Workplace Meetings: A Menagerie of Chimps, Parrots, Hyenas, Chickens, Dinosaurs, Dogs & Ostriches

Carousels of meetings that go on and on everyday, day after day. That’s what everyday work life feels like in the 21st century.  On average, I have about five meetings a day, with some days going up to 10 meetings. There have been times when I have been in two meetings at the same time: one face-to-face while the other is a teleconference.  If you don’t go into the workforce with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)  you surely will have it by the time you are done with work-life. And to what end, we hold these meetings? Oftentimes, it seems that meetings are held so that talking heads can be talking heads.

You would think that by now we would all qualify as seasoned meeting holders and attendees and would understand our roles to be informative and on point. However, it is truly amazing how many people still don’t know how to filter: filter their emotions; their words; their expressions.  A meeting can start off with set objectives and it quickly devolves into a group-level psychotherapy session where we are subjected to hearing about individual childhood trauma and the like.  When I agree to attend a meeting that truly is not what I sign up for. Remember, whatever is said in these meetings can eventually come back to haunt you.  While Heathers asked  “what’s your trauma?” I don’t want to know it.

These days it seems like everyone carries their soapbox with them and expects to have a captive audience whether people are actually processing what is being said or not. It’s kind of like everyone treats the workplace as if it were Speakers Corner in Hyde Park (London).  Soapbox and inappropriate disclosures; along with countless meetings I have found there are about7 types of meeting participants.

  1. At times it appears that people remain purposefully obtuse in not directly addressing the specific question or objective of the meeting.  These are the saboteurs, the parrots, who come in with their own agenda and they will be damned if they do not state their opinion over and over again. When will those saboteurs learn that just makes the rest of us tune out and never take them seriously?
  2. You then have the comedians, or the hyenas, who feel it’s their job to keep things light by showcasing their comedic skills and thusly putting a huge spotlight on themselves. Oftentimes, these comedians have very valid points that are buried deep within their skit and those points do tend to have a bite.  I have found snark to be a good thing actually.
  3. You then have the dinosaurs. They have been in their field for ages and they are extremely proud of being in the field for that long (sometimes rightly so) and they will note that in every utterance. They will often state “well, you know I’ve been in the field for 30 years now”. Just by stating that, many believe they command immediate attention and that what they have to say is more valid or more insightful than what others have to say. Listen, just because you have been in the field for so long doesn’t mean you really know all that much. You could have been doing it wrong all this time. And if the field hasn’t made much progress in that time, is it really a badge of honor to have been in it for that long?  Just think about that.
  4. Meetings also have the challenging participants who in a way can be called the chimps of the groups-highly evolved but still through feces around.  Sometimes they are contrarian just to be contrarian. And, that in itself can actually be quite comedic. Some of the ones that are aware of their role will state that they are just serving as the devil’s advocate or offering a different perspective. Oftentimes it’s just being a di@k.
  5. Then you have the chickens: the headless chickens running around totally clueless and idiotically and then the cowardly chickens who dare not offer any type of opinion.  It’s amazing how the headless chickens don’t realize they are headless. They oftentimes don’t get when they should just keep their mouths shut.  Your mom may find that air-headedness cute, but your work colleagues inevitably need a cocktail after trying to talk to you.  For the cowardly ones, if you really don’t plan to talk or know you are too afraid too, why accept the invitation to the meeting?  That’s an extra seat I can rest my legs on.
  6. You then have the doggies of the group-those come in several breeds: the lapdog (follow everything you say); the guard-dog (your loyal fierce protector);  your working-dog (the person that just gets thing done) and the toy dog (just there to look cute and add a particular demographic).  I am partial to real-life dogs, so dogs tend to rule in my book. I like a doggie entourage
  7. Lastly, you have your ostriches. They look very cute and at times majestic –appear to possess great leadership qualities and then they just the bite you and bury their heads in the sand.  They can be quite mean-spirited but it’s unexpected (unless you have worked with them for a while) because they come off as so connected to everyone. At other times, they don’t want to hear any of the feedback, or what is actually going on and proceed to just bury their heads in the sand. Beware of ostriches for they are truly very difficult to work with.

With this this menagerie of animal characters,  meetings could be interesting if people switched up their roles. Instead, oftentimes, people stick with their characters meeting after meeting.  BORING! Next time you find yourself in an endless meeting take on a character at the beginning and then mid-way switch-it up. Also, make sure to bring a full flask (of water, of course)!

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