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This question already has an answer here:

I've got a great team to work in and I absolutely love my job, but one of my colleagues will continually insist on meetings, even/especially after a 'long' email discussion. They're often <= 30 minutes, but I feel they take me out of my flow.

I have a hunch that they prefer to handle these kind of situations in person, but given that they tend to be slightly dominant I find that I get intimidated into agreeing for the sake of closing the discussion, whereas I can make precise and defended arguments in an email.

I feel that this is a case of two conflicting personal interests in how to handle a situation, so I'm not sure how to resolve it.

Overall I'd prefer to have fewer personal meetings, so I can stay focused on my daily tasks. However, when those meetings inevitably occur, it'd also be nice to be able to stand my ground.


Some more information about the current situation:

I have a meeting planned for this Friday afternoon with this colleague (Colleague A) and a few others from a different team where we'll discuss progress on a project that we're working on. Colleague A now proposed to have a meeting beforehand to discuss and prepare our side of the progress before heading into the final meeting, but most of the items described in the agenda we have already covered in an email chain beforehand. So I feel like I'd go into the meeting and merely repeat what I wrote before.

marked as duplicate by gnat, mcknz, Twyxz, GOATNine, IDrinkandIKnowThings Sep 5 '18 at 14:53

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

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    What is your preferred outcome? To have less personal meetings or to be better prepared in those meetings? – Elmy Sep 4 '18 at 13:04
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    Overall I'd prefer to have less personal meetings, so I can stay focused on my daily tasks. However, when those meetings inevitably occur, it'd also be nice to be able to stand my ground. – Guus Sep 4 '18 at 13:19
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    Does the coworker have authority over you? Can you just decline the meeting? – stannius Sep 4 '18 at 18:24
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    Could you limit the meeting by saying "I can spend 15 minutes going over it with you" or something similar? – Tas Sep 5 '18 at 0:47
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    With regard to duplicate, I think there is a significant difference between meeting protocol for external clients vs a colleague – cdkMoose Sep 5 '18 at 17:23
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How to deal with a colleague who consistently schedules meetings that should be emails?

In my experience, these types of people are best dealt with by insisting on an agenda for the meeting. Putting an agenda requirement up first before accepting the meeting may force the organizer to really think about what they want to get out of the meeting.

Hopefully, after a bit of reflection, they will come to the conclusion that you have already covered most of the items and the rest can be handled via email.

This will require a bit of discipline on your part, but the strategy can be effective. You can offer this up as a starting point if the organizer is unsure how to build one. Agenda Preparation

Try saying something like "I am very busy with my work, so in order to make sure we both get the most out of the meeting can you prepare an agenda so I can be properly prepared?"

Update based on the most recent edit: I see where you're going with this, but I don't see how you can get around it without looking like a jerk. You could try and say "Didn't we cover all this in the email chain?", but I would not expect it to get you very far.

One final thing you could try is talking to your manager. Explain to them how the topics are already covered via email, and if they aren't interested in conserving your time I think you will be out of luck.

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    @Guus I updated the answer based on your edit. Your manager is probably your best bet at this point. – Mister Positive Sep 4 '18 at 13:57
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    @Guus - take the agenda and the emails to the meeting. When Mr. A brings up item 1 on the agenda, say "According to the email on 31 Aug at 13:43, it looks like we were going to do 'x', has that changed?". Continue to do that for each item on the agenda. Should make for a short meeting, get your point across very passive/aggressively, and might just eliminate the meetings in the future, especially if your shared boss is in the meeting. – FreeMan Sep 4 '18 at 18:02
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    @Freeman, that assumes that there is only one answer to the question in that email chain. Quite often these long email chains spawn multiple answers that disagree to varying levels. In that case the request for a meeting is quite valid in my eyes. – cdkMoose Sep 4 '18 at 21:00
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    @FreeMan I'm very much inclined to follow your way of thinking, but I'm afraid that passive aggressiveness might turn a non-hostile situation hostile. – Guus Sep 5 '18 at 8:51
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    @cdkMoose - Based on my reading of the OP, it sounded like there was already a (fairly) settled answer. Your point is also very true and I've been a part of those email storms, as well. – FreeMan Sep 5 '18 at 12:31
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even/especially after a 'long' email discussion.

I think the problem may be the long emails themselves. It would appear that your colleague doesn't believe they have enough quality information from the email chain. And frankly, I'm not surprised.

It has been my experience that more replies in an email chain leads to a higher likelihood that there is information that is patently wrong within the discussion. As the number of replies grows, the context of answers can get subtly or even significantly shifted. Different people answer the same question based on different contexts. Some respondents may not have read some of the interleaved responses and answer incorrectly.

In the end, it is critical that the communication model work for everyone in order to make sure the correct information is shared. If your colleague believes that meetings are necessary to clean up the information from the email chain, than maybe the problem isn't the meetings, but the email chain itself.

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    I am glad not to be the only one to react to "long email discussion". In my experience, "long email discussions" tend to stall or get derailed, details get lost or unmentioned because nobody remembers how it started, etc... Asynchronous communication is great, but a thread format doesn't lend itself to design work: you need regular "snapshots" to pull everything into a coherent design... and get a chance to spot impedance mismatches that aroused. And at this point, a quick meeting will give you a faster turn-over, with everyone iterating on the same board. – Matthieu M. Sep 5 '18 at 7:06
  • Except that in this case the email chain was just between me and my colleague. In any other context your reply is spot on! – Guus Sep 5 '18 at 8:48
  • This. There's really nothing wrong with having a meeting to form a conclusion after a long, winding, email chain lacking in coherence. The worst thing you can do is to press ahead with work when you don't really know for sure that you have full consensus. A 30 minute meeting is not long, and it shouldn't break your flow if you already know when it's going to happen. – Lightness Races in Orbit Sep 5 '18 at 13:01
  • Personally, I hate these long email chains where there 'may' be 2 or 3 key points buried within 10 pages of emails. After the work is finished, people will say, "well, i don't see X feature that was agreed upon in the email." It turns out feature X was not specific enough & was located on page 7, paragraph 3, section 2 of the email. If you want to avoid this, provide a concise summary of the email when the chain has wrapped up. Then, your colleague may feel more comfortable that all the points have been addressed and everyone is on the same page. – L_7337 Sep 5 '18 at 14:27
  • If a stakeholder doesn't feel like the email chain contains clear and concise information, then they can summarize it in a reply email. If there's continual disagreement or a tight deadline, then you can resort to meetings -- but I feel like they should still be avoided for one key reason: meetings don't leave paper trails. You have to manually summarize them...you guessed it, in an email! Especially where high stakes or tight deadlines are concerned, having stuff in writing is paramount. – bvoyelr Mar 26 at 14:49
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A very important piece is missing, why are they scheduling these meetings?

If they're a senior person, or someone whom you respect, I highly recommend you simply ask them. It's very likely that they have some reasoning behind doing so. Maybe you agree, maybe you don't, but understanding that may help you in your own career.

Speculation

Given the situation you describe - long email chains, with multiple participants, followed by a short meeting - I believe your colleague is attempting to keep everyone on the same page with the decisions that have been made.

While these meetings are annoying, the alternatives are much worse. As email chains get longer, and people start discussing many things, some participants will start to "tune out" the noise. This can lead to people missing that a decision has been made, and missing out on an issue they should have participated in. Having a short "wrap up" meeting can help prevent any stakeholder from feeling left out and gives everyone a chance to look at the solution as a whole.

Depending on the people involved, it's also possible that the meetings are not for you. You may be there to provide immediate answers for any questions the other people have - for example, if you're the one who proposed an idea. It's less about "does Guus know this?" and more about "other people need to support Guus, let's give them one last chance to ask questions".


If they're a junior person, you may want to use this as a teaching opportunity. Ask them the benefit they see from the meeting, and then show them a better way to get the same result.


And finally, if they're a similar level person who just has a different workflow than you, pick your battles. My recommendation would be to start declining some of the invites that you feel are very well answered in email. Since you're (effectively) asking them to compromise for your preferred workflow, you should try to meet them halfway.

  • Thanks, I'll keep it in mind! In this case they're a 'similar level' and the email was just between the two of us as well, so it might very well be the different workflow you describe. – Guus Sep 5 '18 at 8:49

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