In a previous company I worked for, I remember thinking that a lot of the meetings people were scheduling were just going to be a waste of time for me. You’ve probably found yourself in the same situation – you could predict which meetings were going to be unproductive, having to sit and listen to the extroverts brainstorm and shotgun out ideas, or the anal retentives who hash out every last detail of a plan that should have already been handled by the person managing that plan. Like me, you probably found yourself thinking, “You certainly don’t need me to be here, just for the sake of my being here.”
So, I’ve gotten into the habit of asking just a few questions whenever I’m asked to ‘sit in’ on a meeting that I think might become a major drag on my schedule. It’s not that I don’t want to be a team player, but the bottom line for me is, “what decisions are going to be made at this meeting?” Here are a few of those questions which you might consider asking the meeting organizer the next time you get the feeling that you really might not be a contributing factor in the success of said meeting:
- Would you let me know what the exact topic is that you’ll be discussing?
- How long is this meeting going to be?
- Who else is sitting in on the meeting? And why?
- What decision are you trying to make at the meeting? Specifically.
- What part do I play in the decision process?
I think it’s fair to ask for specifics, because what I saw many times in meetings that were unproductive were attendees blanking out and trying to multi-task on their laptops and phones – which just sends a horrible message to those attendees who actually should be there making important decisions. People react passive-aggressively when their time is wasted and that leads to future bad behavior; like showing up late, not contributing, making negative comments or blatantly just trying to screw up the meeting to make a point.
Be professional and ask the right questions if your gut tells you you’re really not the right person to sit in on any given meeting. No need to be rude, just find out what role you play in that meeting coming to a final decision.