Monday, July 21, 2008

Will there be cookies?

I've had it with interminable, pointless business meetings. I'm not talking about the ones where there's an actual problem that needs to be solved. I'm talking about the ones where one person is so frightened of being held accountable for a decision he came to independently that he has to get a half dozen people involved. These are the meetings where the talk goes on and on and there's usually a need for a follow-up meeting -- at which no decision will be made.

If you've worked in corporate America, you know what I mean. They're the meetings where the "team" is supposed to come up with a recommendation, but it's useless because no-one in attendance has the power or budget to make any real decisions.

Sometimes you just have to suck it up and attend. Other times you can try to come up with a reason to skip it. It usually helps if you can invoke the name of someone important who conveniently needs your attention at just the time the meeting is being held. But sometimes when you get the invitation, you can't quite tell if the topic is legit or bogus.

I've decided that from now on, I'm using my own criteria to decide which meetings are truly necessary.

Will there be cookies?

This is an infinitely fantastic criterion. With corporate budgets being cut to the bone, the chance of there being refreshments is remote. If the person is desperate enough to have you there, he'll make the accommodation, at which point you can up the ante: Will there be Pepperidge Farm cookies? I really like those Milanos.

No? Oh, well, I'll have to catch up with you later.

It's a no-lose situation. Maybe people get you the Milanos, and they think you're crazy, but heck, you have good cookies to distract you during the meeting.

An aside: at my last job, there was one week in which I only had two meetings. I thought I'd gotten away with something until around 4 p.m. that Friday, when I got stuck in an elevator. For 15 minutes, I was stuck between the ninth and tenth floors, waiting for maintenance to open the doors for me. I came to realize: if you didn't have enough meetings in a given week, they'd force you to have one with yourself.

And no, there were no cookies.

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