Current Directions in Psychological
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If you had to identify, in one word, the reason
why the human race has not achieved, and never
will achieve, its full potential, that word would be
—Dave Barry, American humorist (quoted in
Fotsch & Case, 2016)
Meetings are an inevitable expectation for today’s
workers—for better, or more often, for worse (Rogelberg,
Allen, Shanock, Scott, & Shuffler, 2010). Consider the
following: In the United States, there are between 11
million (Infocom, 1998) and 55 million meetings each
day (Keith, 2015), with employees averaging 6 hours
per week in meetings. Managers spend even more time
in meetings, with averages around 23 hours per week
and up to 80% of work time in meetings (Rogelberg,
Scott, & Kello, 2007). These figures demonstrate the
vast amount of organizational resources (e.g., employee
time, salaries) that go into meetings. Indeed, meetings
exist in nearly every organization regardless of culture,
industry, or size. But are these meetings worth the cost?
Unfortunately, empirical evidence tends to point to
widespread inefficiency when it comes to workplace
meetings. Some estimates indicate that as many as half
of all meetings are rated as “poor” by attendees, with
organizations wasting approximately $213 billion on
ineffective meetings per year (Keith, 2015). Further,
poorly structured meetings are costly beyond “time-is-
money” considerations, as employees’ negative disposi-
tions toward meetings can negatively influence their
perceptions of their work, well-being, and organiza-
tions’ bottom line (Allen, Rogelberg, & Scott, 2008).
When conducted appropriately, meetings can pro-
vide a forum for creative thinking, debate, discussion,
and idea generation, resulting in clear action plans and
next steps for moving work forward (Allen, Lehmann-
Willenbrock, & Rogelberg, 2015). Meetings are also
critical for sharing information across employees, solv-
ing problems, developing and implementing an orga-
nizational strategy, and hosting team debriefings (see
Table 1). Yet, more commonly, meetings can serve to
derail individual and organizational effectiveness and
well-being by demanding too much of employees’ time,
sometimes for little or no benefit. To address these
issues, more than 100 trade publications seek to pro-
vide help for managers who run, lead, and attend meet-
ings. However, these sources often do not account for
the developing scientific field of workplace-meetings
776307CDPXXX10.1177/0963721418776307Mroz et al.Science of Workplace Meetings
Joseph A. Allen, University of Nebraska Omaha, Department of
Psychology, 6001 Dodge St., Omaha, NE 68182-0274
Do We Really Need Another Meeting?
The Science of Workplace Meetings
Joseph E. Mroz1, Joseph A. Allen1, Dana C. Verhoeven2,
and Marissa L. Shuffler2
1Department of Psychology, University of Nebraska Omaha, and 2Department of Psychology,
Meetings are routine in organizations, but their value is often questioned by the employees who must sit through them
daily. The science of meetings that has emerged as of late provides necessary direction toward improving meetings,
but an evaluation of the current state of the science is much needed. In this review, we examine current directions for
the psychological science of workplace meetings, with a focus on applying scientific findings about the activities that
occur before, during, and after meetings that facilitate success. We conclude with concrete recommendations and a
checklist for promoting good meetings, as well as some thoughts on the future of the science of workplace meetings.
meetings, organizations, workplace
2 Mroz et al.
Given these challenges, the need to apply findings
from meeting science outside the scientific realm is
increasing. Accordingly, in this review, we focus on
exploring the systematic, scientific study of workplace
meetings. We offer an overview of the literature, draw-
ing from almost 200 articles published in the last
decade, offering the most up-to-date evidence. After
exploring a brief history of meeting science, we provide
an overview of considerations and best practices orga-
nized around three key phases of meetings: before,
during, and after.
The Science of Meetings
Meetings are a unique context—intertwined with, yet
distinct from, broader work on groups and teams—with
wide-ranging implications for how individuals within
organizations perform in their roles and develop atti-
tudes about coworkers, the work itself, and the orga-
nization. Meeting science is the systematic study of
what occurs before, during, and after meetings; the
outcomes of meetings; and how meetings fit within
broader organizational contexts (Olien, Rogelberg,
Lehmann-Willenbrock, & Allen, 2015; see Table 2).
Although meeting science certainly complements and
informs the science of teams, especially given the wide-
spread use of meetings by teams, meeting science is
context specific. The science of meetings focuses on
the specific, dynamic context in which teams and
groups operate. This is not to say that every meeting is
the same, but that the meeting context is a common
period of concentrated team interaction, where out-
comes can be pivotal for directing future interactions,
and is therefore especially important to understand.
Meeting science sprang from early work by Schwartz-
man (1986) and Boden (1994), who argued for meetings
and talk in organizations as an object of study, rather
than a medium through which to study other topics.
Therefore, much of meeting science focuses on meet-
ings in which talk is the action—where people make
decisions, discuss a problem, and search for solutions.
Following this early work, meeting science began to
develop as researchers from various fields applied new
methods and techniques to the systematic study of
meetings (cf. Allen etal., 2015). These initial efforts
defined a meeting as any prescheduled, work-focused
gathering of at least two people (Schwartzman, 1986),
while more recent conceptualizations explain that
meetings need not be prearranged, but the discussion
must be more structured than a simple talk among
coworkers (Rogelberg, Leach, Warr, & Burnfield, 2006).
However, not all meetings are created equal. Many of
us can imagine what characterizes a meeting as “bad,”
such as starting the meeting late, having no clear
agenda, getting off topic, being too long, failing to
establish clear next steps or action items, and multitask-
ing among the attendees (e.g., e-mailing) during the
meeting. In contrast, effective meetings should include
key personnel who possess the functional expertise
required for the task at hand, should provide relevant
and important information, are conducted in a timely
and punctual manner, and are productive (Allen etal.,
Applying Meeting Science to Ensure
Good Meetings: Key Questions and
Expanding from these early studies, meetings research
has begun to produce best practices for before, during,
and after the meeting. In the following sections, we
examine these different meeting phases, highlighting
Table 1. Overview of Some Primary Purposes of Meetings
Share information Information is distributed among attendees but not necessarily reacted to or acted on.
Example: Team members attend weekly update meetings, providing updates about what they
worked on since the last meeting.
Solve problems and
Attendees troubleshoot a new or unusual issue and may decide on how to resolve the issue.
Example: A computer programming team meets to discuss ways to speed up a slow program;
members assess the problem, brainstorm solutions leveraging their different expertise, and finally
create a plan for implementing the solution.
Develop and implement
Leaders create and discuss strategic directions for the organization and how to implement changes.
Example: A top management team meets to discuss organizational goals and values to establish an
organizational strategy and develop plans.
Debrief a team after a
Following an event or other milestone, a team discusses and reflects on what they expected to
happen, what happened, what went well, and what could have been improved.
Example: Firefighters hold a team debriefing after responding to a call to learn from the event for
Science of Workplace Meetings 3
evidence-based practices to ensure meeting effective-
ness, which are summarized in the form of a checklist
in Table 3. Additionally, each section opens with key
questions generated from thinking about meetings as
existing in three phases: before, during, and after the
meeting (Allen etal., 2015).
Before the meeting: meeting design
Key questions: How should meetings be structured?
When should we have a meeting? Who should
Leveraging what is known about factors that contribute
to employee perceptions of meeting effectiveness, psy-
chologists who study meetings have considered design
characteristics that promote effective team meetings.
Design characteristics concern structural factors related
to the meeting. For example, circulating a written
agenda before the meeting, going over a verbal agenda
at the start of the meeting, starting and ending the
meeting on time, and ensuring that the meeting room
and equipment are appropriate and high quality
improve employees’ perceptions of meeting effective-
ness (Leach, Rogelberg, Warr, & Burnfield, 2009). In
terms of meeting structure, meetings should operate
according to an agenda that all attendees have access
to prior to the meeting, allowing them to make neces-
sary preparations (Cohen, Rogelberg, Allen, & Luong,
2011). Another important question to consider before
a meeting is whether a meeting is necessary. Many
meetings occur when another form of communication
would be more effective. Meetings that exist simply to
Table 2. Before, During, and After Meetings: Key Findings From Three Areas of Meeting Science
Context and key finding Reference
Before meetings: meeting design and composition
Frequency, diversity, and preparation
Attending many meetings, especially bad meetings, may increase
employee stress, fatigue, and perceived workload.
Luong & Rogelberg (2005)
Functionally diverse groups can generate better solutions during problem
solving because of their ability to consider a greater range of possible
Horwitz & Horwitz (2007)
Attendees should come to the meeting prepared and read the agenda to
improve meeting quality and discussion.
Cohen, Rogelberg, Allen, & Luong (2011)
During meetings: individual actions, interpersonal interactions, and leader behaviors
Arriving late to a meeting spurs negative social reactions and behavioral
intentions and reduces objective meeting quality.
Allen, Lehmann-Willenbrock, & Rogelberg
(2018); Mroz & Allen (2017)
High-performing employees participate more than low-performers in
Humor and laughter patterns stimulate positive behaviors and group
Lehmann-Willenbrock & Allen (2014)
Complaining is contagious, and groups with complainers perform poorly. Kauffeld & Lehmann-Willenbrock (2012)
Managers can build employee engagement by making meetings relevant,
short, and participatory.
Allen & Rogelberg (2013)
Interactional fairness in meetings can make attendees’ participation in
meetings more likely.
Kauffeld & Lehmann-Willenbrock (2012)
After meetings: proximal and distal outcomes
Meetings help set or adjust strategic directions for organizations. Jarzabkowski & Seidl (2008)
Debriefing meetings help build and reinforce an organization’s climate for
Dunn, Scott, Allen, & Bonilla (2016)
Positive team interactions in meetings predict organizational success. Kauffeld & Lehmann-Willenbrock (2012)
Satisfaction with meetings is related to overall job satisfaction. Rogelberg, Allen, Shanock, Scott, & Shuffler (2010)
4 Mroz et al.
share routine, nonurgent information that does not
involve problem solving, decision making, or discussion
should be avoided.
The second decision that meeting facilitators must
make prior to a meeting is who should attend. People
often attend meetings that are not relevant to their
work, and they do not add much to the meeting itself.
Meeting leaders should consider the roles and contribu-
tions of all members who are anticipated to attend a
meeting by answering questions such as what the goal
of the meeting is, what expertise is needed to meet this
goal (Allen etal., 2008), and how frequently we need
Table 3. Checklist of Factors That Promote Good Meetings
Context and checklist item Source for further information
Call a meeting only when necessary. Luong & Rogelberg (2005)
Schedule meeting length to fit with meeting goals; avoid
Leach, Rogelberg, Warr, & Burnfield (2009)
Keep meeting size small by including only those people
whose expertise and knowledge are required.
Boivie, Bednar, Aguilera, & Andrus (2016)
Match technology to meeting objectives—use rich media (e.g.,
videoconferencing, teleconferencing) for virtual attendees.
Allison, Shuffler, & Wallace (2015)
Leader and attendee responsibilities
Set clear goals and desired outcomes for the meeting. Leach etal. (2009)
Prepare an agenda that is circulated in advance. Leach etal. (2009)
Make sure the meeting is relevant to everyone invited. Allen & Rogelberg (2013)
Come prepared by reviewing the agenda. Cohen, Rogelberg, Allen, & Luong (2011)
Ensure that technology is working and ready to go prior to
the meeting start time.
Allison etal. (2015)
Arrive early (or on time). Allen, Lehmann-Willenbrock, & Rogelberg (2018); Mroz &
Avoid complaining, dominating communication behavior,
and inappropriate verbal statements.
Kauffeld & Lehmann-Willenbrock (2012)
Avoid doing unrelated activities and nonparticipation. Odermatt etal. (2018)
Follow an agenda that lays out clear goals and outcomes for
Leach etal. (2009)
Start the meeting on time. Rogelberg etal. (2014)
Avoid distractions and multitasking during the meeting. Odermatt etal. (2018)
Allow attendees to participate in the decision-making
process. If a decision is already made, let everyone know.
Mroz, Yoerger, & Allen (2018); Yoerger, Crowe, & Allen
Actively encourage everyone to participate. Malouff, Calic, McGrory, Murrell, & Schutte (2012)
Intervene when interpersonal communication patterns
Odermatt etal. (2018)
Send meeting minutes and action items out immediately
Cohen etal. (2011)
Briefly assess meeting satisfaction and quality immediately
following meetings to inform future meeting design.
Rogelberg, Allen, Shanock, Scott, & Shuffler (2010)
Incorporate meeting satisfaction as a component of
organization-wide employee engagement and satisfaction
Rogelberg etal. (2010)
Have leaders critically examine routine meetings to
determine their necessity and value.
Luong & Rogelberg (2005)
Science of Workplace Meetings 5
to meet to achieve our goal (Luong & Rogelberg, 2005).
As with any form of goal setting, difficult (yet achiev-
able) and specific goals for meetings should lead to
higher meeting success (Locke & Latham, 2006). Ensur-
ing that all of the people invited to the meeting have
meaningful contributions to make based on their roles
or expertise can also impact their subsequent attitudes
toward workplace meetings and their overall job satis-
faction. As Allen and Rogelberg (2013) found, employ-
ees who view their manager-led meetings as relevant
experience a greater sense of psychological meaning-
fulness in the meetings, which, in turn, results in more
highly engaged employees. However, not all premeet-
ing preparations reside with the meeting facilitator.
Meeting attendees can also promote meeting success
by reviewing the agenda before the meeting so they
are prepared to offer their input. Nonetheless, the deci-
sions made prior to a meeting can only set the meeting
up for success; what happens during the meeting is
where the real challenge of meeting effectiveness
comes into play (see Table 2 for an overview).
During the meeting: critical leader
and attendee actions
Key questions: What can leaders do during the
meeting to ensure that it runs smoothly? What can
attendees do? How should attendees interact?
During the meeting, the behaviors exhibited by attend-
ees and leaders, and interpersonal interactions that
occur among attendees, can facilitate or hinder meeting
effectiveness. For example, Sonnentag (2001), in an
early study in this area, reported that high-performing
and low-performing employees act differently in meet-
ings. High performers contribute more than low per-
formers by helping to set goals, facilitating group
understanding of work problems and seeking feedback.
Likewise, expert employees—those who are highly
functional in a given area—also contribute more to
meetings than nonexperts (Sonnentag & Volmer, 2009).
Additionally, there are universal actions, such as arriv-
ing to the meeting on time (Mroz & Allen, 2017), paying
attention, and avoiding distracting behaviors (e.g.,
emailing, instant messaging), that are important for all
Because people do not exist in a vacuum, and much
of what we do and think is influenced by the social
context and the behavior of others, meeting success is
also shaped by the behaviors and interaction patterns
that emerge among group members (Lehmann-
Willenbrock, Meyers, Kauffeld, Neininger, & Henschel,
2011). By targeting communication patterns within
meetings, several studies have linked behavioral
patterns to outcomes of interest. For example, people
who participate in a meeting by bringing up problems
relating to poor work processes or performance feel
less negative about their work a day after the meeting
(Starzyk, Sonnentag, & Albrecht, 2018). On the other
hand, when one person starts to complain in a meeting
by expressing so-called “killer phrases” that reflect futil-
ity or an unchangeable state (e.g., “nothing can be done
about that issue” or “nothing works”), other meeting
attendees begin to complain, which starts a complain-
ing cycle that can reduce group outcomes (Kauffeld &
Furthermore, humor and laughter patterns in meeting
interactions seem to stimulate positive meeting behav-
iors, such as praising other people, encouraging people
to participate, and proposing solutions to problems, that
predict team performance concurrently and even 2 years
later (Lehmann-Willenbrock & Allen, 2014). Leveraging
this knowledge, meeting attendees should take stock of
the negative impacts that complaining can have on
meeting success, while meeting facilitators should work
to quell complaining as early as possible. Meeting suc-
cess often rests on the swift intervention and clear direc-
tion that meeting leaders provide.
During meetings, leaders play an unequivocal role
in establishing the meeting tone and focus. After estab-
lishing and circulating an agenda in the premeeting
phase, the facilitator is also responsible for setting a
clear purpose at the meeting onset and following the
agenda during the meeting to ensure that it stays on
track. Leaders who make meetings relevant to subordi-
nates, allow people to speak freely and to participate
in making decisions, and use time in meetings wisely
can foster engagement among their subordinates (Allen
& Rogelberg, 2013). Meeting leaders should also be
readily equipped to recognize dysfunctional behaviors
among attendees (e.g., complaining) and then to inter-
vene at the appropriate time to refocus the meeting.
For example, if complaining begins, the meeting leader
should not participate in the complaining but instead
try to move discussion back to agenda items.
After the meeting: considerations for
follow-up and lasting impact
Key questions: What are our actions from here?
How do we ensure follow through? How do
meetings impact the attendees and the organization?
What are the immediate and distal outcomes?
While much of meeting success depends on the prepa-
ratory steps taken prior to a meeting and the actions
of leaders and followers during the meeting, ensuring
meeting effectiveness does not end there. Indeed, actions
6 Mroz et al.
taken well after a meeting ends can make or break
attendees’ perceptions of meeting success. Therefore, it
is critical that meeting organizers follow through on
meeting objectives by sending meeting minutes to all
relevant parties as a record of decisions made during the
meeting, the action plan for next steps, and the desig-
nated roles and responsibilities assigned to achieve
meeting outcomes (Cohen etal., 2011). Sending minutes
also provides meeting details to anyone who was unable
to attend and facilitates attendee follow-through. In addi-
tion to these actions, leaders must also seek out employee
feedback regarding meeting satisfaction to help mitigate
the negative perceptions associated with meetings.
One additional critical application of the science of
meetings after they occur is in the seeking and incor-
porating of attendee feedback to inform future meeting
design. Because researchers have found that more time
spent in meetings is associated with greater fatigue,
stress, and perceived workload, it is important that feed-
back regarding meeting satisfaction is acquired on a
regular basis, especially to identify what makes a meet-
ing bad or unsatisfying. Indeed, Rogelberg and col-
leagues (2006) expanded this line of inquiry and found
that bad meetings were negatively associated with well-
being, whereas good meetings did not have the same
detrimental effect. Further, meeting satisfaction has been
noted to be a significant, distinct predictor of employee
job satisfaction, even when accounting for other facets
of satisfaction (e.g., satisfaction with pay, promotion
opportunities, the work itself, and coworkers; Rogelberg
etal., 2010). Meetings have also been linked to employee
engagement, or the degree to which employees invest
personal energies in performing their work (Christian,
Garza, & Slaughter, 2011). Accordingly, managers who
take the time to identify potential concerns or issues
with current meetings may be able to better structure
future meetings if they actively request and are open to
feedback after the meeting.
The Future of Meeting Science
Although current work on meetings reveals a great deal
about how meetings influence individuals, teams, and
organizations, emerging work suggests promising new
directions for the study of meetings and further devel-
opment of the science. We provide some insights into
new work on meetings, as well as some suggestions on
how to advance the field. First, responding to general
calls to move psychological research away from sur-
veys, innovative research in the meeting context has
begun to examine video- and audio-recorded behaviors
in meetings. By focusing on behaviors, researchers can
begin to examine specific, behaviorally based interven-
tions to help meeting leaders and other individuals
overcome poor communication problems, complaining,
and otherwise-derailed meetings. New behavioral stud-
ies of meetings also consider patterns of behaviors
within groups and how those behaviors relate to indi-
vidual, group, and organizational outcomes. Lehmann-
Willenbrock and Allen (2018) provided an overview of
these methods, classified as the modeling of temporal-
interaction dynamics, and their complexities.
Second, exploration is needed regarding the impact
of technology in meetings both for meeting purposes
and for other purposes. Technology can be pivotal for
bringing attendees together from around the world via
virtual meetings (Allison, Shuffler, & Wallace, 2015), but
it can also be a major distraction. Having phones or
laptops available during meetings may encourage mul-
titasking, resulting in inattention and distraction, but
the effect is not yet clear. Work is currently underway
that seeks to address how meeting attendees respond
to others using cellphones and laptops during meetings,
either for personal or business-related responses, but
additional research is needed to better understand what
the right role may be for technology.
Third, and perhaps most importantly, meeting sci-
ence needs additional conceptual and theoretical clar-
ity. To fully emerge as a science in workplace meetings,
meeting science must grapple with the questions of
why and how meetings work and impact other indi-
viduals, beyond reliance on the variety of current theo-
ries. For example, one theoretical orientation for
conceptualizing the role of meetings in organizations
is meetings as stressors (Scott, Allen, Rogelberg, &
Kello, 2015). Work in this vein (e.g., Luong & Rogelberg,
2005; Rogelberg etal., 2006) has often used conservation-
of-resources (COR) theory (Hobfoll, 1989). In brief,
COR theory proposes that individuals experience psy-
chological stress when valued resources are lost or
threatened. In the case of meetings, the resources are
often time for work and a sense of goal accomplishment
(Mroz & Allen, 2017). Another theoretical approach is
to conceptualize meetings as rituals wherein groups
and organizations form cultures, identities, and climates
(Scott etal., 2015). Nonetheless, the articles reviewed
here occasionally suffer from a lack of theory or theo-
ries that are mostly mundane and do not directly
explain what is observed. Unifying meetings-oriented
theories that focus on multiple levels of analysis could
overcome these limitations.
Allen, J. A., Lehmann-Willenbrock, N., & Rogelberg, S. G.
(Eds.) (2015). (See References). An edited book with
many chapters on meeting science.
Cohen, M. A., Rogelberg, S. G., Allen, J. A., & Luong, A.
(2011). (See References). An article that examines the idea
that how meetings are designed can influence perceived
Science of Workplace Meetings 7
Lehmann-Willenbrock, N. L., & Allen, J. A. (2018). (See
References). An article describing how to study and ana-
lyze behavioral patterns within groups—an emerging area
of meeting science.
Schwartzman, H. B. (1986). (See References). The original
article based on the book by the same author that was
the first scientific study of “the meeting.”
Randall W. Engle served as action editor for this article.
Declaration of Conflicting Interests
The author(s) declared that there were no conflicts of interest
with respect to the authorship or the publication of this
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