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Meeting Myths Debunked: When and How to Decline a Meeting Invite

Wednesday, June 21, 2017 - 11:45
How to decline a meeting

The world is obsessed with work meetings. To put that in perspective, in 2016, our customers spent more than 28 billion minutes in meetings. It’s no wonder that most employees have difficulty picturing an office that eliminates weekly catch-ups, brainstorming sessions and monthly town halls completely.

But how productive are most meetings? Only 37 percent of employees say they have access to a set agenda and just 36 percent of all workers actively contribute in all the meetings they attend, according to our own research. This lack of organization, coupled with the sheer number of meetings per week, can result in meeting fatigue that frustrates employees and drains their productivity.

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Too many meetings

Our research also uncovered that 86 percent of U.S. employees feel meetings are necessary, but almost half of this group believes they can achieve positive results without joining as many as they do now. Despite skepticism surrounding the efficacy of constant meetings, work culture has made it difficult for employees to decline meeting invitations in their inbox.

Are Meetings Necessary

3 Questions to Answer Before Accepting a Meeting Invite

Instead of blindly accepting another calendar invite, employees can take back their time by identifying which meetings are going to be productive and where they can contribute the most value to the conversation. To determine whether you should accept or decline your next meeting invitation, ask yourself the following:

1. Is this meeting appropriate for you, and are you the right person to attend?

2. Is this meeting a top priority, and can you afford to put your other responsibilities on hold?

3. If this meeting is not the right fit for you, is there someone else who should attend instead?

If you determine the meeting offers a low return on your time investment, you shouldn’t feel compelled to attend. Organizations tend to live by an “everyone’s invited” philosophy, resulting in employees who have nothing to do with the meeting agenda being brought into the fold. Sometimes the smartest move for all involved is to excuse yourself from a meeting and recommend a co-worker who is better able to contribute to the conversation. As a best practice, the co-worker who has attended the meeting should plan to follow-up with the host to secure a recording of the call for on-demand playback. In this instance, declining a meeting while asking for post-meeting info can prove a useful tool for productivity and effectiveness.

Focus on Meeting Quality Over Meeting Quantity

Declining a meeting invitation might raise some eyebrows, but it’s the quality, not the quantity, of meetings on each employee’s calendar that organizations should focus on. While it’s unrealistic to eliminate meetings all together, business leaders can take several steps to ensure meetings are valuable for everyone – and create a culture where saying “no” to meetings is OK.

Meeting organizers should strive to standardize agendas and send invites accordingly to ensure attendees’ time isn’t wasted. A clear agenda helps business leaders be selective about who attends meetings and identify which meetings should be prioritized over others.

Another way organizers can manage meetings is by asking employees to offer feedback and suggestions for future improvement. Moderators should ask why they chose to decline and use that information to schedule smarter meetings going forward. This can also help eliminate negative assumptions associated with rejecting meeting invitations and encourage employees to take control of their work schedules.

Erasing the stigma associated with not accepting meeting invitations is the first step to creating a time-conscious workplace. Business leaders will need to be judicious about who they send invites to and establish a clear agenda from the beginning, illustrating what needs to be accomplished during the meeting. Employees need to selectively choose where to invest their time and communicate to organizers why they decline specific invitations. Meetings are here to stay, but perfect attendance at every single one doesn’t have to be.

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