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This article offers initial theorizing on an understudied phenomenon in the workplace: the meeting after the meeting (MATM). As an informal and unscheduled event, the MATM takes place outside managerial control and has potentially far-reaching consequences. However, our current knowledge of the MATM relies primarily on practitioner observations, and conceptual work that integrates the MATM into the larger meeting science literature is missing. This article fills this gap by outlining key defining features of the MATM that can be used to structure future research. Moreover, and based on theorizing concerning the affect-generating nature of meetings, we develop an affect-based process model that focuses on the antecedents and boundary conditions of the MATM at the episodic level and shines light on meetings as a sequential phenomenon. Plain Language Summary This article sheds light on an understudied but rather common phenomenon in the workplace: The meeting after the meeting (MATM). Defined as an unscheduled, informal and confidential communication event, the MATM has the potential to create new structures in everyday organizational life. Yet, our current knowledge of this particular meeting type is very limited and largely based on anecdotal accounts by practitioners. To guide future research, this article first outlines key features of the MATM, focusing on when the MATM occurs, where it takes place, how it takes place, why it takes place, and who is involved in the MATM. Next, this article presents an affect-based process model of the MATM. To this end, antecedents and boundary conditions at the episodic level are outlined, highlighting that meetings should be seen as interconnected, sequential events.
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The meeting after the meeting:
A conceptualization and process
model
Annika L. Meinecke
University of Hamburg, Germany
Lisa Handke
Freie Universität Berlin, Germany
Abstract
This article offers initial theorizing on an understudied phenomenon in the workplace: the meeting
after the meeting (MATM). As an informal and unscheduled event, the MATM takes place outside
managerial control and has potentially far-reaching consequences. However, our current knowl-
edge of the MATM relies primarily on practitioner observations, and conceptual work that inte-
grates the MATM into the larger meeting science literature is missing. This article lls this gap by
outlining key dening features of the MATM that can be used to structure future research.
Moreover, and based on theorizing concerning the affect-generating nature of meetings, we
develop an affect-based process model that focuses on the antecedents and boundary conditions
of the MATM at the episodic level and shines light on meetings as a sequential phenomenon.
Plain Language Summary
This article sheds light on an understudied but rather common phenomenon in the workplace:
The meeting after the meeting (MATM). Dened as an unscheduled, informal and condential
communication event, the MATM has the potential to create new structures in everyday organ-
izational life. Yet, our current knowledge of this particular meeting type is very limited and
largely based on anecdotal accounts by practitioners. To guide future research, this article
rst outlines key features of the MATM, focusing on when the MATM occurs, where it takes
place, how it takes place, why it takes place, and who is involved in the MATM. Next, this article
presents an affect-based process model of the MATM. To this end, antecedents and boundary
Paper received 6 April 2021. Received revised February 8, 2022. Accepted April 11, 2022
Corresponding author:
Annika L. Meinecke, University of Hamburg, Department of Industrial/Organizational Psychology, Von-Melle-Park 5, 20147
Hamburg, Germany.
Email: annika.luisa.meinecke@uni-hamburg.de
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on the SAGE and Open Access page (https://us.sagepub.com/en-us/nam/open-access-at-sage).
Special Issue: The Science of Workplace Meetings: Integrating Findings,
Building New Theoretical Angles, and Embracing Cross-Disciplinary Research
Organizational Psychology Review
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DOI: 10.1177/20413866221097409
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conditions at the episodic level are outlined, highlighting that meetings should be seen as inter-
connected, sequential events.
Keywords
informal meetings, formal meetings, communication, sensemaking
Workplace meetings are such ubiquitous com-
munication events in modern organizations
that they shape the day-to-day realities of
employees and management. As a result,
they have received increased scholarly atten-
tion in recent years (e.g., Mroz et al., 2018).
As communication can vary in its degree of
formality (i.e., the extent of prespecication,
conventionality, and rule-boundedness; Kraut
et al., 1990), meetings can take on both
formal as well as informal forms.
1
However,
the existing body of research largely focusses
on meetings as discrete formal events (cf.
Duffy & ORourke, 2015), reecting an
overall tendency to focus on highly visible
formal interaction (e.g., strategy meetings,
management briengs, public events, presen-
tations by senior company gures, etc.) and
to assume that this is where the important
work is done(Oswick & Richards, 2004,
p. 114). As a result, meeting research seems
to almost categorically rule out unscheduled
and more informal meetings and has thus
largely isolated itself from the broader litera-
ture on informal communication in organiza-
tions (Kello & Allen, 2020; for an exception,
see Holmes & Stubbe, 2015).
This is unfortunate, as informal interactions
appear instrumental to understanding those
aspects of organizations that cannot be fully
controlled (Stohl, 1995). For instance, by allow-
ing individuals to enact roles outside of their
formally occupied position within the group or
organization, informal communication appears
particularly relevant in the face of novel and
uncertain events (e.g., Argote, 1982; Hartman
& Johnson, 1990). While the formal organiza-
tion is recorded in organization charts and
establishes clear lines of communication, the
informal organization consists of spontaneous,
emergent patterns that result from individuals
discretionary choices(Kurland & Pelled,
2000, p. 427; see also Stohl, 1995). By examin-
ing these informal communication events, new
possibilities arise for describing coordination
in groups and organizations (Boden, 1994;
Mishra, 1990).
It is also surprising from a practical perspec-
tive that meeting research has paid so little
attention to the role of informal meetings, as
organizations appear to increasingly focus on
promoting informal conversations in the work-
place to gain momentum in collaboration
(Coradi et al., 2015; Stryker & Santoro, 2012;
Tuncer & Licoppe, 2018). This becomes par-
ticularly apparent in modern ofce architecture.
Open oor plans and multifunctional ofce
areas have gradually replaced a dreary ofce
architecture (think cubicles and long dark hall-
ways), which reinforces the organizational hier-
archy instead of breaking it. While informal
exchanges used to be limited to the small ofce
kitchen or watercooler (i.e., watercooler talk;
Blithe, 2014; Waring & Bishop, 2010), large
ofce spaces today are purposely complemented
by meeting areas that invite rather than stie
casual exchange among employees. That is,
modern workspaces for the new way of work
are specially designed to enable interaction
between employees to facilitate informal exchange,
knowledge transfer, and spontaneous innova-
tions (Lindsay, 2014; Waber et al., 2014).
The result of this gap in the extant meeting
literature is not only that we currently pay
such little attention to important interactions
that take place outside of formal meetings but
2Organizational Psychology Review 0(0)
also that we treat meetings as discrete and iso-
lated events (for rare exceptions, see
Jarzabkowski & Seidl, 2008; Laapotti &
Mikkola, 2019). Specically, as highlighted
by Duffy and ORourke (2015), an often
neglected aspect of meetings [is] the way in
which meetings relate to each other as collective
rather than isolated episodes of interaction
(p. 223). By focusing on formal meetings
alone, we lack an understanding of the relation-
ships that unfold between meetings and shape
the larger organizational structure. For instance,
meeting participants frequently make references
to both past and upcoming meetings (i.e., retro-
spective sensemaking and prehensive sense-
making, Duffy & ORourke, 2015; see also
Weick, 1995). This combination of retrospec-
tion and preview shows that meetings have
ties to what has happened as well as implica-
tions for future meeting interactions. That is,
what happens between meetings is important
not only to make sense of preceding meetings
but also to explain what may happen in meet-
ings that follow. The temporal focus on meet-
ings and their succession in time is thus
essential for seeing meetings as the complex
phenomena they are rather than as simple
tools for management and coordination.
Accordingly, we need to advance an under-
standing of the informal and unscheduled events
that surround formal meetings and explain how
these evolve and relate to other workplace phe-
nomena. Specically, formal meetings may not
be able to fully serve all the important task- and
relationship-focused purposes (e.g., sharing infor-
mation, making decisions, managing conict, e.g.,
Allen et al., 2014; Holmes & Marra, 2004; Mroz
et al., 2018) that they are intended to, meaning
that participants may leave a formal meeting
with some degree of ambiguity that warrants
further discussion. This state of ambiguity can
lead to what we call the meeting after the
meeting (MATM). Although no ofcial numbers
exist, based on practitioner observations, the
MATM can be described as a fairly common
communication event in modern organizations
(Fishburne, 2014; Lauby, 2015; Sudakow,
2017). Outside of managerial control, the
MATM might be just as important (or even
more important) to group and organizational func-
tioning than the formal meeting that precedes it.
Yet, research on this particular meeting phenom-
enon is scarce and practitionersperspectives on
the MATM differ. We argue that is time to
expand the focus of meeting science to include
the MATM. Consequently, with this article, we
offer a rst attempt to conceptualize the MATM
and the role it plays in the overall group and
organizational context.
The current article offers two major contri-
butions. First, we contribute to the literature
on workplace meetings and specically the
role of informal meetings by presenting a
detailed conceptualization of the MATM. By
providing the narrative that explains how one
meeting is tied to the next, the MATM
enables us to shift from the dominant perspec-
tive that considers meetings as isolated, inde-
pendent events to a more holistic view of
meetings as they unfold over time. Second,
we outline an affect-based process model con-
taining antecedents and boundary conditions
of the MATM at the episodic level. We
thereby provide clear starting points for future
research directed at understanding meetings as
sequential and interconnected events within
the broader group and organizational context.
We begin by dening the MATM and its key
characteristics, including the key purpose it
serves. In a next step, we map out the factors
that determine the MATM. We conclude with
theoretical implications for meeting research
and practical ideas for dealing with the
MATM from a managerial perspective.
Conceptualizing the meeting
after the meeting
Broadly speaking, nearly all prior meeting deni-
tions have in common that they dene meetings
in terms of purposeful and work-related interac-
tions between individuals (see e.g., Boden,
1994; Rogelberg et al., 2006; Schwartzman,
1989). Accordingly, as a meeting after a
Meinecke and Handke 3
meeting, the MATM refers to interactions that
focus, whether directly or more indirectly, on
workplace business. Importantly, the business
that is dealt with during a MATM may not neces-
sarily be in line with ofcial workplace goals (see
also the literature on counterproductive and
uncivil meeting behaviors, e.g., Allen et al.,
2015b; Lehmann-Willenbrock et al., 2016;
Odermatt et al., 2018). We therefore acknow-
ledge that the MATM may sometimes even
upset group or organizational goals and thus spe-
cic decisions made in the meeting preceding the
MATM. Moreover, it should be noted that the
business discussed during a MATM may not
necessarily be task oriented. Instead, the
MATM can also revolve around the personal
relationships of the meeting participants, includ-
ing evaluative talk about absent coworkers
(Hallett et al., 2009).
To guide this article, we dene the MATM
as an unscheduled, informal, and condential
communication event that arises as a conse-
quence of a previous formal meeting and is
initiated by a subset of the participants who
attended the original meeting. In what
follows, we provide a detailed conceptualiza-
tion of the MATM. To this end, we rst
outline the key features of the MATM with
regards to when it takes place, where it takes
place, how it takes place, why it takes place,
and who is involved. We then discuss the
boundaries of the MATM by distinguishing it
from other, similar constructs.
Dening features of the meeting after the
meeting
When does it take place?. The MATM is a nat-
urally occurring, informal unscheduled conver-
sational event that follows a previous formal
meeting. As an unscheduled and informal
meeting, the MATM is not arranged in
advance (in terms of time, place, and meeting
attendees), does not follow an agenda, and
does not rely on an appointed chair who
structures the interaction by controlling the
conversational oor, especially concerning
turn-taking and topic progression. Regarding
the MATM, it is precisely this unscheduled
nature (i.e., the meeting is born out of the
situation) that is central to understanding the
MATM. Since the MATM emerges as a
consequence of a previous formal meeting, the
meeting is considered an episodic phenomenon.
However, the MATM cannot be classied as a
purely spontaneous event in the classic sense,
as the term usually implies that something
arises without a discernible external stimulus
(Merriam-Webster, n.d.). Rather, the MATM
has a direct relation to the formal meeting that
precedes it and is driven by specic events
during that meeting. Likewise, we do not clas-
sify the MATM as a purely opportunistic
event (e.g., when two colleagues meet by
chance at the coffee machine or in the elevator
and make small talk; cf. Waber et al., 2014);
instead, we assume that it is deliberately
sought out.
In terms of timing, the MATM does not
necessarily have to immediately follow the
formal meeting. That is, we locate the meeting
from an event-time perspective. Whereas clock-
time refers to seconds, minutes, hours, dates,
etc. that are conventionally used to compart-
mentalize everyday life and organizational
functioning, event-time refers to the ordering
and sequencing of activities (including meet-
ings) arising from their inherent relationships
rather than their mere chronological sequencing
according to clock-time (Avnet & Sellier,
2011). This means that although the meeting
is located after the formal meeting, it can be
delayed up to a few daysthe important thing
is that it serves the purpose of making sense
of this specic formal meeting (see the section
on why does it take place?for more on this
purpose). This view is in line with previous
ndings on the effects of voice in meetings
and subsequent affective reactions. Utilizing a
diary design, Starzyk et al. (2018) showed that
employeesevaluative judgment of their behav-
ior during a particular meeting often extends
into the next day, as evaluation processes
require some degree of cognitive appraisal,
4Organizational Psychology Review 0(0)
integration of information, and memory con-
solidation (Judge et al., 2014). In sum, we
assume that cross-meeting connectivity is pri-
marily a result of the overlapping or shared
content of the meetings and a retrospective
view of the meeting events in the original
meeting rather than pure temporal proximity.
Where does it take place?. The meeting takes
place in the context of work and can take
place in a number of different places. Building
on previous ndings on informal workplace
encounters (Fayard & Weeks, 2007; Holmes
& Stubbe, 2015; Mills, 2010), likely spaces
may include small-group discussions in the
cafeteria, tearoom, hallway, or even the photo-
copier room. Moreover, the MATM can also
take the form of a more private interaction
that occurs behind closed doors in employees
ofces. In line with current denitions of meet-
ings (e.g., Allen et al., 2015a), we also explicitly
include virtual interaction spaces despite
research on the specics of virtual meeting
interactions requiring development, particularly
the familiarity of interaction via digital media
(Blithe, 2014). Compared with classic formal
meetings, which have rather high visibility in
organizations, the MATM takes place more
often in secret and in a condential atmosphere
(see also Dores Cruz et al., 2021).
How does it take place?. Because of the informal
nature of the MATM, communication in the
MATM is rich and more interactive (Kraut
et al., 1990). In informal meetings, the manage-
ment of talk approximates more naturally occur-
ring conversational turn-taking, which means
turns are self-initiated and result from the natural
ow of conversation (Asmuß & Svennevig,
2009). Contributions by the meeting participants
thus build on each other in that they are logically
connected to prior contributions (Holmes &
Stubbe, 2015). Moreover, informal communica-
tion is less dictated by the formal roles and func-
tions participants have within the group or
organization (Johnson et al., 1994). Accordingly,
the MATM allows participants to share their
knowledge in a safe, condential, and less hier-
archical setting and, if necessary, contribute
thoughts and opinions they did not feel comfort-
able sharing in the original formal meeting (see
also Morrison, 2014).
Why does it take place?. As mentioned above,
even though unscheduled and informal, the
MATM is a meeting, meaning that it takes
placeforaspecic reason related to group and/
or organizational functioning. Drawing from
affective events theory (Weiss & Beal, 2005;
Weiss & Cropanzano, 1996), we argue that the
formal meeting preceding the MATM acts as
an affect-generating event, which can result in
both negative and positive affective reactions to
the meeting. Previous research has repeatedly
shown that formal meetings have affective sig-
nicance in that they directly relate to employ-
eesemotion regulation in the form of surface
acting (Shanock et al., 2013; Shumski Thomas
et al., 2018), changes in group affect throughout
a meeting (Lei & Lehmann-Willenbrock, 2015),
and more ne-grained expressions of humor and
laughter during the meeting (Kangasharju &
Nikko, 2009; Lehmann-Willenbrock & Allen,
2014; Rogerson-Revell, 2007). Accordingly,
formal meetings serve as affective events, and
the appraisal of these affective events may have
a long-term impact on employeesattitudes and
behaviors far beyond the direct meeting context
(Rogelberg et al., 2010; Starzyk et al., 2018).
Simply put, participants react emotionally to
things that happen in meetings, evaluating this
reaction helps participants draw meaning from
the meeting, which will then inuence how
meeting participants will act in the future.
In reviewing the formal meeting preceding
it, the MATM thus essentially offers partici-
pants the opportunity to make sense of their
meeting interactions in retrospect (see Duffy
&ORourke, 2015; Scott et al., 2015).
Sensemaking is a dynamic process, triggered
by unexpected or novel events that require
some form of explanation. This explanation,
in turn is inuenceddirectly or indirectly
through ones social context (Maitlis &
Meinecke and Handke 5
Christianson, 2014; see also Maitlis, 2005;
Weick, 1995). Applied to the meeting context,
the MATM thus provides a context where indi-
viduals collectively develop explanations for
events that took place in the preceding formal
meeting. However, it is not the events in the
formal meeting alone, but the affective reac-
tions towards these that fuel participants
desire to engage in sensemaking (see Maitlis
et al., 2013). Accordingly, the MATM provides
a space where participants make sense of affect-
ive reactions that were triggered by the preced-
ing formal meeting, helping them to regain
control over the situation and adjust future
behavior.
For instance, the meeting leader may unex-
pectedly have cut a meeting short, resulting in
negative affective responses for most of the
other participants. During the MATM that
follows, the remaining meeting participants
may jointly develop a narrative that links their
negative affective response to the overall
sense of not being valued enough by the
meeting leader. By virtue of this narrative, the
participants of the MATM will likely alter
their behavior in subsequent formal meetings,
such as by offering less constructive comments
or possibly even by showing counterproductive
meeting behavior (e.g., coming late to meetings,
engaging in side talk). Through its primary sen-
semaking purpose, the MATM serves two
further, secondary purposes. First, it enables
participants to regain control over their affective
reactions following the formal meeting by
voicing their (dis)approval and providing emo-
tional support to each other (Alicke et al., 1992;
Kowalski, 1996; Nils & Rimé, 2012). Even just
the possibility of voicing problems and con-
cerns within a safe space may help participants
regulate their affective response. For instance,
employees who show problem-focused voice
during meetings (i.e., express concerns about
inefciencies and poor performance; Morrison,
2011) have been shown to experience less nega-
tive affect later on (Starzyk et al., 2018). Second,
the MATM may also serve an important group
regulatory function in that it establishes
subsequent behavioral norms within the
group. In this sense, the MATM is akindof
informal policing device(Foster, 2004,
p. 86), such that if meeting participants
assume that others will speak negatively
about them after the formal meeting, this can
potentially discourage norm-violating behav-
ior. For example, if a colleague goes into a
formal meeting completely unprepared and
cannot answer certain questions about the
status of the joint project, the MATM follow-
ing this meeting could lead to the reinforce-
ment of group norms. Of course, these
evaluations about others do not always have
to be negative (see Brady et al., 2017), and
the MATM can also serve to reinforce group
norms through sharing favorable views about
the meeting leader or other colleagues. For
example, the meeting leader might be praised
for having run a particularly productive
meeting or a colleague might get recognition
for a great presentation, thereby setting the
standard for future formal meetings. Finally,
the establishment of behavioral norms does
not have to occur solely through evaluations
of people but can also result from a task-
focused MATM that aims at a common under-
standing of the groups goals, roles, and tasks.
Who is involved?. Following the denition of a
meeting by Rogelberg et al. (2006), the
MATM consists of two or more people. In
describing the MATM, the minimum number
of participants is less important than the
maximum number of participants. To distin-
guish the MATM as a separate meeting from
the previous meeting, the same people must
not participate. Due to its unscheduled nature
and a potential focus on delicate topics (e.g.,
gossip about the meeting leader), the MATM
is always smaller than the original meeting
from which it was born. If the MATM had an
identical constellation of participants, it would
be a mere continuation of the original meeting.
2
Another important aspect of the MATM is
the relationship between the meeting partici-
pants. Since the meeting is not planned, it
6Organizational Psychology Review 0(0)
emerges from the situation through mutual and
often implicit agreement. This presupposes a
certain degree of familiarity among the
meeting participants. Therefore, the MATM
has been described as a context where people
share their opinions with trusted others
(Dores Cruz et al., 2021, p. 13). Drawing on
the gossip literature, this can also be referred
to as a context of congeniality (Foster, 2004),
meaning that the participants share a common
interest and a certain level of concern for the
MATM.
Differentiation from similar constructs
To provide conceptual clarity, the following
section distinguishes the MATM from nomo-
logically similar phenomena already established
in the literature (Podsakoff et al., 2016).
Specically, we outline how the MATM stands
in relation to post-meeting small talk or chit-chat
(Methot et al., 2020), debrieng meetings (Allen
et al., 2018b; Tannenbaum & Cerasoli, 2012),
and gossip (Brady et al., 2017). An overview
based on four relevant characteristics is provided
in Table 1. The characteristics we use for com-
parison refer to structural features of the different
forms of communication and their main purposes.
Post-Meeting small talk. Small talk in organiza-
tions is generally dened as short, supercial,
or trivial communication that does not convey
information core to task completion
(Malinowski, 1972/1923, as cited in Methot
et al., 2020, p. 3). It is a common activity in orga-
nizations and occurs in a wide variety of situa-
tions. Whereas initial research has already
specically addressed the role of pre-meeting
small talk (Mirivel & Tracy, 2005; Yoerger
et al., 2015), post-meeting small talk has been
largely neglected. Building on the general role
and importance of small talk, we can assume
that post-meeting small talk promotes friendly
interactions and helps individuals to transition
between roles and activities (Ashforth et al.,
2000). For instance, Methot et al. (2020)
described individuals may engage in small talk
to psychologically disengage from a meeting
and transition into their lunch break(p. 10).
This disengagement function of small talk
highlights that post-meeting small talk is most
likely not related to the specic agenda items
that were discussed but focuses on private or
social topics (e.g., plans for the weekend,
sports). Yet, as noted frequently in ethnographic
work, it is quite difcult in practice to draw a
clear line between different forms of workplace
talk (Holmes, 2000; Miriviel & Tracy, 2005).
The boundaries between formal meeting talk
and post-meeting small talk are likely to be
uid, ultimately suggesting that formal meetings
should not be viewed as a completely isolated
communication event (Duffy & ORourke,
2015).
A key difference between post-meeting small
talk and the MATM is that small talk can be seen
as a ritualized behavior that takes place after
every meeting, whereas the MATM is not a
regular event. Further, although both forms of
communication can be classied as informal,
small talk is usually shorter in duration. The
most striking difference is reected in the
name, namely that the MATM is a meeting
(and is recognized as such by its participants,
see Schwartzman, 1989), and post-meeting
small talk is not. That is, while the MATM
refers to work-related interactions related to the
functioning of the group or organization (as per
denition of a meeting, e.g., Boden, 1994;
Rogelberg et al., 2006; Schwartzman, 1989),
post-meeting small talk neither has to be work-
related nor does it occur for reasons other than
wanting to be friendly or polite. As a result, post-
meeting small talk is not necessarily related to
events that occurred during the formal meeting
preceding it, nor does it have to carry any spe-
cic consequences for future meetings. The
MATM, however, is triggered by affective reac-
tions and focuses specically on topics of the
previous meeting or interpersonal relationships
of the participants.
Debriefs. Debriefs are a particular type of
meeting in which teams discuss, interpret, and
Meinecke and Handke 7
learn from recent events during which they colla-
borated(Allen et al., 2018b, p. 504). Debriefs
were originally used in the form of after-action
reviews in the military and subsequently trans-
ferred to other high-responsibility teams (e.g.,
health care, aviation). However, meta-analytical
ndings have shown that this form of team learn-
ing activity is also suitable for teams outside
high-responsibility environments (Tannenbaum
& Cerasoli, 2012). Debriefs follow a formal
structure, often accompanied by an established
protocol, and are typically facilitated by a
meeting chair. This can be the team leader, but
also a team member, external coach, or
instructor. Originally, debriefs were used
mainly on an ad hoc basis after a critical event,
but now, debriefs are often used independently
from critical performance episodes (Allen et al.,
2018b). The main purpose of debriefs is their
diagnostic nature and related developmental
intent. This means that debriefs are used to
look back together on team events, reect on spe-
cic positive and negative team behaviors, and
identify clear starting points for further
collaboration.
Debriefs differ from MATM primarily
because of their formal nature. Debriefs are of-
cial meetings that are highly structured, whereas
the MATM is informal and not documented in
ofcial records. Moreover, debriefs have a
very clear objective: they promote learning
within the team. While the MATM also contri-
butes to sensemaking, it is much more diverse
as the triggers that lead to the MATM arise
from the situation (as described in the following
section).
Gossip. Broadly dened, gossip refers to the
exchange of information about absent third
parties(Foster, 2004, p. 81) and is usually con-
ceived of as evaluative (Brady et al., 2017).
Despite its bad reputation (often equated with
malicious talk), gossip can be considered as a
behavior which is instrumental to social func-
tioning (e.g., Beersma & Van Kleef, 2012).
Accordingly, individuals are assumed to
Table 1. Comparison of characteristics of the meeting after the meeting, post-meeting small talk, debriefs,
and gossip.
Characteristic MATM
Post-meeting small
talk Debrieng meeting Gossip
Frequency Event-based;
nonscheduled
Ubiquitous, highly
prevalent
Event-based; not
regularly
scheduled
Ubiquitous,
moderately
prevalent
Structure Informal Informal, but
ritualistic
interaction
Formal; frequently
follows
established
protocols
Informal
Facilitation Nonfacilitated or
emerging
meeting chair
Nonfacilitated, natural
conversation
Typically facilitated
by a formal
meeting chair
Nonfacilitated, natural
conversation
Main Purpose To make sense of
affective
reactions
following the
formal meeting
To maintain friendly
relationships with
coworkers
To achieve
transitions
between activities
and roles (i.e., to
transition out of
the meetings)
To serve
developmental
learning and
efciency
through
reection
Information gathering
and validation, social
enjoyment, exerting
negative inuence,
group protection, or
emotion venting
Note. MATM =meeting after the meeting.
8Organizational Psychology Review 0(0)
gossip for ve main reasons tied to their social
role (Beersma & Van Kleef, 2012; Dores Cruz
et al., 2019): 1) To gather and validate informa-
tion (e.g., acquiring new information about the
gossip target or making sure whether other
group members share ones opinion of said
target); 2) for social enjoyment (e.g., entertain-
ing oneself and others); 3) to exert negative
inuence (e.g., to convince other group
members of ones negative opinion of the
target); 4) to protect and regulate the group
through maintaining group norms (e.g., to
establish how group members are allowed to
behave); and 5) to vent pent-up emotions, that
is, the urge to share emotionally evocative
experiences.
As opposed to post-meeting small talk and
debriefs, gossip is not a construct that is dis-
tinctly different to the MATM. In fact, gossip
is a behavior which is likely to occur during
the MATM, specicallyintermsofitsgroup
regulatory function. However, gossip can occur
in many other situations other than during a
MATM, and importantly, the MATM is not
only characterized by gossip. That is, even if
the MATM is strongly relationship-oriented
and includes evaluations about other meeting
participantsbehaviors during the formal
meeting, this does not necessarily mean that
these other participants are absent from the
meeting (as per denition of gossip). For
instance, one may be annoyed and confused by
the fact that ones colleagues engaged in side
talk during the meeting but did not dare to
voice this anger until the meeting leader left
the room. Moreover, as mentioned earlier, the
MATM can also serve task-focused purposes,
such as by constituting a space for participants
to develop a common understanding of their
goals, roles, and tasks and it thus not restricted
to evaluations about people.
Finally, another important distinction is that
gossip is not just event-based and can thus
occur at any time, irrespective of a formal
meeting. Through its function of information
gathering and validation, gossip may form a
part of the sensemaking process (e.g., by learning
about the other participantsopinion of the
formal meeting leaders behavior) but its
content may just as well pertain to people and
events that are completely unrelated to the
formal meeting. Accordingly, as opposed to the
MATM, gossip does not serve the primary
purpose of explaining individualsaffective reac-
tions towards an event (i.e., the formal meeting).
The MATM: An affect-based
process model
To determine how the MATM ultimately ts
into the larger meeting science literature,
several antecedents and boundary conditions
must be investigated. The affect-based process
model that we present in the following (see
Figure 1) describes the factors contributing
towards the occurrence of the MATM.
Considering that not all formal meetings will
necessarily elicit a subsequent MATM, we
focus on those aspects that determine whether
the formal meeting a) is associated with novel
or unexpected events that require explanation
(i.e., sensemaking); and b) elicits the necessary
affective reactions that fuel sensemaking (see
Maitlis et al., 2013). Accordingly, even
though the occurrence of the MATM is likely
a multilevel phenomenon with factors at indi-
vidual, group, and organizational levels that
more generally inuence sensemaking tenden-
cies or environmental uncertainty, we focus on
the immediate factors that trigger the occur-
rence of the MATM.
Specically, we argue that the triggers for
the MATM will rst and foremost be situated
in the formal meeting proceeding the MATM,
which requires an episodic view of the two
meeting events. As described earlier, we
assume the MATM can be understood as a sen-
semaking process fueled by an affective reac-
tion to the previous meeting. This affect is
essential to understanding the daily experiences
and behaviors of employees in organizations
(for reviews, see Barsade & Knight, 2015;
Brief & Weiss, 2002; Zapf et al., 2021).
Meinecke and Handke 9
In a recently published taxonomy of affect-
ive work events (Ohly & Schmitt, 2015), meet-
ings were frequently cited as pivotal work
events that lead to a change in employees
experiences and feelings. Although prior
research and articles in practitioner journals
have mostly focused on the negative aspects
of meetings, Ohly and Schmittsndings (2015)
highlight that meetings function as both negative
work events (e.g., endless discussion at the
meeting without satisfying results,p.24)and
positive work events (e.g., attended a funny
meeting with good atmosphere. We laughed a
lot, p. 27). This ambivalence is also reected in
the so-called love/hate relationship with meetings
(Lehmann-Willenbrock et al., 2016).
The MATM can then be seen as an affect-
based response to the formal meeting that helps
meeting participants manage their emotions and
make sense of their meeting experiences.
Moreover, through sharing ones interpretation
of an affective reaction (e.g., that one feels
angry because of the incessant side talk by other
participants of the formal meeting or that one is
proud to have been praisedbythemeeting
leader for the excellent presentation given
during the formal meeting), the MATM can
help participants to regain control over their
social environment and obtain emotional support
from others (see e.g., Jolly & Chang, 2021). In
the case that the formal meeting is experienced
as a positively toned event, the MATM can
serve to give space to these positive emotions
and share favorable impressions from the
meeting with others, which is in line with previous
research showing that positive affect is associated
with higher levels of interpersonal communication
and collegial interactions (Cunningham, 1988;
McGrath et al., 2017). In the case that the
formal meeting is perceived as a negatively
tonedevent,theMATMcanbeusedtovent
these negative emotions. Negative work events
have been shown to be predictors of counterpro-
ductive work behaviors that help regulate emo-
tions, reduce stress, and regain control (e.g.,
Matta et al., 2014; Penney & Spector, 2005).
In sum, we argue that the occurrence of the
MATM is triggered by participantsaffective
Figure 1. Affect-based process model of the meeting after the meeting.
10 Organizational Psychology Review 0(0)
reactions towards specic (uncertain, novel)
events that took place during the preceding
formal meeting. From this perspective, the
MATM constitutes a crucial link between series
of formal meetings, explaining how events that
occurred in one meeting trigger behaviors in sub-
sequent meetings and thereby how meeting beha-
viors solidify or evolve over time. However, not
all events that occur during the formal meeting
are unexpected or novel, nor will they necessarily
provoke affective reactions. Accordingly, not all
formal meetings trigger a subsequent sensemak-
ing process, and thus the occurrence of a
MATM. Specically, we argue that a range of
situational factors moderate the relationship
between a formal meeting and the occurrence of
the MATM (see Figure 1).
Situational factors
While the situational factors we propose in
Figure 1 and elaborate on in this section may
not be exhaustive, they reect key factors that
inuence meeting structure and climate.
Specically, we argue that meeting structure
and climate are pivotal to understanding both
how meeting events may necessitate sensemak-
ing and why they provoke affective reactions
(thereby triggering the occurrence of the
MATM), as these situational factors determine
the degree to which participants are free to
voice their ideas, concerns, and evaluations
during the formal meeting.
Meeting design characteristics. In reviewing the
existing meeting science landscape, initial
attempts have been made to summarize
evidence-based recommendations for meeting
design characteristics that contribute towards
successful meetings (Lehmann-Willenbrock
et al., 2018; Mroz et al., 2018). Meeting
design can encompass physical (e.g., lighting,
room temperature), temporal (e.g., meeting
length, promptness of meeting start and end),
procedural (e.g., using an agenda, taking
minutes), and attendee (e.g., inviting only
those participants who have expertise relevant
to the meeting, having a meeting facilitator)
characteristics that can inuence meeting satis-
faction and effectiveness (Cohen et al., 2011;
Leach et al., 2009; Odermatt et al., 2015). It
seems likely that a poorly designed meeting
would provoke the occurrence of a MATM.
First, it gives room for unexpected events to
take place. For instance, without a set agenda,
topics may be raised that team members could
not sufciently prepare for in advance. Next,
it is a breeding ground for negative affective
responses. This may range from annoyance at
other meeting participants engaging in long
monologues that fail to move the meeting
forward (because there is no agenda and no
one to facilitate the meeting) to frustration for
having to wait around for team members who
are late to the meeting (see also Allen et al.,
2018a).
Meeting leadership style. Likewise, meeting
leadership may play an important role in the
appraisal of meeting events. Meetings regularly
center on discussions, problem-solving, and
decision-making that require input from all
meeting attendees (Mroz et al., 2018).
Whether all meeting participants can contribute
their views depends largely on the meeting
leaders behavior and actions (e.g., Allen &
Rogelberg, 2013). Various studies have, there-
fore, focused on the role of the meeting leader
and the resulting symmetries and asymmetries
in meeting interactions (for an overview, see
Mroz et al., 2020). For instance, even though
controlling the conversational oor (e.g., by
assigning speaker turns and regulating topic
progression) can contribute to more efciency
(Asmuß & Svennevig, 2009), it can also
prevent people from expressing their opinions
freely. Accordingly, research suggests that
effective leaders take care not to overstructure
their meetings (Van der Haar et al., 2017) and
that it may be more important for leaders to
show consideration during meetings (e.g., by
identifying and addressing meeting attendees
concerns) than to initiate structure (Odermatt
et al., 2017). As a result, meeting leadership is
Meinecke and Handke 11
likely to inuence the occurrence of a MATM,
such that high levels of initiating structure
(without corresponding levels of consideration)
result in unanswered questions and pent-up
emotions, the combination of which triggers
subsequent sensemaking processes. The affect-
ive reactions towards a formal meeting high in
initiating structure and low in consideration
may be both negative as well as positive, for
instance because team members want to praise
other members or share humorous anecdotes
but did not nd the time to do this during the
formal meeting.
Meeting psychological safety. Beyond the meeting
leader, we argue that the general microclimate
that is created during formal meetings will
relate to the occurrence of a MATM. A decisive
factor here is likely to be psychological safety,
which describes peoplesperceptions of the
consequences of taking interpersonal risks in a
particular context(Edmondson & Lei, 2014,
p. 24). Psychological safety is central to indivi-
duals contributing ideas and actions and specif-
ically addressing critical issues (Edmondson &
Lei, 2014). In the context of formal meetings,
the construct of meeting psychological safety
(Shumski Thomas et al., 2018) is based on the
views of individual meeting participants regard-
ing their perceptions of the climate in the
meeting (e.g., The people in my last meeting
were able to bring up problems and tough
issues.). Shumski Thomas et al.s (2018)
research shows that surface-level acting (i.e.,
suppressing undesired emotions and faking
expectedmostly positive, afliativeemotional
displays) during meetings is related to lower
levels of psychological safety. Accordingly, a
lack of meeting psychological safety suggests a
meeting climate where participants feel that they
cannot authentically voice questions, doubts, or
emotions, which would likely lead to unresolved
issues cueing up over the course of the formal
meeting. Uncertain or novel events during
formal meetings low in psychological safety will
thus provoke negative affective reactions (e.g.,
fear), thereby increasing the occurrence of the
MATM, such that views and concerns are infor-
mally shared after the formal meeting with a
select group of participants.
Meeting type. Finally, it could well be the case
that the MATM occurs more frequently after
certain types of formal meetings than others.
Most of the existing meeting research refers to
the generic staff meeting, which is characterized
by participants knowing each other well, the
meeting taking place regularly in this constella-
tion, and participants reviewing recent events
and updating each other (Kello & Allen,
2020). Such meetings can be seen as routine
events (similar to e.g., shift change meetings),
which will require little subsequent explana-
tions (i.e., sensemaking) in comparison to
other meeting types (e.g., project team meet-
ings). Moreover, affective events theory
(Weiss & Cropanzano, 1996) suggests that the
intensity of an affective reaction generated by
a sensemaking trigger depends on how import-
ant that event is to personal goals (see also
Maitlis et al., 2013). Accordingly, meetings
that are less important to the participantsper-
sonal goals (e.g., committee meetings where
an individualsinvolvement is usually only
temporary) may trigger less intense (positive
or negative) affective reactions than others and
are thus less likely to lead to the occurrence of
a MATM.
Discussion
The overarching aim of this article was to drive
research on the MATM by providing (1) a
detailed conceptualization of the MATM, and
(2) an affect-based process model that describes
the occurrence of the MATM and which may
serve to guide future research on the MATM
and, more generally, on meetings as a sequen-
tial phenomenon.
Theoretical implications
This article contributes to recent theorizing on
meetings in several key ways and is intended
12 Organizational Psychology Review 0(0)
to offer a starting point for empirical research on
the MATM. First, a core contribution of this
paper is to introduce the MATM into organiza-
tional psychology and management research.
That is, we call attention to the study of this
rather pervasive informal communication
event, discriminate the MATM from similar
forms of communication in the workplace
(namely, post-meeting small talk, debrieng
meetings, and gossip), and position the
MATM as an event worthy of investigative
focus. Of particular importance here is the pro-
cessual view of meetings (i.e., the link between
the formal meeting and the informal MATM).
We thereby urge future researchers adopt a per-
spective that sees meetings as series of intercon-
nected events that jointly shape employees
experiences at work (Duffy & ORourke,
2015), rather than continuing to treat them as
isolated discrete events. More specically, we
suggest that further research on the MATM
can provide important insights into how struc-
ture unfolds outside formal control.
Second, this article advances research on
workplace meetings by illuminating the condi-
tions that contribute to the emergence of the
MATM. Specically, the affect-based process
model that we presented contextualizes the
MATM in time and describes which factors
inherent in the formal meeting may spark a
MATM. By virtue of this episodic perspective,
the model highlights the complex nature of the
MATM and offers explanations for why the
MATM is more prevalent in some situations
than others. We thus encourage future research-
ers to use this model as a guiding framework for
further investigations on meetings as a sequen-
tial phenomenon.
Third and nally, the conceptualization
developed in this article provides a theoretical
framework to understand the various outcome
implications that might result from the
MATM. Building on the affect-based process
view of the MATM, the primary purpose of
the MATM is for participants to make sense
of their affective reactions towards the preced-
ing formal meetings. Through this process of
sensemaking, participants can reduce ambiguity
and create order (Weick, 1995; see also Scott
et al., 2015). Further, the conceptual work of
this article points to the potential of the
MATM for regulating both individual affect
as well as intragroup relations. That is,
meeting participants can use the MATM to
lend and seek emotional support, strengthen
friendships, and create more cooperative inter-
action patterns (see also Barsade & Knight,
2015). However, the effects of emotion
sharing, particularly in the form of emotion
venting, can also likely be critical, namely
when meeting participants use the MATM to
regain control by undermining decisions made
in the formal meeting or attempting to reinforce
group norms through gossip (Beersma & Van
Kleef, 2012).
Practical implications
Based on the conceptual work presented in this
article, we derive some initial recommendations
for dealing with the MATM from a more prac-
tical side. From a managerial perspective, the
MATM probably does not meet expectations
or hopes placed on proper meeting behavior,
and thus is likely to be perceived as a form of
organizational misconduct. Although managers
will probably discourage these gatherings
especially those meetings that are more nega-
tively tonedthey cannot be completely pre-
vented and are an essential part of the
informal organization (Stohl, 1995). Thus,
rather than viewing the MATM as something
unwanted that should best be discouraged or
silenced, the MATM can be a valuable
warning sign for managers. Because of its infor-
mal nature and potential focus on delicate
topics, the MATM reects important issues
with leadership and group dynamics. If attended
to, managers can use the MATM to indirectly
gain important insights into their employees
everyday experiences at work. By developing
a sensitivity for these post-meeting interactions,
managers can make an effort to understand their
employeesperspectives.
Meinecke and Handke 13
Furthermore, understanding the MATM also
means understanding that meeting discourse is
context-dependent. Based on work concerning
workplace gossip, we know that information
raised in one context can have a different
meaning in another depending on the people
involved in the conversation and the condenti-
ality of the meeting (Hafen, 2004; Mills, 2010).
Thus, an incident that was discussed purely as
information in a formal meeting can turn into
agossipy conversation in the MATM.
Awareness of how meeting talk travels
between formal and informal meetings can
help managers understand how meetings
impact interpersonal dynamics and ultimately
the structure that emerges from meetings. In
short, meetings should not be viewed as
events that take place in a social vacuum. A sys-
temic view of meetings that emphasizes inter-
connectivity (e.g., by recognizing the role of
the MATM as a link between formal meetings)
is more helpful in making sense of the potential
disorder that follows from meetings (Duffy &
ORourke, 2015; Schwartzman, 2015).
Avenues for future research
Our discussion of the MATM provides a point
of reference for a range of future research
endeavors. Based on anecdotal observations
and reports in the management literature
(Fishburne, 2014; Lauby, 2015; Sudakow,
2017), it can be assumed that there is no one
MATM in terms of the topics discussed and
the focus of the meeting. Instead, the MATM
could take on various forms and thus be
related to a range of different both functional
as well as dysfunctional outcomes. Future
research could thus be directed at developing
a typology of the MATM. For instance, as an
affect-laden event, the formal meeting preced-
ing the MATM can result in both positive and
negative affective responses, meaning that the
MATM itself could be discerned in terms of
its positive vs. negative affective valence.
Second, the MATM can revolve more or less
strongly around tasks or around interpersonal
relationships, meaning that one MATM may
differ from another in terms of a task vs. a
relationship focus (following the established
classication in related research areas, see
e.g., Bales, 1950; Jehn, 1995). Potential cross-
classications of these differences in valence
and focus could lead to different archetypes of
the MATM which could guide both research
and practice in terms of determining the
outcome implications of a particular type of
the MATM.
A further aspect warranting future research is
the role of the MATM as a link between formal
meetings and thus a change of perspective that
regards meetings as a series of interconnected
events that unfold their meaning and effect
over time. Next to theoretical considerations
that deal with the evolution of meeting struc-
tures, roles, and behaviors over sequences of
formal meetings and MATMs, we would
encourage empirical research on meetings that
draw on longitudinal measurement designs.
This would enable researchers to analyze the
extent to which certain behaviors occur, but
also emotions depend on prior meetings as
well as the explanatory function of the
MATM in predicting behaviors and emotions
in successive meetings. Moreover, the episodic
perspective on meetings we take in this article
would call for the application of non-linear ana-
lytical procedures, such as lag-sequential or
recurrent quantication analysis (for an applica-
tion of these procedures to meeting data, see
e.g., Lehmann-Willenbrock et al., 2013;
Meinecke et al., 2020). These approaches
would enable researchers to investigate, for
instance, the likelihood of MATM occurrence
as a function of meeting type or patterns of
emotional reactions over a series of formal
meetings and MATMs.
Finally, it would be interesting to specically
investigate the role and occurrence of the
MATM in virtual contexts. Virtual collabor-
ation is generally associated with higher levels
of ambiguity than face-to-face interaction,
given there are fewer (or even no) observational
opportunities and thus less information on other
14 Organizational Psychology Review 0(0)
team memberswork environments, actions,
thoughts, and feelings (e.g., Handke et al.,
2022; McLarnon et al., 2019). Accordingly,
virtual collaboration likely requires more sense-
making processes, yet at the same time, it provides
less opportunities for informal, unscheduled con-
versations (Lechner & Tobias Mortlock, 2021;
Webster & Staples, 2006). Initiating a MATM
after a formal virtual meeting would involve dif-
ferent strategies than in a face-to-face context,
where meeting participants share the same phys-
ical space and may just remain in the meeting
room or catch up in the hallway. In a virtual
MATM, participants would thus likely adopt
strategies such as starting a parallel meeting
through the chat function offered in most video-
conference platforms or on other instant messa-
ging channels or waiting for the meeting leader
to leave the virtual meeting room rst. At this
stage, qualitative research may be particularly
suited to uncover the different ways in which
virtual team members may organize MATMs
and how this relates to team functioning.
Conclusion
To conclude, the MATM is an unscheduled,
informal, and condential communication
event that has the potential to create new struc-
tures in everyday organizational life. Empirical
research is now needed to test the relationships
postulated in the corresponding affect-based
process model as well as to develop typologies
based on the current conceptualization of the
MATM. In doing so, we can develop a richer
understanding of the MATM regarding its dif-
ferent forms and effects.
Declaration of Conicting Interests
The author(s) declared no potential conicts of inter-
est with respect to the research, authorship, and/or
publication of this article.
Funding
The author(s) received no nancial support for the
research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.
ORCID iD
Annika L. Meinecke https://orcid.org/0000-0001-
7551-563X
Notes
1. We acknowledge that researchers from different
elds have dened formal/informal communica-
tion in different ways. It would be beyond the
scope of the current article to provide a detailed
synopsis of previous denitions (cf. Shepherd
et al., 2006). What is important in this context
and for this article is that communication can be
planned and unplanned (as described, e.g., in
Schwartzmans typology) and, at the same time,
can be more or less formal (as taken up, e.g., in
Bodens work on meetings). That is, informal
communication can occur even in a scheduled,
planned meeting, especially if there is no predeter-
mined meeting chair to guide the conversation.
2. It is open at this point whether people from
outside who did not participate in the original
formal meeting can be brought in. To not overload
any theorizing for the time being, we assume that
the MATM consists of a subgroup of those parti-
cipants who attended the original meeting.
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Author biographies
Annika L. Meinecke, PhD, is a postdoctoral
research associate at the Department of
Industrial/Organizational Psychology at the
University of Hamburg, Germany. Her research
interests include organizational meetings, leader-
follower dynamics, and workplace gossip.
Lisa Handke, PhD, is a postdoctoral research
associate at the Division of Social,
Organizational, and Economic Psychology at
Freie Universität Berlin, Germany. Her research
focuses on virtual teamwork, telecommuting,
and work design.
Meinecke and Handke 21
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This naturalistic study focuses on problem talk (PT) in hospital management group meetings. The study aims to understand how PT constitutes the hospital organization through the different uses of PT within the meetings, and, therefore, to understand the organizing role of these meetings. The communication as constitutive of organization (CCO) perspective forms the theoretical background of the research. The results of the qualitative analysis show that PT comprises many intertwined tasks that aim to perform the meetings, enhance problem solving, and maintain the relational level of group life. Thus, PT is much more than merely solving problems. In PT, problems are discussed from the viewpoints of the group and the organization. Meetings as an institution and as a nonhuman agent affect organizing because they influence both the group’s communication and organizational processes. Future research on groups should develop the use of the CCO concept of nonhuman agency.