Coffee Break [31/8/20]

It can be a struggle to get through the second half of the day.

Staff meetings – we’ve all suffered through them. They’re a necessary evil and can be productive. Unless you work with that person who won’t stick to the agenda, the person who shoots down every idea but offers none of their own, the person who drones on endlessly, or this guy from a recent Ask a Manager letter.

 We start every meeting with “words of essence” and personality types

What do you think of a CEO who starts every executive team meeting with each person reciting their name (as a way to “own” their words), their “word of essence” (a word you use to describe your true character, what’s really important to you, etc.), and their Myers-Briggs personality type, and then discuss everyone’s answers? This is a group of five people who meet every other week. It makes me insane to waste time like this, but I appear to be the only person who feels this way. We have all worked together for 2+ years, so it’s not an ice-breaker or anything. I feel like it would be just as useful to recite my zodiac sign, and about as accurate. Do I just have to suck it up and go along with it all?

(For my “word of essence,” I usually say “determined,” because I’m determined to get through another BS meeting.)

My word of essence in this situation would probably be “homicidal”. What’s your word of essence for today.



  1. My employer started doing this personality profile shit a couple of years ago.  I had to take the initial assessment because my boss at the time told me to do it–but I also made a point of telling her that I had zero intention of utilizing it because it does follow the same bullshit methods as astrology–basically telling you what you want to hear.  Fortunately, my current boss doesn’t seem to care about it at all and none of the people in my new group have talked about it.
    We have a lot of meetings, every week, but I can say that my new boss doesn’t fuck around.  Every meeting we have is for a specific purpose and we make shit happen.
    So, with all that said, I guess my Word of Essence for today would be “grateful.” 
    My actual essence, however, is more along the lines of “pungent.”

    • I had to take Meyer Briggs for my job in the 80’s. Stuck my results in the file cabinet of my desk and I don’t even remember what they were. 
      i just got back from walking Fanny, an hour in 93 % humidity. My essence word is now sweaty.

  2. Meetings are where work goes to die. I generally despise them, largely because in my company the malingerers and do-nothings call lots of meetings to look like they are “productive.” My current boss asked me how I liked to be managed. I said “Tell me what you want and leave me alone. I’ll let you know if I need anything.” I lead one department-wide meeting weekly, and it typically ends in less than 15 minutes. Once we finished in 2 minutes, 30 seconds. That’s still the record. So my Word of Essence would be “efficient,” generally proceeded by the modifier “fucking.”

    • I don’t hate all meetings, but any time they are about “bringing people up to speed” or “coming up with new ideas” you know they are doomed.
      Meetings are good, however, for ending those endless email chains where nobody ever gets focused. Define the issues, put together a few options, flush out people’s positions, make a decision, and move on.

      • We don’t really have a problem with email chains because people are wary of going “on the record” and email documents stuff. So they invariably try to schedule meetings so that they can’t be held responsible for their fuckups. I work for a nonprofit and these people are masters at getting paid for doing nothing. It would be impressive if it wasn’t so infuriating.

        • I worked for a non profit, a lot of meetings were also based on self importance. The number of humble brags I’ve had to sit through is ridiculous.

        • I had a boss like that.  So the way I got around her bullshit was to send an email confirming what she said in the meeting.  She had an opportunity to either clarify it, or ignore it–in which case she would then be on the record as not having disputed it.  She was certifiably insane so this was really the only tool at my disposal and it worked pretty well.

          • Oh, yeah, I’ve done that too. It usually only takes a couple of times for the “misrepresentation artists” to figure out you’re going to document their bullshit. And then the meetings go away. But until then, it’s kind of like double work. You have to hash all of it out and then write all of it up to put them on the record. But at least they can’t blame you later when everything goes tits-up. 

      • Meetings can be productive, I always designated a time keeper, and had a printed agenda to keep people on track. I’ve gotten bogged down in those email chains too. In fact, I’m mired in one right now with a community organization I’m involved with. Even though we were clear about not responding to the original email but to post in google docs instead. Why can’t people follow instructions?

        • The discussion y’all are having is FASCINATING to me, because I’ve usually been either in places that large/group meetings were held rarely, like when a major policy change/quarterly update was needed, or just daily and super-short.
          As a production worker, at one company, it was VERY similar to the way nurses do their patient rounding/hand-off, except about 10-15 min *total* just to determine which orders were going through our system, who needed to get which materials/supplies to which workers, and if everyone knew.
          At my last couple places (a mental-health services provider, and a school district), we DO have some big meetings/ trainings/”things similar to a conference,” and those happen a few times a year, but most of our “meetings” are simply a catch-up time, to keep everyone on the same page procedure/process-wise–and even *before* covid, many of them were ones that we could google-meet into remotely, where hardly anyone is off mute, so you can be working on other (manual, not computer) projects, as the meeting is going on😉 (it’s honestly kinda nice to have them, because we’re often SO busy, that there’s not much time to DO those little hand-work projects *at* work, unless we do them at lunch/on a break!)
          And then our other main meeting style at both places,  is “case consult” model,  where we meet as a full team, go over the child’s diagnosis & treatment plan (or, now. IEP goals), to see what’s working, what’s not, and where we on the team need to tweak our technique to help the child best.
          I LOVE the consult model, tbh!, because we go in with a specific time limit, and because there’s always an agenda, and we’re such interdisciplinary teams–sometimes Evaluation team members if the kiddo is new, OT, PT, Speech therapists, Paraprofessionals, Teacher(s), and once in awhile an additional specialist or two (social work, PCIT staff, a BIS (Behavior Intervention Specialist),etc.), that you learn new techniques pretty often.
          They’re neat, because they’re basically like the Medical Model consults, where you break down the case, folks can bring in/bring up solutions/suggestions that the *other* specially-trained folks on the team *may not* know of, so knowledge gets shared broadly, and because it’s a consult with both an agenda, and often a 30-minute or less time limit, you HAVE to stay on-topic, and shit.gets.DONE!😉

          • I’m somewhat envious. A production environment definitely clarifies responsibilities. You just can’t hide. Things are shifting here but we’ve still got too many old employees who are used to doing nothing in exchange for very large paychecks. My non-profit was awash in cash, and most of the “work” was people trying to invent excuses to increase their paychecks without accomplishing anything. Meetings are perfect for them, because unless you record or document everything, they’ve got plausible deniability when things don’t get done: “We met about this last month!”
            I used to work in marketing agencies, which pretty closely follow the bottom line, so bullshit was kept to a minimum so as to encourage billable hours. I ended up here because I’m old and it’s impossible to prove you can do marketing when you’ve got gray hair (no, your portfolio doesn’t count because gray hair – I should write up some of my interview stories). I transferred to operations after a year in marketing here, because again, no future in it for old guys.
            I say “was” awash in cash because COVID-19 hit and completely upended our business “model,” which was built around in-person events. Suddenly all the cash dried up and panic ensued. Pay was cut across the board, and eventually they allowed a bunch of people to take buyouts, to bring expenses down. My area is still profitable, because we saw this coming and quickly took steps to move things to virtual events (see “fucking efficient,” my Word, now Phrase, of Essence). 
            As I noted, things are shifting. While some productive employees left, they’ve also started weeding out non-producers, which is helping. Those non-producers are typically the ones who schedule endless meetings. People who suck up valuable time in pointless meetings are finding themselves without any way to prove their “value,” so they are floundering around looking for “work.” It’s pathetic but also funny, ’cause I’m evil. But seriously, most of these people earn six figures (I do not), propped up by the hard work of people in my department, and on my bad days it fucking enrages me. But I keep trudging on, because it was hard for me to find this job before the pandemic, and I’m utterly certain I won’t find anything now. Plus, bizarrely, I’m considered “irreplaceable” now. Better to have a secure, low-paying job than none at all. 
            This has been my personal therapy session. Feels better to get it off my chest. 

    • I usually take a machete to my meetings’ agendas. Shit that can be handled one-on-one becomes a text or an email. If it comes down to just reminding people of their deadlines or telling people when their critical path shit is finally coming loose – email.
      Half the time this leaves “introduce yourself” and “questions?” left on the agenda, at which point shit gets cancelled.
      As soon as I figured out screensharing and remote sessions, another quarter of my meetings got whacked.
      I spend all that extra time commenting on websites.

  3. I was *encouraged* to have a team meeting weekly. I moved it off to every other week. My direct team rocks, you can count on them, and they carry the weight. They can do both big-picture and detail, and balance families and other stuff, which is important since two of them are now de facto home schooling and another has an infant. So we clock a half hour to look all participatory, and each person has 7 minutes to say what they are doing at work and what’s up at home. This matters because we are all remote workers in different states, and can, if needed, function as a well-being support system to each other. I loathe the other meetings I am saddled with. There is one fellow who doesn’t shut up, loves to talk about the process but never actually implements any thing, and hates not getting his way, regardless of whether the subject falls in his area. (Thanks for letting me vent.) My essence word today is focused.

  4. I know that guy, he works everywhere! Your weekly team meeting sounds great, 30 minutes  total, supportive on professional and personal levels. I wanna work for you. Focused is a good thing to be.

    • Too and insult to injury, “that guy” is a relative of the founder and quite nice as a person, so he always is given the benefit of the doubt. And I wanna work with you!

  5. i think my word of essence today is…apathetic..
    first day back at work.. spent most of it feeling pretty sick as i somehow ended up puking from a cough….that was right about the time i was considering breakfast…soo…skipped that…also didnt pack myself a lunch…i did somehow cart a gallon of milk to work and mostly just wondered if my bag feeling so heavy meant i was really really sick this time…. was pretty surprised to pull out a gallon of milk when getting my bikelock out of the bag…
    ended up having to do loads of heavy lifting today…wich i normally dont mind but was pretty unfun today…
    anyhoo…its been a monday

  6. My word of essence is UGH.
    But that’s because I had to remind the greatly reduced number of people at the workplace that adulting includes not leaving the toilet like your momma didn’t potty train you, and now the list of suspects has been shortened considerably.

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