The 7 Signs of a Dysfunctional Team Meeting

Kaitlin Pike

Each week in the U.S., managers hold 55 million meetings — that’s over 1 billion in a single year. Unfortunately, most of them either aren’t needed or are badly run. The effects cause real pain for businesses. Nearly $37 billion is lost each year to unproductive meetings. And in a study across industries, companies with too many or poorly run meetings were associated with lower levels of market share, innovation, and employment stability.

How can you tell if your meeting is one of the bad ones? In this article we’ll walk you through the 7 signs that your team meeting is dysfunctional as well as what to do to get back on track.

#1: The Meeting Has No Agenda 

…What is this meeting even for? Only 37% of corporate meetings use agendas despite 73% of professionals saying they’re essential for good meetings.

Lack of an agenda also leads to uncertain team objectives and lack of accountability for what needs to be done. It can also lead to:

  • Small talk or gossip disrupting the meeting, something 54% of professionals say is the main cause of meeting disruption.
  • Team members asking unnecessary or distracting questions during the meeting
  • Discussions of topics that don’t apply to some or most people in the room

If you’re managing a meeting, and there isn’t an agenda, consider canceling or moving back until you have more clarity. Another option is to use an AI product to automatically build your agenda from week to week.

#2: No One is Taking Meeting Notes

If a manager has a meeting and no record of it is taken, did it even happen? 

Not taking notes on the outcomes of a discussion, next steps, and assignments can lead to confusion. 

If you go into a meeting and there isn’t already an assigned notetaker, make sure you find a volunteer or do it yourself. Again, AI products like Groupthink can help you record these automagically.

#3: The Meeting Goes Over 30 Minutes with No Break

People have short attention spans: 52% of meeting attendees lose interest after 30 minutes and 96% stop closely following after 50 minutes. 

Keep this in mind while building your agenda and planning the meeting’s flow. If you need to go longer than 30, take a quick stretch break or if possible come back later in the day or next day. 

#4: The Team Works Longer Hours Because of the Meeting 

Research shows that the number of meetings on company calendars have doubled in the past 50 years, and the length of these meetings have also increased. This results in far less actual working hours. In fact, 65% of employees say meetings prevent them from working on and finishing their assignments.

Even a perfectly run meeting — well-crafted agenda, 30 minutes or fewer, only essential people invited — can be detrimental if it’s one-to-many. Your team will end up stealing from their personal time to get work done, which will put them on the path to burning out.

Check in with your team to see if they’re able to get their work done during normal business hours or if its creeping into time with loved ones or the weekends. If it is, it’s time to reconsider how many meetings they attend.

#5: Employees are Multitasking During the Meeting

When employees attend a meeting that’s irrelevant to them, too long, or one-to-many, the outcome is that they will multitask: 92% of employees admit to at least occasional multitasking during a meeting whereas 41% admit to multitasking throughout all meetings. Nearly 50% said they do work unrelated to the meeting during it, while 55% said they typically catch up on emails during a meeting. 

Other multitasking activities include:

  • 39% read the news
  • 38% browse social media 
  • 35% shop online
  • 32% text a friend
  • 31% play mobile games
  • 27% draw or doodle

If you can tell your team is distracted during a meeting, consider what’s more important: The meeting, or everything else on their minds during it.

#6: Your Meeting is Boring

As Patrick Lencioni wrote in The Five Dysfunctions Of A Team, teams that fear conflict have boring meetings. And if your team fears conflict, it’s already dysfunctional.

While you’re in a meeting, watch to see if people feel safe pushing back on each other respectfully or if they’re quietly keeping thoughts to themselves. Lack of engagement leads to boredom and the group checking out mentally. 

To solve this, make sure you’re creating an environment of psychological safety in your team. When they feel empowered at the group level to question and make mistakes, your team will feel more excited to show up and make that meeting exciting.

#7: Everyone Hates the Time of Day You Picked

The dreaded timezone pickle: When your team is spread across multiple timezones, how do you decide when to meet? 

Obviously finding times that avoid normal sleeping hours is best, but the real answer is to rotate. Regular weekly meeting? Try doing one week that’s ideal timing for your team in timezone 1, and the next move it to a time that’s best for the next and so on. This spreads the intra-team empathy people feel for each other. 

Stop the Dysfunction: How to Run Meetings Your Team Loves

How do you get away from the 7 dysfunctions and run more efficient, more effective meetings? For starters, be more selective when booking a meeting, and move as much as you can to async work. Consult this handy flowchart to help you decide:

And when you really need to have a meeting, simplify your life and your team’s workloads with the right meeting tools to handle agenda setting, notetaking, and accountability followups. That’s what Groupthink does best. Sign up today for free

P.S. Need to Defend a Meeting Cancellation? Use the Calculator

One more thing. Meetings cost a lot. See how much each one is costing your company with this simple tool.

Growth Calculators logo