After having a read of this question, and it's answers, a hypothetical-esque question popped in my head.

Imagine if you'd heard some one/people had made a mistake on something you're involved with, but you don't know what they did, would it be generally appropriate to ask to be included in this meeting?

My thinking behind this is it would be useful to

  1. Give the impression you're interested in the project.
  2. Find out details of what went wrong, so maybe in the future you could notice something similar before it became a problem.
  3. (Mostly just applies if you haven't been in this type of meeting before) Find out how things like this are dealt with. Is it just the boss yelling, or is there a good to and fro to find the details of the problem.

I was also trying to think what negative affects this could give of, and all I've thought of so far is

  1. Appears that you're just trying eavesdrop on the conversation.
  • Do managers typically make announcements about these types of meeting to those who aren't involved? – user8365 Oct 1 '14 at 17:48
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    "Hear ye', hear ye'. It is time to initiate the bi-weekly chew-a-thon. Attendees are as follows: Steven, Jeremy, and Brooke." – Xrylite Oct 1 '14 at 23:04
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    @Xrylite - and the floggings will continue until morale improves. – Carson63000 Oct 2 '14 at 0:39

So.. when bad things happen, there are usually two types of meetings. Which one (or both) depends on the situation, the culture and the personalities:

1 - The True Chew Out Meeting

If this is really about "you guys really messed up, if you do it again this will be the repercussions" - then no it is absolutely not OK for you to be invited. This is a reprimand and no one wants and audience when they are reprimanded. Be respectful of your boss and your colleagues and if you are omitted, be happy and don't attend.

2 - The Lessons Learned Meeting

I'm sure many cynical people will call a lessons learned meeting a chew out meeting. But I don't.

A good lessons learned is brainstorming and analyzing - what went wrong? how can we fix it? what are our challenges and barriers and opportunities for trying something better in the future? It's inclusive, and forward looking. There will be enough discussion about the problems to clarify the impact, but it intentionally avoids blame.

If you were impacted, or you know you would be a good part of the solution - you may ask "is this a lessons learned meeting? would my attendance be useful?" if you know this sort of meeting is happening.

Be prepared for "no" - there's all sorts of reasons, but the boss gets to decide in a touchy situation, who's a good part of the discussion and who should be omitted. The pantheon of reasons are too diverse to mention -- don't take it personally.

Soul Searching

If the instinct to run towards the fire hits in reality - take a second and do some soul searching. If you honestly think that you can be a productive part of a lessons learned and the outcome would meaningfully affect your work, then proceed.

But realize - most people do love some drama, and it's much better to be part of drama where you are not to blame. The initial gut reaction of "I want to be a part of that" may be a desire to learn coupled with a desire to behold the play out of interpersonal relationships. It's easy to be convinced that passive learning will be useful here - but if it's so outside of your range of meaningful influence that you don't share in the ownership of the problem or the solution - curb the need and ask the participants later if there's anything you should know.

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My first instinct is No, this is not appropriate.

Being in the meeting as someone who is not directly involved only serves to make those being chewed out feel even more embarassed, especially if you are someone at a higher level than them. Ideally, you shouldn't even know this meeting is happening if you are not on the invite list. The purpose of the meeting is to fix a problem with specific people, not to publicly ridicule them. There's a reason why meetings like this usually happen with closed doors.

The reasons you are interested in attended are good ones, but you can answer them through much better means. Simply ask the manager involved about the problem, and he can describe it to you without even mentioning names. If you are interested in how a meeting like this is run from a managerial standpoint, then that can also be learned through a conversation. It gets you the information without being an awkward bystander in an uncomfortable conversation.

So while the information you are interested in could be useful, it can be gained without intruding into a conversation you don't need to be a part of.

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Don't initiate the request. In fact, you shouldn't show up at ANY meeting unless explicitly invited. If your management thinks you should attend, they'll invite you. In point of fact, they'll make you an offer you can't refuse.

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