Have you noticed that some meetings go much longer than they ever should? Do you ever wonder that there is a perception that everyone must speak? I often wonder, do some of these people feel that if they say nothing, they are not contributing, and that somehow, sitting in active silence is a sin punishable by death?

Say the topic of discussion is a marketing campaign. An employee can think of no legitimate criticism or valuable suggestion for improvement, so instead of saying nothing at all, he digs up an objection based on a single incident that occurred years ago at another job in a different company and sometimes, you think, on a different planet.

Another painful example to watch is the “all inclusive” types – those who deem it their fiduciary responsibility to add diversity, change management, process optimization, globalization, or in more recent trendy times, a green initiative, to every discussion.

Worse yet are those who feel compelled to ask vague questions. How do we take this to the next level? What are our best options? Think about it. Every one of these interactions adds 5-10 minutes and continued drag on endless points beyond the necessary duration. Meeting facilitators in our overly sensitive PC world have been brainwashed to say – even if they are not thinking it – that there are no stupid questions. And way too many are way too considerate to cut off the offensive parties. With each up-tick of the noise, the pressure on those who haven’t said anything increases. I know in democratic societies – not to mention our dreaded educational system, where teachers make participation 20% of the grade – “speak up and be counted” is often considered to be noble.

If you don’t become a faithful advocate of quality participation counting for more than quantity noise, you are contributing to gross negligence in the lack of candor in corporate America. Be a proponent of insightfulness, not more useless banter.

Publish agendas in advance and allow participants to prepare. End meetings early. Offer your open office door to anyone who didn’t have a chance to speak at the meeting. Never single out quiet employees with the jovial yet sarcastic, “Susan – we haven’t heard much from you today.” Don’t allow introduction of non-agenda items. And for a chance, try attending a meeting where you have nothing to add and, here is a novel idea, you add nothing! Because when the team sees that it is Ok to not add noise but instead aim to add value, they will follow suit.

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