Just Say No! The Power of the “Decline” or “Tentative” Response to a Meeting Invite

November 22, 2016 2:16 pm

It’s not uncommon for interpersonal or political considerations to result in meeting bloat, where too many people end up invited to a meeting that takes too long and doesn’t achieve all its objectives. So, how do you decide if you really need to attend?

The meeting invite should clarify the purpose and outcomes and ideally include an agenda of activities or topics. The only people who need to be there include; the primary decision makers, required subject matter experts, representatives of those impacted by potential decisions, thought leaders who help others to see the bigger picture, key organizational influencers responsible for building buy-in, etc.

Those who should not be there could include; those not directly impacted by a decision, people who have no accountability for the outcomes, those who have no expertise or experience to offer, people who just want to be informed or consulted on meeting results only, etc.

Those tasked with execution type activities can be informed at a stand-up meeting (15 minutes) to gather any required feedback before moving on to initiating their tasks. Remember, not everyone has to stay for the whole meeting. If an attendee can only contribute to one agenda item, s/he should be able to leave after making their contribution.

If you receive a calendar invitation and it’s clear from the above suggestions that you need not attend a meeting, you have options:

  1. Send a tentative response, asking: How can I contribute to the meeting outcomes? If it’s clear that you have little to offer to the outcomes, you can be transparent. Thank the meeting owner for inviting you then explain how you’re not clear how you can provide any value to the discussion. Send a decline if the meeting outcomes are clearly outside your area of expertise or involvement
  2. You may also want to ask: Is my attendance mandatory, or was the invite out of courtesy to keep me in the loop? Again, thank the meeting owner for inviting you, but based on your workload you’d rather receive a summary of outcomes that emerged from the meeting
  3. Send a tentative response, asking for an agenda if it wasn’t sent with the invite. Based on the proposed topics you will better be able to determine if you’re needed

Let us know if you are now able to free up your schedule from unnecessary meetings!

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