Why would anyone want to miss a workplace meeting? Mark Drinkwater (pictured) shares some theories
Meetings? What do you mean you ‘don’t like meetings’?” bellowed the obstreperous drunk. It had been a fairly genteel party until this bore had taken umbrage at a friend’s throwaway comment. “What about this?” he continued. “This is a meeting,” he announced whilst toing and froing his pointing finger between himself and my browbeaten friend.
The mistake my friend had made was to say that he didn’t like meetings. An aversion to meetings is not uncommon, but for most of us there’s no avoiding them. Social workers, when not spending time with clients or writing up records, are invariably in meetings.
At the really important meetings, those one really wants to influence, there’s often the suspicion that decisions have already made. On more than one occasion I’ve turned up particularly early only to discover that a select pre-meeting was in full session.
I’ve had my fair share of boring meetings over the years, which would turn, at some point, to consider why not everyone could attend. No one ever said it out loud, but we secretly knew why not everyone was there.
The meetings were too long, and too often, meaning the only sane strategy was to do what everyone else did: go to every other meeting and make your excuses for the intervening ones.
The real problem with meetings is that participants are usually unable to actively engage with either the process or the agendas. Of course, there are more creative methods of decision-making, such as Open Space techniques.
These allow agendas to be drawn up by participants and for individuals to opt in and out of topics, according to relevance. But these are, unfortunately, few and far between.
Anyway, I’ve got to go. I’ve got another meeting to get to.
Mark Drinkwater is a community worker in south London
This article is published in the 9 September 2010 edition of Community Care under the headline “Why people try to avoid meetings”