The curse of the staff meeting

Today’s #blog looks at pointless meetings, and how to find new ways to motivate staff #work

It’s the first Wednesday of the month, so you all know what that means?

Yes. Tomorrow is Thursday.

More critically, it means it’s all staff meeting day. An enduring ritual undertaken for no other reason than a belief in the supposed need to group everyone together.

Here’s the thing though. If there was no meeting then what would you do? Would you notice a difference? Would it matter? Would there be a special place in your heart that had been mercilessly cut out and left to rot, leading you on a downward spiral of drug use, alcohol, and misery?

I suspect not. 

Contrary to popular belief amongst my peers I actually love meetings. I could sit in meetings all day long. What I hate is pointless meetings, the ones where I am extraneous to any outcome, where any decision has already been made, or where the person asking for the meeting isn’t clear on why they are there.

Ultimately, I don’t have patience for time wasters.

So when I think about all staff meetings I ask ‘what is the purpose?’ If the only purpose is to gather people together to establish a sense of community then the meeting is useless. Try as you might, you won’t confer team harmony just by putting people in the same room.

As a team leader, I will be asked to give an update on how the team is functioning etc. The problem is, there will be a limit to my honesty in that matter. I’m hardly likely to say ‘Pretty awful. Last week Sarah got Fiona in a headlock over using the microwave, and the our KPI’s are so bad I have started self-harming to cope with the stress.’

Nope. All is good. All fine. Nothing to see here. These aren’t the droids you’re looking for. Move along.

Of course, time is somewhat malleable (or a person’s relative experience of it). We get so hung up in time, and completion if work, as though that extra hour will make a difference. It won’t.

I take the counter intuitive approach – work less to do more. I wonder what our working day would look like if it started and ended with 20 minutes meditation. How energised would we feel with regular exercise periods?

I read somewhere that we are only efficient for about half the working day. So half the day is a write off without really trying (and the irony is, that the reason it’s a write off is because everyone is trying).

So why not structure the day differently? If 3 hours are going to go up in smoke, use them effectively for something beneficial. 

I work in a highly stressful job (social work in Schulz protection setting). I have seen, and suffered, a fair share of vicarious trauma. We are all encouraged to find healthy routines in our personal life. Surely for the most stressful lines of work there needs to be accommodation for managing this stress in the working day?

I can well imagine some people’s reactions if they found out workers were being paid to spend hours of time exercising, meditating and engaged in creative activities (painting by numbers is reportedly the new big thing for adult therapy). 

The trouble is that they have been sucked into this impression of ‘work ethic’, which is really constraining people to wholly unrealistic efforts of labour. I can’t even blame neoliberalism for this – it is a long standing belief going back much further.

I’m in Freo. I would love to write further, but work beckons.


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