How much money is unnecessary meetings costing you and your company?

Lisa Thal

How much money are your meetings costing you and your company?

This week I saw a conversation on LinkedIn around an article written about how Useless Meetings Waste Time and $100 Million a Year for Big Companies. You know, that grabbed my attention with being the author of the Three Words Meetings book.

A new survey shows that employees don’t need to be in nearly one-third of the meetings they attend, and women are more reluctant than men to decline invitations; imagine that!

The article went on to share that Unnecessary meetings are a $100 million mistake at big companies, according to a new survey that shows workers probably don’t need to be in nearly a third of the appointments they attend.

A survey conducted by Steven Rogelberg, a professor of organizational science, psychology, and management at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, created a study around meetings. They asked 632 employees across 20 industries to study their weekly calendars and gauge how much time they spent in meetings, what they got out of them and how they responded to invitations.

On average, employees spend about 18 hours weekly in meetings and only decline 14% of invites even though they’d prefer to back out 31% of them. Reluctantly going to noncritical meetings wastes about $25,000 per employee annually and projects out to $101 million a year for any organization with more than 5,000 employees.

“Meetings do control us, and bad meetings have an enormous cost,” said Rogelberg, who’s been researching meetings for two decades. “You get a meeting invite and say, ‘I don’t need to be there,’ yet you say yes — why?”

Learn to Say No
Employees want to skip nearly one-third of their meeting invites.
Many say yes because it’s a workplace norm — nobody wants to offend the meeting organizer by skipping out or having co-workers think they’re not engaged. Others hate having to chase down updates on what happened.

Few companies have, however. Rogelberg’s earlier research found that poorly managed meetings can hurt employee engagement and even boost their intention to quit. Meetings worsened during the pandemic due to the shift to remote work and videoconferencing.

Data from Microsoft Corp. based on thousands of users of its workplace software found that time spent in meetings has tripled since February 2020, and the number of weekly meetings has more than doubled.

Those virtual meetings “tend to be more cognitively demanding, more prone to distraction, and less effective in many ways than their in-person counterparts,” a team of researchers concluded in a recent study that examined how communication patterns changed right after pandemic lockdowns hit in 2020.

Meetings are necessary, but we must be careful when scheduling them. Rogelberg’s survey shared that most end up multitasking during unnecessary meetings. We don’t want that for our employees or us.

I wanted to share four questions you can ask yourself when considering a meeting is necessary that I learned from Adam Grant, an Organizational psychologist at Wharton and #1 NYT bestselling author of Think Again; Adam believes:

There are four reasons to meet:
To decide.
To learn.
To bond
To do.
If it doesn’t serve one of those purposes, cancel it.

Then I recommend implementing the Three Word Meetings topic process I created. Build those meetings around simple-to-remember words that engrain what you want your team or clients to remember. The Three Word meeting topics also allow your employees to share their views and the meetings become more collaborative versus a data dump on them.

Another helpful tip is to manage the amount of time for a meeting. Some discussions linger and steal time from others. Keep them brief when you can maintain their attention and cut down on drifters. Set a time limit, whether 15, 29, or 39 minutes.

I have come to understand during my 35-year career that people support meetings with a purpose. So think about all the meetings you have been included in and ask if that meeting is necessary. Is there something I can do differently moving forward to create more time to focus on growing revenue, coaching your team, and sharing solutions for our clients?

I will leave you with this thought, to Meet or Not Meet, that is the question.

Learn more about Simplifying Your sales meetings using 3-word topics at

sources: Source: Steven Rogelberg,

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