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let me stop this meeting to deal with YOUR problem January 2, 2009

Posted by That Guy in Meeting Minutes.

The first CorporateSpeak post of 2009 begins with a story. Close your eyes* and picture this:

You’re in the meeting room, at the table, in your chair, with your phone on vibrate, your water freshly-filled and icy-cold, your pen and paper ready for note-taking. The time of the meeting arrives…

CC-licensed photo by Flickr user star5112

CC-licensed photo by Flickr user star5112

…and someone peeks in through the door. Furtive. As if not sure an interruption is warranted.

The meeting leader — let’s call her Tracy — waves. You haven’t started yet; it’s okay. So the interloper — let’s call him Fred — opens the door, still in physical contact with the frame as if to say “I’m not really interrupting if I don’t actually come into the room, right?”

Then Fred launches into a brief but apologetic explanation about something that has to be dealt with Right Now, and Tracy’s the one who has to deal with it.

With a sheepish expression, Tracy leaves with Fred.

And everyone else is left behind. Some twiddle their thumbs, some make snide remarks about how the meeting started and Fred is wasting time, some check their smartphones, some chat amongst themselves, and some just sit quietly until Tracy finally slips back in.

Of course Tracy has to regale everyone with a description of what happened before starting the meeting.

This has happened to you if you work in any corporate setting. There’s no way around it. It happens about 20% of the time**, and it’s annoying, wasteful, and insulting to the people who actually showed up to your meeting. You can’t say anything to Tracy — she called the meeting, and is probably in a position of authority — and you can’t say anything to Fred — because he won’t understand why you’re so upset. So you keep quiet and you wait until someone has to stop a meeting to deal with your problem.

And you feel no guilt whatsoever in doing so.

The cycle continues.

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* Don’t really close your eyes, or you won’t be able to read the article. It’s just a figure of speech.

** Unscientifically-subjective measurement.



1. just block out an hour* « corporatespeak - January 26, 2009

[…] organizer has to give five minutes for stragglers to show up and finish socializing. Someone has to peek in at the 15-minute mark. Things have to get completely derailed talking about vacations or stuck on a […]

2. That Guy’s Tips for Corporate Success, #15 « corporatespeak - January 30, 2009

[…] Once you’re at work, though, time is relative. Is your project finished early? Don’t hand it in because people will expect you to finish things sooner. Are you able to get to that meeting before it starts? That must mean you don’t have enough work to do. No, the safe play is to show up just after the start time. There’ll still be chairs available, and the meeting organizer has been trained to expect at least a quarter of the participants to arrive after the meeting has already started. And of course the organizer will be glad to start over twice — once for the stragglers, and once because the meeting has to be stopped to deal with someone else’s problem. […]

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