“All we do is have meetings...”

“All we do is have meetings...”

What do meetings tell us about group dynamics and workplace culture?


Wednesday 14 December 2022, 1pm — 2.30pm

‘What meetings tell us about group dynamics and workplace culture’ with Dr John Curran

Workplace meetings have a bad press. They are portrayed as a function of organisational life that aims to stifle productivity and creativity. In the eyes of many, they prevent stuff getting done.

The pandemic and resulting lockdown heightened this general distain for meetings; team members had to go through the sometimes-painful learning process of conducting meetings online which involved engaging with new technologies and environments while also managing their personal and professional identities on screen. However, what remained a constant was that performance was a key factor of meetings.

This talk suggested that the bad press meetings get has a deeper unconscious meaning than simply being a waste of time. By combining theories from social anthropology and psychodynamics, the talk framed meetings as a theatrical space where the group performs multiple ‘acts of negotiations’. Fundamentally, while meetings are perceived as rational and functional group activities, they are also status and identity tournaments where subgroups or individuals within the wider group work tirelessly to maintain or acquire power and/or status.

The talk also introduced the Culture Empathy Map which is a tool that enables consultants and employees to decode these performances by adopting ethnographic approaches and theories from psychodynamics and anthropology.

Recording of the talk

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