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Jo Geraghty

Director

Meeting etiquette

Date added: 08th Dec 2014
Category: Organisational Culture Change

Have we so lost the idea of meeting etiquette that it is acceptable practice to ‘zone out’ from the meeting itself or is the ability to access instant communications merely giving a visible face to the way in which we previously switched off from business meetings?

The tale of the MP who was caught playing a game on his tablet during a parliamentary committee hearing is a reminder of the importance of meeting etiquette.  Nigel Mills MP admitted to The Sun “There was a bit of the meeting that I wasn’t focusing on.”

In all honesty, how many of us could say that they hadn’t ‘focused out’ of an element of at least one meeting in recent times?   In fact, the casual observer dropping in on the majority of meetings nowadays would be surprised not to find people writing reports, answering e-mails or engaging in other forms instant communications whilst the meeting goes on around them.

So why do organisations condone such behaviour?  Have we so lost the idea of meeting etiquette that it is acceptable practice to ‘zone out’ from the meeting itself or is the ability to access instant communications  merely giving a visible face to the way in which we previously switched off from business meetings?

The answer lies within the culture of the organisation.  Are meeting invitations focused on those who can actively contribute or does a scattergun approach draw in people who may be called on to give their opinion on one small element?   Are meetings tightly scripted and moderated so that they swiftly move towards consensus and resolution or do they meander in and out of focus.  Is the culture such that participants are expected to leave communication devices at the door and give their full attention to the meeting or is the allocated time generally over-spent in a mix of unfocused ramblings and self-promotion?

Meetings can be extremely effective but only if they are well planned and tightly moderated.  If you’ve marked time in meetings recently, it may be time to take another look at your organisational culture.

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