Too much hui and not enough do-ey

By Alice Neville

They're the bane of many white-collar workers' existence, but new research shows even bosses hate being trapped in never-ending meetings.

A survey of more than 6000 executives in 20 countries, including 207 in New Zealand, reveals Kiwi managers think more than a quarter of the meetings they attend are a waste of time.

The main reason is participants lose focus and discuss anything they want, and many didn't know why the meeting was called and thought there were people who didn't need to be there.

The study, conducted among finance, accounting and HR managers by recruitment company Robert Half, found managers in Australia and the UK were even more frustrated, believing about a third of their meetings were a waste of time.

European execs took out the top spots, with managers in Switzerland and Spain deeming almost 40 per cent of workplace conflabs pointless.

But they know how to get things done in tiny Luxembourg, where just 13.7 per cent of meetings were considered a waste of time, with Arabic hotspot Dubai close behind.

Business New Zealand chief executive Phil O'Reilly said Kiwi meetings are less likely to be a waste of time because our companies are smaller.

"You'll find the larger the company, the higher the waste-of-time meeting quotient," he says. "Smaller companies tend to be a little more efficient."

Another factor in Kiwis' favour is that we cut to the chase.

"One of the things New Zealanders have going for them culturally is they're not bound up in form," said O'Reilly.

"They're not excessively courteous or bound by rules of social status."

But we're less willing to be critical of our colleagues.

"New Zealanders are much less likely to call fellow workers to account," he said. "They don't like saying, 'well, what are you going to do about it?' Australians do that better."

Robert Half senior manager Megan Alexander said with companies operating on reduced staff numbers during the recession, managers had to think carefully about the reasons for having meetings.

"All our surveys show staff are feeling under more stress and feel under pressure to achieve more with fewer resources.

"If they are compelled to attend meetings they feel are pointless, they will feel even more stressed."

* The bosses' views

Peter McClure, Fonterra Brands managing director:

"I hate meetings. I think many organisations are over-meetinged and probably my organisation is the same."

Annette Presley, Slingshot founder:

"Most meetings get sidetracked by people's personal agendas. Cut down the agenda - have fewer points, have an action plan and stick to it. Open plan offices lessen the need for meetings."

Dick Hubbard, Hubbards Foods founder and former Mayor of Auckland:

"I'm not a great fan of meetings. There have been times in my business career when I've felt the optimum number of people for business meetings is one."

- Herald on Sunday

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