I used to be a lawyer at a firm in Washington, D.C. My specialty was advising financial institutions on complex transactions and I was often able to answer clients’ questions quickly. That made my clients happy and gave me more time to spend with my friends and family. But because I was paid based on how many hours I could bill, my efficiency was costly.
“He’s one of my best employees. He always puts in ten-hour days, sometimes much more.”
Is this how your boss judges you and your colleagues? Probably yes, according to a 2010 study published in Human Relations. In the study, a group of researchers led by business professor Kimberly Elsbach conducted extensive interviews of 39 corporate managers. They found that these managers generally considered their employees who spent more time in the office to be more dedicated, more hardworking, and more responsible.
The New York Times recently ran a story about CEO Larry Page’s efforts to reform Google. As a first step, he fired his secretary because she was scheduling too many meetings for him. Page understood that many meetings lack focus and fail to achieve any meaningful objective—using up time that he could have spent doing actual work. This wasted time is no small beans for American businesses: meetings take up approximately 35% of the workday (pdf) for middle managers, and up to 60% of the day (pdf) for top executives.
What can organizations and their employees do to mitigate the burden of unproductive meetings? Continue reading