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Archive for Sunday, July 15, 2007

Public grousing aside, meetings have their fans

July 15, 2007

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Grumble all you want about work meetings - you really like them.

So say researchers at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte who surveyed thousands of employees around the world.

"When you ask them in public settings, you tend to hear people grousing about them - 'Meetings are a waste of time,' " says Steven Rogelman, professor of psychology. "It's very much a socially acceptable thing to do. People are more reluctant to praise meetings. It's almost a reflection that you don't have better things to be doing."

Grousing accomplishes a few things. Besides suggesting that you have too much work to do to spend sitting around talking about work, it also allows employees to join in a sort of anti-authoritarian type of social bonding.

But in private, Rogelman says, people are much more open about their love for the work meeting. Rogelman and his team of researchers surveyed thousands of employees, asking them to assess their feelings about work meetings, one being the least favorable and five being the most.

"You generally find people are above three, and there are more fours and fives than ones and twos," says Rogelman, who consults businesses on how to run an effective meeting. About one-third of those surveyed were conscious that they changed their opinions about meetings depending on the setting.

"Generally, the reasons they claim to like meetings are just because they enjoy the social interaction and working with others." For many workers, he said, meetings give structure.

Somewhere along the line, the work meeting began preying on our collective mind. Movies and TV shows use them for dramatic confrontations; "Dilbert," the comic strip, treats the work meeting as the height of corporate culture's farcical nature. They even figure heavily in television commercials. Their pervasiveness in culture tells us something, Rogelman says. They work.

"We obviously have a belief in meetings," he says. "The sheer number of meetings show that they are generally seen as a useful tool. If people were truly negative about meetings, we would have less of them."

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