Why do meetings exist?

I'm talking about the boring office park cubicle farm conference room meeting that we all hate. So why do they exist if everyone, at least the rank-and-file, seem to hate them? I have a theory.

When you get to a certain point in your career, your job ends up being little more than forwarding emails or firing off incomplete, one-line responses to the well-thought-out emails of your staff.

I'm sure you've gotten those. You ask your boss two questions and get something resembling an answer to only one of them. This happened to me Monday and I just gave up, made a reasonable guess, and will wait and see what happens. If my guess was wrong, I can at least say, "hey, I asked."

The only way to get those questions answered is to trap the boss in an interaction where they are forced to respond, such as by stepping into their office holding list of action items with check boxes next to them. Bosses know this, though I suspect they do only unconsciously, and therefore schedule meetings when they think something actually needs to get done.

The problem is that they think the whole team has their inability to attend to detail. Their progression from worker to manager was gradual enough that they didn't notice when they went from producing deliverables to barely keeping up with emails, or Slack messages depending on your workplace.

Managers feel productive after a fair to good meeting because they actually did something other than forward emails. But workers feel unproductive after all but the best meetings because they actually do have the ability to produce just fine at their desks, at a reasonable pace, in response to thoughtful emails bounced around the team.


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