Friday, May 10, 2013

Meetings--the socially acceptable alternative to working

Someone hung up a rather humorous poster on one of the bulletin boards at work; I found it too good not to share. The wording is in Norwegian, so I translated it, and it hasn’t lost any of its humor. Very fitting end to a busy work week. Enjoy. I don't know who the author is or who created the poster, but if and when I find out I will update this post.

Are you lonely?
Do you hate making decisions?
Would you rather talk than get things done?


You can:
·         Meet other people
·         Doze off in familiar surroundings
·         Postpone decisions
·         Take copious amounts of useless notes
·         Feel important
·         Impress and/or bore your colleagues

Do all this on company time!

MEETINGS—The Socially Acceptable Alternative to Working

(Federal Public Service Information)

I have to admit that I find this hysterically funny, mostly because it’s true. So many meetings are unproductive excuses to waste time. I prefer to avoid them as much as possible, unless there is a specific agenda, they are infrequent, and they last no longer than one hour. In my experience, only about twenty-five percent of workplace meetings actually end up being productive, in the sense that a question is asked/answered or a problem discussed/solved. Too often, meetings end with the agreement to schedule yet another meeting to discuss things further. To be fair, meetings are only as successful as the planning that goes into them.

Workplaces schedule meetings to discuss all sorts of things: who is entitled to an office and/or a higher salary, budget priorities, project planning, end-of-year meetings to discuss employee performance. The list is endless. Meeting leaders have to know when to rein in a discussion, when to tell those who enjoy digressing to cut it out, when to sum up what has been discussed and when to end a meeting. The worst types of meetings in my experience are those that are called to discuss how to proceed with large unwieldy projects that are too big for their own good. Meaning, too many people are involved in planning them and planning how other people are going to do the work; meanwhile, there are too few hands to do the work. In other words, too many chiefs and not enough Indians. Those types of projects inevitably ‘require’ progress reports. Is the project going somewhere? Has there been progression? The answer is often no, more times than not. These types of waste-of-time projects and associated meetings were more common a decade ago, and were tedious.

Workplaces these days are often complicated places, top-heavy with administrators who love meetings, or so it seems. It also seems to me that leaders spend most of their time going to meetings; that seems to be part of the job description. I often wonder how they stay awake, how they are able to follow the threads of discussions and how they are able to switch gears and go from one meeting to another. And then there are the meetings to discuss problems (e.g. with personnel) that are fruitless because the problems cannot be solved no matter how much they are discussed. Other times decisions are reversed because they were not good ones in the first place. Ironically, workplaces have become unstable environments in constant flux; the one constant is that you can look forward to a meeting being scheduled for tomorrow or the day after tomorrow. Count on it.

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