“Irrelevant” is a matter of context.
I remember those meetings where 30 people are invited and talk about 3 different projects for over 2 hours, whereas everyone was only involved in one and there was little next to no interaction anyways.
Made roughly 75 minutes a pure waste of time for 95% of attendees.
I’m not even gonna go into the fun of burning 40 hours of productivity.
In a culture where no meeting is scheduled without an agenda, this is less of a problem.
And no, I haven’t worked in an organisation where that was the culture. At least, not since pre-online days when people’s secretaries did their admin, arranged meetings, distributed agendas, etc.
However, I do still think it’s rude to do email during an irrelevant meeting. I’m sure people would find this approach rude too, but I’d rather say “I don’t think you need me here for this” and leave.
Because saying “No” to a meeting invite, especially one you feel is irrelevant, is so hard. Maybe you wouldn’t be so busy if you managed your calendar a little more effectively?
I worked with a group of indigenous women in southern Chile when I was a Peace Corps volunteer. We had marathon meetings – 8 hours – with no agenda. One time, the subject was, “Should our mission be to serve Mapuche women or young Mapuche women?”
I started taking my knitting to these meetings so I would at least get something accomplished. The director of my agency, whose blouse was pulled down at the moment because there was a baby attached to her bosom, told me that my knitting was “distracting.”
Perhaps one of my greatest professional triumphs was last year, when my former counterpart from the agency (not the breastfeeder) found me on facebook and told me that everything I had tried to tell her and to get her to do to make the agency successful had been right, especially the stuff about the director.
Been to a meeting where “Option A” was proposed.
But someone felt that “Option B” also deserved recognition, so several speakers spoke to the matter for a total of 45 minutes (20 attendees).
In the end the matter was voted to be kicked to a committee.
The value of the proposal? $25
A friend attended a group of activists. The had to send 3 members to the capital city to attend a conclave. It was trivially obvious which 3 had to go (skills, time/availability, background knowledge). It took them 3 hours to decide…. on what system of voting to use.
But my favourite peeve. Is the secretary/boss that reassigns personel/edits the minutes before they’re sent out (and after the meeting closes). Mandating a memory check and trying to catch up with the attendees who were originally assigned to the project/chase up on the original presenters for correct data,
And JVD – some of us don’t get to say “no” to attending meetings. (1) It’s a career stopper, (2) thats where business is allocated/done, (3) some organisations have the business meeting before the actual activities, so attendance is part of the membership function.
If business is allocated/done in these meetings and your career is dependant on your attendance and participation, wouldn’t it be more effective for you to participate and pay attention rather than staring at your iPhone or Blackberry silently?
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