If you work in an office then chances are you have had your fair share of ’bad meetings’. These meetings are –unfortunately- part of working in an office and you must do your best to manage them. In order to successfully do that, the first step you should take is to understand them. This will also ensure that you keep both your morale and your head in the office.
See Also: How to Prepare a Business Meeting Agenda
In a lot of cases you know what type of meeting you are in for, the moment you get called to attend the meeting. But like so many other bad things there’s usually not much you can do to avoid the situation entirely, except hope and pray that it will be different this time.
These are the eight different categories of bad office meeting, and remember a really, really bad meeting can include lots of bad meeting types in just one single meeting.
1. The Hasty Invitation
You’ve been sitting in the meeting now for over half an hour and you haven’t really understood a blind word anybody has said. You’re only there because your manager couldn’t make the meeting themselves. What’s more, he’s taken the time to briefly outline the meeting in a short email he quickly sent you five minutes before the meeting and now he expects that you’re perfectly capable to handle any and all questions heading your way, even though you are completely unprepared.
2. The Wandering Topic
You’re in a meeting and it quickly becomes apparent that nobody can stay on topic. What may have started off as a meeting discussing the key performance indicators of the financial analysis report, soon devolves into a rambling and pointless conversation about one attendee’s all-expenses trip to the Algarve. Huge swathes of time disappear into a conversational black-hole, and before you know it time has ran out, and the meeting owner has no choice but to speedily run through his inchoherent to-say list and set the time for the next time-swallowing meeting, which you strongly suspect will go exactly the same way.
3. The Unfriendly Room
All of the other meeting rooms have been booked, and the only room left is the room conservatively known as The Freezer. Its -10 degrees in there in the height of summer, and any attendees are advised to wear full Thermal underwear and sign a waiver in regards to getting frostbite.
Alternatively, this room is the only room in the entire company where the air-conditioning doesn’t work and you have actually witnessed the ink in your pen boil, in one of your department’s meetings. Or worse, a weird funky smell is known to continuously waft from the air vents. Jokes on this matter quickly die away when you realise you’re all stuck in this room for a while.
4. The Bad Timing Meeting
It’s the only time that everyone’s free? Why? Because everyone else is on dinner or at home, because, well, it’s after 6pm. Whatever the purpose of the meeting is, it is unlikely that it’s more important than getting lunch or meeting your friends after work, but nevertheless the meeting is important to the meeting organiser, and having a social life outside work is not a good enough reason to not attend –or so they say. So you sit there watching the seconds tick by, your stomach is rumbling, while you’re imagining your friends on their second beer as you nod and smile and pretend that you have nothing else you’d rather be doing.
5. The Long Meeting
You look at your watch. How long have you been in this meeting? Three hours? Four? Time has lost all relevance, only your stomach gives you an idea of how long it is that you’ve been stuck in the same room, and the worst part is that you’re still only on point two of seven of the presentation. Just when you think the meeting can’t get any longer, the department’s must-know-it-all insists on asking lots of questions. These questions have either already been answered, or nobody except the person asking them actually cares about the answer.
By the end of the meeting you have agreed to take on a lot more work than you normally would have, just to cut the meeting shorter.
6. Bad Technology
The meeting is heavily reliant on technology, maybe a projector, a video-conferencing line, a laptop or a presentation. However the technology hasn’t been replaced or even checked in years, and despite the fact that the person who’s called the meeting was well aware of that, they still thought there was no need to test the equipment beforehand. Therefore, it was no surprise to you when the entire first half of the meeting was spent with the meeting owner under the desk pulling out and putting in cables, or shouting ‘Hello’ through a crackly phone line, and despite the organisers claims of “it being all right the last time they tried it” most of the meeting has disappeared into a blur of technology driven expletives.
7. The Meeting With the Annoying Coworker
You know that one person you can barely stand to even talk to at work? Well now you’re trapped in a room with them. They’re not necessarily a bad person, but there is something about them that makes you question the entire hiring policy of the company. Maybe their personnel hygiene is a little below average standards, maybe they insist on eating boiled egg sandwiches every day, or maybe they’re just one of those painfully-nice people that everybody seems to love except you. The point is, being in the same room with them drives you to distraction, and rather than listening to what’s going on, you’re stuck on their revolting nail-biting habit, or that dumb way they smile, or that blob of mayonnaise on their shirt that they haven’t noticed yet.
8. The Distant Meeting
Despite the fact you live hundreds of miles away, the meeting has been set at another location and you are expected to travel to be there. So you’ve had to get up early and sit in the car or train for several hours –that is, assuming that the journey wasn’t delayed and you weren’t stuck in a traffic jam or train station for hours. What’s worse is that you’re expected to make the same journey back home as soon as the meeting’s over. And that’s the best case scenario, because you damn well know that the meeting could get cancelled the minute you step off the train.
What makes these meetings worse is that there’s usually nothing you can do to avoid them. A fair proportion of these meetings are probably not the most productive use of your time and they usually end up sucking important time out of your day and maybe even adding more work to your already impressive work-load. It is useful to remember that once you understand the categories of bad meetings, you can use that understanding to your own advantage when setting up your own meetings.
For example, if you want a meeting to be short and sweet arrange for it to take place in The Freezer as meetings there very rarely last long, or if you’re not as prepared for a meeting as you’d like, be the person who starts Wandering Topics to buy yourself more time.