Management Skills

What to do when your employees hate your meetings

Paige Magarrey

Did you start collecting meeting feedback and get some less-than-glowing reviews? We’ve all been there. There’s nothing worse than seeing a unanimous negative review like this one in SoapBox’s Meeting Rating feature:

Negative meeting rating

If this makes you sweat just looking at it, don’t worry! That’s what getting feedback is all about! The important thing is acting on the feedback.

Here’s what to do when you find out that your employees think your meetings are a total waste of time:

1. Ask for more context

Once your team has made it clear your meeting needs work, the next question is simple: why? What is it about the meeting that is falling flat? You might get additional insight depending on the meeting effectiveness survey question you ask, but you’ll need even more context to improve your meetings.

Start by thanking your team for their feedback, and explaining that you want to make your meetings better (this will help encourage them to be honest and candid with the context they provide). From there, ask them why they rated the way they did. If you’re having trouble getting them to open up, try asking some of these questions:

  • Do you think our meetings are too long?
  • Do you feel like we never make decisions/get stuff done in meetings?
  • What am I doing that makes our meetings less effective?
  • Does the team have any bad habits that are making our meetings less effective?
  • Do you feel like you’re not heard in our meetings?
  • Do you feel like you attend too many meetings?
  • What’s one thing we could try differently next week to improve this meeting?

Follow-up questions such as these ones will help you get a better sense of how your team is feeling, and what might be some of the pains they feel around your meetings. The easiest way to get this insight is to add an agenda item to your next team meeting, and discuss it as a group. Or, you can also bring it up individually with them in your one-on-ones if you think your team will be more willing to give feedback privately.  

2. Decide whether to cut the meeting

This probably won’t happen as much as you want it to 😅. But, once in a while, the meeting feedback you’ll get will lead you to realize that this is a completely unnecessary meeting altogether, and that’s what’s frustrating your team so much.

It could be a kind of “legacy meeting” that used to have a function, but now that goals and priorities (and even teams!) have shifted, it’s totally redundant. For example, a biweekly marketing-engineering check-in might have made sense when you were knee deep in a massive product launch, but now you really don’t have much to talk about each meeting.

Here are a few other reasons you might be ready to cut a meeting:

  • The overall goal of the meeting has become irrelevant over time
  • The communication taking place in this meeting is happening elsewhere
  • The meeting is happening too often for any new updates to arise (in this case you could reduce the cadence of the meeting – say, from weekly to monthly)

It’s really important that the decision to cut a meeting be made after a thorough discussion with all parties involved. Don’t jump to any conclusions just to save time!

3. Identify the core issues

Most of the time, your meeting doesn’t need to be cut – it just needs to be fixed. And to do that, you need to take the extra context you gathered in the previous steps, and identify the core issues.

This is an important step: don’t assume that the raw feedback you get from your team is automatically a list of core issues. For example, if you hear that your meetings are too long – that could mean many things. It might mean you’re trying to cover too much in one sitting, and that your meeting length should be altered. But it could also mean that there are too many side conversations, or that one or two people are monopolizing the conversation and making it run long, or that you’re spending too much time on topics not listed on the agenda (learn more on saving time in meetings here!).

You get the idea. Here are a few tips to help you consolidate your feedback into core issues. Again, this can be done in your next team meeting or individually in one-on-ones.

  • Push your team to get more specific. Even if they generally find meetings annoying, what specifically frustrates them about this one? If it’s too long, how long would they like it to be and why? If it’s pointless, what would they like to leave with at the end of each meeting?
  • Look for commonalities across all the feedback. If you’re seeing certain language used again and again, that might be an area to explore deeper. You might find a specific bad habit that one (or more!) team member is doing that’s irking everyone.
  • Imagine the perfect meeting. What does your team agree on as the elements that make up a perfect, efficient, effective meeting? How long is it? What does everyone walk away with? This might help you to get a sense of what is missing from your current meetings.
  • Familiarize yourself with the common meeting mistakes. Every team is different, but there are a few common meeting mistakes that we see come up again and again. Here’s a run-down of the top seven reasons your meetings are tanking:

4. Make a meeting improvement plan

Sound intense? It doesn’t have to be. Think of this whole process and more of an ongoing way to improve your meetings, bit-by-bit, over time. So if in the meeting feedback process you uncovered three or four core issues that need to be addressed, don’t feel like you need to solve them all right away. As a group, choose one or two things to implement right away. This might be a tweak to the meeting process, or even something for you as the manager to work on.

If you’re not sure where to start, our ultimate guide to effective meetings can help you identify some areas of improvement.

No matter what the change, it your job as manager to see it through. Help your team to develop their new habits by setting a good example, and reiterating why you’re making these changes in the first place.

Then, over time, you’ll start to see your meeting feedback start to trend upward! 👇

Positive meeting rating

Looks good, doesn’t it? Follow our tips and you’ll get there.

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