CASE STUDY

Is It OK to Pull an "Irish Goodbye" on a Zoom Call?

Productivity is important to private sector organizations, where efficiency is highly valued. Elon Musk, a genius entrepreneur best known for Tesla and the aerospace company SpaceX, sent out a memo in 2018 with productivity rules for his employees. This memo has resurfaced since the start of the pandemic and has gained a great deal of attention — particularly his rule on leaving meetings, in which Musk encourages employees to "walk out of a meeting or drop off a call as soon as it is obvious you aren't adding value."

In the age of COVID-19, this rule has resonated with a growing number of workers — both in the public and private sectors —  whose calendars are filled with virtual meetings. While virtual meetings can be essential for streamlining workflow in hybrid work environments where remote and on-site employees must collaborate, excessive or poorly organized virtual meetings can have the opposite effect and even harm efficiency.

What happens when virtual meetings aren't so productive? If a meeting attendee feels like they aren’t contributing to a call, or that their time is being wasted attending a virtual meeting, is it ever okay for them to drop out of the meeting without so much as a farewell — otherwise known as an “Irish Goodbye?”  

Proper Zoom Meeting Etiquette Still Applies

Musk’s memo makes it clear that leaving a virtual meeting without saying goodbye is okay. However, for organizations in the public sector, proper Zoom etiquette rules are still encouraged. Etiquette expert Lizzie Post told Refinery 29 that parting well is still the right way to leave virtual meetings. Whether you explain to the other participants in the beginning or wait until a break in the conversation, leaving politely is the right thing to do.

Musk's Six Productivity Rules

Musk’s six productivity rules are controversial to societal etiquette norms but explain how he manages to get all his projects done in a timely manner. These are his six main rules:

  1. Nix big meetings.
  2. Ditch frequent meetings too.
  3. Leave a meeting if you’re not contributing.
  4. Drop the jargon.
  5. Communicate directly, irrespective of hierarchy.
  6. Follow logic, not rules.

How Musk’s Productivity Rules Could Apply to the Public Sector

Musk’s productivity rules go against the hierarchal structure many businesses are built upon.  Since agencies in the public sector often rely on strict command structures where communications run through the proper chain of command, there are often rigid structures and rules. As a result, these organizations may have difficulty applying many of these productivity ideas.

However, two rules public sector organizations could apply are nixing big and/or frequent meetings. Understaffing is a common problem many governmental agencies face, so one person wears many hats. Having fewer meetings frees up valuable time that managers and employees can spend elsewhere.

These agencies can use the following tips to make the most out of necessary meetings while still practicing the proper Zoom meeting etiquette.

Tips for Conducting Productive and Useful Virtual Meetings

Use the following tips to ensure your virtual meetings are successful and people stay engaged.

Only Invite Necessary Participants

Inviting people who don’t need to be at a meeting can lead to more Irish Goodbyes and reduce the quality of the meeting. Streamline the meeting by limiting the number of attendees and sending a recording or summary of the meeting to stakeholders after the meeting.

Only Have Necessary Meetings

Amazon’s Jeff Bezos has a “two-pizza” rule for meetings — you should never have more people in a meeting than you can feed with two pizzas. Before hosting a meeting, consider if everyone needs to be in it or if it’s more productive to quickly check on each person individually.

Plan Ahead

Planning ahead ensures you aren’t rushed right before the meeting. If you’re hosting a meeting, send an agenda with the meeting request so attendees understand the purpose of it. Also, be sure to check the platform’s visual and audio settings before every meeting to ensure things run smoothly and that you don’t waste time with settings during the meeting.

Key Takeaways

Public sector agencies still need to follow virtual meeting etiquette despite the productivity ideas that Musk goes by. His rules conflict with the command structures of many agencies, where it is considered more proper to exit a virtual meeting by advising participants ahead of time or as soon as possible during the meeting. An "Irish Goodbye" could turn into a reprimand or penalty in many organizations as politeness and respect are important to many public sector agencies.

With that said, public sector organizations can still operate in the spirit of some of Musk's productivity rules. When hosting meetings, always focus on brevity and only invite the people necessary to ensure better engagement and to be respectful of your employees' time and bandwidth.

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