why do our meetings run on so long?

A reader writes:

I’m trying to figure out if I’m a crabby cynic or if I’m missing some genetic code that makes people enjoy sitting in meetings.

I work in a very busy legal department in a non-attorney role. Too often I have observed that when a new process or other change is announced at a meeting, lots of people join in to agree with the change. The general counsel will say, “We are instituting a new process to facilitate X because blah, blah, blah.” Then four or five people in the meeting will jump in and expand on why this idea is such a good one. It’s the same idea when management decides not to pursue something. “We are not doing Y because of blah, blah, blah.” “Good!! It’s a bad idea because of this!!” “And that!” “And the other!”

Several of these people are on the management team and would have been included in the discussions leading up to the decision. I can understand a question asking why management decided to do X instead of Y, but is there a reason I need to hear six reasons why something is a good idea in addition to the two reasons provided by the general counsel in his original comments?

People complain about how many meetings we have and how long they last, and then they keep talking in the meetings. I speak up when I have a question but other than that, I keep quiet.

I’m at the bottom of the food chain, so I’m not asking for help in managing how the general counsel runs a meeting. I’m asking for a different perspective so that maybe I can get onboard with the idea that saying a good idea is a good idea multiple times is a valuable way to spend time.

I answer this question over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

{ 113 comments… read them below }

  1. Ulf*

    Preach it! The “listen to meeee say the same thing that was just said” is obnoxious, rude, and wasteful.

    The amount of time wasted in meetings, converted to units of productive energy, would power one spacecraft to Alpha Centauri—every week.

    1. Sherp*

      I once worked for a family-owned company. All their meetings had a point and were short enough to cover the necessities and that was it. The president said he didn’t like looking around a room of highly paid people just sitting around talking. I never minded going to a meeting when I worked there.

    2. Emily*

      I’m in marketing, and the thing that drives me the most crazy is when senior execs – who are too high-level to be producing content or copy themselves – will spend a LOT of time talking about messaging with each other in front of us front-line producers who can hardly get a word in edgewise. They will go on and on and on describing how our customers feel and why our product is great and what makes our product different…and it’s never anything new they’re brainstorming. They’re just saying variations on, “Our customers need us to do X, because they’re feeling Y,” with insights that have been surfaced in numerous reports and test findings that have already been reviewed and discussed, and except instead of that one statement as a refresher as phrased above, they manage to spend paragraphs’ worth of sentences taking turns restating the message in multiple ways. It’s like they just like talking about our customers and waxing on about the customer mindset – it’s almost like they are verbally writing marketing copy for the benefit of us producers to hear the way they phrase the ideas, but it’s never anything new that we don’t already have or know, and it makes me want to tear my hair out sometimes when I’ve been trying to jump in with a very concrete question or comment for several minutes but can’t because one of my senior execs is in the middle of a heartfelt emotional explanation of why people connect with and benefit from our product.

    3. GreenDoor*

      What’s worse is when you work in government. I worked for a public board and an assembly of elected officials where, in both cases, their meetings were open to the public. Nothing like each member giving a 20 minute “comment” on the topic just so they can show the voters they’e “doing something.”

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      This isn’t helpful to the LW. We’re all paid to endure various things at our jobs, but it’s ok to ask how to streamline or make those tasks more efficient and effective (most of the letters ask variations of “how do I deal with this thing that makes my job difficult to do?”). I suspect the LW doesn’t feel like they’re paid to listen to attorneys echo the GC, but rather, to be an effective [paralegal / legal secretary / other-non-attorney position] in an already busy office where LW feels there are higher priority tasks to complete.

      1. Yikes*

        I interpreted this comment more like, the people enthusiastically echoing management consider it part of their job to explain in excruciating detail the brilliance of management.

        1. Lauren*

          I hate this type of managing up. This sounds like each attendee is trying to out-do each other in their praise of each management decision. OP may need to find ways to manage up that doesn’t make them gag, because it sounds like this is the culture and they will have to not only put up with it being junior and likely participate.

          1. Emily*

            I wouldn’t consider this “managing up,” which is more about techniques for getting what you need from your boss by adapting to their idiosyncrasies and preferences so that you make it easy for them to give you what you want. This is just describing old-fashioned sucking up.

            I guess with an egomaniac, effusive/shameless flattery might make it easier for them to respond to your work-related requests? But in my experience, even egomaniacs who want that kind of flattery aren’t any more likely to reliably respond to your requests because you supply it.

        2. RUKiddingMe*

          This. It seems like the people talking about how wonderful X decision made by Big Important Person is…is just so much sucking up.

        3. MassMatt*

          I sympathize with the OP, ugh I have sat through meetings like this with lots of this sort of behavior. I agree with Allison’s analysis, but would add—it is possible that this org REWARDS this sort of behavior. Some bosses just love to hear how great their ideas are. It might be that these suck-ups wind up with the promotions. Chances are, if lots of people act this way there is likely a reason.

          As for advice—I recommend keeping a low profile, don’t make your impatience apparent until you gauge the situation, especially as you say you are new. When you know more and are a bit more established you can try getting management to act on some of the items Alison mentioned, but IMO if an org needs a junior employee to diagnose a problem of this magnitude it may just be dysfunctional. If so, then either play the game and practice your “excellent observation, sir!” Or look to find a better place.

      2. thankful for AAM*

        Speaking of helpful to the OP, it seems like the problem is that the purpose of the meeting is to announce things, not discuss them. Is there anything the OP can do about that?

        If it helps, my brother turns meetings he is stuck in into learning opportunities, as in, how would I reorganize this meeting, how would I make that point better, how would I handle that question, etc.

  2. Thursday Anon*

    A colleague of mine calls this “everyone has to hang their ornament on the Christmas tree” syndrome, and he is so right. There are just a lot of people who can’t bring themselves to just go along quietly with something (or disagree quietly). It’s a bit of “look at me! look at me!”

    1. EddieSherbert*

      Seriously. No advice, OP, but plenty of empathy… I’m convinced at least 50% of meeting time is a waste of time.

    2. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

      Perfect! I feel this way on projects too, not just meetings. People don’t feel like they’ve done their job unless they make a change, so we play hokey-pokey with commas, someone changes the word “beside” to “adjacent to,” and someone else wants the font size 1 pt bigger, and pretty soon were on proof #7 of a 1-page document.

  3. Amber Rose*

    It’s political posturing, both speaking up and encouraging others to speak up. Then if the thing works out, they can say “Well, I was totally for it this whole time and I was a part of it.” And if it doesn’t work out, “Wakeen there was very vocal about supporting this, his judgement is terrible which is why I should lead the new initiative.”

    Yay office politics, where being seen is the same as accomplishing something.

    *Usual disclaimer: Not all offices do this. Just the not as great ones.

    1. JokeyJules*

      yes! my last job had a LOT of office politics, so the daily morning meeting went on for over an hour. It was a giant circle jerk of how great we all are at our jobs and how much we care under such tight timelines for getting out work done.
      When we got a new grandboss he told us all that there is absolutely no reason this meeting should ever go over 30 minutes. Even if the building is burning to the ground.
      I could tell it was difficult for everyone at that meeting to not comment on every. single. thing that was said but those meetings did go all the way down to 20 minutes. wouldnt you know it, everyones work got done.

      1. Antilles*

        When we got a new grandboss he told us all that there is absolutely no reason this meeting should ever go over 30 minutes.
        No joke: One of the best things that ever happened to meetings at Ex-Job was when the conference room flooded and we had to throw out the chairs for mold/odor reasons. Suddenly, weekly meetings that were normally an hour-plus were getting concluded in 8 minutes flat once everybody had to stand up the entire time.

        1. In agreement*

          Totally in agreement. Old Job had meetings that ran way too long to the point where we had a meeting about the length of time in meetings. That meeting was a stand up meeting and lasted a max of 15 minutes, closer to 10 minutes.

          Some of the things I remember from that “meeting about meetings” was a piece of paper that said something about “before scheduling a meeting, consider the following: Are all the attendees necessary? Only invite those who are absolutely necessary. Can the topic be discussed via email?” and a bunch of other ones. I wished I remembered it all but this is over 5 years ago.

          1. Kelly L.*

            But long-winded blowhards can abuse even this. I remember a story a few months ago (I forget if it was here or in a FB group or what) where somebody’s boss was doing multi-hour standing meetings. Ugh!

      2. Sherp*

        I had co-workers that would spend 45 minutes venting to each other about how busy they were. Get in your office and do something then!!!

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Not usually in this way, though. We often can’t bill staff or management meetings, so we’re not paid to make those meetings go longer than necessary. If our non-billable hours increase, that crowds out our ability to bill for work that we do get paid to do.

      1. CTT*

        Yeah, I was going to come here and stay that. In my office there’s the occasional meeting that goes off the rails (see this morning when we found out a change to the copy policy) but for the most part people have other billable things to do.

        1. JanetM*

          Is it wrong that I really want to hear about the change to the copy policy? Maybe in tomorrow’s open thread, if you don’t think it would out you?

      2. Future Homesteader*

        Is that true of in-house counsel? OP said she works in a legal department, which makes me think they’re part of a larger, non-attorney organization. (Maybe not the most important point, but now I’m curious about how in-house positions work.)

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          It can be true of in-house counsel. My perspective is skewed because all of my friends are in-house in Silicon Valley, and they all still have billable hour targets (even though the “billing” is internal). From what I can tell, this appears to be management’s way of ensuring a certain level of work-output, although I think it’s an outmoded and harmful measure of productivity.

      3. Not Rebee*

        But OP could work in-house. I’m also a non-attorney working in a Legal department, but we’re in-house so billable hours are not really an issue here. And my boss is kind of like this, or the type to feel the need to expand on summaries during meetings. I can’t really judge, because I’m awful at being concise, but at least I’m only chiming in when it’s my job to explain or ask a question, and not just tacking on additional explanations or commentary to someone else’s explanation. So if OP works in-house and has attorneys who have worked in-house for a while (or always), it’s possible that OPs attorney coworkers have never learned that they don’t need to chime in and derail the meeting by playing the part of an enthusiastic parrot.

    2. Blerghhh*

      LOL I work at a law firm. The last actual “meeting” I was in with my team? Two years ago probably… Announcements of changes go out in email – it’s way too inefficient to do that via meeting.

  4. Shortie*

    As someone (in leadership) who has been coached repeatedly on participating more in meetings, I had to start doing this B.S. just to appear more participative. Instead of, you know, only pitching in when it’s helpful and matters. Annoying to no end, and I still don’t do it half as much as I should in order to not get coaching on participating more. But at least I’ve been told my meeting participation is improving. Argh.

    1. irene adler*

      That would put me over the edge.

      I’m sorry, I find that it is best to keep quiet during meetings. Learn things that way (if it is a productive meeting). Maybe, I would make a suggestion regarding an issue being discussed. But it would have to be a very major issue for me to speak up.
      Just cannot see the value in talking for talking’s sake.

      1. MassMatt*

        Maybe yours is among the better orgs where this behavior is not encouraged/rewarded, but sadly, there are places where it is advantageous to act as though you are paid per word spoken in meetings.

    2. Anon For This Thread*

      This explains a lot about what I’m seeing from the leadership whenever any of them joins a meeting (with one or two exceptions). They probably got that kind of coaching at their old jobs, and now it is either ingrained, or they worry they will get coaching again if they start speaking briefly and to the point.

      To be honest, what I suspected was that, since these people sit in meetings all day, every day, that the endless repetitive talk is the filler that they use to make the meetings go longer, so that at the end of the day, they’ll have sat in back-to-back meetings all day, which would make them feel like they worked hard. The information you provided actually makes me feel a bit better, and relieved. It’s not as bad as I thought. (Positive thinking technique: always suspect the worst, then you will be pleasantly surprised whenever you find out the real state of things!)

    3. Junior Staff, Same Issue*

      As junior staff, it was also pointed out to me at my last job that my manager “was disappointed” that I didn’t “contribute” to meetings.

      She specifically mentioned a recent (at the time) meeting that I was in. I was asked to take notes during the meeting so I was listening and typing. The things that I wanted to contribute were already said by other people. In this case, I didn’t know that I had to “echo what others said” to seem participatory because I thought that was BS too. I’m also someone who likes to pitch in when needed, not just for “appearance.”

      1. ThursdaysGeek*

        And that’s a big reason why I don’t comment that much here. Others have already said everything there is to say, sometimes more than once, and usually better than I would say it.

          1. Anon For This Thread*

            Hah, the way ours do it is something like “Hey I just had an idea – why don’t I refrain from commenting as much here? Others have already said everything there is to say, sometimes more than once, and usually better than I would say it. What do you think of this novel thing that I came up with all by myself?”

    4. sofar*

      Yes, I’ve gotten this feedback too, at a former job. I was once told during my one-on-one review with an old boss that I needed to seem more “engaged” in meetings. I guess asking questions when needed and staying quiet the rest of the time looked bad at this company?

      This was an educational publishing company that employed a lot of former teachers/instructors, so I feel like it was a holdover from school, where “class participation” got factored into your whole grade.

      1. pleaset*

        I’m both very engaged in meetings and speak that much in terms of time (unless presenting). A key part is that when I speak, I usually speak briefly. In particular, I avoid repeating myself or droning on.

        Try this sometime: listening to speaker in a meeting and note when they begin repeating themselves. It’s very common. Note – I am not talking about giving a high level comment and then detail. I’m talking about repetition at the same level of abstraction. This not only waste’s people’s time, but also projects insecurity or lack of clarity.

    5. Chaordic One*

      At my bad old job management (especially the grand boss) had adopted this technique of “telling a story” no matter what. They would all tell these long-winded stories that didn’t really have anything to do with what needed to be discussed at the meetings. After a while they didn’t even seem that interesting and were kind of annoying and distracting. The stories and the meetings ran on and on.

  5. LovecraftInDC*

    It’s possible that they’re trying to be persuasive. I will sometimes speak up in a meeting about a decision I was involved in to try and explain why I reached that decision. Mostly, I know my team and I know they are going to have concerns/questions, and I’d like to get those addressed in the meeting rather than have them fester.

    1. Antilles*

      That’s possible in general and I agree with the idea of preemptively explaining things that are likely to be asked.
      However, as I’m reading OP’s email, I don’t think it’s quite the same situation. It seems like this happens too much, with four to five people each jumping in with comments and reasons for many changes and non-changes, even “process changes”. Also, OP specifically says that the general counsel making the announcement already gives a couple reasons for the change. 4-5 people each adding extra reasons seems seriously excessive.
      You just don’t need that much explanation for a process change like “we are now requiring all expense reports to be approved by your direct supervisor rather than the senior department head.” ONE reason is plenty – “we’re doing this because the department heads are swamped, so this will help improve turnaround time and get expenses approved quicker.” Bam, done, next topic. Even if there are plenty other supporting reasons why we want to change the approval process, it’s not particularly useful to anyone for us to go into it.

    2. Blue*

      Whenever my old boss was concerned that a new decision would go over poorly with the larger staff, he’d recruit a couple of people ahead of time to chime in with “this is great because…” statements. It was totally an attempt to persuade everyone it was a good idea. The funny thing was that he was pretty bad at guessing which things would be controversial, so he once leaned on me to back him up on something that people were generally happy about (I didn’t mind speaking up on that one, because I agreed it was a good idea…but so did everyone else.) And there were a few things he glibly announced that nearly caused riots, which honestly made me cackle internally.

      1. Gatomon*

        This is my thought, they’re trying to head off any discussion or pushback by stuffing the room with positive comments. I think most people would stifle their objections after 4-5 higher ups have spoken in favor of something.

  6. HR Manager*

    In my experience, some managers and supervisors really like other people parroting back their decisions and ideas. I (like you) disagree or agree I keep my mouth shut because that is just an announcement and not a discussion topic. But I have noticed folks who chime in and agree with the manager’s decisions or statements are part of the “in group”.

  7. AnotherJill*

    This sounds like an organization with a past history of reluctance to change and they are marshaling the management staff to forestall any perceived complaints. It’s hard to speak up with even a tiny bit of dissent following a chorus of yes-persons.

  8. Laura*

    Alison’s answer mentions that meetings shouldn’t be used for announcements (or at least, not for announcements that are unlikely to lead to follow-up questions) – what is the best way to share announcements, then? An email? I confess I’ve held meetings for lengthier announcements just because I’m worried people wouldn’t read it closely enough if I sent it in an email.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      The best way to make an announcement is through an email. If people don’t read the email, that’s their own fault.

      1. Tash*

        Nope. The best way to make an announcement is through multiple channels eg email, intranet, all hands meeting. Otherwise some people will miss it.

        1. EddieSherbert*

          Agreed! I cross-post things allll the time. But a meeting *specifically* for an announcement + conversation about the announcement is weird.

          In most cases, this seems like the kind of thing that could be a 5 second footnote in a team meetings and then the speaker immediately moves onto the next thing (no discussion).

        2. Mbarr*

          It all depends on the importance of the announcement.

          – Is it a huuuuuge change? Then yes, use multiple channels. (E.g. “We are rolling out a new software system in 2019. Here are your key dates for the rollout, the implications on you, etc.”)
          – If it’s a minor change, then email is fine. (E.g. “Gladys is leaving the company to pursue other opportunities. We thank her for her contributions and wish her luck in the future.”)

          1. Anonymous Educator*

            Yes, of course. Most announcements are not life-or-death critical, and so email is sufficient. Anything where people must be made aware should be sent through multiple channels. Still, a meeting just to make an announcement is ridiculous, unless the announcement is something major like “Three of our employees died yesterday” or “Our company is being dissolved next week.”

          2. OhNo*

            Agreed. It’s also worth considering the size of the group. In my department of five, we just email everything regardless of the size or impact of the change. For a larger team/department, or the whole company, you’d want to adjust the number and type of delivery methods accordingly.

      2. Laura*

        While normally I’d tend to agree with you, if someone doesn’t read the email about an announcement, it’ll then affect my work when they fail to do whatever thing was announced. So I also have a vested interest in making sure everyone is fully informed on the changes!

        1. Amber T*

          Yeah, people don’t read their emails. They see them, they acknowledge them, but they don’t *read* them and comprehend them. It’s annoying and frustrating, sure, but meetings for announcements are relatively rare, and they definitely get the point across.

    2. Sh’Dynasty*

      I would say for process improvements where there are multiple steps that will need to be changed from a process already defined by that your company, I would say that having a meeting to discuss is absolutely fine.

      A meeting that is just announcements (“we are rolling out X,Y, and Z to clients on Friday”; “a reminder of company holidays/policies”) is a little cumbersome for workers who have a jam-packed day.

    3. Amber Rose*

      I don’t know if that’s a catch-all rule though. A chunk of our staff don’t have constant access to computers. I know several of them are not even sure how to access their emails. Our weekly announcement meeting is the only way to be sure everyone knows what’s up.

      Besides, I know for a fact that nearly everyone else deletes my emails without reading them. And while “that’s their fault” is a nice thought, it just makes my job harder when I have to hunt down and follow up in person with everyone individually. My job still has to get done.

      1. OhNo*

        Wow, that sounds horribly irritating, to know that people are just deleting your emails. Have you found any tricks to combat that at all, or are you stuck just having to live with it because they won’t change?

      2. MassMatt*

        What consequences do they experience for ignoring/deleting relevant/important info? I am guessing few to none. I would start there, create a stick and use it. And maybe also a carrot—have a nice item in an email, if you read this you have a casual day, etc. Unless your staff is really impoverished or in an industry that really just does not use technology (Hard to think of) there’s no reason they can’t be expected to read email.

  9. Yojo*

    I bet there are some people who think these meetings foster a sense of community and that people who are allowed to offer their two cents (even if they are completely without impact because decisions have already been made) have a bigger sense of buy-in. I wouldn’t assume it’s all posturing blowhards or oblivious chatters.

    1. Drop Bear*

      True, but if the discussion about what decision will be made, has already been held at a meeting that at least some of the ‘culprits’ attended, those people have had their chance to put in their 2 cents and feel part of a community. It’s not efficient to do this twice – if the ‘piling on of support’ was restricted to people who had had no say in the decision making process that would be a more valid reason for having the meeting.
      And if management want people to feel they have buy-in they should seek their input before making a decision, not encouraging them to just support it once it’s made.

    2. Jerry*


      The cynicism in this comment section is likely unearned. In consensus cultures it can be valuable to voice buy-in, especially if the managers involved are powerful in their own right.

      1. Anonym*

        Yeah, I work in a group that’s very comfortable with one another, and meetings are pretty conversational, so people tend to share genuine reactions. There’s not much in the way of bloviating, but there’s definitely earnest, affirmative opinion sharing. (“Oh, awesome! I was hoping we could go in that direction. So glad problem X is going to be addressed. We talked about that a couple months ago, right?”) Which isn’t to claim that it’s the same in OP’s case, just that there are forms of this which can be an innocent part of team culture that have nothing to do with points-scoring or people liking to hear themselves talk.

      2. Drop Bear*

        Sure, but if it’s being done to the extent that it creates cynicism/boredom and leads to complaints about meeting length, then it’s not being done effectively. A brief comment like, ‘Great, this will be a real time saver Mary’, can be enough to indicate a powerful manager’s buy in on a new process.

        1. Jerry*

          As someone “at the bottom of the food chain” these conversations aren’t likely totally tailored for them, and their boredom is an unfortunate but possibly necessary side-effect. Genuine endorsement can take different amounts of time for different people. If Greg, VP of Real Estate practice is generally expansive every time he speaks, ‘Great, this will be a real time saver Mary’ wouldn’t signal buy-in, it would actually signal the opposite.

          Furthermore, they’re probably included not just to be updated, but to get a broader perspective on the management of the practice. As someone “at the bottom of the food chain” they shouldn’t presume to know what is and isn’t relevant. They should sit and learn. Maybe they’re right, but their entitlement to that perspective should be earned with experience.

          1. Drop Bear*

            I was more commenting on the general cynicism about meetings across the comment section that you mentioned, rather than the specific meetings the LW was attending.
            I would say – harking back to your original comment – that many of us would dispute that our cynicism is unearned. We’re not all sitting at the ‘bottom of the food chain’ clueless about what is going on and earning our ‘entitlement’ – we have experienced the types of meetings that have created this cynicism as senior staff/middle managers and the like. So sometimes it is true that a junior employee is sitting there bored because they don’t completely grasp what is going on, but sometimes a number of people (including other VPs) are sitting there glassy-eyed while VP Greg from Real Estate spends half an hour reiterating and endorsing all the points the CEO just made about a project in an attempt to curry favour.
            Further more I didn’t say the ‘Mary’ comment was always enough – I gave it as an example of how one could give a brief expression of support – so let’s not pretend I was saying it was a universal statement of endorsement.

  10. Yikes*

    I used to be in private practice as an attorney, and the short in answer is that this is happening because they are lawyers. Lawyers often feel compelled to offer and expand on reasons extemporaneously. I was involved in student government in law school, also, and this is what our meetings were always like. Everyone wanted their turn at the mic. Before I was a lawyer, I was a legal assistant, and the attorneys at that firm would seal themselves in the conference room and scream at each other for their meetings, so just be glad you’re getting this type of neurotic run-off from the profession, OP, and not another. I think, though it’s surely irritating, that it’s a good sign that they’re trying to foster buy-in and a culture where thoughts and opinions can be voiced.

    1. CM*

      I think it’s workplace culture, not lawyer-specific. The flip side for lawyers in many environments (especially hourly billing environments) is everyone is acutely conscious of the value of their time, so they want to keep things short and efficient.

  11. Drop Bear*

    I don’t think it’s that these ‘agree-ers’ enjoy these types of meetings; they are looking to score brownie points and/or just enjoy the sound of their own voice! The rest of us drive pins into our legs to stay awake/look interested and pray/cast spells for them to end quickly . :)
    Sorry LW, I have no words of wisdom on how to change your mindset so you see these meetings as valuable, because they sound like they would be a total time drain 99% of the time. Try to stay awake so you don’t miss the 1%, and keep dreaming of the day you are either senior enough to change them, or you move to an organisation that is more efficient in managing meetings.

  12. Quackeen*

    Yeah, I’m really in the camp of Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt and it really fries my ham when people speak for the sake of speaking and drag things out three times as long. I’ve worked really hard on being patient and it’s paying off with less irritation (although the meetings are just as long). I figure it’s just the cost of being on a diverse team, which I genuinely appreciate. Different people have different levels of tolerance for “filler”.

  13. In the provinces*

    If the original poster thinks this sort of behavior is typical of lawyers, she should try working at a university.

    1. EddieSherbert*

      I think it’s typical, in general. I’ve seen it to some degree at all my jobs – from a children’s nonprofit to an outdoor retailer to a software company!

  14. HappySnoopy*

    As soon as op said “busy legal department”, it all made perfect sense to me. Stereotype, but commonly true: Lawyers love to talk. It may be part of culture, even busy as they all are. OP may gave to grin and bear it as an annoying office quirk.

    Another option is to talk to colleague they’re comfortable with and say, I’ve noticed people chime in with opinions on announcements. Is there an expectation of discussion at this point or something I should prepare for or anything?”

    1. McWhadden*

      I’m a lawyer in a legal department. This is completely true. (Obviously not true of everyone but broadly true.)

      Our meetings are brutal because everyone needs their say. Luckily we don’t have department meetings very often since our boss is one of the few lawyers who doesn’t love to hear himself speak.

  15. kittymommy*

    Let me preface this by saying the behavior you’re describing sounds really annoying and useless and I can definitely see why it’s irritating you, but I’m one of those weird people that like meetings. I don’t know why and they are interrupting to my day but I just do. And yeah, I know I am a party of one!

    1. Crylo Ren*

      Whether I dread or look forward to a meeting really depends on who is involved. I’m always pretty excited to have meetings when I know that there will be people in the room who are committed to staying on track and who are great at deriving and summarizing key action items. I hate meetings with the resident blowhards who just want to hear themselves shoot the breeze for a while.

    2. Birch*

      I like most meetings too! Mainly the ones with 1. people I know or need to know, 2. efficient use of time, and 3. useful information. Not hours-long all-staff meetings with “SWOT analysis” about the company’s vision and mission (neither of which anyone but the top level have any control over).

      I think the difference mainly lies in whether the cost-benefit of time vs. usefulness comes out in the positive, and unfortunately OP is definitely not getting usefulness for their time. Unfortunately being on the lower level means you don’t have a lot of power to even suggest changing the meeting structure. OP, can you bring other work to do while the lemmings are singing their own praises? Even something like organizing your personal calendar, brainstorming meal plans or holidays, thinking about weekend plans, etc. can help keep the frustration from taking over.

      1. Birch*

        Woops, just noticed this is an old question. Well, we’ve all been there so I guess it applies to all of us.

  16. Katherine*

    “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.'” — Dave Barry.

  17. jb*

    “Several of these people are on the management team and would have been included in the discussions leading up to the decision.”

    It’s possible they’re trying to preempt further questions in the meeting. If they were involved in the discussions, they maybe thought that reason X was particularly compelling and if it hasn’t been stated, some of the folks listening could benefit from hearing it. I do that occasionally when I see that some people in the meeting haven’t picked up the meaning of a decision or are poised to disagree. To anyone else, it probably sounds like I’m just grandstanding. Which is only like, 30% true.

    It’s possible/likely that they’re just trying to “win” the meeting by getting the most talking points, but this is a slightly more generous perspective.

    1. OhNo*

      It didn’t occur to me until I read your second paragraph, but I wonder if part of this is an attempt to talk down any Negative Nancys in the group.

      If one or more of the other attendees is known for being opposed to any change that comes down, no matter how small, the rest might be executing a preemptive strike to keep the meeting from being taken over by one person’s litany of “but that will make it soooo much harder to do this one task that doesn’t have any real use, takes five seconds, and is only done every other decade” (which in my opinion is the meeting equivalent of the Sandwich Discourse).

  18. The Doctor*

    Ah, meetings: where minutes are kept and hour are lost.

    We’ve tried to shorten meetings by asking each facility to send only ONE representative to each meeting. But NO! Gallifrey wants to send three people, Skaro has four, and even Boeshane sends two people — and all of them are in love with the sound of their own voices.

  19. Weaselologist*

    At the company I work for people have adopted the term stand-up to just mean meetings, including normal-length seated meetings. I’ve actually been invited to a “stand-up sitting down catch up”. Ffs. On the plus side it went on for 1.5h so thankfully it wasn’t a sit down standing up meeting instead.

    Op- is there an admin who organises these meetings you could feed back to about the format?

  20. Little Bobby Tables*

    Another possibility: Everyone likes to draw out the meetings as an excuse to spend less time on real work.

  21. LSP*

    I work with a lot of attorneys in my job, and have weekly meetings with two or three of them each week.

    Attorneys can TALK! The ones I work with more tend to just go around and around a topic, arguing something from all sides, but at least when they come to an agreement, they stop talking (mostly).

    I tend to think of it as the nature of the beast.

    1. Holly*

      This is so funny to me because I work in an enormous law office and we never. have. meetings. We’re too busy. We have like one department meeting a month.

  22. Gumby*

    My favorite weekly meeting literally uses a timer (for presentation of research results/status of various projects). When it goes off, everyone claps and you are done even if you were in the middle of a sentence. Which has led to some hilarious ending points but it’s all good-natured. The people who have questions stay afterwards and chat about implications of whatever you said but it is normal and expected that most people will get up and leave.

  23. bopper*

    I think if change is introduced, it is actually productive to have a meeting where people get to talk/vent/rant about the change.

  24. JSPA*

    Think of it a group ass-kiss / brown-nosing session, but more circular. AKA informal team-building exercise.

    My saying so is…only dubiously helpful, if OP develops a smirk each time it starts.

    Whether or not it makes the process more bearable (bare-able?) is entirely up OP’s particular sense of humor / powers of visualization / digestive fortitude.

    1. Jennifer Juniper*

      Smirking is not a good idea. It could be seen as rude or insubordinate, especially if the OP reads as female and/or is a POC.

  25. Argh!*

    Oh gawwwddd I can’t even read it. I saw the headline and got PTSD from all the time I’ve wasted listening to people drone on and on repeating themselves.

  26. LGC*

    No advice, just my sympathies for anyone else that has to cope with this. For my org, meetings do double as announcements (because most of the employees don’t have company e-mail), which makes things worse.

    I think also, some people just respond without even really thinking through the consequences. My personal bugbear about meetings is when we have an all-hands and there’s the one person that asks ten questions that derail the meeting. (Out of 100+ team members.) Granted, I’m the numbers guy and I’m thinking about the literal days of wasted productivity that Fergus is causing by asking the president of the company to clarify how people are going to get paid for the holiday party and what the prize is for the ugly sweater contest, but I wish that more people would consider the value of other people’s time.

    (I think the most epic one was the sexual harassment training session when one woman from another division talked about a disciplinary situation she’d faced at work. In detail. In front of 100 people. She berated the poor facilitator – who was from outside our agency – for ten minutes. I “conveniently” went to the bathroom around then because frankly I was embarrassed for her.)

  27. chickaletta*

    I’ve been in sooooo many long meetings. Meetings are long I think because:

    1. They’re poorly planned.
    2. They’re poorly run.
    3. Most people tend to over-explain things.

  28. Oxford Comma*

    This is not unique to law firms. I am notoriously impatient with long meetings, but I’ve come to recognize a couple of things:

    1. There are people who seem to be afraid of the silence and will say anything, usually at great length, to avoid having one.
    2. There are people who aren’t very good at reading non-verbal cues and who will just keep talking even when it’s clear more than half the room just wants the pain to end.
    3. More than half of the meetings I attend are there to disseminate content that could have just been emailed to us.
    4. The convener needs to know how to run a meeting and that includes reining people in.

  29. Ana*

    I used to be project admin for a boss who rarely had a fully formed idea for what she wanted out of a meeting or how to get to it. She knew the objective was to discuss X because Y, but what to do to achieve X, or perhaps revisit Y for a better way to go about it were elusive to her.

    Planning meetings (e.g. for scientific workshops or conferences) were often us (mostly junior scientists fresh from undergrad programmes without project management courses) sitting around listening to her ramble on meekly about some half-baked idea, or why she put X and Y in the proposal a year or 2 ago, or what so-and-so said about that, all very ad-hoc and iterative. Any questions on my part meant to help her find her way, any attempt to structure with visual aids, and suggestions and ideas etc were shot down, she made me feel like a nit-picking, detail-obsessed party pooper.

    I remember once standing ata flip chart stand to draw a rough programme for a meeting- after 45 minutes of “Having An Idea”, tossing it out, remembering something, crossing out and scribbling around we ended up with arranging another meeting to “plan the planning”- I hated her for it in the end. I mean who leads a research team and has no structure and gets so bogged down in their own tangents?

  30. Ms MicroManaged*

    I’ve learned (the hard way) that people will talk to fill up the amount of time they have. I used a feature in google calendar for “smart meetings” (I think that’s what it’s called) to make hour meetings 50 minutes, and 30 min meetings are 25 minutes. Also – have an agenda. Stick to the agenda. (Or try to!) And as my Exec. Directors assistant, we have set up a signal to indicate times up, wrap it up which helps a lot. But I do truly sympathize!

  31. GreenDoor*

    In my organization, great meeting leaders often start the meeting with “I want to be respectful of everyone’s time so…” Which is a great reminder to *everyone* to be respectful of time. In other cases, when everyone’s assembled in a smaller group meeting, attendees will often be candid with, “I’ll need to excuse myself by 3:00 for a meeting with Really Important Person” or “Could we skip to my item, #5, I’m afraid the three of us from Department are double booked.”

    It’s great. I love the candor. And again, it’s a great reminder that attendees have other things to do besides sit at this one meeting.

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