Xero's other waste of space

December 5, 2009

meetings are a waste of time

Filed under: General — Xero @ 2:59 pm

I’ve been meaning to write something about this for a while. I hate meetings, and for a few good reasons too.

Generally, most meetings are useless and often have a negative outcome. It’s a way to pretend that you’re discussing something in an open manner, when you’ve really already made up your mind. Fact is, most of the decisions are usually made before the decision to meet was. We’re just here to get your input, and by that, we really mean we’re just telling you how it is and will be and want to weed out those who might give us any trouble.

Sit back and quietly listen to the speech, however misdirected it may be, and don’t dare say a word. This is often how most meetings go. Any real issues will likely be handled privately before and after the meeting, without the input of the whole.

Well, you might be saying, this isn’t a democracy, and truthfully it isn’t, but let’s not pretend like it’s all good while we proceed to waste your time with pre-packaged bad news. And maybe the news isn’t really that bad, it’s just different…changes. Well, change isn’t always bad, but any change, even the most minuscule can have a fairly large effect on the morale of the whole. Maybe to the CEO, your vacation time is no big deal, since he’s always off on “business trips” and no where to be found, or maybe that old-timer who’s always calling out with no repercussions. What I’m really saying is that exceptions are always made, but it’s far too easy to make decisions that effect other people in unknown ways when you’re the exception.

And thus meetings. Fact is, most people will live strolling along through the stream of crap since they have nothing better to do, they need money, job provides, bullshit in between, nothing they can do, deal with it.

Me, I manage to put up with it somehow, I speak out in dissent to those I trust, wishing I had the leverage to actually make a difference, but really being out of place in either case. Fact is, here I am writing about it, because some day, I will do it better. I have a job now, but I am young and fairly opportunistic towards running my own endeavors, and when that time eventually comes I will know what to avoid.

Some people have had it easy – what does it matter to them. Well, it won’t win you any fans, and maybe you’re rich as fuck, so who cares, but I will see through your bullshit. I don’t care about social expectations. I am not a “team player”. All that really means to me is someone who mindlessly follows order, like a big pile of group think. I want people to think for themselves and not be intimidated by the decisions being made, rather being part of them.

How is this possible? Well first of all, you can talk to people. Not just your upper management in your private quarters, but the average people in their working environments. What do they care about. Also, different departments might have different needs. Blindly applying the needs of one department to the rest might mean you greatly disappoint a large amount of people while satisfying the needs of one group.

Then there’s just the meetings which are mostly a pure waste of time. These are generally the optional meetings touted as informational and might even have a time limit. Fact is, people don’t need informational meetings, if they need to know something to do their job better, they will ask those around them and/or find the right place to go. If people were really that unmotivated that they need to constantly be brought up to date, something just seems wrong. These meetings often have people dozing off and/or resting their heads on their hands while they stare aimlessly at a power point presentation which is almost identical to the one from two weeks ago.

Meetings aren’t necessary when people are enjoying their job and actually doing what they should. People will naturally convene and discuss things of importance to the task at hand, without the necessity of predefined dates/times, meeting rooms, and other such non-sense.

Things tend to stagnate when people don’t like what they are doing, or when they are doing it purely for the money. Mediocrity is made this way. People will do the bare minimums to get by and try to basically stay towards the middle of the pack – be average.

Trying to make people do more than average means keeping them happy – unfortunately what employees usually enjoy at a company tends to be the very freedoms which get stripped away as a company grows.

It’s like a government in a way, the government starts out with some initial laws, like the constitution and the bill of rights. Skip forward a few hundred years and you’ll have to be read hundreds of thousands of pages worth of law books to fully grasp the laws of a country.

I can’t remember how many times I’ve gotten an e-mail from an employer which was clearly only sent because someone, somewhere, did something stupid and now it’s time to announce whatever it was to the whole company to make sure this doesn’t ever happpen again, by anyone, when it was only one person who had done it.

Even though it’s not usually something I had done, it still angers me. It angers me because I just see one more freedom stripped off the list. Fast-forward a few years in a growing company and those e-mails start adding up. The companies rules to live by and/or employee manuals are updated. Maybe someone was caught doing something naughty on a lunch break, now lunch breaks have to be within the contained area, or at a specific time, or within a specific amount time, however unreasonable it may be. This is just an example.

Such decisions, made in private, applied to the whole, lower morale. I don’t care how minuscule you think the change is, or even if what you’re taking away is so obscure that there’s no way anyone should care, it doesn’t matter. The fact that people see you depriving them of it is enough to do it.

Also, some people are intimidated by power. When an employer asks you what they could to do make things better, most employees are very hesitant to answer honestly, usually giving a round-about answer which misleads the person asking.

Example: “Tuition reimbursement.” Do people working full time jobs really want you to help them pay for more school? Maybe somtimes, but no, they just want you to pay off their pre-existing college loans, which is probably not going to happen in most companies. Also, such a program has no benefit to someone who did not go to school but does their job just as well as the person who did.

Employers/employees, don’t fall into this trap of confusion. You won’t get honest answers talking to employees this way, and unless you really involve these people in your decision making process and earn their trust for real, and not purely by their paycheck, you are unlikely to find out the truth anyway.

Also, never, ever, treat your employees like they owe you for giving them their job. They might be thankful for their jobs, but regardless, you owe them for their work, never the other way around. Don’t act like you’re doing everyone a big favor just because times are bad, you will just be silently resented.

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