Saturday, December 03, 2022

The Agony of Meetings

In my first few years of teaching, my department head would hold what seemed to me to be interminable meetings. They were mostly pointless, and after a day of teaching, I would find myself heading home late with a pounding headache.

In due course, I became a department head, but remembering those meetings early in my career, I can confess that I may have strayed too far in the other direction by holding vey brief meetings. Partly, it was also because we were in a bused rural school and many teachers carpooled, and I didn't like to keep other teachers waiting.

And then there were the department heads meetings. Thank the almighty that they were held during lunch hour under time constraints. The free lunch was also a bit of a sop.

But they were still an ordeal, held because it was expected by the principals' bosses. The material could have easily been covered by a one page memo, for they were never about gathering input from the staff but just about disseminating whatever the principals wanted to say or do.

And, of course, as I have shared many times, I am an introvert. I don't mean to bang on about it, but when FB showed me this link, 12 Things That Annoy Introverts, of course I had to click. Of the twelve points in the post, it was the one about meetings that jumped out at me and caused me to recall some of my experiences. In point of fact, I seldom experienced a good or worthwhile meeting. Unless maybe I ran it.

Meetings annoy introverts, especially when the meetings would be better off as an email or a group message. When meetings seem to have no purpose, they are even more annoying. If you’re working with introverts on your team at work, do your best to utilize digital communication before setting up endless meetings.
The problem is often compounded if the meeting is a last-minute or unexpected meeting. Introverts often look at their schedules for the day to determine when they’ll have time to get their work done alone. If their four-hour block of time is suddenly broken up by a one-hour meeting, they’re prone to getting annoyed.

Well, that is one take and true enough, but I can't really be sure that my dislike of meetings has much to do with introversion but rather with some bad experiences of tedious, low-quality events. I did not so much dislike the concept of meetings as I didn't appreciate the useless, time-wasting aspect of so many that I was forced to endure. By all means, call a meeting if there is a need, and if one has to be held just for form's sake because it is expected, then make it as efficient and worthwhile as possible.

18 comments:

Boud said...

I think a lot of meetings are just to emphasize the importance of the manager calling them. But I did have brief regular meetings with juniors just to support them and encourage. Mainly they were got your back brief events. Also I needed to know what they were up to, I mean accomplishing.

Marie Smith said...

Netting’s can be a necessary evil but efficiency is the key!

Ed said...

Perhaps that is why my schoolboard meetings always annoy me. There is about 15 minutes of actual productive discussion and then 90 minutes of giving example upon example of why that particular board member feels the way they do with the topic at hand. I have wanted to propose rules like they have in our U.S. Congress where each member only has an allotted few minutes to talk on the subject and then we vote.

Barbara R. said...

I've signed up to a new group (for me) that meets weekly...for 2 hours. It's never enough time. These are busy people who all want to accomplish something (nobody is being paid) and we have time scheduled to do tasks and discussions that need to happen. I'm excited by the energy there. They've been meeting for 10 months, and still have this energy happening. At other meetings I don't feel this way, I must admit. I will keep considering how this fast moving energized group is focused and accomplishing things.

William Kendall said...

Meetings are relatively rare for me.

Jeanie said...

The meetings are the things I missed least when I retired. So many unnecessary oneS!

Marcia said...

It's rare that a meeting is well led. It really bothers me when they're not and the person in charge can't keep the meeting on topic.
I was the chair pf the pastor search committee at my last church in MD. I made sure that we started on time, stuck to the agenda and finished on time. It went very well as a result. I'm on a committee now at a church here in NH and despite the agenda we don't start on time or keep to the agenda. I keep the minutes but have no control over the wandering meeting.

Margaret said...

Our department meetings were once a month, usually short and there were always treats. So I enjoyed them, mostly! The issue with memos or emails is that many teachers (I could name names in my own department) didn't bother to read them. Don't get me started on professional development days/half-days though. What a colossal waste of time!

Red said...

I don't remember a lot of department meetings. I had my time as department head and most times we spent putting together a language arts program for the whole school. The nitty gritty stuff happened at staff meetings.

MARY G said...

I still remember, with mixed horror and amusement, a staff meeting where I dozed off and my head slipped off my hand, causing a loud thump.
If I have to call an in-person meeting, it stops after 40 minutes. No exceptions.
And I am as extroverted as they come, I think. Time is precious. Meetings mostly waste it.

roentare said...

What keeps the society going is having middle management working as buffers and tools of balancing factions. These middle managers often have zero skills but resort to shame shifting and tactics to annoy people making reactionary mistakes. It is just a game. "Play the game" is always the tips from my predecessor mentors. I am totally out of these institutions now. Life is better

DJan said...

Even though I am an extrovert and retired for many years, I disliked meetings. They were often time wasters and not much else but a way for the leader to wax on about ... whatever. :-)

The Furry Gnome said...

I heartily agree! Having sat through far too many meetings and run many others, I've retired with a view to avoiding meetings as much as possible!

peppylady (Dora) said...

Depends what the meeting is about. Meeting I don't like them to drag out. On my job we only have meeting twice a year. Anything else a memo is send though the mail.
Coffee is on and stay safe

Vicki Lane said...

I so agree. Years ago I taught at a prep school where meetings stretched into the wee hours at grading time as we went pupil by pupil through the entire school, discussing their grades and virtues and vices. There were delightful moments interspersed with mind-numbing tedium.

Christina said...

Work meetings - mostly pointless, too long and repetitive. Lots discussed, little actioned upon. I can't stand them.

Jenn Jilks said...

At the elementary level, we'd only have full staff meetings. They were exactly as you suggested, they come up with a new idea and we'd have to buy in. They'd change it in a month. Then there was Whole Language!

Kay said...

Wow! You and Red were the bosses. I was just a first grade teacher, BUT actually I enjoyed the meetings because I could see all the other teachers and hear their views on things.

Every time I think of those meetings, I remember when we were sitting close to the massive windows when we could hear what sounded like a tornado coming because it was blowing so hard. My group of teacher friends decided to move to the other side of the room. As we settled down in our new seats the huge window came crashing down just where we were sitting. You see, meetings can be exciting.