how to deal with meetings that never end on time

A reader writes:

Something that has always been a little frustrating about my office but has started getting worse: 90% of our meetings go over the scheduled time, sometimes significantly (30 minutes or more). If I actually have another meeting or there aren’t higher-level people there, I’ll excuse myself at the stated end time, but often those are the people who are causing the meeting to run long. There’s no one person at fault, but there are several who contribute in a variety of ways: key players show up to meetings 5-10 minutes late, meeting leaders don’t have a clear agenda, someone derails the meeting to talk about a completely different topic “as long as we’re all in the room,” people plan agendas that are too long to get through with the people there (we have some lengthy opinion-havers), or the meeting has a vague agenda like “group brainstorming.”

What can someone who isn’t at the top level or leading the meetings do about this increasingly time-sucking work culture?

I answer this question — and four others — 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.

Other questions I’m answering there today include:

  • My coworker keeps telling me he’s praying for me
  • Boss, then friend, now boss again
  • Does updating your LinkedIn profile make it look like you’re job searching?
  • Interviewer got angry that I called so many times while she was out sick

{ 163 comments… read them below }

  1. Princess Deviant*

    I gasped out loud at LW2! Your coworker is way out of line.
    I’d be seriously tempted to tell him I will pray to Satan for him! But that is petty ofc. (And I know this will not solve anything).
    Go to your manager, and if not go to HR or a higher up from your manager if both manager and/or HR are non existent/useless.

      1. PT*

        The only time “sinful” is an appropriate adjective for food is desserts, when it is a synonym for “decadent.” Like “Sinful Chocolate Cake.”

        1. introverted af*

          Honestly even then, let’s not put moral values onto food like this. It may not be healthy to eat all the time, but the cake hasn’t offended God by existing

          1. tangerineRose*

            Yeah. I personally like the saying that goes something like “God must love us because He gave us chocolate.”

      2. HotSauce*

        Seriously. I work with several practicing Muslims and they don’t rudely tell me my ham sandwich is sinful, they just don’t eat ham, just like I would never tell them not to eat meat on Fridays during Lent.

          1. MissBaudelaire*

            I’m gonna be so disappointed if it’s just a ham sandwich or something like that. If I’m gonna get condemned because of the contents of my lunch box, they better be amazing.

          2. Ethel*

            The flesh of your victims? Candy you stole from a baby? Offerings to other gods? You know, standard lunch fare.

      3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        I need to know more about the sinful lunches! Was it a typo? What (whom??) is this person eating for lunch? I want a sinful lunch too.

        1. Reba*

          I actually went to the original post, to see if there was any insight into the sinfulness of the lunch, apparently a ham sandwich… nope, it’s just mystifying!

            1. Richard Hershberger*

              Only from a strictly observant Catholic, and even Super-Catholics usually don’t expect random acquaintances to be similarly strictly observant Catholics. This strikes me as much more typical White American Evangelical Protestant behavior. WAEPs often work hard at staying within their cultural bubble, and are shocked when they stray outside it.

      4. Toasty Bacon and Eggs**

        Probably was eating a piece of devil’s food cake or a deviled egg. The nerve. * Gets a case of the vapers*

        1. Elenna*

          I misread this as “cake ON a deviled egg” and I was really confused about your eating habits for a second. :D (Also, that would have to be a really small piece of cake, or else a really big egg.)

      5. Clisby*

        I’m also wildly curious, because the LW says the co-worker calls him not a “real” Christian, and his lunch is sinful? I’m not clear on whether the contents of the lunch are the reason for saying he’s not a “real” Christian, but Christians, in general, really don’t have dietary restrictions. There are Christians who follow restrictions, like observant Catholics not eating meat on Fridays during Lent, or Mormons not drinking coffee or other caffeinated beverages, but I have NEVER encountered a Catholic or Mormon who expected Christians in general to follow suit. I wonder what group this co-worker belongs to. We may never know.

        1. Clisby*

          Adding … I know there are some Christian groups that eschew alcohol, but I’m assuming this person isn’t bringing in a bottle of wine with her lunch.

        2. RabbitRabbit*

          Christian Scientists tend to promote vegetarianism, but I’m not sure they require it for their own members, much less other Christians. Yeah, I’m at a loss.

        3. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          (This comes from a neighbor who is Mormon, I personally am not of that faith.)

          For Mormons the prohibition is against all “fortified beverages” so this means anything with caffeine or alcohol as a part of the beverage. So technically they are not supposed to drink any coffee, tea, or pop that has caffeine (so no Coke, but Sprite or 7Up is okay). They also are supposed to shun all forms of alcoholic beverages as well.

          And honestly, now that I live in Utah I have never lived someplace with so many coffee shops, and the lines at all of them are always ridiculously long. The lines are generally equally long to get into the State Liquor Stores (they are still metering people into those, at least where I live).

          1. Free now (and forever)*

            When my brother and sister-in-law-law lived in Utah (late 70s-early 80s—Ted Bundy lived in their neighborhood) for you had to buy an entire bottle of liquor in a bar. Way to encourage responsible drinking!!

            1. Self Employed*

              I remember when I attended a conference in SLC in 2009 or 2010, it was a big new thing that breweries were allowed to make and sell beer with an alcohol content under 4.5% or so. I liked being able to drink a pint without being tipsy–I wasn’t much of a drinker and had a low tolerance.

        4. tangerineRose*

          I seem to remember that Jesus said something about what comes out of your mouth (in words) can be much more problematic than what you eat.

      6. chewingle*

        Dying to know what sort of debauchery this person is bringing in for lunch to warrant that sort of criticism.

    1. Selina Luna*

      It’s people like this coworker that cause me to cringe every time someone says they’ll pray for me. It’s often meant well! “I’m searching for another job” “Well, I’ll pray for you” “My Mom is in the hospital” “I’ll keep you in my prayers”,
      Those are fine. But if I tell someone that I’m not religious, I would much prefer they ignore me (or even actively give me the “cold shoulder”) than their prayers. Same if I tell them I’m a liberal or that I like Dungeons and Dragons or that I named my son after a mythical beast. Please don’t pray for people who don’t want it just because you disagree with them about something that doesn’t hurt you.

      1. Properlike*

        Same. But if they keep bringing it up (only the “praying for you”) I laugh and say some variation of, “If that’s how you want to spend your time, go for it!” or “Plenty of people have tried and it hasn’t worked yet, but maybe it’ll stick this time!” Usually that puts a stop to at least telling me about it. (If it’s only once or twice, and I know it’s well-intentioned, I just reply, “That’s sweet” or “thank you.”)

      2. PollyQ*

        I wonder if these people even know that you can pray for someone without telling them about it.

        1. Sleeping Late Every Day*

          But then they wouldn’t get their Holiest Person in the Universe ™ sticker!

        2. Cthulhu's Librarian*

          In my experience, even if they did know that, they wouldn’t do it. Announcing that you’re praying for someone is admitting that you’re doing prayer as a performative act – and if no one knows, how will anyone appreciate your performance, and the difficulty you’ve gone to?


          As I’ve said before, we really need a general rule, that no one should involve a coworkers in their spiritual/religious practices/beliefs without having gotten explicit permission to do so.

          And that includes praying for them.

      3. Chas*

        Yeah, I don’t mind it if people use ‘I’ll pray for you’ in a way that means ‘I’m wishing you luck’ or ‘finger’s crossed for you!’ (though it always strikes me as an odd way to say that, as I’m not religious and don’t really believe they’d actually go to the trouble of praying for me). But if someone at work said it in response to me just telling me something about myself that’d be my cue to start preparing myself for a chat with the HR or the Equality admin about them.

    2. Keymaster of Gozer*

      Had one of those coworkers a while back. She tried putting religious texts on my desk, loudly praying for me to ‘see the light’ and renounce my ‘inherent evil’.

      I’m pagan and childfree and she really objected to that. First time I told her to knock it the heck off she stated it was part of her religion to convert others so I couldn’t stop her legally.

      She tried the same line on the HR department (boss didn’t want to get involved in a ‘fight between women’) and thankfully the HR person told her that she had to stop harassing me or else it was a firing offence. And no, even if your religion states you have to try and ‘cure’ others it still doesn’t mean you can do it at work.

      Anyway my goddess prefers silence and being left the hell alone :)

          1. Properlike*

            $5 says the Boss is male and ineffectual on most work matters involving two women with a legitimate disagreement because “women are irrational.”

            1. Keymaster of Gozer*

              You win! He wasn’t religious himself but had some really backward opinions about women (‘you’re better suited to being mothers’) and the less said about his ableist attitudes the better.

      1. Sleeping Late Every Day*

        Any chance you could wear a shirt that says “Goddess give me the confidence of a mediocre man” next time you talk to your boss?

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          I’d love one of those!

          (He’s not my boss anymore, it was quite a while ago and a different company. He’s still there though, being a total prick)

  2. AdAgencyChick*

    Every time I see a meeting invite that has an agenda in it and the agenda looks too ambitious for the time slot, I message the meeting organizer and say how much more time I think we need.

    Granted, I am senior enough to be listened to most of the times that I do this. But I’ve trained my direct reports to do it too, and I think it doesn’t take THAT much standing in an organization to do this.

    1. Alice*

      If only we had agendas…. Every January, and every time there’s an org culture survey, we say “from now on agendas for every meeting.” And yet….

      1. Miniature House*

        Ugh, yes. The only manager who thought we needed to have meetings at my job has moved on. He would schedule them for after hours so everyone could be there, but no food despite it ending as late as 7:30 pm (we work 9-6) and he refused to share the agenda. He loved having everyone hanging out and exchanging ideas, but 90% of it had nothing to do with my job and we were all hungry and itching to get home. So pointless.

        1. Alexis Rose*

          People are allowed to schedule 7:30pm meetings? I’ve never worked anywhere that this would be even remotely acceptable or entertained (unless we were including outside stakeholders who worked other jobs, which happened only a few times a year and was obvious).

          1. Free now (and forever)*

            My best friend got roped into a 7:50 pm meeting Sunday night about a topic that had nothing to do with her department. She hits full retirement on Sunday and hopes to give notice any day now.

          2. AcademiaNut*

            I regularly get odd hour meetings, but it’s solely because of international projects and time zones. If you have a meeting with people in Europe, East Asia and North America, someone has to be working out of office hours.

            1. Seeking Second Childhood*

              This – but it’s an exception and it’s most definitely an agenda’d meeting if it’s weirdly late or early for your time zone.

        2. Le Sigh*

          Yiiikes. I’m so glad this wouldn’t fly in my office. As a one time, necessary exception maybe, but not as a regular thing. At my last job, someone scheduled a meeting to go over a proposed budget at 5:30 on Friday. Our rather friendly/likeable (and colorful CFO), walked into the room, and in his heavy New York accent, said, “Who the h*** scheduled a meeting for 5:30 on a Friday? I want names! Heads on pikes!”

          He was joking, but also that never happened again. :)

          1. SarahKay*

            I’m in a UK site of a US-owned multi-national corp. At one point someone in the US requested a Friday meeting for something like 1 pm their time – which was 7 pm for me. I politely declined, saying I don’t mind a late call generally, but not on a Friday. They sent a horrified apology explaining that they’d forgotten I was in the US and a revised meeting time.
            Deliberately, knowingly setting meetings for that late in the day, or running that late in the day without a really, really good reason is just rude!

            1. Le Sigh*

              Yeah, I’m East Coast U.S. and sometimes people forget the West Coast people are 3 hours behind (especially with everyone being remote). I’ve had to point out that I suspect they would prefer not to discuss budget projections at 6:30am.

              1. SarahKay*

                Also, good for you. As very much not-a-morning-person, I confess I’d attend the 7 pm Friday meeting more willingly than a 6.30 am one!

              2. NotQuiteAnonForThis*

                At previous job, I always found our West Coast branch office manager so thoroughly reasonable, because he did such a great job in managing to find a balance for collaboration between our (Eastern time zone) professionals and his (Pacific time zone). On “Big Collab Days” he’d alter his office’s hours for that day so that we didn’t have to stay too late. Understand from my counterparts there that the altered hours were set at least a week in advance, with the understanding that they weren’t required to be in the following day to make up for the early start on Big Collab Days.

                Of course, then we had an upper-ish level manager who was trying to make a name for himself in our office, and scheduled an all-hands meeting on a day that is literally known as “The Llama Wranglers Holiday” locally here, and I work in Llama Wrangling. Our competition was out schmoozing customers and potential customers, while we’re having to listen to corporate office chest thumping from people who DID not know or understand our local market, nor could they understand why everyone in the local office was really thoroughly unhappy. Sure, if you’re not from the local area, you see “Sports Ball”. If you’re from the area, you head down there with a big stack of business cards, hit every single vendor tailgate, shake hands with every one you see, discuss upcoming opportunities, etc. Heck, in previous years I’d walked back into the office with at least one purchase agreement and multiple opportunities to bid or negotiate others.

          2. The Other Dawn*

            At my current company, I had to be in a Friday afternoon meeting and I was not looking forward to it. It actually went well and we had some laughs, but then my manager said how he really likes Friday afternoon meetings because people tend to be in a good mood and the meeting tends to be more light-hearted due to the weekend coming. I get what he was saying, but all I could think was, “F this. Do not EVER schedule me for a Friday afternoon meeting!” I mean really, who (other than my boss) wants to spend their Friday afternoon, after 3pm, in a meeting? My mind is on clearing out any last minute emails and looking forward to the weekend.

        3. Mike S.*

          Back when I commuted, I took the bus. I’d bow out because of transportation issues. (My boss vanpooled, so she had less flexibility on when she could leave.)

      2. EngineerMom*

        I actually started rejecting invites to meetings that didn’t have an agenda. Ain’t nobody got time for that crap.

        It literally takes less than a minute to type up a brief “this is what I hope to accomplish at this meeting”. I think it takes me less time to type an agenda than it does to schedule the meeting.

      3. Two Dog Night*

        We’re encouraged to decline meetings that don’t have agendas, which has had great results. Most of the meetings I’m in are 30 minutes and involve one or two clearly-defined objectives, and that’s the kind of meeting I don’t mind.

      4. Quinalla*

        Yeah, we actually solved this at my company by making the rule if the meeting doesn’t have an agenda, you don’t have to attend. So when folks send out meeting invites with agendas, everyone can and does speak up to question that nonsense. We still aren’t perfect on this, but over 95% of meetings have agendas, even if it is just a few bullet points in the invitation. And personally if someone invites me to something with no agenda that is external, I will reach out and ask them to give me a quick summary of what we are going to discuss so I can prepare. Basically asking for an informal agenda. Sometimes I already know the informal agenda, so then I don’t bug them, but I’ve gotten blind invitations to things where I have no clue but the topic of of calendar invitation…

    2. sofar*

      Ah yes the “Major Project Post-Mortem discussion + Q2 Look-Ahead” with 20+ slides, 6 presenters and scheduled for … 30 minutes.

    3. MBK*

      There’s an opposite effect as well – meetings that only need 15-30 minutes but that last an hour because that’s how long they were scheduled for. I don’t know why people seem to be reluctant to end the meeting significantly earlier than the end of its calendar entry, but it send to be a thing.

      I’ve set my default “new meeting” length to 30 minutes in Exchange and encouraged others to do the same.

  3. Chriama*

    5 – that’s so many calls! It absolutely signals that you think the thing you want from them is more important than whatever else they might be doing. They even told you they were interviewing other people, which is a clear indication that you’re not their immediate priority. I could not trust the professional judgement of someone who acted like that. I get what it’s like to feel desperate for a job, but you need to learn to reign it in a little – well a lot, actually. I’m sorry.

    1. Snow Globe*

      Alison has said this before but it bears repeating – if they decide they want to offer you the job, they are not going to forget about you or decide to skip to the next person because you didn’t call enough.

    2. Townie*

      This is so true. If someone called my office that often I’d be afraid to hire them. Believe me, as a hiring manager, if we are interested, you will know that.

  4. learnedthehardway*

    OP#5 – You shouldn’t call to follow up more than 1 time per week, and probably not more than 1 time per 2 weeks. Anything more is just harassment and will definitely get you knocked out of the running. It signals that you think your needs are more important than anyone else’s, and it suggests that you’d be a pain in the neck to deal with as an employee or coworker.

    1. HotSauce*

      100X this! I manage a small team within a larger department. Last year we were looking to hire two people (before Covid) and one of my direct reports asked about one of the candidates we had interviewed, he had mentioned to myself and the other managers previously that they were recommending this person. All of us said we could not discuss until the interviewing process was complete and we had accepted offers. He became nearly irate with us and had the person start calling and emailing us every day, to “show interest and initiative”. While that candidate did look promising in the beginning, both of her initial interviews went very well, we ended up eliminating her from the third round because we felt that she lacked serious professional judgement. I’m sorry to say that my direct report became very surly and almost aggressive after his friend was eliminated, it was really bizarre. We ended up having to let him go after the pandemic shut everything down and our business volume dropped by nearly 30%. Someone on my team mentioned that it appeared that our former employee and the candidate in question had announced their engagement in the local paper, so I guess mystery solved and a bullet dodged.

      1. The Rural Juror*

        Yikes! Glad you dodged that one!

        A casual friend of mine was finishing up an accounting program at our community college and starting to job hunt. I mentioned that we would have a job opening coming up, but I was unsure of the timeline and needed to talk to the boss and see when they were going to open it for applications. Aaaaaand then the pandemic came along.

        This poor woman was really wanting to get out of the job she had, so I can understand on an emotional level what she was going through. She had spent a while doing online school to finish the program and (hopefully) make a better life for herself. But I didn’t know what was going to happen next week for ME considering our business was shut down for about 3 weeks in March/April of 2020. It was a crazy time!

        Maybe she thought because we were friends (sort of) that she could text me every other day, but it really started to grate on me and I had to ask her to cut it out. I don’t know how many times I said, “I don’t know anything yet, but I’ll reach out to you when I do.” We’ve still never opened up the position…but I’m not sure I would want us to consider her for it either way.

      2. EngineerMom*


        Almost 3 years ago, I applied for a job at the same (large) company where my husband had been working for 3 years at that point. I was thrilled to get the job, but if I hadn’t, my husband wouldn’t have been “surly” about it – he’s participated in enough hiring decisions to understand needing to make sure the job and the employee mesh well.

  5. Sabine the Very Mean*

    #1 – that these people are seniors make it so much worse. The power dynamics when my boss saunters in at 10 after are just too great. I push back with my boss as often as I can. She likes to hold several specific meetings during the week then a “team coordination” meeting that has no goal or agenda. I simply stopped saying Yes to those and she hasn’t said anything. I really really hate this. Death by Meetings will surpass common household accident deaths markedly.

    1. many bells down*

      Oh man I feel this. We have a senior staff member who is always saying meetings should never be more then an hour… but every meeting they’re in runs way over because they never stop talking.

  6. Andy*

    I suspect that for some people, the meetings are primary form of socialization. People do need socialization whether they admit it to themselves or not. When they don’t have it out of work and are senior enough, they end up talking a lot on meetings, because it just feels good to them.

    1. Nanani*

      Especially people with enough power in the org that they get a captive audience to Have Opinions At with guaranteed zero pushback.

  7. Taco Cat*

    Lw #5 … yikes. You are sending bug red flags calling that often. Have you been through the interview process before ? Even if someone says interviews are scheduled to be over by a certain date, everything always runs late. Once a week is ok but everyday?

    If I was told someone had called every day, I would pass too. Can you imagine how that could translate into the office life?

    1. What's in a name?*

      I laugh because my boss tell me if I need something from someone that I should follow up quickly. Generally I send emails and he asks “have you IM’ed them? Called them? Walked over to their desk and talked face to face?” but I totally see him getting annoyed at an applicant like this.

      1. J*

        I work for the govt and have been told on more than one occasion that I cannot say I have reached out if I haven’t called/texted/emailed/left a vm/chat. It’s super fun!!!!!! Everyone LOVES it!! /S

  8. Mommy Shark*

    omg #5 – if you called me that much I would be SO put off and even a little uncomfortable. Not even my mom calls me that much.

  9. Jellyfish*

    Oh, I feel for OP #5. I was that person once, minus the sick leave bit. I thought I was showing interest and gumption! Did not get that job…
    I’m very grateful for everything I’ve learned from Ask A Manager since then.

    1. Julia*

      Same! I shudder to think what kind of job applicant I’d be without this site. Nowhere near as compelling, that’s for sure. So many of these conventions aren’t intuitive.

    2. LunaLena*

      Me too! Years ago I operated on the job advice of “call them often or even show up at the office to show that you are super interested in the job and proactive” and now I cringe to think of how I must’ve come off… (I didn’t get either of the jobs I followed that advice for either)

    3. Jennifer Thneed*

      Yes, totally agree, and yet I also feel bad for the LW, that the interviewer thought they’d been informed of the sick leave every time they called. That was unfair and I’m sure left a crappy taste in their mouth.

  10. Jack Straw*

    The thing to remember about job searching and interviewing is that–while it is THE most important thing to you and all you can think about–it is almost certainly NOT the most important thing the hiring manger/company has going on.

    Having bene on both ends of the process, I can assure you that anyone following up on the day I said I’d get back with them looks pushy. Someone calling the following day, after the other interview you were told about, shows a severe lack of understanding of the hiring process and general business practices involved in hiring someone. Even if they decided at that point to hire you, there is likely on way to make an offer a few hours after that decision has been made, not to mention it’s unlikely to happen after 5pm.

    I know it’s difficult to do when it’s all you are thinking about, but you gotta chill.

    1. SomebodyElse*

      Agreed, this is why when I’m interviewing I have a script I use with candidates

      “Thanks for talking to me today. To give you an idea of timelines; I am interviewing this week and next and hoping to be making an offer within two weeks of completing the interviews. That being said I’m sure you know how these things sometimes get delayed for random reasons so the time frames aren’t set in stone.”

      Then when the process gets derailed somehow (it always does) I ask our recruiter to reach out to candidates to check in and let them know we’re still working through the process.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Thank you for being clear about this is my timeline as of now. And for having people reach out to candidates if “life happens” and there are delays.

        Personally, my rule was/is: call two business days after the end of the timeframe I am given in the interview. If there are delays, I ask if they know what the updated timeframe is, if the decision was made and it’s not me I just ask if there was any feedback for me with regards to my application and interview so that possibly next time I can be successful. That call is it for me (unless there is a delay, then I will do just one more call, again two days after the expected close of process). I have never exceeded a second call – if they yet again have delays, maybe this place will not be a good fit for me from an organization standpoint – I like clearly and very organized workplaces – and always have.

  11. Jonquil S*

    I feel bad for LW 5. I mean, they’re in the wrong, but it’s also one of those things where work norms are just so different than norms in any other context.

    1. Jonquil S*

      *sorry, hit enter too soon.

      What I mean is, if, like, a doctor is supposed to call me to follow up on blood test results on Monday, and they don’t, it’s perfectly ok to leave an after-hours message requesting when the follow-up will be. Usually, the Dr.s office will either call the next day to discuss results, or they’ll call to let you know when the Dr. will be free.

      Likewise, in social contexts, if your friend said she’ll call or video chat with you Monday afternoon, but then it comes and goes, it’s normal to text to be like, “Hey, what’s up? Figure you got busy yesterday. When’s a good time to reschedule later this week?”

      If a doctor or friend kept giving broad answers about when they’d get back to you, then not following through in the window they’d named, you’d be right to be hurt or frustrated. They’re the ones committing the social faux pas (or, in a Dr’s case, getting worryingly disorganized).

      Just, interviewing for jobs doesn’t work like that. The same social parameters don’t apply.

      1. The Rural Juror*

        I agree with this. I was accidentally charged twice by a cashier at a store recently that’s in the next town over. I didn’t realize until I got home, after the store had closed, so I waited until the next morning to call. The manager wasn’t available, so I left a message, but didn’t hear back that day. So I called again the next day and had to leave a message with a different associate. The amount I was overcharged was enough that I wasn’t going to give up, but I understand that a store manager has a lot going on. I reached them on the third try, but they were going to have to call me back after reviewing security footage. Then two days later, I had to call again for an update, but luckily it was resolved on that call.

        But, even in this situation, I never called more than once in the same day!

        1. New Job So Much Better*

          Had a similar problem once when they charged me $1,000 for a $10 Beanie Baby.

    2. Annette*

      Really? I don’t think there are any situations where calling someone in a business situation multiple times per day is appropriate or normal.

      I would’ve very gleefully crossed #5’s name off my list of candidates after that kind of harassment.

      1. What's in a name?*

        My boss is very clear in his instructions that following up is expected. If I am waiting on a response, I am to go out and get that response. TBF, he does suggest different means of communication (text, IM, call, physical visit).

        1. Reba*

          I would be taken aback by someone trying to reach me in so many different ways! It definitely feels aggressive — maybe that’s warranted in your situation, like I get that sometime upgrading to a phone call is necessary to get an answer that’s needed quickly. And maybe I’m being hypocritical, because I’ve texted someone to nudge them about things. :) But going across all forms of communication feels pretty intrusive to me.

          1. Eat My Squirrel*

            I wouldn’t do it as a regular thing, but I 100% have an escalation process. If I email you and you don’t respond, I email you again. If you don’t respond, I IM you. If you don’t answer the IM, in the Before Times, I’m showing up at your desk. Today I would call you. If you don’t answer your phone or return my message, then, depending on the politics involved, I’m either emailing your boss or having my boss email your boss. But I wouldn’t go to your boss without trying email, IM, and phone/in person first.

          1. tangerineRose*

            In a client situation, I wouldn’t recommend that much contact unless it’s urgent.

        2. Sleeping Late Every Day*

          There’s a big difference between urgent matters when you’re already an employee, and someone interviewing for a job. Grapes and watermelons because apples and oranges are at least similar sizes.

      2. SheLooksFamiliar*

        I vividly remember a candidate who knew my next follow-up would take place once we completed interviews in 2-3 weeks. I told him to please bear with us, one of the hiring managers was traveling and our timeline could likely change, but that I would let him know our decision once I had one. He said I’d been responsive and he appreciated more of the same. Dance and exit, stage left.

        At the 2 week mark, thanks to Caller ID, I could see he called me about every 5 minutes for the hour I was on a 9 am conference call…and the next one…and while I was interviewing a C-level candidate…and in my weekly team meeting…and so on.

        You might say I was plagued with doubt about him, wondering how he’d react if a co-worker didn’t get back to him when he thought they should.

        1. SomebodyElse*

          Oh boy, I don’t think there would have been any doubt in my mind that this candidate was not a good fit. That is beyond excessive.

      3. Smithy*

        I don’t think it’s a regular dynamic – but it’s not that it’s never appropriate. There are inevitably rush or emergency projects where that kind of follow-up happens as well as “x is due, I need an update asap”.

        However, to know when it’s appropriate depends a lot on shared understanding of context. There are plenty of hard professional deadlines where “if X isn’t submitted by 5pm EST today, it’s over.” But again, most people have the chance to be aware of what a specific employer emergency or hard deadline is, so when multiple calls/emails/IM’s happen – there’s a lot more institutional buy-in and support as to why that’s happening.

        The context around job applications is where it’s generally all dictated by the employers terms. If it’s a rush hire and they want someone to start as soon as next week if possible, they get to set those terms. Similarly, if it’s a process that could take anywhere from 3-6 months, they also get to set those terms.

      4. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        I don’t think there are any situations where calling someone in a business situation multiple times per day is appropriate or normal.

        One example off the top of my head: If I get a call from a utility company saying I’m behind on my payments and they will shut my electricity off if I don’t pay up, and I am actually not behind, I’ll be calling until I get to a human and get my issue resolved. I’m not going to go, “oh well, I left a message, they’ll get to it.”

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          Or in a business situation… an entire client site is down and Fergus is the person responsible for bringing it back up. Fergus will be getting calls from everyone involved until Fergus answers.

          1. Annette*

            He’ll need to ignore all of those calls if he wants to get any work done on the actual problem, so yeah, everyone calling him is not appropriate or normal, just a waste of his time.

          2. MBK*

            I’ve been the Fergus in this situation, and I can tell you 100% that the only way that site is getting back online any time soon is if my direct manager is fielding the calls, keeping stakeholders off my back, and trusting me to provide updates *to him* (for him to pass along as needed) when anything changes.

        2. Annette*

          That’s not a business situation coworker to coworker- that’s a situation where you’re a client.

      5. Eat My Squirrel*

        Example: report needs to be submitted to the customer TODAY in order to avoid losing a MULTI-MILLION DOLLAR incentive payment. Report can’t be submitted without Wakeen’s signature. Wakeen has been unresponsive to all requests for review and approval, and there is no indication that he even knows it’s waiting on him. I’m calling Wakeen first thing in the morning and every time I see his status light turn green after that, and if I don’t hear back from him by noon, I’m doing the same thing with his boss.

        1. Sarita*

          This. My husband often has to randomly approve something in the middle of the night during IT deployments, especiallyif somethinghas gone wrong. His team will often call him every 5 minutes until they reach him, because literally the whole team is waiting on his signature. After 30 minutes or so they’d start calling his boss if he didn’t answer. He does though because he’s got his phone on him when he’s expecting issues.

  12. turquoisecow*

    Op1: I feel you. I don’t have a lot of meetings to go to but they rarely start on time, which causes the next meeting to not start on time, and it’s a domino effect. I used to have a weekly recurring meeting at 8:45 which regularly didn’t really start until almost 9:00. And that was first thing in the morning – whenever my boss would schedule something in the afternoon it would regularly be pushed back 15 or 30 minutes. Because people expect things to start late, no one arrives for meetings on time. I’d get to that 8:45 meeting at 8:46 and be the first person in the room!

    If you finish on time you feel like you haven’t covered everything but if you finish late you push everything back even further, and then your 4:00 meeting is starting at 4:30 and you’re leaving late.

    The only thing I can say is that if you’re high enough up the ladder to run meetings, do your best to start and end on time. Create agendas. Rein in people who wander off topic or pontificate on things. End on time. Model the behavior you want to see from others. I guarantee others will appreciate it and maybe even start to do the same. “OP ran her meeting this way so I’m going to try doing something similar.” More helpful, shorter, efficient meetings might be something that benefits everyone.

    1. EngineerMom*

      YES to the modeling.

      I was very fortunate – early on in my career I volunteered with an organization that had a very strict meeting protocol:
      1. Every meeting has an agenda with time estimates. If something is brought up during the meeting that is not on the agenda, it is recorded in the minutes and tabled for another meeting. The person running the meeting is primarily responsible for keeping everyone on task, but the person recording the minute also has the right to speak up during off-track discussions.
      2. Every meeting starts on time, with whoever is there. This means that the person leading the meeting is expected to be a couple of minutes early to deal with any technology issues.
      3. There is a timekeeper at every meeting (for small meetings, it was usually also the person recording minutes). They are to give warnings at set intervals indicated in the agenda (varied based on meeting length and what was planned for the meeting time).
      4. The meeting ends on time. Period.

      It was a little jarring at first, since I was used to a workplace that had a more relaxed meeting culture, but EVERYTHING went so much more smoothly, meetings were actually productive, and people were much more willing to come to meetings they knew would start and end on time.

      I started implementing many of the practices in my own meetings shortly after I started volunteering with this organization, and it was highly appreciated by meeting participants. Starting on time when certain people weren’t yet in the room was a little awkward sometimes, but I always tried to make sure we could just progress to another part of the meeting. And lo and behold – the people who were chronically late to other meetings started coming on time to mine, because they knew they’d start on time.

  13. WellRed*

    Oh, on the over-calling letter: OP, I can only hope that was the bucket of cold water you needed to realize you should never do that. If you are reading this, I’d love to hear if your job searching technique has grown since this letter.

  14. Alexis Rose*

    LW5 – I don’t know what generation you’re from, but this sounds like something my mom would have encouraged me to do. Now that I hire, I know how wrong she was, but if you don’t have much professional experience, it’s easy to get misled by bad advice.

    I do wonder if there was some era in hiring where ‘gumption’ counted for way more than it does now that causes many people (not just my mom) to advise aggressive job seeking tactics.

    My former boss had a woman follow him into the men’s bathroom to hand him her resume…

    1. kittymommy*

      Oh jeez, where exactly did she think he was going to put the resume when she gave it to him???

    2. Wombats and Tequila*

      I wonder if it was ever good advice. It makes me think of stories from the depression era when people did like that out of desperation. I doubt it was any more effective then, either.

    3. Spearmint*

      I wonder the same. Sometimes I think that before the widespread adoption of computers and, it might have been easier for a candidate to get lost in the shuffle of the hiring process, and so following up frequently was beneficial because it kept you on the hiring manager’s radar.

  15. Keyboard Cowboy*

    Not that it’s useful for OP1, but once in a rare while I get to attend a meeting run by a project manager (instead of by a tech lead or engineer) and it is a DELIGHT. Agendas, stuck to; tangents, dismissed for later; end times, acknowledged. So, so good.

    1. andy*

      You must have very different managers then I encountered. Some did run good meetings, but definitely no more likely then tech leads and such.

      I always thought that it is because managers get comfortable with endless meetings, because majority of their job is that.

      1. EngineerMom*

        PROJECT managers, not managers in general.

        Project managers are very cognizant of planning and time commitments.

        Managers in general – not necessarily.

        1. andy*

          Definitely not in my experience. They tend to be aware of customer demands and good at pressing you for overtime. Project management tend to select for people who overpromis and are confisent.

          But they are not especially good at running meeting, I mean not at all. At least not those they do with us.

          They are also constantly shocked that things are not done faster then estimated, that things done at last moment have bugs and so on.

          All that is quite unfortunate imo. Our is quite pleasure to work with PM that are good at realistic planning. But, current management practices select them away.

        2. TechWorker*

          I’ve also been in meetings with project leads where they’ve called a meeting to ‘kick things off’ or ‘keep the project moving’ without much idea of what that actually involves and thus a) only including half the right people or b) asking for answers on things that would clearly need some research or investigation (so, fine to ask but would have been better to email first rather than raise for the first time in a meeting). I do agree in *general* PMs run a good meeting but everyone has their flaws :p

    2. tangerineRose*

      An engineer-turned-manager at a company I worked for would run meetings that were usually kept short. I appreciated that he tended to come directly to the point.

  16. Mimi*

    I went to an “effective meetings” webinar early last year, which was full of all sorts of helpful tips for the person running the meeting… but it clearly had not occurred to them (or they didn’t have anything to say about) that some of us might not be running the meetings. And having an itemized list of things my boss and grand-boss should be doing and weren’t did not make me feel any less salty about how inefficient our meetings were.

    Thankfully, I am in a different job now, and meetings mostly have agendas, run on time, feel productive, etc. The only problem is that I’ve lost my dishes-washing slot.

    1. KRM*

      At my last job we did a “managing meetings” course which was pretty crappy. In the lecture-ish section of the day the instructor said we’d be having a bio break in 10′ and then proceeded to talk for 25′ straight while we were all like “if you run this meeting and can’t even keep to your own timeline…”. And then in the breakout sessions we had to role play things like meeting talkers, etc, and there were ‘facilitators’ there to watch us, and it was so so so dumb because it’s basically enforced acting and it doesn’t actually help to run a meeting any smoother. It was the worst waste of day I’d ever had.

  17. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

    I want to defend #5 a bit. I am reading it as #5 called Tuesday evening and was told “she’s out, call back Wednesday”. Called back Weds and was told “she’s not in yet, call back later”. Called Weds again and was told that she was not in yet, again, so to call back later again(?) Called Thurs and was told that she was coming in later. Called later Thurs and was finally told about the sick leave. Sounds to me like the OP, who I assume is fairly new to the work world (because I can’t see myself being that invested in any corporate job – I would’ve probably made zero calls, myself), kept being told to call later and continued to do as they were told.

    And can we address the part where OP called twice on Thursday, but then got the VM saying “My receptionist told you four times today that I was out sick”? Where’d the “four times today” come from? This place is giving me bad vibes. OP, be glad that you learned this valuable lesson (to be more aloof and less eager when following up for an interview) at a place where you probably wouldn’t have been happy working to begin with. Next time, maybe call them once and that’s it. If a place ghosted you, they were not worth your time. If they want you, they will call back sooner or later. You should be talking to other employers and continuing to look regardless. No workplace is worth this much emotional investment.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      I think the four times sounds like a (possibly cold-medicine-addled) slight misstatement, since the receptionist did say at least four times that the interviewer was out.

      The LW still shouldn’t have kept calling. I don’t think this suggests that the company is a mess, though. I think it’s somebody who didn’t feel well getting miffed at somebody else who was being far too persistent about calling back.

    2. Reba*

      Yes, sure, there was some miscommunication there from the receptionist. OP5 is feeling a little burned over the sick leave thing, like she would have respected an absence due to illness, but not any other reason she was being temporarily ignored, any other priorities the person might have been dealing with? That’s not so great. FWIW I also think the receptionist was in the right to say “out” rather than “sick” to a caller she doesn’t know.

      OP5 was *not* told to keep calling back (at least according to what she wrote to AAM). She was told the manager wasn’t available and she left a message(s). Maybe it’s the “yet” in “not in yet” that prompted her to keep trying? When you leave a message to somebody, the ball is in their court, whether they are sick or not.

      1. JelloStapler*

        True, knowing the manager was sick would (hopefully) have slowed LW5’s roll, this may also be a “read between the lines” situation and understanding the definition of “later”. I would have said, for instance, “Thank you so much. I will call back next week to check in if I do not hear anything”. I don’t call someone every few hours because they aren’t in yet unless it’s actually urgent or time sensitive.

    3. Starbuck*

      Nah, OP says they called six times in four days. That’s WAY too much. I also don’t see anything in what OP wrote that says they were actually prompted to call back later, just reasons given why the person wasn’t available when they called.

      I called her Monday around 5:30 p.m.
      Tuesday evening came around and no call. I called the office at 6:30 p.m. and was told she had left for the day.
      I called twice Wednesday
      Thursday I called again around noon….. I waited until 5:40 p.m. and called back

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        I was going off OP being told “she’s not in yet” and “she already left”.

        1. fhqwhgads*

          Yeah, I see it both ways. She wasn’t explicitly told “try again tomorrow” but I can see how the receptionist’s phrasing could have given OP5 the impression that she should. If the receptionist had said “I’ll pass on your message and she’ll get back to you” the end, if OP didn’t take that as reason to stop calling, that’s 100% OP. But if the receptionist (if it were the same person each time) kept making mentions of tomorrow, I can see how one might take from that what happened.
          OP’s still off-base in calling literally Monday in this context, and it’s not OP’s fault for not knowing the person was out sick and only being told that the final time. So there’s crossed wires all over the place, but there’s also poor communication on both sides, and maybe not enough picking up on context clues either.

    4. BRR*

      “Bad vibes” and “place where you probably wouldn’t have been happy working to begin with” seem like a bit of a stretch to me. I think a lot of really good offices would be very put off by someone calling this much. Even giving the largest benefit of the doubt, this is still a lot of calling.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        I am getting hung up on “we told you X four times today” when they only talked to OP twice that day, and told them X once. Isn’t it a slippery slope to “why didn’t you complete (job you were never assigned)” or “your work is not meeting the business requirements that are (exact opposite of the business requirements you were given”? I’m all in agreement that OP called five or six times too many, but I’m very uncomfortable with the boss and the receptionist trying to create their own version of reality. If they are doing it with OP, they do it in other situations too.

  18. Alexis Rose*

    Re meetings going too long…

    One thing I read which helped me understand the culture of meetings, is that group decision-making is frequently a way for individuals to shift responsibility–and potential blame–from themselves onto the group. That’s why people seek broad ‘input’ on decisions which really should be made by an individual or small group.

    Getting input can be good, of course, but frequently at my work I see people seeking input on extremely trivial matters or from people to whom the final decision doesn’t really matter.

    1. Richard Hershberger*

      I am currently reading a very good history of WWII in the Pacific. Japanese decision-making often was like this, especially for anything unpleasant. Also, the army and the navy hated each other. The US army and navy were not on friendly terms, but it was nothing like the Japanese. So the navy realized that the Guadalcanal campaign was a lost cause weeks before the army did, but couldn’t say anything. If they had, the army would have dug in its heels, and when the inevitable finally happened it would be blamed on the navy’s defeatism. So they had to keep sinking (literally) resources until the army finally worked it out on its own, allowing a joint decision to withdraw.

    2. Sybil Carpenter*

      You’ve just articulated the issue so well. This is exactly why I hate group “brainstorm” meetings.

    3. Chas*

      I’d never heard of this before, but it certainly explains the meetings I’ve had with my boss where he says ‘we need to figure out how we’re going to distribute these budgets’ then makes me watch as he spends half an hour looking over and talking about the budget information I’d sent him earlier and decides what to do with little-to-no input from me. (Well, either that or he processes information better by talking about it, rather than through reading and writing)

  19. Angelinha*

    This is a real perk of online meetings: it’s way easier to just leave! I try to be flexible when it’s warranted, but if it’s just a matter of time mismanagement or “just one more thing while we’re all here…” I have no qualms about typing into the chat that I need to drop, and just disappearing once we’re over time. Would be much more awkward in real life I think!

    1. Richard Hershberger*

      Or at least devoting the time to honing your all-important Minesweeper skills.

  20. JelloStapler*

    LW5- I would be very much turned off by an applicant that called that many times. It shows me they don’t know professional communication boundaries and that if they were to be a coworker, they’d incessantly call me until they got an answer even if it was not a priority of mine at the time.

  21. Properlike*

    LW#1 – you probably already do this, or maybe can’t do this, but is it possible to pad the end times of those meetings in your calendar before putting in another one? So then, when you need to leave the meeting, you can point to the clock and say, “I’m so sorry, but we’re already half an hour over schedule and I have another meeting”?

  22. Moaning Myrtle*

    I have a weird, un-related question….when the topics are on another site (like this one) I often am asked to subscribe to read the article…is that what happens to everyone?

    1. Environmental Compliance*

      Yes. You get x amount of free articles a month, and then you are asked to subscribe. Paying the subscription is how the writers get paid.

  23. DAMitsDevon*

    At my job, our wellness director (who is pretty senior in the hierarchy) implemented an initiative a few weeks ago with the intent of not overwhelming people with meetings. Some of the things included in this are that hour long meetings got reduced to 50 minute meetings to give people a 10 minute break in between back to back meetings, no non-urgent meetings between 12 and 1 pm, meetings that are 2 hours or longer are required to have a 10 minute break partway through.

    These things all sound great, except that the other senior level people are not sticking to these new rules. And even a few people who aren’t as senior will kind of roll their eyes and be all like, “Oh, it’s 10:53, don’t tell Glinda that we’re running over the meeting time,” while the rest of us lower level people just want the meeting to end.

  24. Sam*

    It’s never easy to manage up re meetings, but I tried a bunch of things over time that slowly helped my workplace’s culture evolve. It wasn’t perfect when I left, but so much better than when I arrived. For context, I do a lot of admin work, so this might seem like a real hassle – but if you don’t have any admins, or if they’re incompetent, this is still worth your time.

    1. Show up 5 minutes early for all meetings. By 5 mins before start time, you should be in the meeting room (digital or virtual), everything you need handy, ready to go. If you’re using MS Teams, it’ll actually nudge the others that someone started the meeting; in person, people will see you waiting.

    2. Use an agenda EVERY time you hold a meeting, and offer to help craft agendas for others. My boss was terrible for asking me to call a meeting for her and not making an agenda, so I started drafting one and asking her to sign off. Often she’d agree to it. If someone I didn’t directly work with scheduled a meeting, I’d ask what they wanted to discuss and then draft a simple list of topics at the very least.

    3. Vocally nudge topics as the time limits set on the agenda approach. I typically do a 5-min warning (“just a heads up, we should start thinking about making a final call!”), a 2-min warning (“we’re almost out of time, can we confirm the action items or schedule some more time if we can’t wrap it up here?”) and then a 5-min over warning (“We’re really cutting into our time for X topic”).

    4. Let people know up front that you can only stay through the scheduled meeting time, and remind them a few times throughout, especially if a topic is running way over (“we’ve talked about X for an extra 10 mins, which is half the time we assigned to talk about Y – do we want to move on or find another time to discuss Y? I do need to leave right at 2:30”). You don’t need another meeting lined up. YOUR WORKLOAD counts as a reason why you need to leave. Meetings that go on and on are a waste of everyone’s time.

    5. After the meeting, send a quick follow-up email. In mine, I usually summarize the main decisions made, highlight who’s responsible for any action items, and flag any unanswered questions or unresolved problems. If you had to leave early, send it anyway and ask someone else to update. It helps keep people focused on the reason why we have meetings in the first place.

    6. Make ample use of the “parking lot”. People are often scared to park discussion items because they assume it’ll be forgotten forever. If you actually keep track of questions raised and remind people in the follow-up email of items parked and next steps required, people will be more comfortable accepting that their pet topic needs to be parked.

    All this comes with a huge grain of salt that you need to read the room – you can’t be so obsessive about it that people feel harassed, or steamroll over crucial conversations that need to continue, or tell your boss you can’t meet when she expects you to be available. But there’s a ton of nudging you can do to move things in the right direction, and it benefits everyone to do it. And, maybe this is just me, but I feel less like I’m losing my mind if I’m doing SOMETHING in the right direction!

  25. Greg*

    OP#1: Supposedly, there’s a rule at Bloomberg that if a meeting goes past its allotted time everyone must stand up for the remaining time. It doesn’t sound like you have the standing to implement anything like that at your company, but if others recognize the meeting thing as a problem, maybe it’s something you could push for.

    1. Ayla K*

      I wouldn’t push for something like that, as it’s super ableist!! I have a disability that’s really easy to hide at work (chronic fatigue, and a joint disorder) but absolutely cannot stand up in one place for more than a few minutes at a time. My manager is aware of my condition, but if something like this was put in place at work, I’d have to ‘out’ myself to everyone in the meeting, which I’m not always comfortable with.

      1. fhqwhgads*

        I mean, yes, if it were actually required to stand for extended periods it’d be ableist, but I think the point of it is pretty much as soon as people have to stand, it’s the imperative to wrap up ASAP. It’s meant to be a deterrent to going over time at all.

  26. Bookworm*

    LW1: I am sympathetic. I recently had a supervisor who just loved to talk (TBF, it was partially anxiety because of COVID and the election plus inability to socialize because of COVID) and it was exhausting. It was clear he was using us for social time + he was clearly anxious about current events and the most effective thing for me was to book another meeting right after. I’m relatively senior so it was understandable and doable.

    I would strongly urge people to rethink meetings, period. Why you are having them, the burdens they put on people, etc.

  27. Clisby*

    I’m also wildly curious, because the LW says the co-worker calls him not a “real” Christian, and his lunch is sinful? I’m not clear on whether the contents of the lunch are the reason for saying he’s not a “real” Christian, but Christians, in general, really don’t have dietary restrictions. There are Christians who follow restrictions, like observant Catholics not eating meat on Fridays during Lent, or Mormons not drinking coffee or other caffeinated beverages, but I have NEVER encountered a Catholic or Mormon who expected Christians in general to follow suit. I wonder what group this co-worker belongs to. We may never know.

    1. nonegiven*

      7th Day Adventists, New Apostolics I don’t think eat pork.

      The guy in the letter sounds Evangelical, it could be some more obscure small sect.

  28. Irish Reader*

    I book calls in 15m blocks as far as I can. Culturally, we are trying to be Lean & Agile across the board, so our ops staff are well used to the 15m scrum concept.

    In my last job, I found I was spending at least 25 hours a week on calls, then more time on jotting down key points and actions from those calls – absolutely nuts :( That was largely customer and culture-driven though. I was a team lead and I was shocked at the sloppy meeting practices when I first joined: NOBODY wrote anything down, so I felt I had to set an example. I once outlined for a team the hidden cost of a meeting: say €100/hr for the program director, €70 for me, €50 for an engineer etc. If a meeting was therefore going to cost, say €300, then there had better be an agenda and documented notes & actions coming out of that meeting.
    We also tried to see where staff could be more empowered to do certain things, or improve processes, so we would not be dragged into ill-prepared or random calls all the time.

    I remember reading a Lean Six Sigma thesis last year on how to make meetings more efficient at Ericsson Sweden, which was pretty interesting. They didn’t get to solve all the issues, but they did pretty well in terms of improving engagement, standardizing meeting admin & moderation.

    1. SarahKay*

      Wow, costing out the meeting like that is a really clever idea. I shall definitely bear that in mind as a future tactic if needed.

  29. Deborah*

    My grand boss is kind of notorious for long meetings. He’s the VP of IT and has worked for the company 25 years, and he likes to explain how the system works. So if he calls a meeting to get input from members of several teams on a particular decision, he will walk everyone through how the whole thing works first, which might take 45 minutes. And sometimes he gets stuck in emergency meetings when something is broken and we have to get it fixed urgently before we do anything else (like if the ordering process goes down – that happened last week, and I know he missed some meetings because we were on the phone for a couple of hours). I think it helps that there aren’t very many of these meetings, it’s useful information, and we’re not so excessively busy that we are stressed thinking about what else we need to be doing. Or at least that’s how I feel.

  30. agnes*

    Re: Long meetings. We had a similar problem in our organization, and we actually offered meeting facilitation training and encouraged someone from each department to sign up. They agree to be the facilitator, it’s made clear to everyone what their role is, and it has helped with unproductive and poorly organized meetings.

  31. ArtK*

    Meetings running long: That’s endemic at a lot of places. I had one manager who could turn a 30 minute meeting into 1.5 hours without even trying! Running a meeting and keeping it on time is a skill that not many people have.

    I’m quite senior and have little tolerance for this so I’ve spoken up in various situations. For instance, if someone is derailing, I’ll give it a minute or two and then speak up “can we take this offline or to another meeting to resolve?” This is even easier when the derailment goes very far from the meeting’s purpose. “This isn’t really relevant to everyone here, can this be discussed at another time?” If we’re on the agenda but just run out of time: “Looks like we’re not going to get through this in time. Can we schedule a follow-up?”

    If a meeting is still running long, at the end time I’ll say “Sorry, I’ve got a hard-stop. Let me know if there’s anything significant that comes up. Bye!”

    For anyone running meetings, especially people in management, keeping things on track requires actual awareness of what’s going on. You can’t get so invested in the discussion that you allow things to be side-tracked. The other (and harder) thing is being assertive about keeping stuff on schedule. I know it feels rude to many people to say “George, that’s an interesting side-topic. Let’s schedule something another time to discuss.” Yes, you’re cutting them off which might be rude in a non-work conversation, but is totally fine at work. Even if that means cutting off someone senior to you.

    1. Chocolate Teapot*

      I had a meeting the other week with a chair who never stops talking! The presentations start, then they interrupt with questions, which would get answered if they just shut up and listened. My notes are a mess, since the topics are jumbled up.

      I always schedule extra time on the conference call, but we were in danger of being cut off. I have been asked to schedule even more time for the next meeting, but if attendees know there is more time available, they will find a way to fill it.

      1. ArtK*

        I’ve gotten good at: “Great question. I cover that later in the presentation. Moving on…”

  32. jojo*

    Grew up in Minnesota. Gas stations sold 3/2 beer. Of course I am allergic to beer. Also wine coolers.. so I guess it is the hops.

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