- LAST REVIEWED: 05 December 2016
- LAST MODIFIED: 30 March 2017
- DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199846740-0017
- LAST REVIEWED: 05 December 2016
- LAST MODIFIED: 30 March 2017
- DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199846740-0017
Workplace meetings are typically defined as three or more individuals coming together to discuss a work-related matter. They are typically scheduled in advance, last between thirty and sixty minutes, and can be conducted face-to-face, in distributed contexts, or in a combination of forms. According to the research presented here, employees spend an average of six hours per week in scheduled meetings, and managers in larger organizations spend the majority of their time, up to 75 percent, on meeting-related activities (e.g., planning, scheduling, and attending meetings). These extraordinarily common workplace events take many forms (e.g., face-to-face, sit-down, stand-up, and virtual) and are used for a multitude of purposes (e.g., Decision Making, collaborating, organizing, directing work behavior, disseminating information, and developing strategy). Workplace meetings are studied across disciplines, including management, psychology, sociology, anthropology, and management and information systems.
Articles and Texts
The study of workplace meetings can be traced back only a few decades, making it a rather new area of research inquiry. Though practitioners and managers identified meetings as an important target for improvement initiatives as early as the 1950s (see Strauss and Strauss 1951), Schwartzman 1986 is the first to take a scientific approach to the study of meetings in and of themselves. This article was followed by Schwartzman 1989, which expanded on many of the highlights of Schwartzman 1986. Schwartzman and Berman further articulated the neglected nature of the workplace meeting in Schwartzman and Berman 1994, focusing more directly on the cultural building and fragmenting aspects of meetings. 3M Meeting Management Team 1987 documents a series of internal organizational studies on workplace meetings culminating in a guidebook for managers on how to run meetings. Van Vree 1999 adds an additional element to the importance of studying workplace meetings by tracing the development of the modern meeting form through the historical development of Western civilization. An early study of a particular meeting type, Brinkerhoff 1972 looks at authority and hierarchy in the use of staff conferences. The only cross-cultural discussion of workplace meetings is found in Lewis 2005, a chapter discussing differences apparent in various cultural contexts in terms of timeliness and structure of meetings. Scott, et al. 2012 reveals that meetings are becoming increasingly common in work organizations but also that the study of meetings has not increased much in academic literature.
Brinkerhoff, Merlin B. “Hierarchical Status, Contingencies, and the Administrative Staff Conference.” Administrative Science Quarterly 17.3 (September 1972): 395–407.
Studies staff conferences, a type of meeting, and focuses on their prevalence in large industrial organizations; hierarchy of authority as an attribute of organizations predicts the utilization of staff conferences.
Lewis, Richard D. When Cultures Collide: Leading across Cultures. 3d ed. Boston: Nicholas Brealey International, 2005.
Reviews cultural differences with an emphasis on cross-cultural communication and leadership. Provides one of the only comparisons of meeting design characteristics across cultures. Useful reference for leaders in organizations that function across cultural boundaries and require meetings across these groups.
Schwartzman, Helen B. “The Meeting as a Neglected Social Form in Organizational Studies.” Research in Organizational Behavior 8 (1986): 233–258.
First study to call attention to workplace meetings as an important area of inquiry for organizational researchers; emphasizes the taken-for-granted nature of meetings and calls for immediate attention by academics and managers in organizations.
Schwartzman, Helen B. The Meeting: Gatherings in Organizations and Communities. New York: Plenum, 1989.
Anthropologically based study of meetings in an organization; illustrates how meetings constitute and reconstitute the organization. A seminal work that initiated the modern study of workplace meetings.
Schwartzman, Helen B., and R. H. Berman. “Meetings: The Neglected Routine.” In Anthropological Perspectives on Organizational Culture. Edited by Tomoko Hamada and Willis E. Sibley, 63–93. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1994.
Update of Schwartzman’s earlier work concerning the importance of workplace meetings and again indicating the general neglect of this common workplace activity; focuses on the routine nature of the meeting in organizations.
Scott, Cliff, Linda Shanock, and Steven Rogelberg. “Meetings at Work: Advancing the Theory and Practice of Meetings.” Small Group Research 43.2 (2012): 127–129.
Despite the rise in the frequency of meetings in work organizations, research focusing on the study of meetings has not risen accordingly. The authors provide an overview of meeting science thus far, including theory and practice.
Strauss, Bert, and Frances Strauss. New Ways to Better Meetings. New York: Viking, 1951.
One of the earliest practice-oriented books concerning workplace meetings; emphasis on best practices and prescriptions for improving workplace meetings generally.
3M Meeting Management Team. How to Run Better Business Meetings: A Reference Guide for Managers. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1987.
Innovative single-organization study of workplace meetings; provides recommendations for managers who run meetings, including best practices discovered in the 3M organization.
van Vree, Wilbert. Meetings, Manners, and Civilization: The Development of Modern Meeting Behaviour. London: Leicester University Press, 1999.
Historically based look at the development of the modern meeting; discusses the idea that meetings are essential for modern society and may be a causal mechanism in the development of culture and civilization.
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