How to get out of boring meetings
These days it seems impossible to get through the day without being called into a meeting - perhaps several.
But while there are many meetings where it is crucial to make an appearance, there are likely to be just as many others that you know are going to be a waste of time. So how can you get out of them without looking like you're not a team player?
Jon Petz is the author of Boring Meetings Suck. His book contains advice for getting out of meetings that you know will be a waste of your time.
One device he advocates is the "first in, first out" approach. He says when you receive an agenda for a meeting, respond by saying you'll be there but also ask to meet with the manager or host a few minutes before the meeting starts to share your insights as you won't be able to stay for the whole meeting.
Petz says meeting the manager beforehand is key, as you will still be viewed as a committed team member. "And because you're early, this gives you the opportunity to grab a seat by the door for your discreet exit a few minutes into the meeting," he says. "You walk out, with nothing more than a thankful nod needed."
Petz has another approach for getting out of meetings, which applies when the meeting starts late. He calls it the "start late, then leave a note" approach.
"Arrive exactly on time - if it's scheduled for 10am, arrive exactly then - and if the meeting host hasn't arrived by five minutes past the start time - and you haven't heard from them - then leave a note," he says. "Just write, 'It's Jon. Assume the meeting got cancelled. Nobody here. 10.05am.'"
One of the best tactics Petz suggests is the "free meeting Fridays" approach. With this approach, you schedule in every Friday as being a day when you're unavailable for meetings. "There will be no more stress because your entire Friday will no longer be consumed by back-to-back meetings," Petz says.
He adds these tactics won't always be effective. "If your boss comes back and tells you if you want to be paid then you need to be at the meeting, then you'll have to attend," he says. "But these three tactics will get you started as they are polite and effective ways to clear your schedule and you can get your real work done in place of sitting through another boring meeting that sucks."
Dan (not his real name) says when he wants to get out of a meeting he knows will be a waste of time, he plays the "dad" card. "I tell my manager that I have to pick my son up from school or attend a play he's in or something child-related," he says. "I don't feel guilty because usually I go home and work from there."
Dan says his justification for making this excuse is that an ineffective meeting adds to his workload.
"Being tied up in a meeting that has no benefit to me puts me behind my other work. I know I'm lying but it's an excuse that has never met with any objection from my managers, which to me means there was no need for me to be there in the first place."
For many employees, meetings are viewed as a chore rather than a valuable part of the working day. And if the purpose of a meeting isn't clear, then this builds resentment and dissatisfaction. The result is that employees start trying to find ways not to attend.
Nerida Gill, founder of Admin Bandit, says there are myriad reasons why people want to get out of meetings. Usually it's because people feel they don't achieve anything or if they speak up in one, they're not listened to.
"Those running the meetings need to ensure there is a clear agenda so people know what to expect, and the agenda should be adhered to," she says.
"What's also off-putting in meetings is the situation where you have two people monopolising the conversation or working something out between themselves. You need an effective facilitator to nip these situations in the bud and keep the meeting on track."
She says having someone take minutes is useful because when people contribute and what they say is being taken down, they feel validated.
"But I think the key thing is only inviting people to meetings who need to be there," she says. "It might feel like a more collaborative approach to invite the entire team but it actually makes people feel resentful if they are attending meetings they aren't getting anything out of."
Sydney Morning Herald