Why You’re Likely to Attend Another Irrelevant Meeting

In a world obsessed with productivity and innovation, why are so many of us still willing to sit through poorly planned, badly executed, irrelevant meetings? Why do we accept pouring precious time down the drain, in meetings with no clear objectives, all while knowing that none of the key points raised will be capitalized on?

A good meeting, that is to say, one which involves the right people, and where the objective is clear and met, can be a great thing.

But think about the meetings you’ve been in over the past six months. How many were honestly worth your time? With the rise in popularity of apps and technologies in almost every aspect of worklife , it seems ludicrous that many of us still can’t organize effective, relevant meetings. So why is that?

A Sense of Professional Obligation

One big reason why we accept bad meetings, is this pervasive sense of professional obligation. When a meeting is called, unless you’re specifically excluded from it, you’re expected to go.

It’s as though the calling of a meeting turns on a motor in your head, one which autopilots you into the meeting room, where you sit, thinking about all the other places you’d rather be. That’s a big problem. If you’re sitting in a meeting and you’re thinking about being somewhere else, then either:

  • You’re in the wrong job, or
  • This meeting is not relevant to you


What Are You Afraid Of?

Think about saying, ‘This meeting isn’t relevant to the work I’m doing. I honestly don’t think I have anything to contribute .’ Feels good, doesn’t it? But most people won’t say it, because something gets in the way:

Fear of missing out
This will mean different things to different people, but consider how many meetings you’ve been to, where you went because you did not know what the objective was. If you don’t know exactly what the meeting is about, and what the objective of it is, how can you make a convincing case for not going to it?

In addition, not knowing what the objective of the meeting is, makes it impossible to know whether important stuff will be decided over your head, on your behalf, or otherwise without your knowledge.

Fear of reprisal
Let’s say that you do know what the meeting is about, and you’ve decided that it’s not relevant to you. Many people still go, because they fear losing face with their colleagues (does s/he think s/he’s more important than us?) or risk getting into trouble with their superiors.

Lack of an accommodating culture
The company’s culture is outdated. When a meeting is called, it is not ok, regardless of relevancy, to say that you’re not attending. This is something which should be challenged.

Would You Keep Going to Poor Dinner Parties?

If you showed up to a friend’s dinner party once, and they’d forgotten the music or the drinks, you’d be disappointed. If it happened a second time, or a third, you’d start declining their invitations, you might even tell them, ‘Hey, if we’re going to do this, we ought to do it right. Can I help you?’

With meetings, though, for years we’ve been beaten down with boredom and bureaucracy. Nobody says anything — not in a way that changes things — about how poorly planned or irrelevant said meeting was. We take bad meetings like we take disgusting medicine, only bad meetings do more harm than good, and why? Because we’re under-informed or afraid of office politics?

It’s time that we starting having more respect for ourselves, and more respect for our colleagues, by holding meetings which reflect the standards upheld in almost every other aspect of business.



Thomas is a co-founder and CEO of Pinstriped. His career has spanned several industries and companies, from finance to digital marketing to start-ups. After thousands of hours wasted in unproductive meetings, he’s on a mission to change meeting culture. You can find him on Twitter.