Behaving Like It Matters: How to Leave a Meeting Early


Behaving Like it Matters: How to Leave a Meeting Early


Here’s an interesting question that I am asked on occasion: “Do I need to be at this whole training?”

It isn’t necessarily an inappropriate question; however, it does have some implications.

I imagine that one reason that leaders ask this question is that on more than one occasion they have been invited to meetings via a group invite, and they aren’t even sure why they are being invited.

In the spirit of not wanting to exclude anyone or wanting to make sure their boss’s boss is fully informed, group invites are deployed without restraint – the more people the better!

The result is a large group of people not replying to the invite, or worse, showing up at a meeting that they don’t feel they needed to attend in the first place.

Thus, the amount of time spent in the meeting isn’t worth the return, given that busy managers and supervisors have enough on their plates already.

But back to the original question: “Do I need to be at this whole training?”

Perhaps the person truly doesn’t know what content will be delivered at the training and how the time spent will impact their day-to-day work.

A more appropriate question would then be, “What will be presented and how will this benefit me?” Again, a very valid question.

A final reason for asking, “Do I need to be at this whole training?” is that the person does not want to be at the training at all. This has much bigger implications.

Consider the consciousness you bring to meetings:

  • How are you showing up at meetings?
  • Do you take responsibility for choosing to be at the meeting and own that you are choosing to be there?
  • Or do you see yourself as a passive recipient only attending because your boss’s boss may show up? (They clicked “tentative” on the invite.)
  • Do you see yourself as desiring to contribute?
  • Or do you hope to have your laptop open and get a few more emails answered before you jet out 30 minutes before anyone else?

If you’ve found yourself asking, “Do I need to be at the whole training?” stop, and consider what it is that you really want to ask.

Yes, it is important to understand what you are agreeing to before you attend and to choose not to participate if it isn’t relevant to you.

Nevertheless, recognize the impact that it can have on the rest of your team if you do choose to stay for only half the meeting. Especially without expressing beforehand that you are leaving due to another conflict.

You are essentially sending the message that it doesn’t matter if you are there or not, and therefore, it shouldn’t matter to them either.

As busy leaders, we are regularly faced with the challenges of prioritizing and managing the tugs on our time. It is in our best interest to take responsibility for our choices to attend meetings in advance versus waiting for the magical workshop fairy to tell us it is ok to only stay for half the meeting.

If you must leave a meeting early, own this in advance with the person that scheduled it, but more importantly, own it with yourself.

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