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Too many back-to-back meetings can make you act like a jerk, says study

If you’ve been extra short with your coworkers recently, it might be worth reviewing your meeting schedule.

Too many back-to-back meetings can make you act like a jerk, says study
[Photo: Su Arslanoglu/Getty Images]

If you seem to be butting heads with coworkers, your boss, and your loved ones, look at your calendar. If it’s filled with meetings, you may be experiencing “meeting rude rage.” Perceptyx, an AI-powered coaching platform, screened managers’ calendars and communications for tone, and found that having more meetings resulted in people being less polite.

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The study also discovered that an abundance of meetings are sporadic instead of following a predictable schedule can add to your short temper, says Andy Horng, director of data science at Perceptyx.

“If you have a lot of variability in your calendar and can’t expect to have a strong amount of focus time, that can affect how you communicate toward your teammates,” he says. “People tended to be a little bit ruder toward their team members. They also took a little bit longer to respond and weren’t able to give their teammates the attention or the support they needed to make decisions quickly.”

In another study by Perceptyx, researchers found that employees whose meeting load increased over the past year are 33% more likely to be physically exhausted and 24% more likely to be mentally exhausted at the end of the workday than those whose time in meetings has remained the same or decreased.

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“We found that it wasn’t just the number of meetings that made a person more burned out or less burned out,” says Emily Killham, director of research and insights for Perceptyx. “It was the quality of those meetings; whether those interactions were purposeful in nature or seen as just a time to add things to calendars.”

What You Can Do

Managers can learn three things from the studies. First, meeting cadence is important for a good meeting culture.

“Meetings are necessary, they need to happen to get work done,” says Killham. “But can we set aside time for employees? And can we normalize time for employees to block their calendar to hold space on their calendar for focused work time instead of getting lucky and finding two hours.”

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For example, companies can create a rule where meetings aren’t allowed on Thursday afternoons, giving employees time they can count on for doing focused work. Knowing they have time to make progress on important projects can reduce their stress levels throughout the week.

Next, confirm that the meeting is necessary. “Would an email suffice?” asks Killham. “Or instead of a 30-minute meeting, would a 15-minute meeting do? How do we cut down on time in meetings that isn’t focused time?”

Finally, set meetings clear agendas and expected outcomes for meetings that need to happen so people can prepare.

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“We’re dropping meetings on people’s calendar that don’t even have subjects in them,” says Killham. “When people are prepared for the meeting, you can move quickly through what needs to be done so everyone can get back to the business of work.”

Meetings don’t just create stress for the attendees; they put ripples into the work environment, says Killham.

“If I’m a person who’s overscheduled or in too many meetings, by extension of that I’m a bit more short with my coworkers or with my subordinates,” she says. “Then they take away an experience from that where they’ve experienced rudeness. And now that then continues to deal with their emotional state in the workplace, and their wellbeing. It doesn’t just stop with one person feeling burnt out.”

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