The Meetings Will Continue Until Morale Improves

A day in the life of a cubicle rat…..

Ask any engineer about the biggest time-wasters at work, and odds are meetings will be near the top of his or her list.

Engineers are hardly alone – their feeling are widely shared across the broader workforce. Among the reasons given in a 2012 employee survey by Business New Daily were: meetings that don't start on time, stay on track or finish on time; meetings with no clear purpose or objective; or meetings that are boring or provide no new or interesting information.

The number one annoyance, though, was allowing attendees to ramble on, repeating comments and thoughts.

If you're caught in such a meeting, you might wonder whether you can find a way to skip the meeting entirely next time, without being seen as “not a team player”. Here are few suggestions – not that I ever tried these myself.

One time-honored approach is to fake being sick. This is a popular choice – in a 2014 study, 30% of employees said they had called in sick even though they felt fine. The most popular reason? They were “sick” of work.

An obvious problem with this approach – you may only want to get out of one particular meeting, not the whole day.

One option is to come to work, then be laid low just before the meeting in question. If you decide to try this method, this site offers a selection of plausible ailments. Nothing life-threatening, though – no need to unduly alarm your colleagues.

If this seems a little extreme, keep reading because technology offers other more elegant options.

If you're at a remote site and calling in via a conference call, you've got it made – check out Figure 1.

Figure 1

Why nobody is listening to your presentation (source: Intercall/HBR)

Why nobody is listening to your presentation (source: Intercall/HBR)

A modified version of this strategy works well if the meeting is early or late and you can call in from your car – add in cellphone dead zones and the possibilities are endless. On the advice of counsel, though, we suggest you park before attempting any of the activities listed above.

If you can't avail yourself of this get-out-of-jail-free card, move to Plan B (or is it C?).

Got a laptop? Of course, you need to bring it to the meeting – might miss an important meeting notice, right? Having chosen the right seat (nobody behind you) and carefully oriented your screen to prevent unwanted snooping, salvation is a mere click away.

No laptop? Two words – Smart. Phone.

Unfortunately, this method does require your physical presence. But nothing else. Don't forget the coffee.

Salvation takes many forms – I'm quite sure that Planet Analog is at the top of your list, but CNN and the BBC are both solid choices. Or the UC Berkeley Philosophy Department website, a personal favorite.

Wait a minute – isn't it Fantasy Football season?

Although I've never faked sickness to avoid a meeting (as far as I can recall), I do have personal experience of the efficacy of the laptop/cellphone method.

At a weekly group meeting some years ago, after a particularly tedious progress report from a colleague, our manager asked if anyone had any comments.

Silence. I looked around the room. Every single person was deep inside their laptop or smartphone.

Except me, naturally.

Because I'm a team player.

2 comments on “The Meetings Will Continue Until Morale Improves

  1. Koda23
    August 12, 2015

    One manager I worked for used to put a stop to rambling conversations at meetings by saying, “let's not go down that rat hole and we'll take that issue offline.”

    As far as sick calls, the same manager's favorite line was, “I'm calling in sick today because I'm having eye trouble. I can't see coming into work!”


  2. Scott Elder
    August 27, 2015

    My daughter sent me a slightly different version of your thesis.  Namely, the “beatings” will continue until moral improves.

    Thanks for sharing your blog.


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