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HUMAN RESOURCES

New Study Reveals Why Meetings Are So Unbearable
 

Frequent interruptions, cell-phone use, and a lack of bathroom breaks are among the many complaints employees have.
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Whether it's a cell phone ringing or your co-workers whispering next to you, there's no shortage of annoying meeting behavior. And now there's evidence to back it up.

Disorganization tops the list as the biggest frustration for meeting attendees, according to a new "Ouch Point" study by Opinion Research USA that measured the tolerance thresholds of U.S. workers at business meetings.

Of 1,037 full- or part-time workers polled, 27 percent ranked disorganized, rambling meetings as their top frustration, followed by 17 percent who said they were annoyed by peers who interrupt and try to dominate meetings.

Surprisingly, respondents considered BlackBerry use less intrusive than people falling asleep during a meeting -- 9 percent of respondents were bothered by co-workers nodding off, compared to just 5 percent who said they get frustrated by others checking e-mail. Respondents also cited cell-phone interruptions (16 percent) and meetings without refreshments (6 percent) as more annoying than the much-maligned BlackBerry.

Among the other "ouch points" ranked by respondents were: meetings without bathroom breaks (8 percent) and people leaving the meeting early or arriving late (5 percent). Only 4 percent of respondents said they were most frustrated by meetings that start late and those that end without distributing a written recap.   

"If you're asking somebody to participate in a meeting, it has to be, from their perception, worth it to invest the time," said Jeff Resnick, president of Opinion Research USA, a Princeton, N.J.-based firm. According to Resnick, for business owners and managers, the study underscores the importance of having well-constructed meetings.

"If you are someone calling the meeting, organize it, control everyone during the meeting, and make sure the people there aren't wasting their time," Resnick said. In time-compressed work environments, where so much focus is placed on productivity, "time spent in meetings that's not considered productive is certainly not helpful," he added.

Demographics also played a role in the kind of "ouch points" that respondents considered most significant. For example, respondents from the Northeast were less bothered by disorganized meetings than those from other parts of the country. Additionally, respondents over the age of 55 considered meetings without a bathroom break a significant issue, and for respondents ages 18 to 24, serving food is a priority at meetings.

Last updated: May 15, 2007




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