The Office Meeting

The Office Meeting 

What is it about meetings that make my skin crawl?

Attending a long ago medical conference on a topic now forgotten I was minded of how much time is wasted in meetings for no purpose. Colleague Liz sat opposite me on other arm of the inevitable U shaped tables. It’s always a U! Reminds me of an ancient Greek amphitheater, its sides squashed trying to get through a lift door.

We sought to amuse ourselves at these regulated mutterings which passed as the latest learnings on mental health.  A thickened eye brow raised here, a glazed eyeball thrown back there. As time dissolved I fell into reverie wondering about the meetings I’d not been able to avoid in my other job, managing a large building materials manufacturing operation and began toying with the following non exhaustive list of meeting types. As the learned, the much credentialed but boring professor droned on and on, I thought and listened, I wrote, and wrote, and wrote. I  thought of five meeting types:

Meeting #1 

Although it comes in variants a common example is the regular meeting at which

“Safety must always be the first item on the agenda’.

This is a fine sentiment but whose half life is approximately three meetings. Usually in response to an admonition from on high, safety appears. A reaction to something gleaned from a report on safety, or some young enthusiast’s attempt to make a name.  People expectantly bring their items up. Nothing changes but safety is top of the agenda, literally.

 Meeting #2

This meeting is the child of a boss’s mindless musings coupled with the need to be seen to have employees doing something. Anything will do. And if amoebae like we collect in some room where we can be either be seen through glassed walls to be ‘working’ at a meeting, or locked out of sight with an endless supply of dried out sandwiches, so much the better.

To detect this meeting listen for these words

‘I thought it would be a good idea if I got the team together to throw around … ….’

A dead giveaway! Someone who thought their time was worth more than yours, can’t clearly frame their ideas, but wants to waste your time to do it for them.

Meeting #3

 Similar to type #2 this more aimless meeting takes full flight when no one takes charge and the laundry basket is emptied, picked up and dropped again and again. From this sodden basket parent, wish lists are its children. Vague and poorly thought out, no amount of editing, paraphrasing is allowed to ensure that every tiny crumb or morsel is allowed to fester away in files full of other aimless minutes.

 Meeting #4

A relatively new phenomenon, “where everyone has a say”. It’s most lethal when the invitation list has not been given any thought, having been generated by email groupings. Best if the groupings are out of date because that allows the first fifteen minutes to be filled with recriminations about why so and so hasn’t turned up and do they think they’re too good for us etcetera, etcetera. When everyone has a say no one takes the advice of that well known song lyric,

“You say it best when you say nothing at all.’ 

Meeting #5 

And finally my mind turned to religion. There is a higher authority whose role it is to pontificate. I’ve seen all forms of this, and the ability to pontificate never finds its meeting equal, not even head nodding agreement works! It’s a secular sermon. All are compelled to supplicate before the omniscient leader, or at worst stand in the vestibule to lend an ear to the mutterings, all the better to be able to say that you were there. 


And so what did I write so determinedly at that meeting of long ago?

Liz came over

“Oh my God that was so damn boring, did you ever hear anything which made you want to go and pull out your teeth with a pair of pliers for relief? She said, “What on earth were you writing?” 

“How could anyone have been taking note of the drivel being sprouted!”

Liz looked at my pad, back at me, then with tears welling in her chestnut eyes she read. 

“God this is boring, I think I’m going to write about how boring this is over and over. Fuck this is boring it’s the most boring stuff I’ve ever heard. Jesus this is boring so boring boring boring boring… ” And so it went on for three and a half pages.

Try it sometime.