Not since Covid have I been in the office. That all changed recently when I was asked to attend an onsite meeting. Like many of us, I prefer working from home, however, I’ve learnt that it’s possible to work from home too much. So a part of me was looking forward to a change of scenery.
On arrival, I caught up with a few people that I’d not seen in over two years which was nice but the novelty of being back in the office soon wore off. One reason I like working from home (or “W”FH as I call it) is that you don’t have to pretend to work, whereas in the office the pretence becomes tiring.
My meeting wasn’t until 2pm which meant four hours of sitting and trying to look attentive. Other than going to the kitchen and toilet again, I struggled to come up with ideas on how to kill time.
It goes without saying that the meeting I was attending was pointless. It scored a solid ten out of ten on the pointless meeting scale. There was no objective, no agenda, and it was one of those annoying recurring meetings where everyone still meets even when there’s nothing to discuss.
When meeting time finally arrived, Neil (the meeting organiser) powered up the big screen TV and connected his laptop. I looked up at the screen and thought, Jesus! There were 87 fricking slides! There’s no way we’re getting through this in one hour!
The meeting started in the usual terrible fashion, Neil said “I see a few new faces, should we start with a round of introductions?”. Really?! There were 20 of us. Surely we knew each other well enough and anyway when has “a round of intros” ever been useful, to anyone, ever?!
We began with Bob who was still introducing himself 3 minutes later. I knew this because I was timing him. His last record was 5 minutes 45 seconds. Why does he always give everyone his life story? There need to be ground rules. We only need to know your name and job title. That’s it. Why are you telling us what you like to do in your spare time? This isn’t a date. None of us want to go out with you, Bob. Stop talking!
Finally, the introductions were over and we had the protracted presentation to look forward to. Twenty minutes dragged by and we hadn’t gone past slide five. The entire deck relates to online marketing, a subject my boss knew nothing about but that didn’t stop him from speaking incessantly over every slide. His questions and suggestions were ridiculous but we all had to pay attention and pretend what he was saying was insightful. I buried my head in my hands and thought, why can’t you have the courtesy to shut up and listen when it’s a topic you don’t understand?
It got worse as Laura then decided to chime in. Just what we need, another one that feels the urge to give us their “wisdom”. It’s more nonsense. We now had a deluded competition to see who could make the most ridiculous comments.
I recently watched a documentary about Vladimir Putin and how everyone surrounding him is afraid to tell him bad news. He’s lacking a “negative feedback loop” which takes him further away from reality. The same happened with Hitler. The idiom we’re all familiar with is “The Emperor’s New Clothes” and terrible meetings are a rendition of that.
Although what my boss was saying made no sense, there were still people frantically scribbling in notebooks to acknowledge his feedback. Surely no one is going to follow up with this drivel? This must be how Putin’s advisors feel.
I was slowly losing the will to live, what can take me away from this boring hell? I know, so I googled “pointless meetings”. Yeah, just what I thought, there’s tons of pointless meeting content on the internet. As I scrolled through the pointless meeting memes, I found it kind of comforting. It was good to know that others find meetings comically unbearable too.
Seeing as office meetings are the butt of jokes, it did make me wonder. Why do we still have them? There is of course Parkinson’s law which says “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”. Which in the office environment means we fill our days with meetings as we have too much time on our hands. If we had meaningful tasks to complete and not much time, then the first thing that would get cut would be meetings.
I work for a huge consumer brand which again is puzzling, how did a company get so big that is run so poorly? You’d expect it to be uber-efficient with no time for pointless meetings, however, our days are filled with politics and PowerPoint. Not only that, there’s an unusual amount of senior management who are completely clueless. My boss, who’s a complete idiot is just one example.
The way I see it, it’s easy to get away with being incompetent in the office so idiots breed and are everywhere. If you were a carpenter or bricklayer and terrible at your job, people would know about it pretty quickly and you’d be out on your ear. Whereas in the office where work isn’t tangible it’s a different story. Useless people can hide forever.
To climb the office ladder you need to enjoy meetings. You can’t be a real boss unless you are arranging team meetings, one to ones, and workshops. Are there any point to these meetings? Errr …no. But corporate “leaders” follow the herd and don’t like rocking the boat.
Now let’s get back to my boring meeting. There were only 15 minutes left of our allotted one hour yet we’d only progressed to slide 10 of 87. It was at this point, I highlighted the problem. Why am I the only one concerned about this? Do serial meeting attenders actually enjoy this charade?
“Richard, can you follow up on that? ” Oh god, why was my name being mentioned? I hadn’t been listening since the meeting began. “Yes, don’t worry” I say, and pretend to scribble something down. Now someone else is speaking to me about another topic. Jesus! I need to shut him up. “Let’s take this offline” I say, which we all know is office-code for: let’s never talk about this ever again.
One hour is up and we were only a fraction of the way through the deck. “I’m happy to stay later” says Chris. WTF? Don’t say that. This poorly managed meeting should be punished. We should all walkout in protest. Oh no, more people are now offering to stay late. Who was going to be the first person to say they can’t stay? Hang on a minute, what was that? Someone was knocking at the door, we were getting booted out of our meeting room. There is a God!
There you have it, I always wondered, what was the point of going into the office to do a pointless job, and it’s because pointless meetings are less likely to overrun. It’s not much, but I’ll take it for now as it was my excuse to slink out of the office and get the first train home and hopefully never return to the office ever again.