Results from the first international scientific study on the effects of meeting time on employee well-being indicate that, for some individuals, meetings function as interruptions, while for others meetings are welcome events. The study “Not Another Meeting” Are Meeting Time demands Related to Employee Well-Being? appears in the March issue of the Journal of Applied Psychology and also reveals some surprising dynamics behind modern meeting mania, with broad implications for the effects on morale and productivity.
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“It is socially unacceptable to talk about liking meetings, unless someone else starts talking about it,” Steven G. Rogelberg, Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of North Carolina at Charlottee and lead author of the report, offers in explanation for why some employees do not go public with their preference for meetings. “And it is also interesting that the people who are high on accomplishment striving are not complaining more than others. The toll that meetings take seems to be much more subtle. If you ask these individuals if they are more dissatisfied with the meetings, they don’t report anything different from those who enjoy meetings.”
One surprising finding was that more people actually view meetings as a positive part of the workday than will admit to that fact publicly. Some curious social paradigms, however, are disguising this interesting dynamic.
“It’s an interesting finding because it really helps explain why we have all these meetings,” Rogelberg said. “And, though they are typically publicly negative, overwhelmingly people say that they want the day to have at least one meeting. They have to feel like they are accomplishing something positive in their meetings to produce this response.”
The study further revealed that the effects of meetings on employee well-being is “moderated” by three factors:
- Whether jobs specifically require group work;
- Whether the meetings are efficiently run, and
- Where the employee falls on the personality scale of “accomplishment striving”.
“People differ on this accomplishment striving personality scale,” Rogelberg explains. “In general, you can think of people who are high in accomplishment striving are those individuals who are very task-focused, who are very goal-focused, who have goals and objectives for the day that they want to get accomplished. People who have low accomplishment striving are not slackers, though – they are just individuals with a much more flexible orientation to work and like to allow the agenda for the day to emerge more naturally.”
Based on these definition, it is hardly surprising that participants scoring low on the accomplishment striving scale were positively impacted by meetings while those scoring high were predictably and negatively impacted by meetings, particularly when they are frequent.
“People who are high in accomplishment striving look at meetings more from the perspective of seeing them as barriers to getting real work done,” said Rogelberg. “But the others may view meetings as a way to structure their day or a way to network and socialize. As a result, these people see meetings as a good thing.”