What I don’t miss about my job: Meetings

Inspired by this very funny post.

While there are a few things I miss about my job – the routine, the benefits, the gym, the computer/printer/copier equipment I could use to my heart’s desire – there are even more that I don’t. The stress, dealing with annoying people, and worrying that any moment I’d be discovered for the fraud I was – underqualified, overpaid, and spending most of the day surfing the internet. What I don’t miss most are meetings.

Merriam-Webster defines a meeting as “an act or process of coming together.” But it’s so much more than that.

The one-on-one. May be the most dreaded form, depending on your boss. With an efficient manager, a one-on-one can be productive. You have a list of questions, you ask them, your boss helps you. Your boss in turn tells you what he or she thinks you need to know. With a bad boss, one-on-ones can be the opposite of productive. They can make you want to kill yourself.

For example, instead of answering your questions, he asks more questions that may or may not be related to the task at hand, and in the end not only do you not have any answers, you have more work, which is even more difficult to complete because now in addition to your original questions, you have several more, which you now don’t want to bring to your boss, because this will only spawn more questions for him.

In addition, those thirty to sixty minutes give him the opportunity to make up some other shit for you to do, about which you’ll no doubt have more questions, that will never ever be answered.

The team meeting. Perhaps the most common type. A once a week gathering in which team members are expected to give updates on their projects, whether or not they are of any interest or consequence to other team members.

If you don’t have an update, aside from “I ordered some more brochures for the warehouse” or “I made some changes to the website,” you can a) recite these in an important voice and replace common words with corp speak, the native tongue of meeting goers. For example, “I empowered the supply of value-added learning aids,” or “I enhanced the usability of the internet interface tool to achieve real-life results.” Or b) pray that you go last, then pretend to have another meeting and leave ten minutes early.

The kick-off. Your project is a very big deal, or you’re not sure it’s a big deal but you’re spending a lot of money on it, so to show what a big deal it is, you schedule the kick-off meeting. In the kick-off meeting, you may have as many as a dozen people, from as many different departments. The more the better. A successful kick-off is when at least one person thinks, Why am I here?

In the kick-off meeting, you talk about presentation, usually with a fancy PowerPoint. You hand out thick binders with said PowerPoint in tab format. You give them lunch. Afterward, you get “feedback” from everyone, then pretty much ignore what everyone says and do what you were planning on doing anyway.

The follow-up. Because no decisions will be made in the kick-off meeting, a follow-up meeting will be necessary. The attendees will be only 10% of the original roster, but it will last just as long. Decisions may or may not be made in the follow-up meeting. If not, a follow-up to the follow-up meeting will be scheduled.

The prep meeting. The prep or preparation meeting is held to get ready for another meeting. Like the follow-up meeting, the percentage of attendees is about 10% of the original invitees. Sometimes a prep meeting, with an even smaller number of participants, is scheduled to prepare for the bigger prep meeting – a meeting about a meeting about a meeting. Theoretically, prep meetings can be scheduled ad infinitum.

The debrief. Once you actually (ever) have the meeting, a debrief may be scheduled. The participants for the debrief are a smaller percentage from the original meeting. The goal is, “Now that those other people are out of the room, let’s talk about how we really feel.”

Of course “how we really feel” is a misnomer and refers to “how we really feel if it’s in agreement with our boss.” True grievances are aired in informal, spontaneous encounters called bitch sessions.

Back to backs. Not a meeting in and of itself, but a series of meetings that occur one after the other, with no break. Usage: “I have back to back meetings all day.” Sigh. Used as a form of boasting disguised as weariness.

There’s also the face-to-face. You’d assume most meetings are thus, but in a world of technology – and people pretending to work from home – the phrase is used to distinguish meetings that are not conference calls.

The evil meeting. Any gathering taking place at nine AM, noon, or five PM. One that occurs before nine or after five is known as the Spawn of Satan.

The meeting participants are as varied as the gatherings. There’s the late arriver who, as the name suggests, always arrives ten to twenty minutes late. Usually someone from marketing. The early leaver departs ten to twenty minutes early with the air of, “I have more important things to do than this,” such as another meeting.

The Blackberrier looks at his Blackberry the whole time, and also has the habit of leaving his device on vibrate on the conference room table, which makes as much, if not more, noise than if it rang. The chit chatter wastes the first twenty minutes of the meeting making small talks and jokes because more important than the meeting is that she is liked.

The devil’s advocate – opening his long-winded speech with, “Just to play devil’s advocate here” – says the opposite of whatever rare decision has been made with the purpose of “contributing” and showing how smart he is, sometimes deflating the decision entirely and causing the need for a follow-up meeting. Also known as “asshole.”

The talker talks constantly to his or her neighbor, probably making snide remarks and jokes, and finally the daydreamer (ie, yours truly) spends the whole meeting imagining what they’re going to have for dinner.

The reasons behind meetings, aside from the supposed subject, are as varied as meeting types. To “touch base,” or, “Is there anything I should know that you didn’t tell me and will come to bite me in the ass later?” To keep people “in the loop,” or, “Now I can say you were in that meeting so when you bitch later that you didn’t know, I can call you a big fat liar.” To “get buy-in,” or, “I will get you all to say they agree with me so later when someone says it was a bad idea, I can put some of the blame on you.”

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a one-on-one with a chai latte that may require a follow-up with some bunt cake.

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