We have a LOT of meetings at my job.

Individual departments have meetings. Then, people from every department have cross-department meetings to make sure everyone is on the same page. Somehow without these meetings the whole building seems to fall into chaos.

In my position I represent an entire department that rarely if ever interacts with or needs to communicate with others. I've been trying to get out of these meetings (at least 3 hrs a week) for a long time now but my boss feels they are a necessity.

Part of the problem is that I don't have any time sensitive projects that would let me excuse myself from these meetings. If I don't absolutely have to be somewhere else how can I get out of wasting time in these meetings?

Edit: The meetings are not defined until they actually happen. Each department brings something to discuss to the meeting. Because of this we don't know if something important will be brought to the table until it actually happens.

  • 2
    In all seriousness I don't think you really understand how badly meeting overload can get with only three hours per week. My last job I was forced to go to sometimes 3 hours of meetings per day... And on top of that be given urgent action items from those meetings that required a response by the next day. Apr 24, 2013 at 20:50

2 Answers 2


What does your boss say?

Have you talked with your boss and explained why you thing that have no value? Perhaps your boss doesn't understand the situation fully, or perhaps you don't. Perhaps you can rotate the required attendance through others in the department, so that it isn't always you who spends 3 hours per week. Either way, you need to come to a common understanding on this.

Is there a meeting Agenda?

In my company, I attend many, many meetings (far more than 3 hours per week). And, as you are doing, I represent my department in these meetings and my input is seldom needed in some of the meetings. Occasionally, though it actually is important that I am in attendance.

For some of these meetings, the Agenda will let me know if my attendance is worthwhile or not. You might try approaching the meeting organizer and suggest that an Agenda be published, if one is not already.

Can you pay partial attention?

For other meetings, there is no real Agenda other than ongoing discussions of the prior and upcoming week. At least in my company, it is considered acceptable to attend with your laptop, and not pay close attention. This allows me to be present in the room in case something comes up that needs my attention, yet still get some work done. Perhaps this will work for you. (Normally I don't like this approach, as it borders on rudeness. But it depends on the company culture. In my current company, lots of people who attend lots of meetings take this same approach.)

Ultimately, your boss decides

But if your boss wants still wants you to attend, in the end there likely isn't much you can do.

  • I have voiced my opinion with my boss on several occasions, but he feels I need to be present "just in case" I might be needed. As far as the agent goes that's our major problem. Each department brings a topic to add to the agenda. We then throw everything "out on the table" and go from there. It has the appearance of being very orderly but it's actually very poorly organized.
    – pblock
    Apr 24, 2013 at 19:32
  • Will attempt partial attention in the next meeting. Thanks Joe
    – pblock
    Apr 24, 2013 at 19:42

Three hours a week is hardly what I would consider to be a lot of meetings. Some of my managers spend 4-7 hours a day in meetings. Remember as you get promoted, the time you are expected to be in meeting will increase substantially. So attending and contributing to meetings is one of those things that can get you recognized as someone to promote. I suspect your boss is trying to get you noticed by having you attend these meetings. It could be a professional compliment not an undue obligation.

Since your boss feels the meetings are important, they are important. So try to make them useful to you.

First, make sure you brief your boss on anything that came up in a meeting he didn't attend that might be important to him. He might have you there because he can't attend or has another meeting. By considering his needs rather than just yours, you may find that there is information being passed that he needs to know about. Sometimes that information may be about your observations of the political alliances of other people.

Consider working with others to get agendas for the meetings. Likely some of them would also prefer to have agendas, so they can spend less time and know in advance what will be discussed. It also helps people be prepared for what comes up. With agendas, you can talk to the boss about what he expects to get out of this specific meeting. That might help you get out of some of them. It might also help you understand why he wants you to attend the meetings and what he thinks you should be paying the most attention to.

Contribute to the meetings. Meetings are a place for you to shine in front of people you don't work with daily. Just becasue the subject is not immediately useful to your department, it may be helpful to the company as a whole and having an input into solving a company problem is a good thing. Sometimes your outside perspective will help them see things differently.

Don't just wait for the leaders to pull the meeting back into focus, you can say things like, "We've gone off into the weeds now, we really need to concentrate on XYZ. Maybe A and B could discuss this outside the meeting since the rest of us are not involved." You don't have to be the organizer of the meeting to get it back on track and get it ended sooner rather than later. If you aren't part of the solution, you are part of the problem of the unfocused meetings.

Next use the meetings as a way to make connections to other departments. You say your group doesn't need those connections, but I have found that is rarely true. As a developer my connections to other departments are critical to the success of my projects, as an analyst, they were critical to being able to get things done fast (you know who to go to for what info), as an editor, they were critical to getting my changes respected and implemented. I can think of no department I have ever seen in any large or small organization that exists wholy outside of the need to deal with other departments occasionally. Clearly your boss thinks these connections are important, too, or he wouldn't make you attend.

One way that the connections are important to yuou personally is in getting your performance recognized and in getting promoted. Typically high performance ratings are limited in number for budgetary reasons, so all the high performance ratings are discussed ina senior manager's meeting. Those people that these managers don't know or have never heard of have a 0% chance of getting the highest ratings and pay raises. Promotions often involve people beyond your immediate boss. Meetings are critical to these people getting to know you. Of course if you blow off the meeting by acting like a spoiled, bored child, you don't make points with these people either. So be professional and contribute. It could be rewarding financially.

  • this might not answer the (unanswerable, really) question, but it does a great job capturing the importance of visibility - and to that end, meetings - within an organisation. neat!
    – bharal
    Jan 15, 2015 at 1:28

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