We recently solicited readers to submit their most pressing career-related questions.
With the help of Lynn Taylor, a national workplace expert and the author of “Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant: How to Manage Childish Boss Behavior and Thrive in Your Job,” we’ve answered the following: “How can I get out of a meeting faster, especially when I feel ‘stuck?'”
“I think a lot of people face this problem at work,” says Taylor. “Poorly run meetings in corporate America have become a pandemic, and technology has only changed the venue, not their pervasiveness. As a result, you’re often invited to meetings that are inconsequential to your work or contributions. You’re stuck.”
So the onus is on you to find a life raft and escape unscathed in order to be productive, she adds. But how do you exit a meeting without offending anyone or risking your job?
Here are some tips:
Take preemptive action.
“If this tiresome practice is recurring, one of the best ways to handle it is to take preventive steps before you’re dragged into the next meeting,” suggests Taylor. “Otherwise you’re signing up for a continued morale and productivity-zapping frenzy.”
Have this discussion in private, before the meeting, and diplomatically ask for clarification. Ask politely for a rough definition of your role and expectations on your contributions.
“Come from a position of wanting a better understanding so that you can be of value,” she says. “You don’t want to put the host on the defensive as if you’re RSVPing ‘No’ to their party. Mention your impending deadlines and express that you want to use your time most efficiently.”
If it’s your boss, tread particularly carefully, and offer choices about your time and how they want you to spend it.
Finally, she says, offer to alternatively provide any needed input for the group prior to the meeting — and to also review meeting notes afterwards from a colleague.
Accelerate the discussion.
Do what you can to move the meeting along. “Using the prepared agenda or at least the verbal agenda set out at the beginning, ask a question about the next item. That can often serve as a hint that it’s time to move on,” says Taylor.
Divert the conversation.
Openly interject your specialty area and ask several questions, “Would this affect Human Resources in terms of X?” “Would HR be able to help, providing Y?”
“If you’re truly stuck in a useless meeting, you’ll get a ‘deer in the headlights’ response,” she says. “You’ll quickly establish that there’s no redeeming value in your being there. That sets the stage for you to politely make an exit at some point. You can explain later than you had xyz come up, which you had to handle.”
Also, by asking questions, it’s clear that you’re showing interest and making an attempt to at least engage.
Situate yourself strategically.
If you’re routinely invited to very large meetings that have no bearing on your job and you really must leave to handle other matters, first make sure you have your boss’s approval to split. Once you do, look for seats near the exit, Taylor suggests. “Don’t make the mistake of compensating for your impending departure by getting the best seat, making great eye contact, and then making a scene when you leave.”
Avoid passive aggressive techniques.
“When you go from being bored to angry about feeling like a caged animal in meeting purgatory, don’t look at your watch, smart phone, start texting, or typing incessantly on your tablet,” she says. “You’ll only distract people, and they won’t get the message.”
Pass a note.
“Assuming you’ve already spoken with the meeting host culprit in the past, but you’re in yet another misfit of a meeting and need to disappear, you can always rely on the tried and true high school note passing method,” Taylor says. “Leave a folded note with one of your colleagues and ask that it be passed along to the meeting holder. Write something like, ‘Hi Joan. So sorry I had to leave early. I have an important client call at 4pm. I will try to get notes from Sam. Thanks for your understanding.'”
Offer to help host the meeting.
If any of these meetings do relate to your area, but they last for an eternity and only involve a small group, offer to help. “You may be able to host it in your office, bring snacks, arrange for technology support, etc.,” she says. “If you’re involved, even in some small way, then you may have more of a role to play in bringing the meeting to its long-awaited conclusion.”
Provide positive reinforcement when meetings are concise.
When managing up with any boss or manager, they often need to be reminded when they do things right. (The same goes for any colleague who may hold a meeting.)
“Make sure that you make the extra effort to encourage your boss and others when their meetings are succinct and productive,” Taylor advises. “Everyone will be thankful.”
This article is published in collaboration with Business Insider. Publication does not imply endorsement of views by the World Economic Forum.
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Author: Jacquelyn Smith is the careers editor at Business Insider.
Image: By Luis Argerich from Buenos Aires, Argentina (Meeting room Uploaded by guillom) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons