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Is Toxic Meeting Culture Fueling the Great Resignation?

Meeting Culture / Effectiveness
November 9, 2021
min read
Retain talent with better meeting practices.

A Gallup Report revealed that a significant portion of the workforce feels angry and disrespected in the workplace.

  1. Poor meeting culture is contributing to burnout and high turnover.
  2. Smaller meetings, 1-on-1s, and declining more meetings may help employers and workers regain more time for focused work.

As hybrid work and asynchronous collaboration becomes the norm, employees have more flexibility and agency over their schedule. Many workers report valuing their own time more than they did before the pandemic.

Employees’ priorities are shifting, companies are adapting to wide scale digital transformation in the workplace, and employees are more empowered than ever to search for jobs that prioritize company culture and well-being. In fact, respect from an employer is the third most important thing employees look for in a new job. 

The 2021 State of the Global Workforce Report by Gallup found that 14% of employees weren’t treated with respect in the workplace. Alarmingly, 24% reported experiences of anger towards them during work.

This anger is not unfounded, and meeting culture plays a huge part in this. Time is Limited data shows that poor meeting habits can have costly real-world outcomes that include disengaged employees, thousands of dollars wasted on individual meetings, and other detrimental and overlooked norms. Workers sometimes spend several hours per day in meetings that they simply do not need to be in, and, beyond the general wastefulness, this passive form of disrespect for their time can leave them feeling angry and unheard. 

There’s certainly room for improvement — 15% of any given organization’s time is spent in meetings, and up to 50% of that time includes upper management’s participation in meetings. Considering that management accounts for up to 70% of variance in employee engagement scores, managers can inspire company-wide change by evaluating their own meeting time. 

Diagnosing poor meeting culture begins with tracking your meeting data. See how Time is Limited can empower you to reach higher productivity and improve the bottom line. 

We recently published a report about how we helped a US-based Biotechnology company turn around their poor meeting culture with our productivity analytics platform. By analyzing their meeting habits, the company could make data-informed decisions, which saved 244 years of meeting time and increased employee satisfaction by 23%.

Prior to COVID, the company was already experiencing rapid growth, and the number of meetings continued to skyrocket at the start of the pandemic. The company had conducted research that found meetings were a huge pain point for employees.

Diving into the data, a culture of presenteeism was prevalent. We found that some employees spent up to 75% of their time in meetings, the average meeting took 74 minutes, and the average attendee count was 9. With only 25% of time left for focused work, it's no wonder employees the world over are experiencing burnout, and companies are seeing high turnover rates. 

Meeting Size Matters. Are You Adding Irrelevant People & Burning Money? 

Meetings with fewer participants tend to be more productive because more attention can be given to each person. Let’s discuss the data below. We found that internal company meetings tend to have the most participants and consume the most time. As Gallup reports, and our data illustrates here, internal meetings of upper management take the lion’s share of this time — which far exceeds external and client meetings.

The Great Resignation
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Want to Get Your Time Back? Start Declining Meetings. 

One way of spending less time in meetings is simply attending fewer or only attending the most relevant ones that directly affect you. According to our data, since June 2020, the amount of meeting invites marked as “accepted” has increased 2.2% while there’s virtually no change in meetings declined. Declining meeting invites are an underutilized tool for protecting your time, but many may feel pressured to accept because of “work-from-home” guilt. Even though 41% of people said they feel more productive, and 28% say they are as productive working remotely, that doesn’t change the fact that 82% of managers worry about work-from-home productivity. Thankfully, there’s evidence that supports harnessing the power of psychology to create new norms around the workplace - that new norm being that it is completely acceptable under certain conditions to decline a meeting.

Management, with the largest amount of meetings, can set an example, while also helping their teams optimize and improve their meeting schedules. There’s no hard and fast rule for whether or not you should accept or decline, but certain factors like if the meeting has an agenda, or the priority of the meeting on your to-do list, can help you decide. Understanding your role in the meeting, and if you have any stake in the outcome or discussion, can also influence your decision. Management, with the largest amount of meetings, can set an example, while also helping their teams optimize and improve their meeting schedules. 

You can improve your meeting culture, and Time is Ltd. can help.

1-on-1s Foster Respect. Make Them a Regular Practice.

Meeting quality is certainly important, as indicated by the effectiveness of 1-on-1 meetings. Dedicated, regular check-ins between managers and employees can increase engagement and reduce turnover. Adobe saw a 30% reduction in voluntary turnover after implementing frequent 1-on-1s. This is likely because employees feel more respected by - and loyal to - employers who make this a regular practice. A shift to more 1-on-1s also means less time in larger meetings, as indicated by the graph below.

To foster respect internally, managers shouldn't encroach on their employees' personal time. Data from Time is Ltd. shows that the average employee sends nearly 30% of their emails - and takes 5.4% of their meetings - outside of standard working hours. This subtle, passive form of disrespect creates measurable anxiety for workers. In fact, 60 percent of workers believe their employers expect that they monitor after-hours work emails. 

The Takeaway 

Meetings can be productive, collaborative opportunities for innovation and problem-solving, especially if all participants are engaged and their voices are heard. Data shows management has the largest margin for improvement, and it starts with evaluating internal meetings first and foremost. 

The results speak for themselves - the US-based Biotechnology company saw an 11% reduction in internal meetings attended per employee, which saved an average of 5 hrs per week, per employee using Time is Ltd. Less time in meetings means more time for real work, but it also leads to a lot more respect from your employees.

We can help you get your meeting culture right.

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Article by
Lexie McCulloch
A marketing professional with 7+ years of content management expertise with a history of international experience working in startups and high-growth companies.
Article by
Lexie McCulloch
A marketing professional with 7+ years of content management expertise with a history of international experience working in startups and high-growth companies.

See other articles

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