Published: March 18, 2008
Most people say they hate meetings. Hiding beneath the disdain, there may be some love for a productive roundtable, new research shows.
Steven Rogelberg, director of Organizational Science at the University of North Carolina in Charlotte, recently surveyed 800 employees across the country about their feelings about meetings. He discusses his findings with Alex Cohen.
Half the people surveyed said they complain about meetings, but actually feel much more positive than they admit. Rogelberg, who conducted the study with APT Metrics, says that we complain because it's socially acceptable to do so. [Copyright 2013 NPR]
ALEX COHEN, host:
Back now with DAY TO DAY. Here ours happens at noon, lasts about a half an hour, and is made a lot better when our boss brings cupcakes from the local bakery. I'm talking of course about meetings. Most people say they hate meetings, but deep down inside they may actually feel a bit differently. That's what Steven Rogelberg found in his research at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He's the director of organizational science there, and he joins us now. Thanks for meeting with us, so to speak, Professor Rogelberg.
Professor STEVEN ROGELBERG (University of North Carolina at Charlotte): It's my pleasure. Happy to be here.
COHEN: Is there a certain type of personality that likes meetings or doesn't like meetings?
Prof. ROGELBERG: We did find personality mattered. So those individuals with a great number of meetings who have a higher accomplishment-striving personality - so these are individuals who are very goal-oriented - we actually found those individuals more negatively impacted by their meetings. So the more meetings that these goal-focused individuals had, the worse they felt about their day and their job in general.
Conversely, those individuals who were lower in accomplishment-striving had a more flexible orientation to their work world, we actually found the opposite. The more meetings they had, the better they felt about the job.
COHEN: So it sounds like there's a lot at stake here for companies with meetings. What would you advise the head of a company to do to make their meetings better and then, hopefully, their employees more happy?
Prof. ROGELBERG: First of all, they should look at the human resource systems. Are they actually teaching people to be effective in meetings? Are they actually providing feedback? It's unbelievable to think that managers are not only spending 35 hours or so of their time in meetings, but here they are controlling everyone else's time, and yet they are not receiving direct feedback on their performance in meetings.
And then when it comes to specific meetings, there's a whole host of things to do. First of all, you only want to meet when you really do need to meet. We have a whole host of meeting habits, and we need to just break the meeting habit.
Then we have a tendency to want to invite an incredible number of people to the meeting. The meeting size quickly gets out of hand and we lose a lot of efficiency. So really what you want to think of is meetings as having permeable boundaries and that you have some core individuals that really do have to attend.
But then you have a variety of other folks who at times may need to attend, but at times they don't need to attend. So they're kept in the loop, they're invited to all the meetings, they're shown an agenda with what's going to be discussed, and then an organization makes it extremely acceptable for them not to attend.
COHEN: If you could point out one piece of advice that you'd give to someone running a meeting, what's the most important thing to do?
Prof. ROGELBERG: One of the most important thing to do is when you're structuring your agenda, our natural tendency is to start with, hey, let's provide some general announcements, provide some general information, what's going on, and then we start moving into strategic issues.
The key is actually to flip that on its head, that you start the meeting with the most strategic, critical issue that actually requires discussion, not just listening.
COHEN: And the really important question: cupcakes or no? Is food a good idea at meetings?
Prof. ROGELBERG: You know, it's a pertinent question, and we do find that if there are snacks at a meeting, employees do report liking that meeting more.
COHEN: Steven Rogelberg is the director of organizational science at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Thank you.
Prof. ROGELBERG: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.