June 16, 2010

Why Are Meetings So Frustrating?

new sally By Sally Raskoff

Do you find workplace meetings frustrating? I’ve been feeling frustrated with meetings a lot lately.

Meetings are an organization’s way of making group decisions. Individual decision-making is so much easier. For example, I’ve decided to write this blog on frustrating meetings! Done!

But meetings require including the opinions of others; their viewpoints must be heard and discussed and that takes time. And patience.clip_image002

When power enters into the equation, meetings can be much quicker but just as frustrating.

Those with power move things along when they run things, share their opinion, or make a decision. This can be speedier, yes, but frustrating if you don’t agree, couldn’t give input, or if your input is discounted or ignored.

Some people with power participate in collaborative meetings, but their power is typically still in play. It’s hard to ignore the boss if they are in the room with you.

My graduate school mentor told a great story that he had experienced. The way I remember it, he and many others were sitting in a room discussing the topics at hand and a decision had to be made. Everyone was sitting in the same type of chair around the room; since no one was at the head of the table or in a bigger chair than others it was a very level playing field. Everyone spoke their piece, stated their opinions, and voiced their concerns. The discussion went all the way around the room until the last man spoke up and shared his opinion on the matter. At that point, everyone nodded and agreed that his was the correct decision. This person was Carl Rogers, an eminent psychologist whose work on group processes is well known. His status and power lifted him above a level hierarchy despite the efforts to flatten it.

clip_image002[7]True collaborative work or shared governance is tough and slow.

This is especially true if the groups sharing the process are culturally heterogeneous. If the group is culturally homogeneous, the similarity of culture can be helpful in avoiding miscommunications. With heterogeneous groups, the likelihood of someone not fully understanding another is increased above and beyond the typical personal miscommunications that can plague any group.

One reason the Spanish Mondragon Cooperatives, a federation of workers who co-own the corporation, has been so successful is that their cultural homogeneity supports the groups’ cohesiveness.

In-group and out-group dynamics might also affect a meeting’s dynamics. If you are part of an in-group, you might identify with that group and feel loyalty towards it. Thus, if a member of your in-group makes some points during the meeting, the other members of that in-group will probably agree with and support that point. If you’re not a member of that group, you can get quite frustrated, especially if that group’s members are in the majority. If an out-group is dominating the meeting and your in-group members are in the minority, you can feel very disempowered.

Have you ever sat in a meeting and wondered why you were getting frustrated? What other sociological dynamics might have been occurring?


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I'm loving the Everyday Sociology blog. Thanks for taking the time to wirte these articles.

Meeting dynamics is interesting, and I think, probably has some correlation to crowd behaviour.

All meetings are not frustrating! I find meetings very rewarding. I enter them with questions and I get answers I couldn't have found by myself.
Spencer Wells (Pandora’s seed) says we have been using 'meetings' to find new ideas since our hunting and gathering origins. And what makes us a special species is that we are social innovators. I.e. 'meetings' are at the heart of our life.
Democracy is all about meetings and debates and trial by juries. And the best way to conceive new products and their manufacturing processes is by group techniques such as those used by Toyota and other car manufacturers. And the best tool for creativity is a 'focus group'…

My grad student university teacher informed an excellent tale that he had knowledgeable. The way I keep in mind it, he and many others were seated in a area talking about the subjects at side and a choice had to be created.

After reading about "Why Meetings are so frustrating," I have taken in a lot of information coming from students, teachers, and other people giving their input about them. Meetings include many people with many different opinions and state of minds. It can be "frustrating" and/or difficult to share your own opinion in a meeting when you don't know how your statement may be looked at or how you as in individual may be looked at. At the same time, I find meetings being an accomplishment with being able to share your own opinion with others and being proud of that matter.

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