of half-day intervals because you can’t start and complete a code in an hour. The manager calls a meeting, disrupting the programmer’s workflow. Now the programmer not only has to push back his actual work, he has to devote time to prepare for the meeting, plan out when to finish the code, and actually attend a meeting that may not be worthwhile for him. In the end, work is artificially created for the programmer that may not really benefit the organization.
Extrapolating this one example to an entire organization, and even multiple organizations, we start to see just how significant the problem is. Meetings should be used sparingly, and be worth the investment for both managers and makers. It’s important that each group understands how the other works to effectively schedule meetings and make decisions.
*Note that the workers and managers in the above graphic did not necessarily work for the same organization.