Lunch and learn?

Ok maybe because its Monday and summer is over and I am having Monday blues. But today I was invited to a mandatory lunch and learn with my company.

“Lunch and learn”?

It was 12pm-1pm. There was no lunch provided by the meeting organizers. I have back to back meetings and so had no time to go grab my own food. And as I sit in the meeting, nobody brought food with them. Even if we had  brought food, its not easy when you are crammed into theatre style seating with no tables and brushing elbow with your neighbour who is upset by the strong smell of your tuna… So we just sat and tried not to let our stomaches rumble.

No lunch.

And what meeting doesn’t have “learning” involved in it since someone will be sharing some  information of  some sort?  But  unlike lunch and learns of the past, this wasn’t a useful training session where you learn new things of value to your job.. it was just another powerpoint presentation on normal business.

No real learning either.

“Lunch and learn” seems to me to be justification to simply hold another boring meeting over your lunch time.

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Quick thought – meeting duration

Explain to me..  I attend a LOT of meetings. At least 3-5 a day. And the vast majority last the duration of the time allotted.

Why? Are people that good at anticipating the exact time the meeting will last? To the minute? Obviously, calls can rushed to fit things in, or content pushed over to another call. But I think another thing is at play – knowing they have time, people fill it with irrelevant content!  Especially social people who enjoy meetings and may subconsciously artificially fill the time with chitty chatty… argh.

Then there is the meeting that starts “we will probably get through this quick and not need the whole time”.. I sigh when I hear that because despite the fact that I have enough experience to know better.. these meetings NEVER actually end early. Participants still manage to fill the time.. that person who just has another question.. or feels the need to talk about something separate from the meeting topic which is irrelevant to you!

Saw a recent article on LinkedIn that had a thought about meetings – think about how many people are on the meeting, and they approx salary, and duration of the meeting. Say a 2 hour meeting, 50 people.. $100 salary an hour. That meeting just cost you $10,000.  If you had to pay that money out from your budget.. would you? If the answer is no, then don’t set up that meeting!

Quick office tip – avoiding meetings

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So maybe you are overloaded at work. Or its meeting you’ve been dreading. Or you just don’t want to attend that meeting with that person right now.  So how to avoid, delay or get out of it?

Here’s a sneaky tip I am seeing people use more and more nowadays to get out of attending meetings.

How to get out of meetings:

Step 1: Most of you will use outlook at work. You will see the meeting request in your inbox. Don’t open it. Don’t accept it and don’t decline it. Don’t do anything with it. Wait.

Step 2: The request will gradually slip down in your inbox as more emails come in. By default, the meeting may appear as tentative in your calendar. Don’t attend the meeting. You can even mark off your time  in your calendar as showing that you are now in another meeting.

Step 3: The person hosting the meeting will likely only realize you didn’t accept when the meeting has started. At that point they may start to email you, or reach out by IM or call you. Ignore them till after the meeting is over – maybe give it an hour or two or next day. You are a busy person after all!

Step 4:  You can’t ignore them forever so now is time for excuses– when they do manage to reach you. Here’s a few tried and true choices

  • ” Sorry I didn’t see the meeting request.. when did you send it?”  Then proceed to spend five minutes looking for the request in your inbox.  At some point the person may get frustrated and simply reschedule the meeting – no more questions asked. However if they are patient you can pretend to find it after a few minutes and then say  “my inbox is so full of emails I must have missed it” or ” I was really busy must have missed it” (bonus: this makes you sound really busy).
  •  “I saw that request come in and I thought I had accepted it sorry”
  • ” I remember accepting the meeting request…. but its not showing in my calendar”

Note you probably shouldn’t do this with your boss or senior management, and not with the same person twice in a short timespan but it’s definitely worth pulling out of your bag of tricks sometimes!

Little White Lies

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My thought for the day.. is it ok to lie at work?

One of my co-workers says I am too honest. I say it how it is. And career advisors generally  take the high ground.. “yes you should be honest. Its the ethical thing to do”. And they are right…. In an ideal world.

But we aren’t living in an ideal world.

In the corporate world, being honest can work against you.

Simple white lies can help your sanity when overloaded and generally do no harm when used infrequently ie

  • I didn’t see that email
  • I must have missed that meeting request
  • You are the best boss ever (and other ass kissing)
  • This project will take X days (telling them longer than it will actually take  – see  Beam me up Scotty )
  • Yes boss! – when you disagree with him and/or  know its a bad decision or wrong and are picking your battles. Sometimes its just easier to agree if you know they will ignore your opinion. You don’t want to be seen as negative or “not a team player”. But don’t lie if this could result in a big bad issue (see below)

Then there are lies of omission.

Three years ago I ran a project for my then boss. The project was his idea and he was  “sure it would generate great results”. My 15 years experience with projects identical to this had data that showed it would in fact not generate great results. But he was insistent and confident having been doing this role for all of a  year. So we ran the project. He talked it up to everyone who would listen. Threw money at it. And I managed it to the best of my ability hoping that this time it would prove me wrong (definition of insanity – repeating the same things and expecting different results). Luckily for him,  just before the results came in, he was promoted and left to another group.

The results were far worse than even my data had predicted. The time and money spent on the project was wasted. His successor  (who did know about the project) never asked how it performed. Nor did the other people involved in the project or senior management. However I felt the need to report on it, this was a high profile project at the time and I felt some degree of responsibility.

But before I sent the email to all the stakeholders at the time, I spoke to a close work confidante. She replied “Why would you do this? You know it didn’t work. Nobody is asking about it..” Then she added “X has moved on and so the only person who will look bad is you. And you can’t throw your old boss under the bus now he has gone. That doesn’t look good to your new boss. You are too honest.” So despite my instincts, I saved the email and never sent it. Three years on and its long forgotten. Nobody has asked about it and I don’t tell.

So lies of omission can also work to your advantage.

The last category is BIG BAD LIES. Lies that can cause you, your colleagues or your company significant harm or loss.  Lies that hurt your gut or your conscience. This is probably the category the career advisors are warning you about. And I agree with them.  Don’t give a big bad lie – this will hurt everyone in the long run and isnt worth it..

Not sure what kind of lie it is? Listen to your gut.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Too many chiefs, not enough Indians

 

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In today’s world it seems that more and more employees are overworked and overloaded. Burning the midnight oil is common and accepted. At my company everyone wears the “I worked till 2am last night” message as a badge of honour. They even think you aren’t busy enough if you only work 8-5pm! Honestly its getting boring.

But here’s the thing. I think staff being overloaded isn’t evenly distributed through the levels at many companies.

I was at a meeting yesterday in which a VP (of which we have very many) was describing a new process for designing and implementing certain types of project. It was a presentation that had flow diagrams and arrows and graphs and all this fun stuff. He certainly put a lot of work into it. And the senior VP loved it.

But I sat there stunned. If you really looked at it it worked like this

  1. high level strategy “what products to focus on” would be done by a team of 20 VPS and directors.
  2. 2nd level strategy “what audience to target” would be done by another team of assorted 10-20 VPS and directors
  3. 3rd level “high level messaging strategy” again performed by another team of 10-12 directors and senior managers
  4. everything else/implementation – design, all the details, content, tools, implementation, tracking and followup would be done by 1 person (with no team or support)

Can you see the issue with this? Not only would it take months to align all these senior VPS and directors to get them to make these decisions (decisions which the person in set 4 could do in an hour max) but there are tons of people working “strategy” but only 1 poor person doing all the implementation!

Here is an example of this in action. New project to be launched – intricate new program which involved setting up  a new program for a division – this would require staff training, website, brochures, new tools creation, communications created and deployed etc.   For step 1-3 above all the “strategists” had to do was come up with a name for the project – no other work could start until this was done. Project was due completed in 9 months. It took them SIX MONTHS to come up with the name. SIX MONTHS to just to decide a name!  Suffice to say the project took over 2 years. (and they changed the name twice!)

This is a classic case of too many chiefs and not enough Indians. Senior managers don’t seem to realize they need actual people to do the work. The implementers are badly overworked.  And the company continues to lay off the poorly paid implementers whilst keeping the higher paid strategists!??

One strategist  I did talk to said they could always outsource the implementation work to outside companies.  (And possibly even the strategy!).  But I have seen this attempted and fail badly  – outside companies often don’t have the insider knowledge to effectively implement this and prior best practices and practical experience is lost.

Your company got too many chiefs and not enough Indians?  If you are an Indian, get on your horse and get out of there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is your boss a slacker?

 

What does your boss actually do? The answer may surprise you.  It appears the higher up the management level that people go, often the less work they have to do. Meanwhile todays employees are buried in work. There are 3 ways this can happen

  1. The boss only manages people and doesnt have any projects of his/her own
  2.  Their role is to “strategize” but since this mostly happens at the initial stages of a project, then bosses can often find themselves with not enough to do apart from supervise when the project is running.
  3. They are lazy and/or see their role as “managing” not “doing”

This can cause you, the employee, a number of headaches – not just because you are likely overloaded and could do with them taking some of it off your shoulders.

Nor because you are a little envious.

But because a bored boss is often a micromanaging boss – who will create work to keep  themselves busy – extra HR forms, unecessary spreadsheets, projects that go nowhere.  Or in many cases when you do need them they can’t/wont help or are nowhere  to be found.

Where you can try and give the work back to them – as long as it doesnt mean extra work for you i.e. “Can you help elaborate on this?”, “I would feel more comfortable if you do this…”. I have found this tactic more unsuccessful than successful but its worth a try..

Also don’t let her take the credit for your work – offer to do presentations on your projects to senior management instead of her (if she is a true slacker she will love this). Keep up the good work and make sure everyone knows what you actually do and work on. And people will start to wonder what she actually does.

 

 

 

 

Protect yourself from the backstabber

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Who is the backstabber in your office? Are they in your team? Is it your colleague, a team member, other senior management or even your boss?

It doesn’t really matter who they are, or if you know who they are, but you still need to protect yourself from potential backstabbers. I have been in a few situations over the years when I trusted someone and then they stabbed me in the back .. it totally caught me unawares. First time shame on them, second time shame on me.

Since then I have learned to not trust anyone at work – because at the end of the day, its you or them when it comes down to the wire.

So how to protect yourself from the back stabber?

One simple way is to get everything in writing. When you send an email, BCC yourself. Keep a copy.  Make sure your email keeps all emails (sent and deleted) for a month. And save the  important ones that could be controversial or cause issues later on in a personal folder.

If you are meeting with someone over a topic that you think could cause an issue,  send  out notes by email after the meeting or call. And keep a copy. “we discussed this and you agreed..”

By keeping a paper trail you can cover yourself by retrieving the email when necessary.

Just last week a senior VP at my company emailed me and copied my boss to ask about a file she said she never received despite the fact I had sent it a week  prior, plus she had been informed about this file at many meetings over prior weeks. Likely she was busy and just overlooked it but also knowing her as a backstabber, I simply retrieved the prior email from my sent items and forwarded it to her and copied my boss. I included a new cover note which said “Sorry you missed my last email – resending below”.

This shows her and my boss that I didn’t dropbox the ball.. she did. And I avoided a potential blame game.