Work De-Motivators – Things That Sap Morale in the Workplace

Dwight5

I have learned over the years more about de-motivation than actual motivation.  Usually I obtain this knowledge while fulfilling the role of “whipping boy” for less-than-able managers (not at my current employer of course!)  What I have discovered is that when you look at what kills motivation you often can gain the important knowledge – what DOES help spur motivation.  Bear in mind I’m work in Information Technology, so my perspective can be slightly skewed – sometimes more than others.

So, in an effort to expand our knowledge, here are my big de-motivators list – in no particular order:

Seemingly random decisions by leadership.  The word “seemingly” is important here.  It’s actually pretty rare when a leader makes a totally random decision.  There’s almost always some reasoning behind it – some context for the decision.  Often times though, I’ve found, that the decision is communicated and not the reasoning or context of why the decision was made.  Without understanding “why” something is being done, the only conclusion I’m sometimes left with is that the decision was made by pulling it out of their collective asses.

Cutting back training. I worked in the auto industry – so I understand what tough economic times are.  Yes, you do have to cut expenses from time to time – and training is the proverbial victim of this.  Training is one area I am sensitive too.  Training is a pact between the organization and the individual. Training individuals says, “We see you being around here for a while and want to optimize you.”  When training is constricted to the point where it isn’t happening – the effects on many people is that they don’t believe that the organization cares about them as individuals.

Leap before you look leadership.  “Any jackass can burn down a barn,” or so the old saying goes.  Making a decision without all of the pertinent information can sap a team’s motivation.  I have seen current management buzzwords about “fail forward,” where people are willing to make mistakes to learn from them.  This kind of thinking creates the illusion of innovation, when in reality it is frustrating to the staff.

Analysis paralysis.  The opposite of leap before you look – this de-motivator is a lack of decisions making.  Sometimes the decisions are easy to make – but analysis paralysis is a major drain on the energy of an organization.  The quest for absolute perfect knowledge and buy-in is often the same as not taking a stand at all. Managers who constantly look for more data are often fearful of making the right decision.

Promotions that seem…well, crazy.  We’ve all been there when the promotion list comes out and we say, “What the hell?”  When promotions are given out to, well, morons of individuals whose only competency is killing senior leadership’s butt…it can be highly demotivating.

No apparent roadmap of where we are going.  I am most effective when I know what I am working towards.  I don’t need all of the details, but I like knowing a little bit of the end-state vision.  When I understand how my work gets us all further towards a goal – I get a sense of satisfaction.  Pretty simple really.  When I have no idea what the goal is I have no idea whether I am part of the problem or part of the solution.  Managers who say it is not about the destination, but the journey, are just deflecting that they don’t know where they are going.  Have you ever taken a family driving vacation, with the kids, in the summer, with no destination in mind?  In fact, a lack of vision can lead people to not take any steps at all out of fear they might be doing the wrong thing.

The Teflon Factor with leaders.  When presented with an issue or problem, a good leader will take an active role in resolving it.  A de-motivating leader will look to his or her team and say, “You people all have a problem.”  Accountability is a critical element of motivation of teams.   People look to managers/leaders to be in the same boat they are.  Managers that deflect issues down to their team erodes motivation of those teams.

Rewards and recognition applied unequally.  A messed up rewards and recognition system has the exact opposite of its intended purpose.

Conflict avoidance.  Some managers harbor the illusion that all conflict is bad.  That’s not true at all.  Conflict can often be protective.  Yes, it’s uncomfortable, but sometimes it forces people to deal with organizational or people issues that have to be resolved for the team(s) to grow.  Dodging conflict, ignoring conflict – these things drain organizational energy.

An attitude of, “You should be thankful you have a job…”  That’s odd, I thought I had a career?  When under pressure, some managers resort to the attitude of, “you’re lucky we keep you around.”  First off, let me tell you if I feel lucky.  Secondly, nine-times-out-of-ten when someone has told me I’m lucky I have a job – I feel quite the opposite.

Micromanagement.  There are times we all need a little direction…well, all of you…frankly I’m good.  Seriously though, some “leaders” think that leading means telling everyone how to do their job.  Most employees don’t need that.  They need a manager to run interference for them, remove obstacles, not tell them what color to make a Times Roman font in PowerPoint so that it stands out.

My purpose was not the come across negative…snarky, yes, negative, no.  If you look at this list you can see some gems on what provide motivation – the exact opposite of these:

  • Provide teams with concrete decisions and why they were made.
  • Invest in your people (train them).
  • Make informed decisions.
  • Make timely decisions to respond to the business.
  • Lay out a convincing and compelling vision of where the organization is going
  • Leaders need to hold themselves accountable to their teams.
  • Apply rewards and recognition fairly and proportionally to the value of the work being rewarded.
  • Employ constructive conflict techniques to resolve issues.
  • Let employees tell you (and the rest of the organization) that they are glad to be part of the team.
  • Tell your people the results you want and let them amaze you as to how they do it.

Thoughts?  Rebuttals?  Recriminations? Did you like this?  Go read my book, Business Rules, The Cynic’s Guidebook to the Corporate Overlords.  (Catchy title eh?)

Advertisements

Why Employees Stay With an Organization – A Question of Loyalty

Toby

Over the years I’ve read a lot of articles about why people leave companies. These often lack perspective.  They don’t explain at all why people remain at companies – which is an equally important way to gauge how well a company attends to its people.  You might think that the exact opposite of what forces employees to leave might be what compels others to stay.  In some cases that is right, but in others, it isn’t.

The easy answer as to why people remain in a company is loyalty. Where does loyalty come from?  Companies have been trying to crack that nut for some time.  Most never will because why they bemoan that they want/expect loyalty; they are, at the same time, sending jobs overseas or simply laying people off.  Welcome to the dichotomy of corporate culture!

Consider, if you will; having a job is the same as a personal relationship.  Over time, there is a give and take, a sense of trust, an understanding of each other’s strengths and weaknesses.  Some people have put in so much time and effort in their careers they feel they owe their organization something back.  That sense of obligation is loyalty – and it is often a powerful motivator for people to stay where they are at.

So where does loyalty come from.  Here are my suggested reasons that most employees stay at their organizations and what are the root causes of an employees’ concept of loyalty:

They believe their work makes a difference.  This is different than job satisfaction.  This is knowing that their contribution to the organization has impact.  It’s not about being happy with your work – It is about knowing you are moving the proverbial needle.

The rewards/recognition match the work contribution.  People tend to remain with companies where they are recognized for the work they do in proportion to the value of that work.  Recognition can come in a lot of different forms.  Nothing demoralizes people more when the rewards go to the wrong people or are disproportional to the contribution. Sometimes the rewards are a good salary, one that might make it difficult for you to consider moving to a new organization.

They have friends at work. The truth be told, if you have good dependable work friends, you are less likely to leave.  As much as I bitch about work, I have the distinction of working with some of the best people in the industry and that makes it far more tolerable.

They are comfortable with the work they do.  In this scenario, you know your job well and do it well.  Starting somewhere else will potentially change that.

Employees are recognized as experts in their field. Being at the top of your game in one organization does not necessarily transfer to another company should you move.  To your new colleagues, you are “the new person,” and you have to expend considerable time and effort to reestablish yourself.  It can be a daunting task that forces you to the easy choice – remain where you are.

Their manager doesn’t suck.  One of the top reasons people leave organizations is their manager is a dick/dickette.  You don’t need a stellar manager, just one that isn’t a micromanaging asshat.  There are those rare instances though where you get a manager who is solid, good, understands what motivates you and does those things, etc.  Going to another organization and you may be spinning the managerial roulette wheel and risking getting a complete and utter moron.

They can’t leave because of age, benefits, or life situation.  Anyone that believes there is no age discrimination in business is delusional.  Once you cross the threshold of 50 years of age, you are caught in a vice.  On one side, is the fact that companies won’t hire you because of your age.  On the other side is the concern that you might impact your pension, or change benefits that would be negative to your lifestyle.  What if you have workplace flexibility and can work for home X number of days a week?  Perhaps your new employer won’t support that – which necessitates a lifestyle change.  Employees are pinched to the point where you resist thoughts of changing jobs as a result of these factors.

They believe the organization does what it says it does. Companies claim they act and behave one way and often do quite the opposite.  That division between the public view and reality is often a contributing factor for employees the leave.  Counter to that, if your organization behaves in a manner consistent with what it says it is in business for, you tend to want to continue to be a part of that company.

Fear of not fitting in at a new company.  I liken this to “the devil you know vs. the one you don’t.”  I saw a job posting on Linkedin the other day and it immediately told me I would not fit in at their organization.  The images the company had on their ad and web site showed only people in their mid-20’s, dressed very casual, and a wide diversity – to the point where an older white male would significantly stand out in their company.  If those images realistically represented that company, I would never apply there because I know I won’t fit in. That sentiment is not that rare with people.  Every organization is like a country – it has its own culture, traditions, language, etc.  The fear of not being able to adapt to these is often enough to compel an employee to stay.

They harbor the illusion of advancement.  The classic carrot that management dangles before us at one point or another, “We are looking at you in terms of a possible promotion.”  This ever-elusive enticement is often just enough to compel people to remain in their job.  “If I can put in one more year, maybe this year I will get that job.”

Immunity to the hypocrisy/chaos.  There is a lot of bullshit that goes on in offices – reorgs, layoffs, outsourcing, etc.  If you get caught up in that chaos, it helps motivate you to look for employment elsewhere.  Likewise if you can tune out all of these threatening distractions and focus on what you love about your job, you are often more willing to remain.

Management leaves them alone. Sometimes flying under the radar makes your life easier.  If you are not motivated by advancement, just keeping your head down is an option.  Other times management just does the right thing, and lets people do their jobs with minimal interference. This behavior can foster a sense of loyalty. For many people, the fact that their management is not interfering permits them a chance to shine.

Obviously, if you like more of my mindless ramblings, you can check out my book, Business Rules: A Cynic’s Guide to the Corporate Overlords…or my other blog posts under business.

dwight4

Workplace Humor…Real-Life Work Skills/Competencies

office space
It bothers me that you would ask.  

I know it’s coming, looming like a dull summer storm – my annual goal setting process.  I rate the entire experience right up there with root canal and ingrown toenails (not the fun ones, but the pus-oozing kind).

What skills will you develop?  What competencies will you improve upon?  Blah blah blah.  That got me thinking – what are the real-life skills and competencies that we all recognize?  Here is my suggested list:

Timing a work break for when leftover food from meetings is put out for the taking.

Toggling between Facebook and work product before your manager sees what you are really doing.

Convert leadership ambiguity to tangible actions.

Getting that guy or gal that constantly late for meetings up to speed in two minutes or less.

Pretending (convincingly) to give a damn.

Ability to ignore incessant whining and grumbling from colleagues.

Writing annual goals that sound impressive but are really everyday tasks that can be documented as accomplished in the first month of the fiscal year.

Disinfecting shared workspace. Eww…

Optimizing the theft of office supplies based on value rather than need.

Laughter suppression.  I hear a lot of stuff every day that is batshit fuc*ing crazy.

Apprehension of the office refrigerator thief.  Bob, I don’t care if you take my food, but you touch my Diet Mountain Dew again, and they will be outlining your body on chalk in the kitchenette.

Anticipating leadership whims and changes of direction before they become full-blown crisis’s.

Staying awake in meetings that you clearly shouldn’t have been invited to.

Creating PowerPoint decks that meet company graphic standards and are still oddly useful.

Rapidly scanning a rambling, jumbled email to ascertain what is actually important.

Holding my bladder of bowels during long meetings where they don’t stop for bio-breaks..

Listening to an unqualified someone tell me how to do my job when and suppress the urge to kill them.

Suppressing audible farts in meetings or other public spaces (especially elevators).

Active anger control.  There are some people that wouldn’t be with us today if I had not demonstrated this competency.

Calculating my time to retirement (days/weeks/hours/minutes)

Finding the right graphic for my PowerPoint deck.

Selecting the right category and dollar amount to avoid having my expense report audited.

Tactfully pointing out that the meeting is running long without adding, “because you can’t manage a damn meeting you moron!”

Creating the illusion that I care about feedback. Lots of head-nodding here.

Putting together a budget based on reality that still accounts for my manager’s bizarre pet projects.

Not reacting to the new “crisis” until I determine if it is, indeed, a crisis.

Shifting blame to a more guilty party than myself.

Minimal achievement of dress code.

Selecting the right charge code for my timesheet.

Not sacrificing productivity during a reorganization.

Pretending I care about my career, my current assignment, my company, etc.

Artful doodling when I should be paying attention.

Plotting the exotic deaths of annoying coworkers. I’ll bet if I push that laser printer out of the window when you leave – it will crush you.

Taking brilliant items and distilling them into meaningless (bland) bullet points on a PowerPoint slide.

Moving files to the right folder in Sharepoint.  I cannot express my hatred of SharePoint enough in a mere blog post.

Putting things in Excel that should never be in Excel.  Likewise working on things in Excel that should have been done in another application.

Updating my Linkedin profile so that I appear quasi-competent yet joyfully ambivalent.

Writing candid feedback for employees I barely knew, but for some reason, they requested my input. What project were we on together?

Decoding often pointless and confusing/contradictory messages from leadership.

Being responsible for my own actions.  “Not only did I do it…if given the same opportunity, I’d do it again!”

Following standards that make little sense or don’t apply to me.

Attending anniversary or farewell parties for peers I don’t like or don’t care about.

Attending team building activities after hours and not show my contempt for taking away precious hours from my private life.

Dodging douchbaggery and the douchbags that spread it.  Yes – I made up the word douchbaggery.

Succinctly summarizing and pointing out the obvious to people who would not recognize it if it kick them in the nutsack.

Rearranging my life around people who cannot use the calendaring function in Outlook, or who have no concept of different time zones and working hours.

Extinguishing fires that lesser people have set.

Resume’ updating because I feel my job is being threatened…again…still.

Stepping up to the plate rather than attempting to deflecting work.

Demonstrating more technical skills than the help desk when troubleshooting my problems.

Faking a positive attitude as my career is under siege.

Rubbing someone’s nose in their own mistake(s) without using the phrase, “I told you so.”

Providing professional consultation that is completely disregarded and/or ignored.

Going to mute on the first hint of a bark from my dog while working at home.

Fixing other people’s mistakes.

Coming up with funny nicknames for coworkers “Here comes Captain Kickback and Queen Clusterfu*k.”

Providing concise feedback on messages and communications that is completely disregarded or ignored.

Suppressing laughter at completely inappropriate moments.

Congratulating people on promotions that they clearly didn’t deserve or earn.

Attending training off-hours because “we’re global.”

Offering my professional experience and expertise and smiling while it is blatantly ignored.

Savoring the sweet drinking container filled with caffeine first thing in the morning.

Not demonstrating my outright revulsion our nausea when the annual promotion list is issued. “Are you out of your fu*king minds?”

Comprehending which stupid request can be ignored, and which ones have to be acted on immediately.

Advanced listening…especially when people are whining about how horrible this place can be at times.

Moving my more mundane and pointless work to others.

Use of perfectly timed profanity based on stakeholder audience.

Accepting blame for things my superiors screwed up or outright ignored my corrective suggestions about.

Diagnose and troubleshoot Skype connectivity issues during the first three minutes of every single damn conference call I’m on.

Digesting what is served in the guise of “lunch” in the cafeteria.

Suppression of laughter when the new person tells us how they are going to “fix all of our obvious problems.”

Taking complex technical solutions and breaking them down into things that are understandable by normal people.

Applying an ample dose of humor at just the right time to shatter tension.

Knowing when to apply a process, and when to toss it out the window.

Detection and acknowledgement of good sarcasm in the workplace.

Quick understanding of what is a real crisis and what is a made-up-blown-out-of-proportion-panic.

Demonstrating a lack of self-awareness while placing my career at risk over some corporate cause du jour.

Unwillingness to compromise my principles and values despite daily pressures to do so.

Perform minor miracles with decimated budgets, lack of manpower, and conflicting directions from leadership.

Ability to pile on in a conversation so that I appear more engaged.

stress

Did I miss any?

Workplace Humor – Things Never Heard in the Office

The Office

I feel the need for a little blast of office humor.  Here’s my list of things that have never been said in the workplace.  Enjoy!

I love it when you microwave leftover fish in the kitchenette.  The smell is divine!

Oh boy, a PowerPoint presentation!  I haven’t seen one of those in a while.

I get to have lunch every day.

After hours meetings are my favorite.

You don’t have to tell me what my raise is this year – I like surprises.

I really respect how you ignored my previously scheduled meetings and put yours out right on top of other people who can use Outlook correctly and were courteous.

My favorite part is when you read your PowerPoint slides to me because I can’t read.

There was no traffic when I came in today.

I love it when you send me material at 11:30pm and expect me to respond in a half an hour.

There’s no way we are going to blame the vendor for this mess.

My headcount/staff additions have all been approved.

I would bet my life on the technologies we use here at work.

My career is right on track.

I love the way you give developmental feedback.  It’s SO useful.

My two favorite times of the year are annual performance reviews and goal setting.

Information Security is VERY flexible.

I don’t mind changing that thing we agreed to eight months ago, now that we’re two days before launch.

I sure hope this web based learning has a comprehensive test at the end of it.

We will never have layoffs in this organization.

Your idea is much better than mine.

It’s a good thing we have highly competent leadership to get us through this.

You’ll have plenty of time built into the schedule.

Skype is my favorite consistent tool for having meetings.

Nothing motivates me more than having someone threaten my job.

Thank goodness for the dress code.

No, I don’t mind if this meeting runs over a half an hour or so…I wasn’t doing anything after this anyone.

I’m completely in the loop.

I love business travel…it never interferes with my private life.

No, 5:00am isn’t too early for me to meet.

I’ll buy my own office supplies.

I think all of the smokers huddled near the entrance is cute.

I wish the company would make me install more apps on my personal smart phone.

Our telephone technical support is awesome.

You can’t possibly over-document a process.

No, 192 slides in your presentation is not too many.

I have all of the information I need to get this done on time.

Pivot tables are fun on a bun.

I love it when you use Excel as a word processor.

We have too many vacation and holidays here.

Wow are you being flexible!

I was hoping you’d ask me to donate to your favorite charity/cause/event.

I could fly business class, but I thought it best to save the company money, so I opted for coach.

Strategic alliances always work out for the best.

My PC is too fast.  Can I get an older, slower model?

I wish I had the same carpet we have in the office at home.  It’s SO plush and hides stains well…

No one on our team is stressed.

I appreciate the offer of promotion, but I think it’s a little premature in my career, don’t you?

Wow look at all of the white board markers in this conference room.  And they all are new!

Oh boy, the annual budgeting process is starting!

I find that the wingdings font helps make things much clearer.

It is helpful that you have dived into the weeds.

I love that new acronym.  It makes my understanding complete.

I missed what you said because I was updating Facebook.

Do I have to take a holiday off?

I work best when I am given an unreasonable deadline and no resources to meet it.

I love it when company leadership adjusts our pension plan.

I am glad they give us so much time to attend training.

PowerPoint solves everything.

Moving the timeline up won’t cause any problems.  We can do it sooner with no issues.

I wish we could eat in the cafeteria after hours…it’s my favorite restaurant.

I cherish the moments I spend waiting for technical support to figure out who I am.

I could sure use more spam in my inbox.

I was thinking that this might be a good time to panic.

Oh boy…I get to change my password this afternoon!

You can just ignore the agenda.

Threatening my job inspires me to do better.

Could you micromanage me some more?  I find it helpful.

I want to take the time to read the entire document before asking any questions.

I can’t wait for the next reorganization.

If you stopped paying me, I would still come in and do the work.  This place is that awesome.

I wish they would move employee parking further away from the office.

Snowstorm days are my favorite days to come into the office.

I think I’m grossly overpaid for what I do.

We always accomplish a lot during lunch meetings.

Thank goodness you involved me early on this project.

This place would make an awesome movie.

Our bathrooms here are spotless.

I want to transfer to the mail room.

I have too much respect for our IT Department.  I brag to my friends about how great ours is.

I don’t mind that you interrupted me…your words are more important than mine.

Our company spends too much time worrying about the impact of decisions on the staff.

I’ve never had an issue getting my expenses reimbursed.

Open floorplans and shared workspace really boost productivity (and provide all the privacy I need).

You guys go home…I want to stay late and work on this.

It’s very convenient to work with people in other time zones.

You’re being way too flexible.  I work best with a lot of structure.

I attend these meetings because the lunch they provide is so tasty.

The best time of the day is the two hours I spend going each way to and from work.  It’s “me” time.

Raising your voice makes me believe you are more correct.

The problem is that the company communicates meaningful and useful information to us too often.

Our customers are far too patient.

Your kid is selling something at school?  Put me down for four of whatever it is.

Your PowerPoint presentation thrilled, motivated, and inspired me.

We need more rules to govern us.

This isn’t just a job, it is a career.

I’m going to take some personal time this afternoon to clean the kitchenette area and do the dishes there.

I want to hear more about how you are going to fix all of the problems in our department…after being here two weeks.

You have a good grasp of the big picture.

Could you use more technical phrases when you explain it to me?

Six point font is totally readable.

They would never lay me off or outsource my job.  I’m invaluable.

Nothing says lovin’ like mandatory learning!

Can everyone on the call stay off of mute? Feel free to put this conference call on hold if we are boring you.

I love it when your dog barks in the background.

Go ahead and finish your text message, what I was saying wasn’t important anyway.

That doctor/dentist’s appointment can wait.  I need to finish this spreadsheet.

SAP is pretty intuitive to implement.

I’d love to do a group photo for the company’s web page (or SharePoint site).

When I work at home I wear the same things as when I’m in the office.

Video calls are a blast.

Gosh darn it, my inbox is empty.

You can skip my raise this year.  Working here is reward enough for me.

Boy does the refrigerator in the kitchenette smell and look clean!

I hope we get to do a mandatory, after-hours team building event!

Don’t worry about the budget.  We trust you.

I like being triple-booked for meetings.  It means I’m popular.

Town hall meetings are a productive use of my time.

This is exactly what I wanted to do when I graduated college.

How early can I get into the office to start work?

The greatest joy I have in the week is filling out my timesheet.

Can you put me on a failing project?  I want a real challenge.

Can I have a copy of that poster in the breakroom?  I’d like to hang it up in my apartment.

Linkedin has improved my career measurably.

Your happiness is what motivates me.

That data analysis you prepared was dreamy.

It’s not a problem you showed up late for the meeting.  We looked forward to catching you up.

The new hires we get from colleges really fit into our culture well.

I’m comfortable with you being smarter than me.

Whatever you do, don’t prioritize my work.

Please, withhold more information that I need to do my job.

I wish I had the stamina to work longer days.

I am sure our leadership has considered all points of view.

Of course I’m comfortable with taking a demotion.  All that matters is that I get to work here with you.

One of the reasons I stay here are the great chachkis I have accumulated over the years…especially stress balls.

Open enrollment is fun.

I’d much rather take web-based learning rather than go to Vegas to attend a seminar.

The company spared no expense on the toilet paper they purchased.

Aw rats, it’s 5:00pm!  I have to leave work.

Free leftover cookies from the meeting?  No, I’d much rather pay for them.

I’m ignoring that fire alarm…work is more important.

Who farted in here?  Whew!

I live for the random changes in direction.

No, I’m not interested in your latest rumor that could impact my career.

No thanks, coffee makes me too nervous.

I don’t mind being called “Bloodsucking Overhead” in the least.

Our corporate logo brings me joy.

Go ahead and go over your allotted time.  Your incoherent rambling is far more important than the other speakers.

No, I don’t need a bio-break.  We’ve only been in the meeting non-stop for five hours.

You don’t need to spell it.  Ackaraspapu is a pretty common name.

We’ve had so much fun on this project, let’s get together tonight after hours and hang out.

Please keep your smart phone out.  Feel free to do texts during the meeting. I know you’re paying attention.

My favorite part is when you talked down to me.

I’ll use the broken chair.

I don’t think the profitability matters.

I DO care about your petty little opinion – very much so.

Usually one has to go to a McDonalds or Taco Bell to find someone of your management stature.

I’m sorry, can you repeat that?  I wasn’t paying attention because your presentation was so incredibly boring.

I was hoping I might be able to lay some of my people off.

All of the awards our company wins really makes me feel positive about how things are going.

Someone wrote ‘Don’t erase” on the whiteboard.  I’m sure that was just a joke.

Yes, a mandatory after hours dinner sounds like a lot of fun. I often fantasize about eating with m co-workers.

Isn’t that the same outfit you wore yesterday?

We don’t need to worry about backing up our data – hard drives hardly ever fail.

Mentioning your rank in our discussion impressed me.

I don’t mind you canceling the meeting I prepared for at the last possible moment.  My time has little value.

There’s no need for us to meet, I read all of the material you sent in advance.

I was going to have a meeting, but sent an email instead.

The time you spent busting my balls was very helpful and will resolve all of the problems you were complaining about.

I’m going to update my passwords now, before I get those useful and courteous reminder messages.

I feel safe and secure because our building security folks are top notch experts in their field.  They are practically ninjas.

I think the best time for us to get the team together to work through this is after hours on Friday.

Your inability to follow an agenda is respectful of everyone on the call.

No, my significant other doesn’t mind at all if we cancel our personal plans so I can attend this meeting.

You are correctly using the word, “crisis” to describe this situation.

We could get more done if you weren’t a maniacal egotistical douchebag.

Being on a technology pilot is how I define a good time.

This place can’t function without you and your keen insights and swift decision making.

What will solve this problem is a good graphic image.

I don’t mind moving my personal vacation plans to accommodate your pseudo-crisis.  It would be my pleasure.

I love our password policy.  Keeping the same password for more than two weeks is boring.

I think it’s great you joined the call late.  It reminds us all of how important you are.

I can’t believe your former employer let you go.  You’re a keeper!

Because it worked at your last company I’m sure it will work here too.

Our organizational chart is sleek.

I LIVE to take another company survey because they always take swift, positive and noticeable action based on the results.

I can hear you too clearly on Skype.

By all means, tell me how to do my job more efficiently

I would never say that about you to your face.

I don’t mind not getting lunch all week so that I can work.

I’m checking my emails on vacation because I want to.

I don’t need to write my name on my lunch…my coworkers would never steal it.

My bonus was too large.

You have a bizarre definition of the word, “Winning.”

No, we’re not top-heavy with senior management.

I don’t know how this organization functioned without your brilliant leadership.

I’ve found outsourcing the work improves the quality, speed, and saves money almost every time.

I like the way you panic.

Don’t worry about what charge code to use.

I have saved every one of the t-shirts I’ve ever received from the company.

Renaming a project/product always solves all of its problems.

When I’m on a business trip I always eat at the cheapest place I can find.

My spreadsheet printed right the first time.

I believe filling out a status report every week is some of my most productive time I spend at work.

I get depressed when my manager calls in sick or goes on vacation.

I can’t talk now, the new issue of the company newsletter just arrived in my inbox and I can’t wait to read it.

I’m eligible to retire but I think I’ll stay on because I love working here so much.

Look – someone left me extra office supplies on my desk.

If we had more senior leaders working on this issue we’d solve it faster.

Enjoy my little snarky attempt at humor?  Check out my book: Business Rules

The Cynic’s Guide to Making Your Meetings Effective

EffectiveMeetngs-page-0
My snapshot of a typical week’s worth of meetings – totally scientific.  

I have spent the better part of my daytime career in meetings, and I am no better for it. If people were compensated by how effective their meetings are, most would be living in cardboard boxes or in a van down by the river.  Even worse, most people don’t seem to care that the way they run meetings sucks.

When I was at Ford, we determined that our division lost upwards of $50k a day on poorly run meetings.  We changed that with intensive training and some simple rules.  I have learned a few things along the way, so allow me to share (in my usual snarky way)…

  • Have an agenda. I recently got back to this.  You don’t have write War and Peace – just a line or two about what the meeting is about.  Are you driving for a decision?  Then state that.
  • Start and end on time. People eventually get the idea that you are being effective. I never start more than two minutes after the scheduled time.  Sorry dude, that’s just how I roll.  Either be there or not – but this train is rolling out of the station.  Starting and ending on time is showing respect to people.
  • Don’t stop to catch someone up. That just burns time.  If that person needs to know what they missed, talk to them one-on-one later.
  • If you don’t have the right people in the meeting – then kill the meeting. If someone says, “We really can’t do it without Joan’s input,” then say you’ll reschedule with Joan.  Corollary:  Invite the right people to the call to begin with.  Don’t invite the whole world.  Invite the minimum number of folks needed to meet the objectives of the call/meeting.
  • Don’t read your PowerPoint deck. It is hard to believe, but most of the people on the call attended school and can read (though sometimes that is questionable with senior leadership.) Your slides should reinforce what you have to say.  And the fewer slides, the better.
  • Document the decision or summary of the meeting. One sentence can do it.
  • Silence does not mean agreement. Whoever the idiot was that first said, “If you’re silent I assume you’re agreeing,” clearly doesn’t understand people.  Sometimes I am quiet because I can’t think of non-swear words to convey my shock and awe at the raw stupidity of what I have just been told.
  • Engage everyone. If you invited people to the call you must want to know what they think.  If they are being quiet, ask them what their perspective is.
  • Facilitate your meeting. There are some people who are just blowhards.  They babble on-and-on just to wear out everyone else.  Keep the meeting on point.  Feel free to time-box discussions.  “We’re going to allow 15 minutes for debate on this subject.”  Personally, I like cutting people off when they are on some rambling tangent – but I’m partially evil.
  • Acknowledge people’s contributions. “Thanks Stephanie – that was a good point you raised.”
  • Schedule your call for the smallest amount of time necessary. We’re all busy.  Don’t schedule an hour for something that should take 20 minutes just because you’re paranoid that Mary is going to pontificate her perspective.  Surprisingly you can get most things done in the time you allot if you run your meeting right.
  • If you check that phone one more time I will break your fingers. You’re not in the meeting to play with your phone.  Shut it off or stuff it in your pocket.

Most of this stuff falls into the category of, “common sense,” but let’s face it, that is a rare commodity in most offices.  Share this with the guiltier members in your team.  There’s a chance they will get a clue and even if they adopt two of these suggestions, you’re ahead of the game.

Want more snarky ideas for work?  Check out my book – Corporate Rules – The Cynic’s Guidebook to the Corporate Overlords.