Why meetings make us mad

May 16 2007 by Brian Amble Print This Article

As almost anyone what they think is the biggest bane of modern corporate life and the chances are that the answer will be "meetings".

The average number of meetings more than doubled in the second half of the 20th Century and time spent in them just keeps growing.

Unnecessary or unproductive meetings have been calculated to cost managers 10 per cent of their time - 24 work days a year, while a study by Microsoft in 2004 suggested that unnecessary meetings are the number one drain on the productivity of small businesses.

Now a survey by Opinion Research USA has gone some way to revealing just why meetings drive so many of us to distraction. And the number one business meeting frustration, it seems, is disorganization.

In fact, more than a quarter (27 percent) of the 1,037 people polled said that disorganized, rambling meetings were their biggest bugbear, followed by 17 percent who said they were annoyed by colleagues who interrupted and triedto dominate meetings.

Surprisingly, tardiness appears to be far better tolerated by the business community than disorganization, with a mere four percent frustrated by meetings starting late and five percent annoyed by attendees arriving late, the survey found.

"Structured business meetings with a closely followed agenda are often the most productive, particularly when attention spans can be short," said Jeff Resnick, President of Opinion Research USA.

"A disorganized meeting is a disengaged meeting that will rarely result in the desired outcomes."

Meanwhile, it is a sign of the times that although mobile phone interruptions rank high on the list of annoyances (cited by 16 percent), Blackberry usage is seen as less intrusive, with only five percent of respondents frustrated by people checking their emails.

Other irritants include long meetings with no refreshments (six percent); meetings without bathroom breaks (eight percent); and colleagues falling asleep in even the longest of meetings (nine percent).

Management-Issues' Dan Bobinski said that businesses can thrive or decline depending on how they use meetings but agreed that most of us are tired of wasting time at unfocused meetings.

"An appropriate number of meetings, each with a clearly stated purpose, can not only keep a company alive, it can cause it to thrive and even energize it with new life," he added.