• 01.06.14

Why Meetings Should Cost Employees Money

If stand-up meetings aren’t short enough, you might consider this method of meetings from one of Gowalla’s original employees.

Why Meetings Should Cost Employees Money
[Image: Flickr user Quinn Dombrowski]

The problem with meetings, says Brian Bailey, is that they “can become the default response to uncertainty.” An original member of the Gowalla team, Bailey says that meetings about uncertainty are even more likely to drag on and on than meetings with a defined scope–despite the fact that the most vague, emergency-style meetings also feel the most urgent.


The solution for most startup teams are stand-up meetings, an artifact of the Agile development method. A stand-up meeting is what it sounds like: The whole team meets while standing to ensure the meeting’s brevity. For 15 minutes total, the whole team goes around and says what they did yesterday, and what they’re working on today and tomorrow. Each team member only gets a few seconds to update their teammates, and the 15-minute meeting limit is typically strictly enforced.

But Bailey has another idea: Charge employees for meeting time as an incentive to keep things snappy. Here’s how it works:

What if there was a cost associated with each meeting? Imagine if a 30-minute meeting with three people cost $50, and each additional person was $10. Adding 30 minutes doubles the cost. So, an hour meeting with four people would be $120.

But this concept may not go far enough. If the disincentive is really going to match the reality, then for every additional person you add to a meeting, the fee should increase marginally for each subsequent person. So instead of $10 per additional person, the cost for adding a person to a meeting should be n + 1, or $11, then $12, then $13.

Before you cry foul, Bailey isn’t suggesting employees pay out of pocket, but rather with a company budget that is limited–funny money, so to speak.

The amount itself doesn’t matter. The currency doesn’t even have to be dollars. The key is that each team (or possibly individual) in the company has a quarterly balance to pull from, a balance that covers a minimal number of meetings.

The bonus, Bailey says, is an actual reason not to go to a non-essential meeting: “Sorry I had to decline your meeting request, but I only have two left for the quarter and I’m saving them.”

Hat Tip: Brian Bailey