Have you ever sat in a meeting and wondered, “did we really need a meeting for this?” You’re not alone. According to the Harvard Business Review, 71% of senior managers said meetings are unproductive and inefficient. 65% said meetings keep them from completing their own work. When used effectively, face-to-face meetings can be a valuable tool. Unfortunately, in the corporate world, effective meetings are not always the case.
The Dark Side of Meetings
On average, employees spend 62 hours each month in meetings – almost 40% of their working time! This takes away from the time that they have available to actually work on their assignments.
In addition to being a time waster, ineffective meetings also:
- Reduce productivity. When interrupted, it can take up to 23 minutes to refocus on a task. With several meetings scattered throughout your work day, you spend a lot of time and energy trying to recapture your focus.
- Lead to burnout. In order to concentrate and complete their work, many employees are cutting into their personal time to work early or stay late. Over time, this can cause them to become exhausted and stressed, resulting in lower employee engagement and higher turnover.
- Waste money. More than $37 billion per year is spent on unproductive meetings. Calculate the cost of everyone in attendance at your last meeting. Was the work or decisions made during the meeting worth that cost?
Consider Other Communication Channels
Meetings are just one channel for you to communicate with colleagues. There may be a more effective (and efficient) way to deliver your message. Think about what you want to accomplish and consider the following alternatives:
- I want to share information or update: Send an email.
- I want to teach a new feature/program: Send a video.
- I want real-time responses: Call or send an instant message.
Make Your Meetings More Productive
Sometimes, however, you need to conduct effective face-to-face meetings. Follow these tips to make your meetings more efficient and productive.
- Keep it short. The average person pays attention for about 10-18 minutes before they tune out. Only about 73% of people pay attention after the 30-minute mark. Keep your meetings effective by keeping them short. This maximizes employee engagement.
- Don’t schedule in 30-minute blocks. According to Parkinson’s Law, work expands to fill the time available for completion. Similarly, meetings tend to expand to fill the allotted time. So if you only need 20 minutes, schedule a 20-minute meeting.
- Consider your audience. Determine whose attendance is needed to conduct an effective meeting. For noncritical people, send them a recap email afterwards or make their attendance optional.
- Set a clear agenda and goals. Share an agenda with the topics you need to cover and the goals you want to achieve. This will help your meeting stay focused and purposeful.
- Send materials ahead of time. Ask participants to review materials before the meeting and come ready for discussion. This reduces the time spent going through materials together.
- Keep everyone focused. Ban the use of outside technology to keep participants more engaged and focused on the topic at hand.
Andy Grove, former CEO of Intel, once wrote: “Just as you would not permit a fellow employee to steal a piece of office equipment, you shouldn’t let anyone walk away with the time of his fellow managers.” It is time for us to respect each other’s most valuable asset, our time, and think twice before we schedule an ineffective meeting.
I hate saying no at the office. I’ve accepted assignments that no one wants, last minute requests and the coordination of a labor-intensive fundraiser during my busiest time of the year. In my mind, this makes me a team player and a valuable asset. However, a reluctance to say no may actually make me a martyr at the expense of my health and career.
Why You Should Learn to Say No at the Office
Saying no doesn’t come naturally to many people. Whatever the reason − guilt, the need to please, the fear of disappointing others – we struggle with saying no at the office. But it’s okay because there’s no harm in saying yes, right? Maybe not.
Here are five reasons why it’s beneficial for you to learn to say no at the office:
- Control your stress: You can’t do it all. Accepting more than a reasonable share of responsibilities at work leads to stress in trying to complete them and balance your commitments at home. With that stress comes associated health problems, including high blood pressure, anxiety, and even a higher risk for diabetes.
- Maintain your reputation: You have a reputation as a great performer who always delivers on your assignments. Saying yes to everything at work reduces the time, attention, and energy you can dedicate to each project. You may find yourself rushing through projects, making mistakes, or even missing deadlines.
- Be more productive: A particular assignment may require a special set of skills that you don’t have. Rather than struggling with a task you have no experience in, the assignment would be better handled by someone with those skills. Then you can spend your time more productively.
- Say no to say yes: There is a finite number of hours in a day. When you say yes to one thing, you may be inadvertently saying no to something else. For example, taking on a project for a friend may mean that you have less time available for your clients.
- Value yourself: Remember your personal time and mental health are important too. While there may be times you have to stay late or answer emails after work hours, remember you also need time to rest and reenergize.
When You Should Learn to Say No at the Office
It’s understandable you want to always say yes to your employer and/or clients; however, there are some times when you need to say no. Here are three situations where you should reconsider before saying yes at the office:
- When something can’t be done or is out of your control: Grow sales by 200%. Complete a five-week project in one week. Don’t say yes and try to achieve the impossible. It would be better for you to set realistic expectations with your manager and/or client and then work to achieve or surpass them.
- When you already have a full workload: You’re already working from 9 to 6 with barely any time for breaks and still log on at home to finish projects. The new assignment may be easy but it’s still going to require time that you just don’t have.
- When it goes against your values: In a study, more than half of the subjects complied with a request even though it went against their ethics. Going along with something that is against your values can lead to discomfort and self-resentment.
How to Say No at the Office
It’s just a two letter word, but it can be one of the hardest words to say. Here are five tips to help you learn to say no effectively:
- Say no: Don’t beat around the bush. Don’t leave it up for interpretation.
- Be polite: Try saying “I would like to help, but I can’t.”
- Be firm: If the person is persistent even after you say no, don’t be afraid to say no again.
- Recommend an alternative: If you can’t help, suggest another colleague who may be able to step in. Maybe you can recommend a better, simpler approach to handling the assignment
- Push back: If a manager asks you to take on a new assignment when you don’t have time, ask them for help prioritizing the request with your current work load.
The word “no” is powerful at the office. Just remember it’s okay to use it.