can I speak up about how our meetings always run way past the allotted time?

A reader writes:

Meetings that end on time make my heart sing. I’m the manager of a department with about a dozen people, and my staff knows that I am uncompromising about ending meetings on time.

Alas, our entire division (about 50 people) has a monthly meeting that invariably runs over the allotted hour. Even when we do end on time, these meetings are excruciating. Our director spends the first half-hour providing updates on the overall company, with a focus on how those updates affect our division. Then, each of the six managers (myself included) provides an update from our department. If you do the math, you figured out this leaves 5 minutes per manager if we’re going to get out of there on time.

In my humble opinion, that’s all the time we need because the purpose of the meeting is just to make sure that everyone has a big-picture idea of what’s happening across the division and get some face-time in since we are spread across several floors in two buildings. However, I feel like a few of my fellow managers use the meeting as a platform to show important and busy they are. They routinely rattle on for 10 -15 minutes, oblivious that we’re all creeping closer to our deaths while they recite the trivial details of their daily schedule.

Can I say something to my director about this, or do I need to just suck it up and plan to be at these meetings for half the morning? I recognize that I have a particularly strong aversion to meetings, and she is perfectly aware that these meetings run over and has elected not to do anything about it, so I’m concerned about coming across as an unsupportive coworker.

How’s your relationship with her generally? If you get along and she thinks well of your work, try speaking up and seeing what happens. I’d say this: “What do you think about asking people to keep their department updates to about five minutes unless something is truly crucial? With six managers giving updates, that would let us end our meetings on time; otherwise we end up going significantly over the meeting time, and I’ve sometimes got things scheduled right afterwards.” You could add, “I think people aren’t always sure what level of detail they should be providing, and giving a time guideline could help with that.”

But if your relationship with her isn’t great, I wouldn’t expend capital on this, as much as I agree with you about meetings that operate this way.

If that’s the case — or if you talk to her and it doesn’t get you anywhere — then I’d just start assuming that these meetings will last 90 minutes rather than 60 (or whatever length they generally seem to end up at). I’d also bring some work to look over if you can get away with doing that.

More generally, if anyone is running meetings this way, please stop.

Related:
why meetings suck and how to make them useful for your team
I’m spending hours every week sitting in useless meetings!
how much talking in a meeting is too much?

{ 107 comments… read them below }

  1. Marina

    I just really, really love the phrase “oblivious that we’re all creeping closer to our deaths while they recite the trivial details of their daily schedule.”

    1. Jennifer

      *high-fives*

      Yeah, we’ve tried to cut the “updates” from our meetings, but no dice.

      1. Artemesia

        In my experience ‘updates’ are those moments when people doing nothing tell us again what they will be accomplishing by next meeting, when they will tell us again what is ‘underway.’ People who get things done don’t need much time to update. ‘It’s done, folks’

        1. Jennifer

          “So, what is your department up to lately?”
          “The same thing as always, Bob.”

          Seriously, 20 minutes of this.

  2. Katie the Fed

    Sounds like a good time to update your shopping list, remember which bills need to be paid, make a list of desired traits for your perfect spouse, etc :)

    1. the gold digger

      make a list of desired traits for your perfect spouse, etc :)

      1. orphan
      2. rich
      3. not interested in running for public office
      4. goes to bed when you do
      5. doesn’t tell you it’s not possible to be cold when you are cold

      1. MsChanandlerBong

        I always joke that I am going to write a book of marriage advice that has only one page. That page will say “Marry an orphan.”

        To be fair, my actual MIL is great. She brags to all of her friends about me and thinks the sun shines right out of my behind. Unfortunately, my husband also has a stepmother. Her picture appears under the definition of “narcissistic personality disorder” in the dictionary.

      2. Connie-Lynne

        Number five, for sure!

        This is why my husband is awesome: I am constantly cold since moving to the SF Bay Area. So he bought me a heating pad. I use it EVERYWHERE.

        1. Malissa

          I moved so far south I can go to Mexico for lunch. My husband is slowly learning not to lower the AC setting.

        2. Allison

          Careful, that can cause patches of your skin to darken. For years I had what looked like a huge birth mark wrapped around half my torso, which gradually disappeared shortly after the heating pad did (I’d been using it constantly, lying on it almost every night because it felt good on my back). Years later my mom read some health article which confirmed the cause.

            1. Artemesia

              WAs going to say the same thing. I had a hot laptop that left dark patches on my thighs for years. Turns out if you replace the bad battery or get a new laptop, the condition clears up.

            2. Mallory Janis Ian

              Yes! I spent $250 at the doctor having a lab sample taken of my daughter’s discolored upper thigh. Later that week I watched her set the laptop on her bare leg — BINGO!! I called the doctor’s nurse to tell her “mystery solved”, but it was too late to call of the lab test :-(

        3. esra

          Sigh, I dated a man who generated so much body heat he actually had steam coming off him on cold winter hikes. We didn’t work out, but ‘human hot water bottle’ is definitely on my desirables list now.

        4. Vicki

          I bet you live on the Peninsula, in SF proper, or near the bay.
          People who’ve never been to the Bay Area think “California. Land of sun!” In some areas, it’s land of occasional fog and wind. (But when others complain about heat, we’re comfy!)

      3. Comics_Lover

        Eh, number 4 might still prove tough for Batman, unless you’re a real night owl.

      4. Lindsay J

        3. A guy I’ve been seeing mentioned a possible run for office. I instantly thought of you and your blog.

    2. Lily in NYC

      I sit in the back during our painful division meetings and hide my kindle in a notebook and read. My office is the type of place that has multiple pre-meetings to prepare for an actual meeting. It is maddening.

      1. Noelle

        My office does that too! I don’t understand this whole meeting rehearsal. It’s a meeting, not a theatrical performance. Unless….they are the fake workaholics from earlier this week!

        1. A Definite Beta Guy

          Pre-meetings are often necessary for meetings, depending on the level of the company. There’s 7 levels of managers between myself and CEO. If my divisional director needs to present something to the Executive Board, she normally has a separate meeting with all her managers, and the managers in turn have a separate meeting with all the line employees.

          And, yeah, they are theatrical performances. You’re always being judged.

  3. Tiffy the Fed... Contractor

    If you decide to talk to your boss, here’s a suggestion for what could replace monthly meetings.

    My boss sends out semi-regular updates (maybe every other week/once a month) about our division via email. These include new projects, exciting updates, new hires, upcoming events, that sort of thing. Probably a shortened version of what is covered in your meetings as most people tend to be more brief via email. I really like this because I can get a quick view of what people with whom I don’t usually interact are doing.

    We also do an all-hands meeting maybe once a quarter or once every other quarter, so that everyone can meet face to face. Our division is spread across a few buildings, and it’s nice for the new people to be able to make some visual connections.

    1. Vicki

      Email! I don’t understand why manager still insist on “status” meetings when they can all be handled by an emailed update.

      If you have 50 people in a room and all you’re getting is words that could have been emailed, you’re doing something wrong. At the very least, cut it back to one manager per meeting, so that person gets 40 minutes plus Q&A.

  4. the gold digger

    The CEO Known As NotSergio was famous for this. Our trans-Pacific team meetings started at 6 p.m. my time. We never ended on time – NotSergio and most of the team were at work during their regular working hours in a country way west of the US; a few of us were in the US office. If you are already at work anyhow, a meeting that runs long is annoying and frustrating but it is not infuriating and it does not keep you from making supper.

    The one time I dared to suggest we start on time after a break so we could finish by the appointed time, NotSergio snapped at me and made it very clear that that kind of feedback was not welcome.

  5. LBK

    I’m skeptical that setting a time limit will make a difference unless this is going to be an Oscars-esque time limit where someone is keeping strict track and starts playing the speaker off if they run on too long. In my experience it rarely makes any difference because speakers like this aren’t prepping and timing out their update beforehand – they’re just jotting down bullet points and (wildly under-) estimating the run time.

    I think a stricter template would be more effective: you can give 3 statistics, 3 notable project updates and 3 (one-sentence) items of your choice. I suspect people are prattling on because they’re not clear on what information they’re being expected to provide, so if they have guidance in that area they’ll be less inclined to use it as a chance to fluff their egos.

    1. katamia

      I like this idea. I have no sense of time (which could also be the case for other people involved), and this is so much more informative and helpful than “Keep it under X minutes.”

    2. Jillociraptor

      Yes, I think this is perfect: creating a structure rather than a time limit.

      1. Tyrannosaurus Regina

        I agree. It would make people think about what they have that’s actually worth sharing, instead of just generating noise because everyone else is.

    3. Tiffy the Fed... Contractor

      I wonder if people will actually stick to that limit. I’ve found that some managers think they are above limitations like this and still go on and on about the most mundane things. Worth a shot though.

      Personally, I think an Oscars-esque time limit would work best. Blast those film scores when someone’s time is up!

      1. Dynamic Beige

        I’ve been in shows where we’ve tried this and just like at the Oscars, it doesn’t work. The person will keep talking and it becomes awkward and then the stage manager or show caller will ask that the audio gets underscored so the person just keeps on talking.

        One meeting I did a long time ago was for a union. They had the clock facing the audience as well as the presenter and you could hear rumblings if it was getting close to time. Everyone ended on time that day. Everyone. They might not have said all they wanted to say, but they ended. I see it all the time where people are told they have X minutes to speak and they never say what they want to say out loud before they get on stage and always wind up running over.

        The one thing the first manager at OP3’s company up might do is start off by challenging the other people. “I’m going to give my update in 4 minutes or less… and I challenge anyone to beat my time!” Chess clock, stop watch, time it and go. Maybe have a small prize like a cup of coffee or a pastry — with the real prize being everyone gets back to work on time. Since these are informal meetings, you could get away with it. I like the idea of distributing guidelines/a system too. Some people just love the sound of their own voice and that’s a hard habit to break.

        1. Wanna-Alp

          A very nice way to end someone whose time is up, is to have everyone listening applaud. The speaker can’t be heard any more, so they stop, but the applause goes a long way to prevent hurt feelings. Just needs someone with a stopwatch.

          Not sure it would work for OP’s particular situation, but I mention it in case it helps anyone in similar situations.

          1. Dynamic Beige

            I can see how that might work… but it would require some degree of planning and organisation to pull off — or a general shift in social mores. When you’re dealing with 1800 attendees over 3 continents and they’re all at a senior level, I doubt anyone wants to be the one it gets traced back to that you sent out the e-mail to suggest that everyone start applauding when the someone has run over his/her allotted time at the AGM.

    4. fposte

      I’m totally agreeing with the underlying problem here–nobody knows if they’ve actually fulfilled the purpose because it’s so vague, so they keep rambling on.

      I’d like to cut them off by time as well, but really it’s not the time that’s the problem here but the misuse of it. If they just officially added an hour to the meeting times I doubt the OP would be placated, and I know I wouldn’t be in her place.

  6. Colette

    I had this issue in a volunteer role – meetings were typically going three hours or more. I approached the person running the meeting and said something like “I know these meetings are important, but I find it hard to focus when the meetings go on so long. I know we sometimes get off topic and I contribute to the problem as much as anyone. Can we focus on keeping the meeting to 90 minutes? Please feel free to pull me back on topic or ask me to pick up a discussion after of the meeting.”

    1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec

      I have meetings like this in a volunteer role, and I leave exactly at the time the meeting was supposed to be over. Every. Single. Time. Sometimes they hold some carrot for people to say to the end, so I call the next day, and say, “I’m sorry, but I had set aside time only from 7pm to 8pm last night and had to go. May I please have my carrott”? I get it every time.

        1. HumbleOnion

          I’ve walked out of work meetings, basically saying what you did. “Sorry, this was scheduled from 10-11, and I have other work to do.” A few other people stood up & followed me. I was a hero.

          1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec

            Well, me too. And I wouldn’t fault anyone at my office for doing that, but we are pretty damn picky about ending meeting on time unless everyone agrees that we can go longer, so it’s fair game to leave if you need to (but not in angry protest – only matter-of-factly). I’m not sure how common that is.

        2. jag

          Oh but you can. In a healthy organization, if someone has another meeting scheduled or something important they can leave.

          People at my organization often say early in a meeting “I’ve got a hard stop at X and will have to leave then.” Or even in a pause when the meetings run a few minutes over they’ll get up and say “I only blocked out 90 minutes for this and have to go – let me know if they’re any other specifics you need from me.”

          I don’t recommend this to everyone and every organization, but we do it where I work and I know it’s done in other places too.

          1. Jill 2

            I feel like you can only do this if you’re important. If you’re a non-Director or person without real authority, it seems like you have to go out of your way to stay and look engaged in any way you can, especially in meetings where you have visibility to other departments. No matter that the lower level workers are generally deep in their specific area, and a lot of times, the broad stuff from meetings doesn’t really apply to them.

            I’ve started leaving when I can, and no one has said anything, but I always worry this reflects on me not working “above and beyond” like I should always strive for.

            1. jag

              I did it when I had no one reporting to me – I was mid-level. Even lower level people at my org have done it – phrasing it as “I have GOT to go” implying there is some other business they have to attend to. Even if they are not “important,” the work is.

              It’s part of being a high-performing person at work – not wasting time.

              My organization cannot afford bad meetings wasting tons of people’s time. Our environment is too competitive for that.

    2. Lynn Whitehat

      Volunteer things are a whole other thing. I’ve seen epic battles between people who are fitting volunteer work into a busy schedule because they believe in the cause, and people (who may also believe in the cause) who are lonely and bored and looking for a social outlet.

  7. NJ Anon

    Ah meetings! Old Boss loved to hear himself talk and meetings would go on forever. New Boss hated meetings and constantly looked at the clock making us feel unimportant and like he didn’t care what we said. Turns out he didn’t care what we said since he ignored/forgot anything in the meetings and didn’t make anyone take minutes.

  8. Ann Furthermore

    There is a VP at my company who is a big proponent of a 5-15 report. It’s a high-level report that (theoretically) should take no more than 5 minutes to read, and no more than 15 minutes to prepare. Those are good parameters for doing a presentation like this at an all-hands type meeting. Most attendees don’t need much more detail or information than that.

    Usually I roll my eyes at corporate-speak stuff like this, because the first thing that pops into my head is the TPS Report from Office Space. But I think this one is a pretty good guideline.

    1. Lily in NYC

      I like this, and also the idea of Office Hours. Our president does this twice a week. You sign up for 10-minute slot if you need feedback/advice on a project. It saves time and cuts out a lot of necessary meetings. Not that this info would be helpful for OP’s problem.

    2. Stranger than fiction

      My BF does this at his job only calls it a 15-5 and does it for his 1-1 with his boss each week. He like it but not sure the info is going anywhere

    3. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec

      Oh! I like that. I have never found a really effective way to communicate that, for most report, the person should not be spending a half day preparing it.

    4. Anonsie

      The prep time component of this is genius. The worst offender meetings always seem to be the ones where someone has a ton of complicated metrics they want to show.

  9. LVL

    At meetings such as this one at my organization we have a designated ‘timekeper’ which helps to keep meetings running timely. If you can get the meeting manager to agree to keep everyone in their technically-allotted 5 minutes that may be an ption for you to maintain the timeliness.

    And in agreement with previous posters your comment on creeping closer to your deaths is by far the best thing I’ve heard all day.

  10. waffles

    I sympathize with you, OP. I came from a high tech company that was fastidious about ending meetings on time. The meeting organizer was expected to say “and we’re at time” right at the scheduled end time, even in mid-conversation. People would happily say, “and I’ll give you 15 minutes back” when a meeting ended early.

    Those days are long gone for me. I’m now at an org that regularly runs bloated, over-time meetings as a rule. It’s part of this org’s culture. It’s not uncommon for a meeting to crumble into non-work talk, too. I work for the local (city) government, and it’s just part of the general lackadaisical, waiting-to-retire MO here.

    In your case, I hope it’s not part of your company culture and you can affect some change by talking with your boss.

    1. Golden Yeti

      I hear you. I dream of the days when “quick meetings” will actually be quick. And of course, the meetings have to be done in the last hour of the day, with management giving longwinded exposition about why people are this way, or how people think. The kicker is, there’s really no set agenda (we’re certainly never given documentation on it), other than the points (which turn into speeches) and asking for updates from each person present. I honestly wonder sometimes if management schedules meetings just to feel important and boss-like. When all is said and done, there are about 10 minutes left in the day, in which employees are expected to generate and submit weekly reports.

      Aaaarrrggghhh……

  11. Student

    Depending on how she manages things and how people’s time is paid for, she might be receptive to a cost-benefit analysis.

    For 50 people, assuming a salary average of 50k annually, that’s in the neighborhood of $25 per hour per person. A one-hour meeting of fifty people costs your company $1250. If it rattles on for two hours, that’s $2500. Is the company getting that level of value out of these meetings? Is one hour justified by value, but two a cost over-run? Would monthly newsletters or update emails cost less and convey the same info more quickly?

    1. Chris

      This is a good idea. Years ago, I had a boss who had her team do annual workplans that identified and estimated percentage of time to various activities. She was shocked when I had to allocate 10% of my time to our useless weekly staff meetings and did completely rethink the meeting purpose and structure.

    2. Lynn Whitehat

      I always like to point this out when my group gets meeting-happy. Everyone always looks surprised when I do the extremely simple math. 20 people x 2 hours = 40 people-hours = a week’s worth of work for one person.

  12. Alex

    I want to hug you, OP. I am a die-hard-start-and-end-this-meeting-on-time kind of person and find it really difficult to cope when I’m not the meeting organizer and things start late and go over (which is all the time in my org). My husband has a standing weekly meeting scheduled for an hour that regularly goes 2.5 hours… I’d go Hulk and smash things…

  13. Stranger than fiction

    There’s a great Ted talk about time-wasting meetings, forget who gave it. Also there’s a great Some eCard that says “we’re going to keep having meetings until we figure out why no work is getting done” have that one hanging in my office :-)

  14. Chris

    Ugh! Any meeting that has a “round robin of updates” systems just plain kills me. It is almost always an exercise in “I’m so busy, I can’t possibly keep my update to the time limit” updates.

    The system my boss employs, which I’ve grown to really love, is that each Monday morning we each email her and the other team leads with a very quick bulleted list of priorities for the week. The emails are actually super valuable in terms of identifying areas where someone else’s expertise might be helpful. Meetings are saved for agenda items that require discussion across multiple teams. It works well for us.

    I have, unfortunately, had other jobs where I was the only one on the team that disliked the round robin meeting going overtime system, so I had to suck it up. Or, schedule another meeting for right after and at the start of the meeting say, “I have a meeting with X client at 11am, so I’ll need to leave on schedule today.” But, that second option wouldn’t fly everywhere.

    1. Steve G

      OMG the “I’m so busy and doing more important things than you” round robins. The funny part at last job was that me and my coworker, the sales support/account management/operations/analysis/forecasting people were always last, and because there was a hard stop, we often couldn’t speak. So while a sales rep got to drone on about prospects that had been on his pipeline for months for 10-15 minutes, we never got to broadcast real urgent issues, like customers wanting to drop out, customers being forced out by our regulators, big changes in revenue/margin, urgent information needed to finish RFPs, etc……..but I stopped fighting the being cut off because I knew the director did it purposefully so he didn’t have to deal with the issues. Sad but true. Because if I emailed to him, he’d ignore them too.

    2. Stranger than fiction

      Even more annoying is the round robin where, until it’s their turn, people will be working on their laptops and then when they’re called on they say “uh now where are we at?” Because they weren’t paying attention, then the head of the meeting has to waste time catching them up….argh

    3. Vicki

      “Meetings are saved for agenda items that require discussion across multiple teams”

      Wow. How… novel. :-)

  15. Apollo Warbucks

    Most of my meetings are done via video and the softwear has built in sound effects, waffle on to long and someone will bang a gong and tell you your time is up.

    1. Jillociraptor

      I love that your workplace both has and uses that feature.

      My team uses Google Hangouts sometimes for informal meetings (our official vendor is WebEx so we use that for the biggies) but there is little so fun as using the “crickets” sound effect when you ask a question and get nothing.

  16. Michelle

    Did I sleepwrite and submit this? We have meetings like this weekly and then have what is called the ‘Mega Meeting’ once a month to talk about what events are going on and to provide updates. We also have that one person who provides unnecessary, excruciating details that we don’t need to know. I very rarely learn anything new at these meetings. I have personally observed department heads playing games on their phones during these meetings.

    I often fantasize about running out of them screaming.

    1. waffles

      I love that you have a meeting called Mega Meeting. I’m picturing a Transformer made out of conference room furniture.

  17. Chickaletta

    Does nobody use Robert’s Rules anymore? When it’s used well, it really works to keep meetings on track. Also, one group I have regular meetings with has a great system for not going over time: as soon as the time limit is reached, we have to vote whether to extend the meeting, and then keep doing that every 15 minutes. In three years we’ve only gone over time twice.

  18. John

    Assuming a decent relationship with your manager, I would ask them if it might be helpful to survey the group to make sure the meetings are optimally effective…either canvassing a sample group or creating a survey instrument asking about length and ways to improve the meetings.

    That helped us remove our similar meetings. (In our case, everyone gave an update and certain people droned on endlessly, justifying their existence to no benefit to the rest of us.)

  19. AndersonDarling

    May I suggest making an agenda for the meeting and having the director approve it? The managers send the topics they wish to discuss to the director’s secretary to fill in. Once the topics are in, the director gives a quick look and approves it. If there are duplicate topics, then only one person can present it. If someone sends a laundry list of topics, they need to trim it.
    This has worked well for us because everyone has to decide their topics ahead of time which minimizes rambling. If a department really has a lot to talk about, then you know ahead of time and time can be trimmed from another department.
    The agenda is emailed to all attendees beforehand and all speakers can only discuss what was approved by the director.

  20. The Other Dawn

    I’m so happy my new boss is mindful of keeping meetings within the allotted time. Actually, at this company we kind of need to do that; we have a limited number of conference rooms and they’re often booked back-to-back. My department won’t all fit in my boss’s office so we need conference room.

    My boss at my last job was terrible about keeping meetings within the allotted time. He would schedule a weekly staff meeting (total of 5 people, including himself) for an hour and it routinely ran an hour and a half, an hour and 45 minutes, sometimes two hours. And most of that was because he would just go on and on or wanted to dig and dig some more. Digging isn’t a bad thing, when it’s warranted. But it often wasn’t. We were all treated like we were five years old. He had a legal background and was extremely detail-oriented, so any conversation was usually a painful dissertation.

  21. Annony

    I seriously thought this was someone from my workplace, but our meeting is quarterly and the head of the division is a man, so never mind :)

  22. Artemesia

    When I had to sit through endless boring meetings — and I had a management role that put me on lots of committees that had such meetings — I would set my laptop open in front of me (so I could take notes or bring up memos or whatever if needed, uh huh) I would not type or touch it, but it would play through my photo albums as a screen saver. So while sitting in endless meeting #3, I would be back in Paris or climbing Angkor Wat or seeing cute pictures of my grandchild. It was a pleasant little interlude in the day.

  23. Jo

    I have a good model for meetings at my company I’d like to share.

    Our weekly meetings of 15-20 people (depending on how many can’t make it – attendance isn’t absolutely mandatory!) run about 30 minutes, 45 tops if somebody has something extra funny or interesting to discuss. We have a very succinct person who runs the meeting AND takes minutes AND emails the minutes company-wide afterward. This person is a fairly senior staff member with decades of experience, so minute-taking isn’t treated as busy-work and doesn’t fall to some long-suffering assistant whose time nobody respects. We organize the meeting by topic, where everybody contributes to each topic, instead of going around the room and letting each person give a monologue. So it goes, “Who has achieved X milestone in the past week?” Everybody who’s done X answers in turn, and then we move on. “Who’s gotten a project to stage Y? Who has an offsite meeting this week? Who has a new client? Any metropolitan area industry events coming up?” If you have something to contribute, you just pipe up and say it in one or two sentences. I think people are conscious of brevity and clarity because 1) they’re responding to a targeted question, 2) the person who asked the question needs time to write down their answer, and 3) you never know who else might be waiting for their turn, because we all speak out of order.

    I actually enjoy our meetings.

  24. Amber Rose

    Man I love our meetings. Each of the departments gives a quick list of what they’re working on so everyone knows if we’re behind on anything, this is not a detailed thing but literally just “2 chocolate teapots for X client and 3 vanilla for Y client, plus a factory visit Tuesday from Z client.” Safety gives a quick update about any injuries or incidents, management may or may not say something (this week was “please know how to change a tire if you’re taking a company truck to site”), there’s a pause for any other business that nobody uses and then we’re done. 30 minutes tops. Usually more like 20.

  25. hodie-hi

    Our public county meetings have a timer/bell ringer. At the beginning of every public meeting they say how long each speaker gets (3-5 minutes I think), that the bell will chime a one-minute warning, and then the final bell rings for time is up. These rules are repeated during every meeting each time they open an agenda item for public comment. We don’t have ramblers. ;-)

  26. Lily

    LW, I share your deep and passionate hatred for long meetings! I learned how to run meetings in college through practical experience (see, theatre degrees are useful!) and I consider it one of my most valuable skillsets. I used the agenda trick (we didn’t give people a hard limit that they could only talk about items on the agenda, but it forced preparation and tended to keep people on topic) but my other two favorite strategies were 1) approximating how much each department got to speak, then when they got close, speaking up to say, “I’m sorry, but we’ve got to move on to make sure everyone gets to cover what they need to,” and 2) If a conversation between two or three people was monopolizing the meeting and/or didn’t have much to do with the rest of the group, suggesting that they schedule a side meeting. At least in my industry, this is often the case–maybe scenic and costumes just need to get together to hash something out with the director and they can email the rest of us the resolution later.

    Of course, neither of these is particularly useful to the LW, but I absolutely agree with Alison’s suggestion to suggest that the meeting-leader provide more specific instructions on what each manager should be talking about. That alone might resolve it!

  27. _ism_

    I just want to pop in and say I’m still at the stage where I’m envious of those invited to meetings, calling meetings, etc. It’s never me. I’d love to sit in a meeting!

    1. The Other Dawn

      Be careful what you wish for!

      I used to feel the same way. I always wondered what’s going on in there that I’m not important enough to be invited. It must be something really super-secret and exciting and they’re leaving me out!

      But once I started going to meetings I realized it’s pretty boring most of the time, unless it’s a juicy subject directly related to my area. And meetings seem to be a magnet for arrogant windbags.

      I still feel envious sometimes, though, mainly because I’m not quite at the level I used to be in my old job. But I know enough now to know that many times it’s just a boring old meeting or it just doesn’t involve me; it’s not because they don’t want me there. And I have plenty of work to do anyway.

      1. _ism_

        My desk happens to be right outside the conference room, so I can hear most of the meetings. It’s funny, I often hear my boss saying “I’ll have to check with _ism_ for an update on that after the meeting….” I know I’m not missing much, but for the projects I am involved in, I don’t see why I’m not in there. Oh well.

        1. The Other Dawn

          I can understand that. It was like that at my last job. My boss would take care of all the meetings and then fill me in afterwards. Seemed like a waste of his time; he’d have to reiterate everything he’d just talked about in the meeting.

          At my old job, though, I was part of almost all meetings. Sometimes a good thing, sometimes not.

          In my new job I’m part of some meetings and not others. It’s actually a good mix now. I don’t feel like my time is taken up with pointless meetings and I have time to, you know, work.

  28. John R

    In my current job, meetings are REQUIRED to end on time. One of the first things I was told when I started working here is that I have to ALWAYS end my meetings on time and if I’m not finished I just have to stop.

    This initially seemed a little harsh, but I’ve found it *REALLY* makes me plan my time a lot better (and thus has a cascading effect down to the people attending my meetings), and I’ve even tried to end meetings five minutes early, which people seem to really appreciate.

  29. Suzanne

    My one employer had mandatory staff meetings every Monday. The record was, I think, 4 hours, although, to be fair, they were usually only 2-3. One meeting we looked at photos of the director’s church, but mostly he spent the time telling us how busy he was. One employee would routinely fall asleep, one would spend much of the time texting.
    I didn’t stay at that job long. I could never get any clear direction on what I was supposed to be doing, which in itself tells you how productive these meetings were.

  30. Menacia

    The Director of my department is the most boring, unengaging speaker I’ve ever had the misfortune to be trapped in a meeting with. Every meeting I’ve where he’s been involved has run over, and over, and over… He also speaks in such a way that no one understands him. It’s as if he turns on a foundation of managerial speak and completely ignores the blank stares he gets in response. I am dreading our upcoming department meeting because I know *exactly* how it will go. What is ironic is the second time we had a department meeting (he’s a new Director), he acknowledged the format was dull, and so he changed it up, but there was *no* discernable difference I could tell. At least we are fed well, though it does seem like we only get a short window for that, if we are eating then we aren’t listening to him…

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