Why Meetings Suck and How to Fix Them (Transcript)

WorkLife with Adam Grant
Why Meetings Suck and How to Fix Them
September 26, 2023

[00:00:00] Dave Barry:
If you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race has not achieved, and never will achieve, its full potential, that word would be: ‘meetings.’

[00:00:14] Adam Grant (VO):
That’s the Pulitzer Prize-winning humorist Dave Barry. He knows that meetings are a source of misery for too many people in too many workplaces. They’re unproductive. Awkward. Exhausting. So I asked for your meeting horror stories – and you did not disappoint. You ranted about neverending meetings…

[00:00:33] Jerry:
Time really felt like a– one of those infomercials for like a miracle drug where they just never really get to the point unless you pay the 9.95 or something.

[00:00:41] Adam Grant (VO):
You complained about pointless meetings…

[00:00:44] Eileen:
So my manager at the time decided that she wanted to spend our one hour team meeting going through each and every single zoom setting.

[00:00:53] Jim:
The question that all of us had to answer was, “What is your favorite pizza topping?”

[00:00:58] Adam Grant (VO):
And you lamented leaders who used meetings as their own personal stages..

[00:01:03] Cody:
If we asked the question, he would tell us why it was the wrong question to ask. It was more or less a two day monologue, and we all walked out of that room like deflated balloons.

[00:01:17] Adam Grant (VO):
In a recent survey of 31,000 people across 31 countries, more than two thirds reported that they don’t have enough time to focus… and guess what the #1 disruptor of productivity was? Yep. Inefficient meetings! And the pandemic has only made meeting overload worse.

It often feels like bad meetings are inevitable -- although we dread them, we have no idea how to escape them.

But there are ways to get rid of some of those meetings altogether–and make the rest of them better. Because a great meeting makes us smarter… and it can leave us a little happier, too.

I’m Adam Grant, and this is WorkLife, my podcast with the TED Audio Collective. I’m an organizational psychologist. I study how to make work not suck. And yes, meetings often make my work suck.

In this show, we explore how to unlock the potential in people and workplaces. Today: why meetings are broken, and how to fix them.

[00:02:30] Adam Grant:
Before we start, actually, let me ask you, is this a meeting? Right now? Are we having a meeting?

[00:02:35] Steven Rogelberg:
Technically, we are having a meeting.

[00:02:37] Adam Grant:
Okay, I’m out. Forget it. I'm, I didn't sign up for this. Get me outta here.

[00:02:43] Steven Rogelberg:
You know, we have an agenda, we have a purpose. We planned it. Um, I think it meets most of the criteria.

[00:02:49] Adam Grant (VO):
Steven Rogelberg is an organizational psychologist at UNC Charlotte. He’s the world’s leading expert on the science of meetings. He has a book coming out called “Glad We Met”. He’s been studying meetings for decades, and I was relieved to find out that he can’t stand them either.

[00:03:04] Steven Rogelberg:
I do share that hatred, um, which is what brought me to this topic. I'm drawn to study topics that are causing people tremendous pain. And then I look for evidence-based solutions to help address it so that we can get the positives without the negatives.

[00:03:24] Adam Grant (VO):
If so many people hate meetings, why do we have them? What are they good for?

[00:03:29] Steven Rogelberg:
As we know from social psychology, humans are inherently social creatures. Like, we gather, we assemble. This is part of our very nature. And absolutely this happened during the cave people time.

[00:03:43] Gruff cave person voice:
Agenda today… Grog make fire!

[00:03:47] Steven Rogelberg:
Documentation of meetings certainly occurred in ancient societies as well. You know, for example, public meetings, uh, were the bedrock of democracy in ancient Greece.

[00:03:58] Annoyed voice:
Ugh… Socrates called another meeting?!

[00:04:01] Steven Rogelberg:
The industrial revolution probably laid the foundation for the modern meeting.

[00:04:07] Old-timey voice:
Agenda today… Gary make fire… for steam engine!

[00:04:14] Adam Grant (VO):
But somewhere along the way, things went off the rails. It’s why Dave Barry made his observation that meetings squander human potential.

[00:04:22] Steven Rogelberg:
I don't agree. I don't agree. Um, I definitely agree if we replace “bad meetings” in there. I mean meetings, in theory, are an evolution of organizational democracy, right? They are an evolution from the command and control systems of the industrial Revolution. And we started to recognize that workers aren't just cogs, that their voice matters and involving them in decision making can elevate an organization. And the research consistently shows, it's, it's not meetings in and of themselves that lead to these negative outcomes, but the quality of the meetings.

[00:05:02] Adam Grant (VO):
Steven finds that nearly a third of meetings are unnecessary—wasting $25 million a year for every thousand people. But that’s an underestimate. It only accounts for time wasted. It doesn’t include the cost of ideas lost or energy drained.

[00:05:18] Steven Rogelberg:
That doesn't factor in the fatigue and stress that happens associated with bad meetings. That doesn't factor in something called meeting recovery syndrome, which is the idea when you have a bad meeting, it sticks with you; you ruminate. And something magical about meetings is that when you have a bad one, you have to co-ruminate. You need to tell someone about it.

[00:05:39] Adam Grant (VO):
So why don’t we have better meetings? Every organization has norms for meetings. These are basically our shared expectations about gathering–the unwritten rules we follow in how we plan and run meetings.

They might’ve been created by a founder, or borrowed from another organization. Norms dictate when and how long you meet, who’s invited, and what the agenda looks like (or even if one exists).

But… Most of these norms aren’t based on strong evidence, and people rarely rethink them – even when meetings become excruciating. I blame what psychologists call pluralistic ignorance. It’s a common phenomenon where people go along with group norms because they think they’re alone in disagreeing with them… but they’ve actually misread the room.

Research shows that this misperception of group norms has major consequences. On college campuses, for example, one of the culprits behind binge drinking is that students overestimate how enthusiastic their peers are about it.

And in emergencies, witnesses sometimes fail to help because they look around and see no one else helping, so they assume it must not be an emergency… not realizing everyone else is doing the same thing.

There’s a famous illustration called the Abilene paradox. As the story goes, a family in Texas takes a long, hot drive to a town called Abilene for dinner… only to have a miserable time and realize that none of them actually wanted to go. Everyone went along because they thought someone else was excited about it. That’s how it goes with meetings.

[00:07:19] Steven Rogelberg:
We have this learned helplessness around it. We've just accepted grousing about meetings as this normative behavior, kind of like talking about the rain in England. You know, there just hasn't been this motivation to truly solve it, and yet it's incredibly solvable.

[00:07:37] Adam Grant (VO):
To change norms, we have to drag them out into the open. If no one says they don’t want to go to Abilene, you’re all going to end up in Abilene!
So if you want to create better meeting norms, there are four conversations worth having. #1: Talk about when you actually need a meeting! And when you don’t.

[00:07:55] Steven Rogelberg:
If as a leader you have something relevant and important to discuss with your team that requires interaction and engagement, have a meeting.

[00:08:03] Adam Grant (VO):
So when is that interaction and engagement helpful? In my view, there are some basic reasons to meet: to decide, learn, bond, or do. If you’re not gathering to achieve one of those goals, you don’t need to gather. If you’re walking through Zoom setting changes or just giving updates—tasks that don’t require input… That meeting could’ve been an email.

[00:08:27] Steven Rogelberg:
That's right. And there's so many different ways of communicating. Um, I mean so much good stuff can be done asynchronously.

[00:08:34] Adam Grant (VO):
Good stuff like generating ideas and documenting knowledge. People often want to talk things out, but it doesn’t always do as much good as they expect. Psychologists call it the illusion of conversational enlightenment. Instead of opening up fresh perspectives, many meetings just repeat what everyone already knows. Goodbye diversity of thought, hello groupthink.

The second conversation for better meetings is about reconsidering how long they last. Instead of defaulting to standard meeting lengths, talk about how much time is needed for each one.

[00:09:09] Steven Rogelberg:
There's just no reason why our meetings can't be 18 minutes long. There's no reason that we can't start our meeting at 3:12 PM as opposed to on the hour. I just want people to start being intentional and making the choices that make sense. There are plenty of times where a 10 minute meeting will work just fine. Bring people together, stand up, get folks aligned and connected, and move on.

[00:09:33] Adam Grant (VO):
When Steven says stand up, he means it literally. Experiments show clear benefits of having people stay on their feet instead of sitting in chairs. No one wants to stand there forever, so instead of rambling, they focus on their most important points. Standup meetings end up being significantly shorter…
[00:09:51] Steven Rogelberg:
And yet the decision quality is equivalent. Now, I'm not at all saying that every meeting you should stand–

[00:09:57] Adam Grant:
No, of course not. Sometimes we should walk or run.

[00:10:00] Steven Rogelberg:
Right. Right? Well, I love walking meetings. Those are fabulous. Things are tight. They're focused, they're present. The other thing is it's much harder to multitask, um, you know, when you're standing.

[00:10:11] Adam Grant:
Oo, yes. Yeah, I'm not gonna bring my standup desk to a meeting.

[00:10:15] Steven Rogelberg:
You are not. And so people are just ready to engage.

[00:10:21] Adam Grant (VO):
This brings us to the third conversation: Who gets invited? I can’t stand showing up to a meeting and realizing I didn’t need to be there. Why does this happen? We’re afraid of offending people by leaving them out of a meeting. Some might even get meeting FOMO. All of this leads to way too many people, many of whom are just there to spectate.

[00:10:43] Steven Rogelberg:
Let's mitigate this problem before it occurs and reestablish some norms so that people recognize it's not a personal decision, it's actually a respect decision.

We also don't have conversations around how to keep people in the loop. You know, when someone is being let off the hook and they don't have to attend, we actually have to have a conversation with them. We say, “Hey, we're talking about X. If you have any input on X, I'd love to hear it. Otherwise, I'll keep you in the loop and any future meetings you wanna attend, you're more than welcome.” If you do those things, people are like, “Nope, I'm good. I’m good. I'm fine with that.”

[00:11:19] Adam Grant:
I think I've seen the over inviting problem almost exclusively in organizations that have nice, agreeable, friendly cultures. And they think one of the ways you include people is you invite 38 people to your meeting and that ceases to be a meeting. It's a performance now.

[00:11:36] Steven Rogelberg:
That's right. You know, a big meeting is fake inclusion. It's not real inclusion. Um, you know, my general analysis of, like, so why do we keep having these bloated meetings? There's a benevolent reason, that we're doing it to promote inclusion and employee voice. But then you have a laziness reason, where technology makes it just so easy to take someone's calendar captive. Thus we don't really stop and think about who really has to be at the meeting.

And then there's a third reason is insecurity, right? So we have so many managers who are feeling really insecure managing a remote staff, and they think that what they have to do in that situation is just keep calling meetings and overseeing. So those three forces just keep leading us to meet, to meet, to meet, to have these really big meetings.

[00:12:26] Adam Grant (VO):
The only people who need to be in a meeting are those with relevant expertise or authority. Everyone else can be updated later. If you still keep finding yourself in meetings that are way too big, it might be worth putting a limit in place – like Microsoft Japan did. They added a policy that any meetings with more than 5 attendees needed special approval.

[00:12:46] Steven Rogelberg:
And while that sounds really draconian, and it is, it created the pause that we need so badly in organizations, right? Because now you're hitting a large meeting and now you say, “Ah, do I really need this? Am I actually gonna ask my boss to sign off on this large meeting?”

[00:13:06] Adam Grant (VO):
So let’s say you’ve figured out you need a meeting. You know how long it should be, and who should be there. Now what? If you answered, “Agenda,” you’d be in line with most people. But what does the evidence say?

[00:13:19] Steven Rogelberg:
So, having agendas in and of themselves do little for meeting effectiveness. Our agendas are a hollow crutch. You know, what's most key is what's actually on the agenda, right? How was it created? Did you encourage voice? Did you seek input? And what's even more important is how that agenda is facilitated.

And yet there's so many meeting leaders that say, “Okay, yeah, once I created this piece of paper with items on it, now I'm good.” And they are not good, right? They didn't accomplish anything. Um, they just did the really easy thing.

[00:13:46] Adam Grant:
I've gotten annoyed sometimes when leaders will open a meeting and say, “All right, let's, you know, we're back from summer break. Let's all talk about how we spent our summer vacation.”

[00:14:06] Steven Rogelberg:
Hate it. Hate it. That is a silly practice to think you're building community and you're not.

[00:14:14] Adam Grant (VO):
Step 4 for improving your meetings is to change the conversation during them– not just before them. In other words: invite active participation. This is what Steven was alluding to when he asked if your agenda encourages voice and how you plan to facilitate it. To get the most out of a meeting, leaders need to elicit everyone’s contribution. Too many meetings are dominated by a single voice… with attendees staring blankly at the leader.
[00:14:41] Steven Rogelberg:
So one of the techniques that I'm super keen on is this idea of, instead of framing your agenda as a set of topics to be discussed, consider framing your agenda as a set of questions to be answered. And by doing so, the meeting leader really has to think, “Why are we getting together?”

You know, what are the key questions that have to be answered? And by framing your agenda as questions to be answered, now you know who to invite. They're relevant to the questions. By framing it as questions, you know if the meeting has been successful and when to end because the questions have been answered.

[00:15:11] Adam Grant:
Such a good idea. I've seen you recommend this before, but it didn't hit me until just now that questions force the meeting organizer to be more thoughtful and structured. And they also create a natural dynamic of inquiry, not just advocacy, in the meeting itself.

[00:15:25] Steven Rogelberg:
The other really neat added benefit is that when someone gets a meeting invite and it contains questions, they're charged up. Like they can't help themselves but to start thinking about it.

So in modern meetings and across organizations, one of the things that plagues us is people don't prepare. But when you start doing a question-based approach, and that's in the invite email, people come ready.

[00:15:50] Adam Grant (VO):
Say you’re holding a group brainstorming meeting. What if the agenda was a list of key questions: “How would you define the problem we’re trying to solve? What are the criteria we should use to evaluate potential solutions? And what initial ideas do you have?”

One of my other favorite ways of inviting active participation is to rotate who runs the meeting. Along with engaging different voices, it encourages experimentation with different practices… and it’s a leadership development opportunity for junior people.

And if you’re running a hybrid meeting, I’m a big fan of calling on remote attendees first. Instead of feeling left out, they get included from the start. When meetings are run well, everyone feels the benefits.

[00:16:32] Steven Rogelberg:
When leaders do a really good job running their meetings, meetings can actually become places of gain. It actually promoted employee engagement. Um, so the potential is there – it's just so often not realized.

[00:16:46] Adam Grant (VO):
Whatever specific practices you choose, the key to improving meetings is to think about them more intentionally and talk about them more candidly. That shows other people that you value their time.

[00:16:58] Steven Rogelberg:
And, you know, the best meeting leaders recognize that they're inherently a steward of others' time.

[00:17:03] Adam Grant (VO):
But being a good steward of the meetings you run can only save you so much time. What about all the other meetings that you don’t control? To change bad meeting norms on a bigger scale, something more drastic might be needed… More on that, after the break.


[00:17:30] Adam Grant (VO):
Think about a time when you’ve felt overwhelmed by all the meetings on your calendar. This is known as meeting bloat.

[00:17:39] Rebecca Hinds:
So if I wake up just dreading the day, that's a good indication to me that meeting bloat is happening. And when you don't have any sense of control, you feel that sense of helplessness in response to meetings. I think that's a sign you, you have too many meetings.

[00:17:56] Adam Grant (VO):
Rebecca Hinds is the head of the Work Innovation Lab at Asana. She has a PHD in management science and engineering. And she knows that when multiple people across multiple teams are feeling that bloat, a bigger organizational intervention may be in order. In 2022, a team at Asana asked her for help with exactly that.

[00:18:15] Rebecca Hinds:
And this team in particular was known for being highly productive. They were known for being very good stewards of meetings, and yet they were experiencing meeting bloat.

[00:18:26] Adam Grant (VO):
When you want to reduce meeting bloat, a starting point is to have each employee do an audit of their own calendar, going through every event with fresh eyes. Is the meeting still necessary? If not, delete it. Are there people who don’t need to attend anymore? If so, set them free. Rebecca found that when people did individual audits, they were able to save about 4 hours a month. To make a bigger dent, she needed to change collective norms. So for this team at Asana, Rebecca dreamed up a more dramatic change.

[00:18:58] Rebecca Hinds:
And so we launched what we called “Meeting Doomsday”.
[00:19:01] Adam Grant (VO):
Dun dun dun… Meeting Doomsday was inspired by something Rebecca studied in her previous role at Dropbox. One morning, Dropbox employees got an email. The subject line?

[00:19:15] Rebecca Hinds:
“Armeetinggeddon.” And the email explained that on midnight the previous day, the IT team had flipped the switch and deleted all recurring meetings from employees’ calendars. And I remember in particular my favorite part of that email. It said, “Doesn't it feel fantastic?”

[00:19:34] Adam Grant (VO):
To fight meeting bloat, Dropbox started over from scratch. People had to wait two weeks before they could add meetings back. Rebecca decided to try a version of this with the team at Asana. She had everyone delete all recurring meetings from their calendar with 5 or fewer people.

Then, they had to wait 48 hours before they could reintroduce any meetings, so they wouldn’t just default to their old meeting habits. That sounds like nirvana to me. Can we make it 48 years please? But not everyone was fully on board…

[00:20:04] Rebecca Hinds:
There was some… reluctance. I wouldn't say pushback, but there was some reluctance.

[00:20:09] Francesca Gentile:
Yeah, I, I felt naked.

[00:20:14] Adam Grant (VO):
Francesca Gentile was on that team. As for so many others, her meetings started to balloon when everyone shifted to remote work during the pandemic.

[00:20:22] Francesca Gentile:
It just became a combination of, well, these were the meetings that I used to have before the pandemic, and now we have those and some more because we really need to figure out a new way of working together. And our default was, "Let’s add more time.”

[00:20:41] Adam Grant (VO):
Francesca kept an open mind about Meeting Doomsday. But she still felt some anxiety seeing everything disappear from her calendar…

[00:20:48] Francesca Gentile:
It felt really, uh, weird because I sort of remembered also like, “Oh, here is where my one-on-one with my manager used to be.” Huh.

[00:21:00] Adam Grant (VO):
So what were the results of Meeting Doomsday?

[00:21:03] Rebecca Hinds:
It was a small group, but each participant saved 11 hours per month, or about two and a half work weeks per year, just by eliminating those small recurring meetings.

[00:21:15] Adam Grant (VO):
And one person managed to save a lot more than that.

[00:21:18] Francesca Gentile:
Yeah. Rebecca told me at the time, I saved 32 hours per month.

[00:21:23] Adam Grant (VO):
32 hours? Per month? That’s a huge amount of time! Almost an entire workweek.

[00:21:30] Francesca Gentile:
So when she told me that I, I was the winner, I was kind of pleased, but also a bit like what? But yeah, I mean, I guess it's a good signal, right? I, I think it, it means that maybe if you just let anything land on your calendar, that's probably how you find yourselves being able to clear 32 hours.

[00:21:57] Adam Grant (VO):
It wasn’t just eliminating meetings that saved so much time. Rebecca and her team found that restructuring meetings made a big impact.

[00:22:04] Rebecca Hinds:
You know, 30 minute meetings became 25 minute meetings. Weekly meetings became monthly meetings. Some status updates during meetings were moved to be asynchronous. And so there were a wide array of different changes.

[00:22:17] Adam Grant:
I, I like that idea a lot. I think one of the places where this gets complicated for a lot of people is, like, okay, so I identify a bunch of meetings that are draining me, that I'm getting nothing out of. But other people still want me there.

[00:22:32] Rebecca Hinds:

[00:22:32] Adam Grant:
What do you say to people who realize there are a bunch of inefficient, ineffective, exhausting meetings in their life, but other people want them to show up for them?

[00:22:41] Rebecca Hinds:
Meetings are, I think, a prime breeding ground for pluralistic ignorance. And what I mean by that is that what we find in our research is that if one person in a meeting views that meeting as unproductive, inefficient, draining, chances are the other people in the meeting also feel similarly.

And so I think that, you know, if you're feeling that a meeting is a drain, chances are other people are as well. And I think it's a very healthy practice. It can be nerve-wracking, it can be, uh, scary, but I think it is a healthy practice to voice that concern.

[00:23:19] Adam Grant (VO):
One reason the pilot was so effective might be that it tackled pluralistic ignorance head on – by having team members talk openly about which meetings were actually useful. Having those discussions is crucial because Meeting Doomsdays are not silver bullets. If you delete everything on everyone’s calendar but don’t change the underlying norms, meetings will just come creeping back… kinda like invasive kudzu.

[00:23:43] Rebecca Hinds:
I think it's, I think there are a couple of reasons. I think for some people, they– they're not like us, um, Adam, and they, they do like meetings and there's a certain–

[00:23:56] Adam Grant:
What? Can you just tell me what's wrong with them please?

[00:24:00] Rebecca Hinds:
I see it all the time and, you know, it's definitely not the common sentiment towards meetings, but some people for sure feel a certain comfort in meetings, and they put meetings on their calendar because it makes them look busy. It makes them look important. It makes them, you know, regardless of whether a meeting is productive, there's a sense of accomplishment for, for some people, and especially with remote work, you know, productivity paranoia is– is real.

[00:24:28] Adam Grant (VO):
Productivity paranoia. The fear that others are going to think you’re not getting things done.

[00:24:34] Rebecca Hinds:
And if you don't have that face time in the office with your boss, if you're able to show a completely full calendar, you know there's a sense that you are busy, you are working.

And then I think more– more the case of, you know, why meetings balloon on our calendar is because businesses change so quickly. You know, we get new customers, we get new partners, and I think the natural impulse if we change the business is to have a meeting.

If we're creating a new initiative, you know, let's schedule a meeting around that. If we onboard a new customer, the default is, let's schedule a weekly meeting or a monthly meeting.

[00:25:13] Adam Grant (VO):
When the norm is always to meet, no wonder calendars balloon. That’s especially the case with recurring meetings. Once a daily or weekly meeting is on our calendar, we rarely rethink it.

[00:25:24] Rebecca Hinds:
We saw in our, our research that people had meetings on their calendar from when they onboarded multiple years ago as new employees. They had new, you know, and even the same name, new– “new hire onboarding”--you know–“mentor meeting” that had, you know, lasted three years.

And both participants, the mentor and the mentee viewed the meeting as unproductive. And yet I do think there is, this fear of deleting meetings in many cases because it signals in a sense that meeting with the other person isn't your top priority.

[00:26:00] Adam Grant:
That is so backward. There's nothing you could do more efficiently to make my day than deleting a meeting that you were gonna have with me.

[00:26:07] Rebecca Hinds:
Exactly. And I think it should be viewed as a gift.

[00:26:11] Adam Grant (VO):
Many people are afraid that if they decline a meeting invite, others will think they don’t care, or they’re not committed. We need to normalize turning down invites if you’re overloaded or don’t have anything to contribute. Otherwise, meeting attendance becomes little more than virtue signaling. We often worry about what we’ll lose if we drop meetings. But we also need to think about what’s lost by continuing to hold them.

[00:26:34] Rebecca Hinds:
I did see, um, recently one meeting leader calculate the financial cost of a meeting. And if a meeting does have six or seven or eight senior executives, it can run into the hundreds and thousands of dollars. Not just the financial costs, but also, you know, people in general are really bad at recognizing opportunity costs.

So, often I find that leaders don't, and people in general don't take the time to reflect that scheduling a meeting means that their team will be unable to spend the time doing something more valuable.

[00:27:13] Adam Grant (VO):
One way to prompt people to reflect on those costs? Add them directly to calendar invites. That’s a strategy Shopify is trying out. They recently created a tool that calculates the estimated cost of each meeting based on average salaries, and includes that expense in the meeting info. Or you can make it a habit to revisit your meeting norms on a regular basis.

[00:27:34] Rebecca Hinds:
I think the doomsday and having that be part of your, you know, annual planning or ritualizing it in a certain way. I have yet to see something that is as effective at really jolting people out of inertia and jolting them out of the status quo.

[00:27:53] Adam Grant (VO):
If your workplace isn’t quite ready for Meeting Doomsday, a good place to start is designating no-meeting Wednesdays or meeting-free Fridays. Research suggests that banning meetings one day a week decreases stress while boosting productivity, collaboration, and satisfaction.

Sometimes getting rid of meetings is the best way to see what you’re missing. That’s exactly what Francesca, the Meeting Doomsday champion, realized with her newly cleared calendar.

[00:28:22] Francesca Gentile:
I am known for having second winds, right? But those hours were always inevitably spent in meetings because that's what used to happen. Always. And now I actually get to spend additional hours maybe in that deep work state. Or, I know that I have an option if something pops up to very quickly have a last minute call with someone.

[00:28:50] Adam Grant (VO):
Thinking more deliberately about meetings also led to a surprising result for her team.

[00:28:55] Francesca Gentile:
The most surprising part was that the time that we gained back, is there a meeting that we are missing that we didn't even have the time to think of having, or a more useful touchpoint that we didn't even have the time to, to add?

And there were a couple of things that we brought into the mix that weren't there before. So adding a new meeting as a result of a sort of better meeting hygiene pilot was not necessarily the outcome that you would expect, but it did happen.

[00:29:29] Adam Grant (VO):
That’s right – deleting all meetings actually led to new meetings. D’oh! But thanks to the new norms, they were intentional, productive ones. It’s now been over a year since Meeting Doomsday, and Francesca is still keeping up her new meeting practices.

[00:29:46] Francesca Gentile:
Yeah, my, my calendar looks good. If you notice the options I sent you for organizing this call, it was a very, uh, very wide variety. So, I think the, the fact that we are able to talk today, just a little less than a, a week, uh, from our first contact is a perfect example of how the changes have stuck.

[00:30:10] Adam Grant (VO):
Better meetings mean better work– and better work days. That’s the promise of a world with fewer and more engaging meetings. When our time is used more efficiently, we can contribute more effectively. And actually enjoy our work more too.

If you’re having trouble convincing people to change norms, you can always play this episode in your next meeting. And no, this episode could not have been an email.

Next week on WorkLife…

[00:30:55] Shashank:
If we have these short bursts of vacation throughout the year, you’re always recharged and happy at work.

[00:31:02] Adam Grant (VO):
What we’re getting wrong about our vacations… and how to get the most out of our breaks.

This episode was produced by Daphne Chen. Our team includes Courtney Guarino, Constanza Gallardo, Dan O'Donnell, Gretta Cohn, Grace Rubenstein, Daniella Balarezo, BanBan Cheng, Michelle Quint, Alejandra Salazar, and Roxanne Hai-Lash. Our fact checker is Paul Durbin. Our show is mixed by Ben Chesneau. Original music by Hansdale Hsu and Allison Leyton-Brown. Ad stories produced by Pineapple Street Studios.

For their research, gratitude to Bibb Latané and John Darley as well as Deborah Prentice and Dale Miller on pluralistic ignorance; Ike Silver, Barb Mellers, and Phil Tetlock on the illusion of conversational enlightenment; Garold Stasser and William Titus on groupthink; Allen Bluedorn and colleagues on standup meetings; and Ben Laker and colleagues on meeting-free days.

Thanks to all our listeners who shared their meeting horror stories. Thanks also to Dave Barry for his cameo, and to Jon Schnaars, Jordyn McMillin, and Izii Carter for being our historical voices.

[00:32:14] Adam Grant:
And therein lies the problem. I am an organizational psychologist who doesn't really wanna be part of an organization.

[00:32:20] Steven Rogelberg:
And that's why we went into academics, we could be free agents and do really cool things.

[00:32:25] Adam Grant:
Exactly. I will attend any meeting you run.