I Just Work Here

Meetings: A necessary evil?

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Not another meeting

If you work, you probably have meetings. Maybe it's time to make them better. (Bob Handelman, Getty Images / January 15, 2012)

"There are lots of people in a lot of offices where, inexplicably, the default reaction is, 'We need to have a meeting about this,'" Green said. "And it's just not often the case. You could pick up the phone and talk to someone for 3 minutes and deal with it. Or just send an email. If it's just to convey information, you probably don't need to haul everyone into a room."

The first of Green's suggestions for improving meetings is: Pause before you request one. Make sure a gathering is necessary.

The remaining keys include always have an agenda, open the meeting with a clear statement of what you're there to accomplish, stick to the agenda, be ruthless about starting and ending on time, and have a clear "owner" of the meeting.

"The owner of the meeting has to be someone who's assertive, a person who isn't concerned about making everyone feel good," Green said. "That person needs to keep the meeting directed, cut people off who are rambling and make sure the meeting's goals are met before the time is up."

By taking these steps, workers know meetings will be focused, limited and productive. That can certainly lessen the dread.

For final thoughts, I turned to Web personality MeetingBoy, an anonymous figure who unleashes funny and insightful meeting-related rants at MeetingBoy.com.

In a tweet, he summed up the cyclical madness of meetings: "I have 4 meetings today, and then later, no doubt, one with my boss about how I'm not getting anything done."

One of his primary suggestions for improving office life is to eliminate "status meetings," in which workers update the boss on what he or she is doing. Everyone ends up spending an hour in a meeting, when they could have each just spent 5 minutes conveying their information via email or in a quick one-on-one with the boss.

I agree with my anonymous anti-meeting conspirator. Simply getting rid of meeting-based boondoggles like status updates would boost morale. Do that and implement some of these other suggestions, and you may no longer have people walking into meetings with expressions usually reserved for those about to be executed.

I'll leave you with Meeting Boy's delightful "Four Steps for a Successful Meeting":

1. Have an agenda.

2. Send it out ahead of time.

3. Stick to it.

4. Don't invite me.

TALK TO REX: Ask workplace questions — anonymously or by name — and share stories with Rex Huppke at ijustworkhere@tribune.com, like Rex on Facebook at facebook.com/rexworkshere and find more at chicagotribune.com/ijustworkhere.
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