…the scourge of modern life.
I consider it a Badge of Honor, a Mark of Distinction and a Small Triumph in Life that I don’t have to attend many meetings anymore. I was a meeting mongrel for many years, but am now largely released from those obligations. And, when meetings are called that don’t require a mandatory make-up if missed, I take a sick day. Meetings be gone!
Why? Because I hate wasting time, and nothing more consistently wastes my time than sitting in meetings.
I work in male dominated fields so in my experience, the primary, though not exclusive, proponents of these time wasting exercises are men.
Clearly, men have never had to build a career – or even just hold a job – while carpooling children to various destinations, making alternative arrangements for child care when one of them is sick, feeding a family, taking care of elderly parents, or, if single, figuring out ways to receive your furniture on moving day, have the gas turned on, or be there for the Cable Guy on your own, running out-of-work organizations (because others assume you have the time), taking care of elderly family, having an active life (contrary to what others may think) and just generally multi-tasking!
I have the pleasure of working on a professional Board with a super intelligent, successful woman with a doctorate in both physics and astronomy. She is also a single mother. At the first meeting she very politely said how pleased and honored she was to be asked to join the prestigious Board, and then categorically stated that she would happily served as long as nobody wasted her time, as she had too much to do to listen to people pontificate.
I wanted to stand and cheer.
I was reminded of the propensity of meetings to be little more than wasted time during two meetings I
got sucked into attended over the past week.
The first was chaired by a man who has never had the time to send a short, clear email, and so consistently rambles on for pages, obscuring any chance there might have been for readers to understand what the point of the message was. This translates into meetings about issues which could be settled in 20-30 minutes but instead go on for hours. It’s a bureaucratic technique to keep the meeting going until he gets what he wants.
Ha ha — hasn’t worked so far on the most recent issue. The rest of the committee has held out though it meant hours we would never get back in our lives. Even if a decision on an issue is reached, he insists on droning on about the wisdom of the decision thinks he “guided,” and going over and over options that have already been discarded. Unfortunately, I have not found this man’s style to be an anomaly. Neither have others. A 2012 survey found that the #1 reason employees hate meetings is having to hear their boss and the bosses’ sycophants “ramble and repeat comments and thoughts.”
In all fairness, there were men at this particular meeting who were as frustrated as I was. Several times, one of them uttered the big “Well…good meeting…” that is universally known as a signal for everyone to stand up and head toward the door. But no….individuals oblivious to their own tendencies toward obfuscation and rambling are rarely up on common cues for social and professional interactions. The committee chair just kept going…
This particular meeting was the fourth of its kind on the same subject, and the subject still has decisions to be reached. I anticipate several more over the next couple of weeks.
I have installed Fruit Ninja on my IPhone.
The second meeting was one where an action plan was to be developed. None was, and I don’t think it ever will be.
This particular committee was at a major Ivy league academic institution to consider a proposal which has been around for nearly thirty frickin’ years, and it quickly became apparent why! Each person (man) around the table, each renowned in his field, gave a mini lecture on how important they are and how only they understood the real issue, — none really relating to the issue at hand. And then the Chair asked when we should meet again. Huh? Oh no, I won’t be going back for round #2 on that one.
And that model is just way too often the rule. I have found that men get stuck on details more than women. And regardless of age have no short term memories.
“Let’s talk about point number 3…” mumbles the Chair.
We finished that one 20 minutes ago! Keep up!
Or… “Did we decide that it is better to use “happy” or “glad” in paragraph 3?”
Who the eff* cares! Move on!
Sadly though, just when I thought I could pin all this meeting torture on men, I was reminded by a friend of a meeting we were required to attend a couple of years ago, chaired by a woman.
The meeting was scheduled for 11 a.m. Now doesn’t common sense then dictate some simple time parameters? Like – break for lunch and then resume if the meeting begins to run long, or tell people to bring lunch, or run the meeting in an organized way to get thing done in 60-90 minutes! But no, this particular meeting went on until past 2:30, and which time people were so hungry that they would have agreed to anything just to end this seated version of the Bataan Death March! We were sharing Tic Tacs under the table. I gave the woman next to me three old Peanut M&M’s I found at the bottom of my purse to keep her from going into diabetic shock.
There are ways to entertain yourself at these meetings though. At the height of my years as a meeting mongrel, a co-worker instructed me on the Art of PowerPoint Disruption. This technique is appropriate for meetings where they boss or leader comes in with 60+ slides to bore you to death with. Individuals who need this many slides are deeply insecure. So let them talk, and
gleefully and mischievously make notes about a question you might ask but, and here’s the trick, don’t ask it right away. Wait, and then ask the presenter to go back 7 slides to address the question you have. That’s when the comedy show begins. The Power Point Addict will quickly get confused and flustered. Not only is that entertaining, it can lead to early cessation of the meeting. So…you potentially get humor, and a couple of hours of your life that might otherwise have been given over to the Meeting Sink.
As a fellow blogger has said… Meetings are a wonderful idea if you bask in the idea of progress through the inaction of talking and blind alley segues.