Monday, February 8, 2010

Meetings schmeetings

I was having lunch with a friend today and we were talking about how much we hate meetings. Does anyone like meetings? No. Nobody does, right? So we just endure them because they're a necessary evil. But then, are they really even necessary most of the time? I'm thinking not.

She was telling me about this meeting she went to with representatives from several organizations to discuss a meeting-management software system they all used which was not working very effectively. She pointed out several flaws with the system that resulted in rooms being double-booked, catering getting messed up and users not being able to use the system to see what rooms were actually in use. It had caused her no end of headaches. Her complaints were met first with silence and then, one by one, the people in the room started saying things like this: Well, I know that I only get coffee delivered half the time I request it, but I really appreciate it when I do get it. Yes, me too! And while the system may not work well, I know you all worked very hard at getting it set up. Perhaps we're requesting too many rooms? When she asked the person in charge of the system if users could get reports showing which rooms their organizations had booked he said he didn't know how to do that. When she suggested the software company could probably instruct him in how to do that, he said sorry, he just wasn't comfortable with computers. The others in the room said they could appreciate that.

Face. Meet palm.

I was sitting in a management team meeting the other day and these are always desperately tedious but this one was outperforming itself and at one point I had to get up to do something, I'm not sure what, use the ladies or pop a No-doz or put a vise over my head to keep my brain from exploding from sheer boredom, and as I was walking down the hall I had this rare moment of clarity. It occurred to me that I was spending several hours in this meeting and that I did this every week, week after week, that really I spent huge chunks of my life doing things that were not meaningful to me.  And the things that I loved, that I was passionate about, I had to squeeze into the corners of my life and they had to fight for space with so many, many other things and that often, so often, they lost. And was this really how I wanted my life to be, this inverted pyramid of priorities? And as suddenly as that clarity came, I found myself sinking back down into the fog of everyday life and I went to the ladies or took my No-doz or averted the brain explosion and returned to the meeting.

Afterwards, as we were walking out one of my colleagues, Richard, turned to me and said, “I hope that when I die I do so in a meeting. That way the transition from life to death with be imperceptible.” And while I get what he means, I think I would like to die elsewhere. Like in a quiet stretch of desert in Australia, while having great sex and just having published a bestselling novel. That'll do.



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11 comments:

  1. Your exit strategy sounds DeVine. Consider it copied.

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  2. i do not miss working in an office. The only meetings I have these days are with the twitter and blog posses, meetings I am only too happy to show up for.

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  3. Last year I attended two meetings in one week, they lasted for 2 hours each and their purpose? To set the agenda for a meeting the following week!

    Last week I attended a 3 hour meeting chaired by someone who manages to talk like Stephen Hawking, but without the machinery, just so that in the very last action point before ‘Any Other Business’ I could say the word “Yes!” when asked if we had any chocolate biscuits left (actually I didn’t hear the question, just suddenly realised everyone was looking at me for an answer – I’ve probably volunteered to work somewhere stupid like Chandler).

    Not sure about your planned method of dying though as that would mean I would have to be laid getting badly sunburnt whilst dying of some nasty spider bite (that I wouldn’t have been dying from if I’d stayed in the meeting) whilst a woman gives me that look of pity and says “It doesn’t matter, you are under a lot of stress at the moment! Anyway size isn’t everything!” No thank you, I’ll die on the underground at peak commuter time and really annoy the hell out of the impatient gits!

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  4. That's one reason I'm glad I get to be a stay at home mum. Ok so technically I'm one of thos benefit scrounging parents, but it's better for me financially to live off the govt than it is to get a job and pay for childcare!

    Also... the way to die? Yes. *agrees*! :)

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  5. We have a meeting every Tuesday - and if there's nothing to discuss, they sit there and talk about nothing for the requisite amount of time. Totally soul destroying.

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  6. Ummm - you do remember that the last soul destroying meeting you attended, with the desperately tedious content, was mostly conducted by me?

    I'm not taking it personally or anything. Just saying.

    And you forgot to talk about how much fun the rest of your job, outside of meetings, is. You're probably saving the good stuff for next time, huh?

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  7. LOL Glen. Think you're being a little too literal. I don't want to actually lie with the spiders in the sand. Perhaps a cot or someting.

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  8. Yay!! Celeste commented on my blog! Yay yay yay! You must not be using your *protection*. Um, hmmm, are you sure we're talking about the same meeting? Because I was *beyond* fascinated with that 90 min. discussion of marketing forms. Honestly. Let's do it again real soon. Like, the next time I'm scheduled to be in Australia.

    Complaint duly noted. Fun stuff coming up.

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  9. Sorry, I fell asleep halfway through the second paragraph. I used to have to take minutes and many varied and excited meetings and many was the time I considered how I could top myself with nothing but a biro and some razor sharp paper.

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  10. Here's a trick that got me through many tedious meetings at Sprint. I'd write down all the attendees names and then next to each, I'd write down a snippet of one of their comments. Readin them out of context like that made for some fun. Ok, I guess I'm easily amused...

    S

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Mmmm, comments - nom, nom, nom, nom!

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