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Well company meetings are all a waste of time in my opinion. The scenario is always the same. There you are happily working away, making progress and perhaps earning money when suddenly an omenous email drops into your inbox. The subject line reads "Please reserve for company meeting".
My immediate thought is to try and arrange for a vital client meeting, organise a relative to die, or to develop a serious but not fatal illness just before the appointed date. I have seriously considered faking my own death to avoid the dreaded event and then applying for my old job - Reggie Perrin style.
Unfortunately a second email arrives, something along the lines of "this is a company event and everyone is expected to attend", usually sent by some 17 year old girl with a strange orange colour who shuffles papers for the "big man". Kind of like a filing oompa-lumpa.
This email is sent out because loads of people have suddenly put in holiday requests or scheduled client visits or even invasive dental procedures for that day. She (the 17 year old) really likes the power that being able to "order" far more intelligent people around for the next few weeks. Power to the Satsuma race...
Talking of power, of course its important to realise these meetings have two key aims. The first aim is for the top people have their corporate egos stroked at the company's expense - forcing a hundred or so people into a room at their whim must surely give them a wiggle of authority. The second is to "flush out" the uncommitted, the doubters, the heretics - people who think this kind of thing is a waste of time and money. The "negative" people - I am proud to be one. Problems are not opportunities, problems are problems. Problem solving is good. Opportunity Solving is not.
And so comes 4-6 weeks of trying to ignore it and then the inevitable mad rush to organise travel - it will always be somewhere inconvenient to all except "the boss" - reorganise travel, organise accommodation, cancel accommodation, have argument about accommodation ("Surely you want to stay over for the party?"), decide to travel on the day anyway.
Oh and its "Smart but casual". What the heck does that mean, anyone? If you don't actually play golf then you end up buying some awful pullover or "slacks" (whatever they are) or something equally bad. For me usually its suit for work, gardening jeans and cheap Matalan T-shirt for the weekend - maybe with bolognese stains on it. But who cares. Smart but casual is the no mans land, black hole or vastness of space-type void of dress codes.
On the day the schedule usually goes like this :
8.30am - Arrival and coffee.
Yes we all had to travel really early for this rubbish so we need something to get us going. Cheap hotel provided coffee and shortbread does it for me every time. Oh look, a free hotel provided notepad and pencil. Sucky sweet anyone?
9.00am - Welcome from the Chairman/Chairwoman.
First of our PowerPoint marathons. Yes we can read too, so I really don't need you to read it for me. Oh fancy sliding text too - I'm all tingly now. I have already coloured in all the spaces in the printed heading on my note pad. If it has a double "o" word in it (e.g. Hood Hotel) I have made the middle O's look like MagOO eyes.
11.00am - Break and "Networking" opportunity.
We all dart off for more coffee and shortbread. The queue for the coffee lengthens as the first to arrive can't work out how to get the vital black juice out of the catering jug that arrived 30 minutes ago when the first session was scheduled to finish.
People then spot their usual cliques and gather with people they already know, looking suspiciously at that group from "up north", or "down south".
Someone spends 5 minutes looking for hotel staff to get hot water for their "herbal tea".
11.15am - Second session.
It starts early because the first one overran. We catch sight of PowerPoint opening the presentation as the "tech savvy" management types struggle to get their silver shiny laptop to talk to the projector. 73 slides - Deep joy!
10% of the audience file in late, there are only 2 loos for 45 people. The characters depicted in Tenko had it better.
After an hour I usually find my mind wandering, and I begin to realise just how ugly senior managers in their 50s are, and realise they are the only group of humans who know what "smart but casual" is. What's more scary is that is how they dress when "off duty".
12.30pm - Lunch arrives.
We can all smell it, but we can't get to it as the second speaker is still teaching us how to read. Sandwiches curl, warm finger food becomes cold, coffee also cools, cool water becomes tepid. Stomachs rumble.
1.13pm - Lunch.
Headlong rush either to grab the only edible sandwich (does anyone outside the world of catering or more likely M&S food really make those sorts of butties for themselves?) or to get out for a fag. Lunch is also cut short as we are "running late", like its our fault for not reading fast enough.
1.35pm - "Can we all get ready for the next session please"
Mad downing of "kettle chips", strange leafy salad things and orange juice, last chance for the loo again. The room gains a unmistakable aroma of stale catering and bad breath.
Various electronic devices and phones vibrate, buzz, beep or make an old fashioned phone like noise. The "funny" ones make their "unfunny" noises.
2.00pm - Coffee arrives.
More shortbread, yummy. Coffee again begins to cool as we are still learning to read.
Last year we were ace apparently.
2.15pm - Break and more "networking"
Cliques have run out of gossip and take to texting partners or significant others (or both) and not talking to each other. People important enough to have scheduled transport begin to make excuses about leaving early.
Everyone else stares at them like prisoners watching relatives leave after visiting time.
There is another queue for the loo. All that orange juice and fizzy water.
Someone complains about it being "too hot / cold / humid / dry / blue / dusty in here" for the 1123rd time.
2.23pm - Final session.
"Big man" introduces final speaker and then takes 5 minutes to explain that the final speaker has to hurry, thus wasting any time the speaker may save.
3.10 - Final session interrupted.
We thought that was the end, now there is...
3.13 - Closing speech.
The finale, the magnum opus, the closing ceremony. Our leader feels he needs to summarise what everyone else has said. By repeating it - slowly! He is of course an expert presenter so sounds enthusiastic, genuine and totally bereft of personality.
If you are unfortunate to work for a company which likes to "reward" people then at this point a gathering of "winners" will take place. This is usually a mix of the most "loyal" (boot lickers - or worse) and the "trod upon" - "Geoff managed to complete this 3 week project in just 6 days..." - all of which makes the gift token from WHSmith all the more valued. Gosh, I could have had those HM Govt. gift vouchers I could spend anywhere, like the pub. This is so much better...
5.23pm "Don't forget we will be having drinks the bar"
Oh no we won't as we really want to go home. Actually we wanted to go home about 6 hours ago. There is a mad scramble for the coats and the door. Civilians may get trampled in the rush.
The middle managers / regional heads / team leaders go through the fleeing masses trying to rally troops to stay for the "social".
The masses dart around like those huge shoals of fish attempting to avoid hunting sea lions, you can almost hear David Attenborough describing the scene.
7.00pm - Travelling home.
We find the flight / train / motorway home is late / cancelled / blocked. If we had been out about 13 minutes earlier we would have been alright.
10.00pm - Finally stagger home.
No less than fourteen hours after leaving the meeting that is. Consider opening wine and then remember that the genius that runs this lot has scheduled "our get together" on a Monday, and we have a meeting at 9 on Tuesday.
Around a week later the 17 year old gets another thrill of power with a second email : "Please rate the presentations and let us know what you would like to see more of in these meetings in the future. All feedback is ANONYMOUS. Please log into this website with your personnel number to register your feedback..."
A week after that comes the next dreaded email. "The Christmas party will be held on..."
By: Employee 774