Reasons many employees dread all-team meetings

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In my previous article, I mentioned that all-team meetings (big meetings with 30+ people) create a risk of degrading employee’s experience as an employee.  When managers a) try to entertain or b) praise the great work of people that aren’t so great and who did work that was terrible, it is guarantee that at least some people in the room will cringe.  Especially when the director calling the meeting makes it a mandatory meeting, this guarantees that people who don’t want to be there will be there.

But why stop at two reasons people cringe at all team meetings when there are so many more reasons all-team meetings could be considered high-risk and even damaging to the team?

Forced interaction that is not work-related

Frequently people will have to introduce themselves to their neighbor or someone they don’t know and “get to know” them.  This is great on one level, and painful to many on another.  Those who like to get to know each other and socialize love it.  Those who would rather be back at their desk getting work done think it’s pointless.  Just because the director thinks that all the people ought to all know each other, this is not a good venue for doing this.

The director should instead identify work-related efforts to get people from different parts of the organization to work with each other.  Creating a working relationship that involves producing real deliverables will be much better than ad-hoc forced networking at an all-team meeting.  If you want people to socialize, then socializing should be the main event (but still don’t expect everyone to be there).

Not relevant

I warn against trying to entertain people at an all team meeting, because this can create the most embarrassing moments.  Slightly less embarrassing, but no less painful, is being bored through lack of relevance.  An all team meeting is boring precisely because it often talks about stuff not related to the person’s job.


I haven’t been able to figure out why it is that the bigger the meeting is, the longer it is.  My observation is that an all-team meeting is at least two hours, sometimes three, maybe more.  And they tend to go well past the regularly scheduled time.  So if the director is trying to set an example of how to manage a meeting, and meeting runs long by 45 minutes, so much for setting an example on the smart use of time.

Irrelevant Games

This is an off-shoot of trying to entertain the full team.  Play a game!  I don’t really care what game it is, unless you are entirely skilled at creating a game that is specifically related to a work-challenge currently at hand, then it this will come across to some –not all—as filler, and as a waste of time.  Games are fun, but is fun the objective of an all-team meeting?  If so, is the message that you expect the non-all-team meetings to be half-filled with non-work-related game time?  That’s the message that’s being sent.  Games should be played during breaks and off hours, so wrap up the all-team meeting and let people go out and play.

The costs of the meeting

There are those who attend a meeting with 50 to 100 people, and immediately start calculating what the cost of the event is.  Let’s say the average salary is $50,000.  That’s about $25 an hour.  50 people, 2 hours at $25 hour.  That’s $2500 to hear the director play games, entertain, and talk – and then there’s the stuff that is not being done while everyone is at the mandatory all team meeting.  Is it worth it?  I’m sure there will be some who doubt the director’s fiscal responsibility.

Not able to get work done

The director has called an all-team meeting for 60 people, lasting 2 hours.  Perhaps a quarter of those 60 people had some pressing deadline or responsibility for that day.  That’s 15 people who don’t want to be there, would rather do their work, and do a good job at their work.  That better be a really good meeting to pull these folks from getting their work done on time.  It might be a late night at the office for these folks.

Not having to do something differently after the meeting

Perhaps the most pernicious of all. You attend an all-team meeting.  You’ve heard three or four director-level people talk.  You’ve learned a lot about the organization.  Now what do you have to do differently on your job?  Nothing.   There is rarely an effort to equate the information being shared at a group meeting with what on the job needs to be done differently.  This, of course is hard to do.  However, one the hallmarks for a good meeting is that there is some change as a result of the meeting.  If the all-team meeting can’t do this, then should you expect the other meetings that happen in your organization to be any different?

I’m being pretty tough on the all-team meeting.  That’s because all-team meetings can be pretty tough. I’m not saying all people hate all-team meetings, just a lot of people!  So if you’re planning an all-team meeting, beware!

Related Articles:

Do your all-team meetings make your team cringe?

Quick tips for making all-hands meetings tolerable and useful

Criteria to generate a virtuous cycle for meetings

How to get out of what seem to be useless meetings

How to get out of really useless meetings

A leading indicator for team performance: Chart your meeting quality

Nine simple tips to make meetings more compelling

More reasons mandatory meetings are bad for you and bad for your team

Making it a mandatory meeting sabotages the meeting

More reasons mandatory meetings are bad for you and bad for your team

The first step to getting out of the mandatory meeting cycle: Don’t call meetings if you were planning one-way communication

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About Walter Oelwein
Walter Oelwein, CMC, CPT, helps managers become better at managing. To do this, he founded Business Performance Consulting, LLC .


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