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  • Philip Bryer

Meetings, Bloody Meetings

Updated: Apr 13, 2020

A cartoon - the gist of which is "Are you lonely? Hold a meeting!"

He’s in a meeting.

She’s just gone into a meeting.

Sorry, I missed your call, I was in a meeting.

Can’t stop, I’ve got a breakfast meeting.

Sorry, can’t talk now. I’m just going into a meeting.

Well, I’ve been in meetings all day (so there).

Ah, well I’ve been in and out of meetings all day

And the King of Them All:

Sorry, I’ve just stepped out of a meeting. Which means whatever I’m doing now, like smoking this fag or talking to my mates on the phone or eating this Twix is far more important than talking to you.

In a previous life, there were a few meetings that I used to have to attend in the course of my working week. One of which was worthwhile because I had to say serious stuff that some seemed to regard as important. It took place at 9 a.m. every Monday. Which concentrated the mind wonderfully on a Sunday night when I was thinking about having another drink.

Other meetings were less enthralling and I only had to go because someone who thought they were building an empire deemed it so, on pain of a three-line-whip and a flogging at the mizzen-mast. The subtext here for the manager who chaired the beastly thing was: ‘Look at all these people, I must be important’. This one I struggled at. Mainly because the items under discussion didn’t have any impact on my role and remained cloaked in mystery, and also because I so resented being forced to attend that I could rarely be bothered to think of anything to say which might have counted as a meaningful contribution. A different approach was tried by those time-wasters who thought they could get away with saying the same thing as someone had a few minutes ago by simply rearranging the original words.

They had the dreaded Any Suggestions or Questions? forum every once in a while. Often the request for a new toaster for the kitchen won out over someone else’s idea that these meetings be made optional. I wonder who came up with that one?

I well remember in my first couple of weeks in the job going down to the south coast for a meeting with my boss and her boss to discuss the handover of duties from an outside agency to, well, me. As work was being removed from the agency there was a slight concern that the person handing it over might not be inclined to be overly helpful.

But as we sat round the conference table, me the only male without a tie on, oops, faux pas #1, the agency’s boss reassured us that the employee in question was fine about it and there would be no hostility. And here, quick as you like, comes faux pas #2

What possessed me I do not know, a little nervous energy, my keenness to break the ice, or my love of a smart one-liner, but I said, ahem, “I’m not worried about that, George. I’m a married man and I grew up with sisters so I’m used to dealing with hostile women.”

What on Earth was that sound on my left? Ah, that would be my lady-boss going off like an Exocet missile. I turned to her and shrugged, “Oh, come on,” I said, “it’s only as joke.” I may have even enquired as to the whereabouts of her sense of humour.

Turns out she didn’t have one. Well, let’s just say that for the rest of her tenure she and I didn’t share many laughs. Or, indeed, any.

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