Perhaps I should amend my first sentence. Perhaps these people don’t enjoy wasting their time or others' time. But it’s become a habit, and a dangerous one. In my current workplace, people like this get promoted to top positions. It’s all talk, no action. God forbid they should actually act on what it is they talk about, and if their employees try to do so, they’re quickly shot down. So what do time wasters wish to achieve?
These people like to complain. They have low self-esteem and they cannot abide seeing others working hard and achieving their goals, when they cannot reach that point. They want to be recognized and do it in a way that annoys most people around them in the long run. In the short run, they create some sympathy for themselves that is quickly used up. They are stuck in a loop from which they cannot extricate themselves. I’d feel sorry for them except that they cause so much chaos and uncertainty when they’re done talking. You know you’ve met a time waster when you are livid after a seemingly ordinary project update meeting, where the time waster has regaled the audience for about the fiftieth time with all the wonderful projects he or she is ‘actively’ involved in, but from which no results appear to be emerging (publications and/or grant applications). The rest of us are happy to present, within the space of a few minutes, the few achievable projects in which we are involved. The time waster will use thirty minutes to do the same, and expect complete attention. The time waster is a poor listener and an even poorer organizer. He or she resents others who manage to organize their time effectively. These people are really looking for someone to ‘take the reigns’ for them; to step in and write the article or grant that they cannot seem to write. Time wasters are often people who complain about their small aches and pains that ‘prevent’ them from achieving their goals. We all have small aches and pains. I used to feel sorry for some of these people, but no more, not after knowing several people who struggle along in this life with major chronic illnesses. Time wasters should get over themselves. They should buckle down and get their job done, and leave the rest of us the hell alone. The rest of us end up completely pissed off and demoralized after meetings with these kinds of people. I’ve known men and women who are time wasters, but by and large the majority of them are men, perhaps because my profession is dominated by men. However, female time wasters are worse than their male counterparts; why? Because in addition to wasting our time with useless meetings, they have to add the social aspect into the mix, so that the tone of the meeting shifts from professional to personal, which is another aspect I cannot abide. Here’s what I want from a project update meeting—a meeting of no more than twenty minutes, professional in tone, with a short presentation of what’s been done that week or that month, and what is planned for the next week or next month. Nothing more, nothing less. No discussions of minor aches and pains, of office politics, or of yet again new workplace goals that lead to nothing. Just the work at hand, no more, no less. I behave like this with the people who work for me, and they are motivated and productive. I don’t waste their time, and just as importantly, they don’t waste mine.