should you tell an interviewee she has something in her teeth, employees are apathetic about company-wide meetings, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. Should you tell an interviewee she has something in her teeth?

Our team interviewed a candidate today who got a large clump of lipstick on her teeth about 15 minutes in. No one brought it up. We talked for about an hour and got a good sense of her fit for the position, so it was actually a pretty good interview for us. But I kept imagining her discovering the lipstick blob afterwards and being embarrassed after the fact. I think none of us told her because she was young and we didn’t want to make her nervous, but I know I would have wanted to know if I were her. What would you (or readers) have done?

Was there any opportunity to say something to her privately (not in front of an entire panel of interviewers), and was there a way she could have fixed it privately (like on a bathroom break)? If so, you could have discreetly said something to her, ideally just at the start of that break so she could immediately fix it in private. If not, though, it’s a lot harder. I suppose in that case you could have suggested a break (even though you wouldn’t have otherwise had one) but if it was only an hour-long interview, that’s hard to do too. So ultimately, I think it’s okay that you didn’t say anything. Not ideal, but it sounds like maybe it was unavoidable for it to play out that way.

2. Our employees are apathetic about our company-wide meetings

Thank you for all your wonderful advice over the years, I credit it with the confidence i had in my latest interview. That interview resulted in a job as an administrator and HR in a design practice and I couldnt be happier. A slightly odd issue has arisen, odd to me as I’m used to a hardcore ride-or-die atmosphere in these type of offices. The senior management like to do a monthly company-wide meeting to show everybody the progress on current projects, as a way of keeping everybody in touch with the direction the office is going (it’s doing very well). The meetings aren’t long, 30 minutes tops, but it’s been noted that people are apathetic and have to be cajoled to leave their desks. I’ve been asked to, covertly, find out why.

From what I’ve heard, people just want to do their work and this is “just a job, after all.” I want to grab them all by the shoulders and shake them! Don’t they realize how lucky they are to work in a place that cares about their well-being, where everybody goes home at 6 (unheard of in our industry)? I’d expect designers to be passionate about their work, but does that passion only thrive in stressful environments? I’d love to hear any thoughts you have on staff engagement.

Lots of people hate meetings and find them inefficient and a bad use of their time, so the fact that people aren’t thrilled about attending isn’t terribly unusual.

How’s their work? If their work is excellent and the company is getting the results it wants, then you may be creating an issue where there isn’t one. Are there specific problems that you’re seeing that are caused by their lack of engagement with the sorts of topics discussed at these meetings? If so, you’d want to figure out what’s at the root of that — but focus on specific impacts, not just the fact that people don’t want to leave their desks.

And if it turns out that there really is an engagement problem, that’s on the company to solve. If you look at it as “don’t these people realize how good they have it?” or “I want to shake them by the shoulders,” that’s putting the blame in the wrong place. Rather, it’s that the company has messed up somewhere — in management, in hiring, in coaching, in communication, or whatever it may be — and needs to figure out out where and address it.

3. My friend is angry that I accepted freelance work that she would have wanted

I have a question regarding freelance work in a professional community and when, if ever, is there an unspoken noncompete agreement in which someone has cornered a particular niche in a particular community.

More specifically, I am a graduate student in a rather close-knit department. Many graduate students supplement their income with freelance work (editing, writing, transcribing, tutoring, consulting, etc.). I have done freelance editing work before and recently a friend asked me if I would be willing to branch out into another sort of freelance work and I agreed. She wound up offering to more or less cover my summer expenses, so it’s a pretty great job.

Recently, several of my colleagues and I were discussing summer plans and I mentioned the job I’d landed (not the money of it, just that it was sizable freelance job). Apparently it got back to another friend and colleague who has also done this exact sort of freelance work before a handful of times. She is now angry because she believes I should have turned down the job and referred my friend (who does not know her) to her instead. I want to be clear that this sort of freelancing is not something so specific that there would be a reason to choose her over me, and when she did this sort of work in the past it was sporadic enough that I only remembered she had done it when I discovered she was angry. So it doesn’t seem like she’s cornered a niche, but she is now insisting she has and complaining to our mutual friends about my integrity and claiming that I stole a freelancing job from her. So my question is twofold, first, how to proceed, and second, when are there unwritten rules about this sort of thing?

She’s being completely ridiculous. The fact that she’s done similar projects before does not entitle her to be the only person in your program who gets to do them in the future. And even if she had somehow “cornered the market” (which it doesn’t sound like), that still wouldn’t insulate her from the possibility of competition. You’re allowed to pursue and accept projects on your own, regardless of how similar they might be to her experience or skills or interests. She’s just flat-out in the wrong here.

I can’t tell if she’s said anything to you directly or if you’re just hearing about this through the grapevine. If the latter, there’s nothing you need to do; you don’t need to respond to rumors at all. But if she says something directly to you, you should feel free to say, “I was offered work by a friend and I accepted it. It wasn’t up for grabs; it was specifically offered to me.” Also feel free to add, “I’m really confused about why you’d have any claim on it, but regardless, we’ll have to agree to disagree.”

4. My boss said we should feel like we have too much on our plates

I recently had a performance review that went very well, except for one thing: when I said I felt like I was starting to feel like I was getting on top of things, my manager said that was bad. She said “I always want my team members to feel like they have too much on their plate.”

I don’t know how to interpret that. It sounds like if I can keep up with my workload it means I’m lazy, but if I can’t it means I’m incompetent. Is that how I’m supposed to feel? If not, what was I supposed to take away from that?

It’s possible that she just communicated what she meant really poorly, but it’s also possible that she sort of sucks at this part of managing.

It’s true that there are a lot of jobs where you’ll never strike the last item off your to-do list — there will always be more work that you could be doing. That’s just the nature of many professional jobs. But that’s not the same thing as feeling like you have too much on your plate. You can have an endless to-do list but still feel that your workload is manageable because you and your boss have jointly set realistic priorities and timelines. The problem only comes in if you have a months-long to-do list and a manager who expects you to get it all done at once.

Based on what you know of your manager, you probably have an idea of which of these is her style.

5. Interviewing with a chronic illness

I interviewed at a company last fall, but the hiring manager went with someone else within the company. I received a email from the hiring manager last week asking if I would be interested in another position in the company that pays more and has more responsibilities. He has reached out to me before posting the job on websites, and I am meeting him this week to go over details of this new position. I am excited about the job, as it is a step up from my current position which I feel I am ready to do.

I also have a chronic illness. My current employer is pretty flexible if I need anything and I do work weekends. This schedule minimizes any issues with work pertaining to my illness. I hardly take days off and rarely leave early. The new position is Monday-Friday, but there seems to be room for negotiation. When do I disclose my illness to the hiring manager for this new job opportunity? How much should I disclose and what is the best way to bring the issue up?

Wait until you have an offer, and raise it then and see if you can negotiate what you’d need as part of the offer negotiations. Part of the reason for that is that it doesn’t make sense to get into scheduling nitty-gritty until they’ve decided they’d like to hire you. The other part of the reason is that it removes the risk of unconscious bias impacting their thinking before they make an offer decision.

When you bring it up, you don’t need to disclose details. You can simply say, “I have a health issue that requires X, Y, and Z. Is that something you’d be able to accommodate?”

{ 337 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. MommyMD

    People can sense when they have a manager who wants to grab them by the shoulders and shake them while telling them how good they have it. Most employees do not like meetings, especially inspirational ones that do not have to do with completing a task at hand. Jumping up and down and conveying excitement over meetings does not equal passion. Doing your job well does. Rein it in.

    Reply
    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      This stood out to me as well, and I’m glad Alison flagged it. OP, you’ve determined there’s an “engagement problem” with staff. If I were disengaged, and a boss/manager implied in any way that I didn’t know how good I had it, I would feel even more disengaged and alienated. So tread really carefully, because even if you think you’re keeping an even tone, IME, it’s hard for managers to mask that they’re not taking employee feedback seriously because they’re convinced the employees “have it good.”

      This isn’t one employee who’s feeling this way—it sounds like it’s most of your designers (and thus, most of your staff?). And they’re all giving you the same feedback, which is telling. I’d start by trying to determine why they prefer to spend their time on designing than on meetings:
      * Is it because they’re treated like little design hive-minds, and their performance is linked to the time they spend designing?
      * Is a consequence of leaving at 6 p.m. that they have to really jam to complete work on time?
      * Is time spent designing billed or valued differently than time spent in meetings?
      * Does it make sense to gauge “engagement” based on one monthly, 30-minute status update meeting? (hint: I think the answer is “no.”)
      * Do the meetings seem to lack practical relevance to their day to day? (I can tell you that I loathe meetings where the primary purpose is to keep me apprised of projects that have nothing to do with me when I could just read a one-paragraph, bullet-pointed status report.)

      And it sounds like you may have worked at some semi-toxic/workaholic workplaces, which could also be coloring your view. For you, the difference sounds significant and welcome. But it’s unclear if the designers have had similar trajectories, or if there are other dysfunctional things at play that you may be missing because it’s simply not as dysfunctional as your prior workplaces. If lack of engagement in these meetings is actually a problem—which I’m not entirely sure it is—I would try to start by identifying tangible, non-feelings causes instead of focusing on why employees aren’t feeling adequate gratitude for working at a functional employer. It sounds like your heart is in the right place, and I wish you luck!

      Reply
      1. Mike C.

        * Do the meetings seem to lack practical relevance to their day to day? (I can tell you that I loathe meetings where the primary purpose is to keep me apprised of projects that have nothing to do with me when I could just read a one-paragraph, bullet-pointed status report.)

        This is big in my book. My my employer’s product is so complicated that it would take me weeks to months of research to understand many of the projects going on. And yet if I’m not careful I can get dragged into general meetings where people throw around acronyms that no one else knows measuring things I’ve never heard of and so on.

        They might as well be speaking a foreign language and that does little to help engagement.

        Reply
        1. Obelia

          Another +1000 to your last bullet. We have these meetings weekly, and lots of people avoid them, because we are never engaged with any of those other workstreams in any way other than via that token weekly update.

          Also, the meetings are mid-morning, which means they disrupt the day and your concentration just as you’ve got into a flow.

          Our team update meetings (where people hear about work they *are* engaged with and interested in to at least some extent) are much more popular.

          Reply
        2. Dan

          So… the meetings at my last job that IMHO cost senior management their respect long before they tanked the company had to do with the bonus plan. It was funny; the company had always paid non-trivial bonuses. Then, a VC firm got their mitts on the company, and the first thing they did was whacked the bonuses. We complained loudly enough, and then they brought bonuses back. But…

          What they would do for discussions on the bonus plan was put numbers in a table, and put the table in a power point. Then they’d brief slide during an all hands meeting. Here’s the thing: they’re talking to a group of very smart people who know how to lie with numbers. The first thing you do if you want to avoid clarity? Show people a table full of numbers. The worst of it is that most of us can read numbers well, and knew right away that that bonus plan was pie in the sky and unlikely to ever pay out. My immediate response was pretty much “if you don’t want to pay bonuses, don’t. Being up front about it will do far more for your credibility than trying to get us to swallow a bunch of BS.”

          What I haven’t mentioned was that the “worker bees” had nothing to do with sales or business development, we just show up and work. If they wanted to increase revenue say by 10%, there’s absolutely nothing I can do to do that.

          Reply
          1. ZuKeeper

            Yeah, old job changed our bonus to a point system where you could buy things a la Chuck E. Cheese instead of the cash bonus that most of us considered part of our compensation package. Strange how incentive to over perform went out the window and most of us just started doing what was needed. And looking for new jobs.

            I would have actually been more okay with it had they just said, “we’re sorry, but we need to make some cut backs and we can’t afford bonuses right now.” Instead they offered up a line of BS about how giving us the option to buy stuff after several months worth of points was BETTER than being able to say, pay rent with the cash bonus. And everyone who tested the new program loved it (yet the employee message boards had nothing but people complaining about it, haha.).

            Just found out yesterday that the location I worked in is closing, so I’m glad I jumped ship when I did.

            Reply
          2. Sir Humphrey Appleby

            If this is a typical VC start-up investment, the company *shouldn’t* be paying out cash bonuses (or dividends, etc.) and should instead be compensating people with stock options or restricted stock. And with due respect, if you take the attitude that “there’s nothing I can do to help the company’s bottom line” — which is almost certainly untrue even if you’re not directly in sales — why *should* they pay you a bonus? Frankly, it sounds to me like you would be happier at a more established company or less startupish environment.

            Finally, I don’t see what you’re complaining about when you say “the first thing you do if you want to avoid clarity? Show people a table full of numbers.” Many of us deal with numbers every day, and no, they’re not always indecipherable mumbo-jumbo. As you yourself go on to say, the people in your group were numerate and able to critique the numbers. Conversely, written verbiage isn’t always crystal-clear either.

            Reply
        3. Noobtastic

          This reminds me of a story I once heard about Napoleon Bonaparte.

          Before he sent his generals into battle, he gathered them together along with a simple private. And by simple, I don’t mean mere rank. He found someone who just wasn’t all that bright. Then, he explained the whole plan, in such a way that the private understood, thus ensuring that all of his generals were all on the same page, and understood the plan just as clearly as that private.

          Lots of people would like to know the big picture, but if it’s presented in a “You should already know these terms” sort of way, they just won’t get it, and there goes your engagement right out the window. Explain in simple terms the general progress, and anyone who wants more advanced details can ask the appropriate person, afterwards. Especially in the case of status reports. The company at large does not need to know HOW each group is doing their part of the project. They just need to know THAT they are doing their part of the project, what their timeline is, and what sort of involvement they need from other groups.

          It’s a bit of a balancing act, but it can be done. Even someone whose only job is to order ores and coal and track their purchases can understand the basics of “You put the ore and the coal in a furnace, heat it up really hot, mix it with special heat-resistant tools, melt it, pour it into the mold, let it cure, and then open the mold, take it out, and do the final processing on it to get the polished metal teapot.” Then, if they know that there is a problem with the special heat-resistant tools, they can see how that will affect the melting, pouring, curing, opening, and final processing. At the same time, if they’ve heard talk of new tools the last time they were mingling at a cocktail party, they know to say, “Hey, Wakeen. Who’s in charge of tools? I have some information they might find useful.” And there’s your engagement!

          Big pictures is great, but use large pixels to draw it.

          Reply
      2. all aboard the anon train

        Seconding your last bullet so hard. While an overview of what everyone is working can be nice, it’s a waste of time if you’re never going to deal with those projects. My manager looooooves our weekly team meeting where he goes over everyone’s projects for the next month. My project has no impact on my coworkers and they don’t need to know what its status is because there’s a 1% chance they might have something to do with it. It’s a waste of an hour each week and has really driven up resentment towards my manager and lack of engagement each week (everyone consistently arrives to the meetings right on time, never early, because no one wants to go).

        Reply
        1. The Moving Finger

          I really think the “what’s everyone doing this week?” meeting is totally useless. Only managers care about this. Everyone else just does not care, especially if everyone works on different things. If a manager wants to know what everyone is doing this week, why can’t they just ask each person privately or over e-mail instead of having an hour of share time? No wonder OP’s coworkers are apathetic.

          Reply
          1. Jadelyn

            It depends on the team and the type of work. I’m in HR, on a close-knit team of 5 with a lot of overlap. It’s helpful to know that someone is working on a leave of absence for an employee because their manager might reach out to me for help completing the employee’s timesheet and coding it properly; or they find it helpful to know that I’m dealing with some tech issues in our HRIS in case employees ask what’s going on. I’m not involved with LOA, they’re not involved with the HRIS, but keeping each other updated helps us avoid looking like the right hand doesn’t know what the left is doing when employees or managers come to us with questions or issues about someone else’s current project.

            However, inter-team “what’s everyone doing?” is useless, I agree with you there. I don’t care what the lending team is up to. It will literally never impact my work ever.

            Reply
          2. all aboard the anon train

            What’s worse is that my manager DOES have weekly one-on-one meetings with everyone to go over their projects, and then we repeat the same thing for the entire team later in the week. It’s the biggest waste of time and it’s clear that my manager loves it and no one else does.

            Reply
        2. Stranger than fiction

          Maybe I’ve just never worked somewhere where there’s so much diversity in the product offerings that I’d find this kind of thing boring, but I’m a big picture kind of person and I only wish my company was transparent and had meetings like this. I feel like we’re all working in silos and I have to constantly ask questions or id never know what was going on.
          I don’t know what’s going on in the Ops case but maybe they can reduce it to quarterly all hands meetings? Also he or she sounds like they’re in upper management (administrator) so perhaps she’s drinking the koolaid they gave her and lower in the ranks there’s actually some dissatisfaction?

          Reply
      3. Falling Diphthong

        Back when I worked in an office, I really valued the weekly staff meetings. It was genuinely helpful to know who within the Teapot Design Division was tackling what, because I knew where to direct questions, or who might have an extra project to pass to me, or extra time to take something off my over-full plate.

        But what was happening over in Coasters was completely irrelevant to everything about my job. Coasters could vanish and on my level, and several up, not affect us. Coasters could do incredibly fabulously and, again, not affect us. A meeting to say “yay Coasters” or for Coasters to say “yay Teapots” was going to feel like a waste of hours I should be spending on the pile of half-completed spout designs on my desk.

        Reply
        1. Sadsack

          This is the same feeling I have had about quarterly meetings in my part of the organization. My department is a small department among several in the finance group. At our quarterly staff meetings, someone from another department would do a presentation about a project and get into the details like financing and insurance for the project that I just do not care about. I want my company to be successful, but I don’t need to know any details about a project and another group that has absolutely nothing to do with my job or even the department I work in. Sitting through those presentations was like the worst hell of boredom on Earth, I guess enough people complained or management caught on that people dislike having to sit in on those presentations, so they have stopped doing those types of presentations in our quarterly meetings.

          Reply
      4. always in email jail

        I strongly suspect bullet #2 is part of it. If it’s rare to get to leave at 6pm in this industry, but they’re managing to while producing good results, they are probably doing this through eliminating things like non-productive meetings, water cooler talk, full lunch breaks, “walking meetings”, all those things a lot of companies do to promote team and “good culture” but end up leaving less time for work. People probably chose to work for this company because they value getting out on time, and don’t want to see that culture change.

        Reply
        1. Fictional Butt

          I agree that this is probably a big part of it. LW, you said you’re used to a “ride or die” culture, but that’s obviously not the culture this place has. That’s going to show in multiple ways, not just the fact that people leave at 6.

          Reply
      5. SignalLost

        I’ve had jobs where I have loved the work, the people, and the product, been incredibly engaged with the company, and still hated this kind of rah-rah. If I find it irrelevant, that doesn’t mean I’m not engaged, and OP acting as though everyone should be grateful to have that job is a very poor metric to judge the merit of the meeting. Very, very poor.

        Reply
        1. Applesauced

          Seconded. I like my job, the people are nice, but I cannot stand the rah-rah bullsh*t – the buzzwords, the committees, the constant awards (so many that they become meaningless), the endless meetings, the forced fun socializing events…. I roll my eyes at most of it (invisibly, of course) play along for a little, then go about my work and go home.

          Reply
        2. shep

          So much this. I mostly love my job and work culture, but I am allergic to non-productivity feel-good activities. We have a team building meeting in a few months and I am DREADING it. Those make me feel twelve years old again–shy and half-crippled with anxiety.

          Reply
        3. Kyrielle

          I am INCREDIBLY grateful for my current job, I know how good I have it, and I love it.

          But the (less-frequently, fortunately, but hour-long) everyone-goes meeting to update me on the industry status and divisions? Contains approximately 0% content that’s useful to me, most times. When it does, it’s 5%, either related to benefits or whether the bonus plan is paying out, and could just have been sent in an email or whatever.

          I am engaged. I love it. I know I have it good.

          That doesn’t make the meeting useful or relevant for me. Other factors may, depending on what’s going on at the time. But the “big picture” is…not impacting my day to day, normally. The things that do, our management has already communicated to us *when it happened*.

          Reply
          1. 42

            There you go. When employees have it good, they 100% already know it and do NOT have to be reminded of this fact, let alone grabbed by the shoulders and shaken.

            Reply
        4. Liet-Kynes

          Absolutely this. Being engaged does not mean I want to join all my fellow salarymen for a spirited recitation of the company chant and 30 minutes of rote “WE ROCK SO HARD THE COMPANY IS DOING AWESOME YEAH EMPLOYEES.”

          Reply
        5. JulieBulie

          My employer (very large corp) is obsessed with measuring “employee engagement.” What they don’t seem to realize is that we can be “engaged” with our work without having any interest in, or putting any value on, rah-rah. Especially when the rah-rah is frequent, lengthy, and takes us away from the work that we are so engaged with.

          What’s particularly annoying are the frequent emails and other communications telling us how happy and engaged our coworkers are. Give me a break.

          Reply
      6. Aunt Vixen

        (I can tell you that I loathe meetings where the primary purpose is to keep me apprised of projects that have nothing to do with me when I could just read a one-paragraph, bullet-pointed status report.)

        PREACH. Any meeting that could have been a memo is a bad meeting in my lights.

        Reply
        1. the gold digger

          Any meeting that could have been a memo is a bad meeting in my light

          Another reason I used to knit during the office meetings when I was a Peace Corps volunteer. My co-workers loved status meetings. All I could think of was all the work I had to do that wasn’t getting done.

          Reply
        2. SarahTheEntwife

          Yes! And if you have a diverse set of services, make sure you’re actually providing updates that are intelligible to everyone. I work for a library/IT organization and I would really appreciate knowing what some of the other departments do, but inevitably the updates are all presented full of acronyms and jargon that don’t make them useful to anyone who doesn’t work in a closely adjacent department.

          Reply
      7. k

        You last point (meetings seem to lack practical relevance), is my best guess as to why they don’t like the meetings. My workplace has all staff meetings twice a year. While a lot of the information shared there isn’t useful to my day-to-day, it’s good to get an idea of what’s going on. But that’s twice a year. If they were every month that would get trying. Our department heads meet frequently so there’s no lack of communication between departments. Perhaps OP could find out if people would be more on board if the meeting were quarterly, or bi-monthly.

        Reply
        1. Marillenbaum

          I think that’s an excellent point. There can certainly be value in these sorts of meetings, but it’s an issue of frequency. When I worked in higher ed, once a semester the Dean of the College would host these faculty/staff happy hours that were partly social, but also an opportunity to meet people who worked in other departments and learn about their research. It was during the last hour of the day, so if you wanted to catch up on work (or just leave early) that was cool, but I loved the chance to learn more about areas on campus I didn’t explore as a student, and it really enriched my own work when I knew what resources existed on campus. But: it was once a semester. And there was free booze.

          Reply
      8. Not Rebee

        Most of your bullets are totally on point.

        My job at OldCompany was in mortgage, and I worked in Compliance – our monthly/every-other-month all company calls were 2 hours long and I would be lucky to have one sentence that actually mattered to my job. If I was lucky, they were making a big company announcement, but if they did they always followed this up with an email so there wasn’t really a ton of benefit to those meetings for the (very large) company. Similarly, I was also pretty glad when OldManager got rid of our larger department meetings – they were meant to update everyone on what was going on with everyone (I think because workload was not a steady flow and on top of that it was unevenly assigned, leading to some employees having almost constant down time and people got upset) but of course by the time the meeting rolled around you either already knew about that project or weren’t impacted by it at all. Turns out there was a lot at OldCompany that could be cut out and leave nothing missing.

        However, NewCompany has a monthly/twice-monthly short little meeting and I find it highly beneficial. I feel like I understand more about our business here and the ordinary problems the company is facing after less than a month here than I did after 4 years at OldCompany. And yet we have a greater Operations department meeting that I will tune out except for the part where I give my own update… It seems like it is mostly a way for our COO to get updated on everyone’s doings, which I think he could get from a one-on-one. But then again, I am only kind of a fan of the one-on-one because I tend to end up in meetings that involve my manager saying things like “Okay tell me what you’ve been doing” and they then expect me to lead the meeting.

        Reply
      9. Tuesday

        Agreed on that last point. I get the point of all-company meetings for general updates, but once a month seems too frequent for that. Quarterly seems more appropriate. And if they’re only 30 minutes long, they could probably be summarized pretty easily in an email.

        FWIW, my first office job was really boring and monotonous, and I looked forward to most meetings because it meant a break from the tedium and a chance to leave my cube. Later, when I had a job that I really liked, meetings that weren’t directly related to the work I was doing felt like an intrusion. I would have much rather stayed focused on my projects than suspend them for 30 minutes to listen to general company updates. So at least for me, engagement and interest in this type of meeting would be inversely proportional to job satisfaction.

        Reply
      10. Cordelia Chase

        I know that my SO hates these because they feel that while the company and CEO are going over the work of each department and saying, “Look at all of this revenue we’ve brought in!!! Great job everyone!” the company could be paying them more (they are pretty underpaid), have a more flexible PTO policy, etc.

        Just wanted to add that perspective.

        Reply
        1. Trig

          Yeah, a recent all-hands talking about how great we’re doing rang particularly hollow because we’d had a huge layoff a few weeks prior. Of course numbers are up, you just significantly decreased operating costs. Yes, that was the point, but it’s not a “good job team!” accomplishment. So the upbeat “let’s think about the future and moving forward and how we can keep this momentum” translates as “we saved money because many of your coworkers are gone, keep doing more with less.”

          Reply
      11. I didn't understand the assignment

        Thank you for pointing out the potential for a difference in billing. My company requires at least 90% utilization (and pushes for 100% if you’re on a short-term project), and then wonders why we don’t love our periodic internal “knowledge share” meetings.

        Well, *you* clearly don’t value having these meetings from a budgeting/resourcing perspective… why should I want to spend my precious time being there?

        Reply
      12. Noobtastic

        I’d like to congratulate OP’s company for actually recognizing that there is a problem in employee engagement AND seeking an answer, rather than just telling the employees, “Hey, look! You got it good, here so SMILE, damn you!”

        Seriously, I’ve seen that. This is the difference between dysfunctional and functional with a problem. You have a problem, but it is by no means insurmountable.

        If the morale is worth it to you, you might want to offer a choice. Employees can get the full, big-picture status report if they want it, or they can get the bulleted list status report emailed to them. They’ll still be in the know, but their thirst for detail will be satisfied according to their own preferences. You might want to host an open thread for questions on the company bulletin board/forum.

        Giving people individual options (even if it’s only two choices) forces them to engage at a minimum enough to make that choice. And it makes them feel more involved, because of it.

        Reply
    2. Gen

      A lot of people are going to see it as half an hour listening to someone you have no influence over talking about how great we are versus actually getting the work done that makes the company great. I’ve never found all hands meetings anything other than a time sink and an interruption, I’m not at a management level to influence these things so why not just email me.

      Also speaking from a position of working in toxic environments those sorts of meetings always make my shoulders go up round my ears. Same with a lot of ride-or-die enthusiasm because I’ve seen so much of it immediately before the company collapses. If everything is great then you don’t need to convince me, just let me do my job

      Reply
      1. NoBadCats

        This is so TRUE. I have a LOT of projects that I touch, but I don’t need to attend ANY of the meetings regarding same because my touch is editorial and I actually don’t need the Big Picture in a meeting. Just give me the overall bullet points in an e-mail and let me get on with my job with as few interruptions (I am also, apparently, tech support for older/less savvy co-irkers several times per day) as possible.

        Reply
          1. NoBadCats

            I picked that up somewhere, I don’t recall where, about a thousand years ago. Even though I LOVE my co-irkers—they have been so supportive and willing to do relays to get me to doctor appts that are impossible for me to get to without a car—co-irkers is what we all are. I am SURE that I annoy the feck out of some of them, as some of them, lovely as they are, do the same to me.

            Reply
            1. ScottM

              Lol, you accidentally said “co-irkers”. While that probably wasn’t your intention, I will probably use that word sometime!

              Reply
            2. Karen K

              I believe it originated with Scott Adams of Dilbert fame, but he could have stolen it from someone else. It is a great word.

              Reply
              1. RabbitRabbit

                I thought he was behind cow-orkers? Maybe I’m mixing him up with someone else, or maybe he did both.

                Reply
                1. Had Matter's Pea Tarty

                  I only read it in a really bad fanfic called ‘Quarter Life: Halfway To Destruction’. Fellow scientist, cow-orker Jim.

      2. GermanGirl

        Yes, have an internal newsletter to let people know how the company is doing and what other departments are up to.

        Use department heads meetings to take care of finding overlap and synergy. Department heads can then communicate to the people they manage.

        Frequent all hands meetings are almost always a waste of time if your internal communications strategy is good enough. Have them once or twice a year to give the c level a chance to share their vision and strategy.

        Reply
        1. always in email jail

          ^this. let people read and absorb the information on their own time, in a way that doesn’t impact their work.

          Reply
        2. NW Mossy

          Your second sentence, so very much. A significant part of a manager/director’s job is distilling the contents of the meetings they go to down to the small slices that are relevant for their staff and share just those elements. Routinely pulling everyone into big picture meetings is a sure-fire way to make sure that the large number of tactically oriented people you employ are turned off.

          Reply
        3. Sir Humphrey Appleby

          I disagree strongly with this point.
          Your view seems to be that “only department heads should worry about how various divisions of the company interact with each other.” That’s a great recipe for creating silos, mis-executing projects that require cooperation between divisions, hoarding information, and so on.
          Newsletters and such aren’t a substitute for face-to-face communication, because they’re much more passive and (bluntly) often end up in the wastebin. They also are labor-intensive to create.
          The message you’re broadcasting with this position is “I only care about my little corner of the universe and have no interest whatsoever in the big picture,” even four times a year. That’s not signalling you have leadership potential.

          Reply
      3. Detective Amy Santiago

        Bingo.

        I have never learned anything remotely useful to my ability to do my job effectively in an all company meeting. Mostly it’s about butt patting or complaining that we’re not hitting our goals. Well, I’m not gonna hit my goals sitting here.

        Reply
        1. Aunt Vixen

          I once raised my hand 45 minutes into a lecture about how productivity was down and asked if it might be a good idea therefore for us all to get back to work. (I was a temp on a finite assignment, so I had the least to lose. Pretty sure I was everyone’s hero that day, though.)

          Reply
          1. JulieBulie

            That’s awesome, Aunt Vixen.

            At the end of last year’s annual live, worldwide, 4.5-hour mandatory all-hands videoconference, our CEO said “we need to be more careful about how we prioritize our time.” Since we’d all been sitting there since 7:30 AM (the CEO is in France), we were too tired to laugh right away.

            Reply
      4. LBK

        I agree, I find they tend to be really self-congratulatory while somehow simultaneously not expressing a lot of genuine appreciation. I’m extremely passionate and excited about my work and I get nothing from these big divisional meetings.

        Reply
      5. inkstainedpages

        I actually like meetings, but I agree.

        If the purpose of these meetings is to boost morale by showing how well the company is doing, and the meetings aren’t actually boosting morale, then that’s where the problem lies. It’s not that your employees are apathetic, it’s that your meetings aren’t achieving what they’re supposed to, so something needs changed there.

        Reply
      6. Is it Friday Yet?

        Maybe the issue is that the person holding the meetings and the attendees are too far apart for them to be relevant. Senior management is speaking in broad terms and making things sound flowery and great but isn’t in the thick of it every day like the attendees. This is only a guess at what the issue might be.

        Reply
    3. Izacus

      Of course, ignoring those kind of meetings can lead to the products falling apart because one hand doesn’t know what the other is doing. How many times were you frustrated by a corporate product where you go “WHAT WERE THEY THINKING? Why doesn’t A work with B and why is the process in C completely different than any other first two?!” That usually results from everyone just caring for their own small task instead of trying to understand what the goal of the whole product/service is.

      Building small turfs IS a thing in large companies and can severely damage them long-term. So making sure that people know where the company is going is kind of critical at times.

      Of course, the question for OP is… are the meetings really boring? Are they “fake” – e.g. do they do a lot of corporate speak instead of conveying clear information for employees? Are middle managers failing to clearly communicate on how important the big picture is and are helping in the turf wars?

      Reply
      1. Bibliovore

        I second the examination of time. My division has an everyone meeting. It is first thing on Tuesday twice a month. It is a no conflict time. An agenda goes out the week before. AND if there is nothing pressing to report or discuss our director cancels it giving us the gift of time.

        Reply
      2. SignalLost

        Yup. I recently was part of a birthday celebration at my workplace that was just all about how great the company is (including major hype of a product that flopped spectacularly) and it just made me want to keep my head down and do my thing because when will it ever matter to me what a completely separate business division, in another country, working with a totally different product is doing?

        Reply
      3. LBK

        I’m not sure I agree with the first part of your comment. These “meetings” tend to be less of a meeting and more of just a presentation of things that have already long been decided and moved forward on. If you’re finding out at a big divisional meeting it’s probably too late to do anything about.

        Reply
      4. Koko

        I think the solution to avoiding that problem is to have the turf leaders sharing information with each other. Assuming the head of customer service knows what his reps are dealing with and the head of marketing knows what her creatives are working on, each of them can just give the other a filtered summary. It makes sense for the head of customer service to hear the details of what his reps are dealing with and to keep marketing aware of the big picture. It doesn’t make sense for creatives to listen to the details of what customer service reps are dealing with when a summary of the big picture would do just as well and be more efficient.

        Reply
        1. LBK

          Right – the heads of departments should be coordinating and potentially pulling in their people for smaller meetings as needed when they want the day-to-day perspective, but an all-hands-on-deck meeting isn’t the time for that kind of collaboration. It should be happening way before those meetings.

          Reply
    4. Audiophile

      My new-ish job has an all staff every month, these last almost 2 hours. While I’m enjoying it for the most part, it definitely feels like a less productive day. This company also has a lot of meetings from department meetings to planning meetings to performance meetings. This doesn’t count 1:1 meetings with my manager and regular calls with the consultants. I definitely understand people’s dislike of meetings but only in the last few months.

      Reply
    5. Mirax

      Yes! And if I can sense that a manager resents me for not being enthusiastic about meetings that take me away from my actual work, it’s not going to make me think kindly of them

      Reply
      1. Sir Humphrey Appleby

        Conversely, if a manager senses that you refuse to see any bigger picture aspects of your job — and that yes, that constitutes “actual work” — it won’t make the manger think kindly of you.

        Reply
        1. only acting normal

          It constitutes actual work, but it’s the manager’s work. (Note Mirax said “*my* actual work”, not “actual work”.) People caring too much (or being forced to care) about things outside their power to influence is a recipe for misery, not engagement.

          There is absolutely a need for people to take a strategic-level view in a business, but there also need to be people taking the operational-level view, and the tactical-level view, and people in the trenches who just need to buckle down and do their bit (without having to worry about doing several layers of management’s work too).

          If someone want’s to progress they may be taking an interest in the responsibilities one (maybe two) level up in addition to their own job, but the CEO’s company-wide-view job while you’re still entry level?

          Reply
          1. Sir Humphrey Appleby

            What you are arguing is that people “in the trenches” (and again, I find a lot of these “officers versus enlisted” metaphors insanely stupid, but set that aside) should not be spending their entire working day, week, and year on designing corporate strategy. That ought to be self-evident.

            It’s entirely a different proposition to say that people in the trenches shouldn’t meet with leadership periodically (say, quarterly) to (1) pass information up the food chain, (2) make sure tactics and operations are aligned with strategy, and (3) yes, learn something about the bigger picture of the organization of which they’re a part. To extend your “trenches” metaphor, there’s a reason why the military is largely an up-or-out organization. These meetings are also a great opportunity for promising employees to get noticed.

            To be sure, as with everything, the success of these kinds of meetings depends on solid execution. Can meetings be held too frequently? Sure. Can they meander? Definitely – that’s why meetings should have an agenda. Can too much “rah-rah” be counterproductive? I’m not sure what you mean by “rah-rah,” other than “I know it when I see it,” but yes, in general, strategy meetings should be opportunities for dialogue, not propaganda. Organizations need to work on finding an optimum balance, of course.

            But I very much stand by my original statement. Knowing something about the broader organization of which you’re a part, and seeing how your role fits in, *is* “real work,” and it’s something even the most junior employee should be doing every so often. (Put differently: “if you’re a janitor, be the *best* janitor.”)

            Conversely, if you hole yourself up in a rabbit warren and refuse to interact with other parts of your organization whatsoever, yes, you are disengaged — and I seriously question what value you’re adding to the company. (Savvy organizations don’t hire these people in the first place.) And the reality is that these kinds of employees are first up on the chopping block if the organization hits a rainy day.

            Reply
    6. Koko

      Yes! To me a big component of “how good I have it” is *directly related to* a job ultimately being “just a job.” To me, the ideal job is one that I can do competently and derive enjoyment from time to time, in an environment with pleasant and competent coworkers and bosses, where I can work 40 hours and not 50 on a regular basis, and which I do not base my identity, happiness, or self-worth on.

      I can see versions of the meeting OP describes that would interest me, and versions that I would have zero interest in. And the type that would interest me–deeper looks at projects that might only tangentially impact me but still might be of interest to me professionally–would be optional. The type I have zero interest in–let’s go around the room and everyone across completely disparate teams shares what they’re doing–are always mandatory and feel like a huge waste of time. It’s one thing if the managers Dept A and Dept B want to share toplines with each other that the respective managers communicate to their own staff as needed, but there’s no reason people down in the weeds of Dept A need to hear the details of what people in the weeds of Dept B are doing, especially when it’s taking me away from my desk. Every minute I spend in that meeting is one less minute I have to get my work done without staying late or working through lunch.

      Reply
      1. Sir Humphrey Appleby

        “It’s one thing if the managers Dept A and Dept B want to share toplines with each other that the respective managers communicate to their own staff as needed, but there’s no reason people down in the weeds of Dept A need to hear the details of what people in the weeds of Dept B are doing”
        I disagree *strongly*. If a project requires cooperation between Departments A and B, and people “deep in the weeds” of both departments are working on that project, they need to be talking to one another, not siloing themselves. And if someone is so deep in the weeds that they don’t need to know what’s going on elsewhere, I question what value that person is adding to the company in the first place.

        I once heard a great interviewing tip from a hiring manager: “when I hire for an entry-level position, I’m not only looking for entry-level employees. I’m looking for future managing directors.” Curiosity and a desire to learn about the business as a whole — not just your rabbit warren — *is* part of a job, and it is the hallmark of a good employee and a future leader. Quality companies don’t hire people to sit in rabbit warrens.

        Reply
        1. BouncingBall

          Not everyone wants to be a future managing director or leader. Some people are content to be worker bees. Some people want a job, not a career/profession.

          Reply
          1. Sir Humphrey Appleby

            But those people who “want a job, not a career” need to accept that many of the best companies won’t hire them.

            I don’t hire “worker bees”; I hire people who want to be part of the team and make a contribution. It’s the old saying that “A-list people hire A-list people; B-list people hire C-list people.” If you aspire to the C-list, you’re not going to work with the A-listers — and you’re going to suffer a lot of the “WTF” B-list management practices that see the light of day on this site.

            (I’d add that A-listers should do one better and look for A+-listers, people smarter than them.)

            Steve Jobs understood this well. He spent an amazing amount of time hiring personally, and deep into the organization, not just the C-level people. And he looked for A-listers.

            Reply
            1. Perse's Mom

              So worker bees are not part of the team and don’t contribute anything, to you. Man, I’m glad you’re not my boss.

              Reply
              1. Sir Humphrey Appleby

                I’ll be blunt: no, at least not in the sense that the earlier poster defined “worker bees.” I hire people who are intellectually curious, who want to learn about how their position fits in the organization as a whole (and who understand that constitutes “real work”), and who care about excellence.

                If you can’t stomach an annual strategy retreat to talk about big-picture goals, and three quarterly meetings of an hour or so to learn about the world around you, then no, you won’t be a good fit with us.

                To be clear, there are many entry-level employees who *do* meet these criteria, who excel here, and who gain valuable experience for their careers, whether that’s in our company or elsewhere. I hate the term “worker bees” because that’s demeaning to people in these positions. I call them “junior colleagues” or “entry-level colleagues.” Again: when I hire junior colleagues, I’m looking to see who would make a good senior-level colleague.

                When I hire, I look a lot at MBTI personality types. (I realize that lately there’s been a contingent of social scientists who challenge MBTI; fair enough, but I still find it invaluable as a classification tool.)
                – First and foremost, I want people who are Ns, rather than Fs. That means they’re ideas-focused.
                -Second, I want people who are Ts, rather than Ss. (We believe in challenging each other’s ideas at our organization; this is something we really respect Amazon and Jeff Bezos for doing.)
                – I care a bit less about extroversion versus introversion, although if you give off too much of a “homebody” vibe, or that you’re dead-set against social interactions, that’s a strike against you. Ambiverts are fine.
                – J/P I don’t care about.

                In interviews, I also ask people what books they’ve read recently, and their reaction to them. That’s another way to gauge intellectual curiosity. Finally, if you ask questions about cross-functional training opportunities within the organization, that’s a big plus in my book. It shows you care about something beyond your little corner of the world.

                I completely agree that this sort of Amazon-Apple model isn’t for everyone. It’s a big universe out there, and you should find a company that’s aligned with your own values.

                Reply
                1. JamieS

                  What about someone who’s an N and an F? Which triumphs? I think you mean N instead of S and T rather than F.

        2. SarahTheEntwife

          But what if I want to be *really good* at my job, and maybe try out variations on my job at other places, but not be a top-level manager? Managing and technical skills don’t necessarily go hand-in-hand at all. I’m a decent manager, with training and practice I’m sure I could get better at it, but I don’t particularly enjoy it and would really like to move to a job where I’m doing less of it.

          Reply
    7. ReneeB

      OP#2, please don’t let management pressure you to make people go to pep rallies. They are communicating that they are not getting value from the events. The question isn’t how to make them attend, it’s how to deliver value in these meetings so they want to be there?

      If the meetings are not substantive, are not related to the work on their desks (or that relationship is difficult to tease out), or is delivered in a bored and boring format, people will choose the work on their desks, where they see results and find value.

      I have been in jobs where the mandatory staff meetings were delivered in such a way that they were not-to-be-missed events. But those are rare.

      Much more common are the boring meetings with management on a dais or at a head table, reading financial figures, talking about sales quotas, and congratulating the account management or new-client acquisition groups (which literally no one cares about but the sales teams and which other employees may even find alienating – like they are just drones or chopped meat, it’s the sales guys that really matter to leadership). Or at the other end of the spectrum, meetings empty of content where leadership discusses mission statement alignment or something and uses lots of buzzwords. Sometimes these two forms take place in the same meeting.

      If that’s the kind of meeting your management is having, or anything resembling it, change that up stat:

      (1) Feed people. Not donuts and cookies. Something that doesn’t put employees into a sugar coma and shows respect for them. Good appetizers, breakfast tacos, meat skewers.
      (2) Make it a Stand Up. Keep everyone on their feet the entire time. This is one of those cliches that it’s supposed to create a short, punchy, engaged meeting. But you know what, it really does. And it means management really must keep the event to 10-12 minutes and close out.
      (3) Bring the management amongst the people. Have leadership stand in the middle of the circle during the stand up. Show that their willing to be put on the spot just a bit (literally surrounded). Can they be coaches in the middle of the huddle or does it threaten them?
      (4) Have the information conveyed be literally useful and tie in to the work on their desks in an obvious way. Most importantly, have leadership ask the groups what blocks they have. What do they need? What is their key project and what’s in the way? What are they proud of this month or this week? Look up Agile Development and the concept of a Scrum Meeting. The principles can be applied across many industries.

      If you can switch up the dynamic, people will stay after the meeting and spontaneously have breakout meetings. But you have to keep it short, keep it relevant, and give them a reason to be there.

      Reply
      1. bounceswoosh

        “They are communicating that they are not getting value from the events. The question isn’t how to make them attend, it’s how to deliver value in these meetings so they want to be there?”
        “Much more common are the boring meetings with management on a dais or at a head table, reading financial figures, talking about sales quotas, and congratulating the account management or new-client acquisition groups (which literally no one cares about but the sales teams and which other employees may even find alienating – like they are just drones or chopped meat, it’s the sales guys that really matter to leadership). Or at the other end of the spectrum, meetings empty of content where leadership discusses mission statement alignment or something and uses lots of buzzwords. Sometimes these two forms take place in the same meeting.”

        QFT. Especially the alienating part. In tech companies I’ve worked for, it may be the front end teams instead of sales. Literally never seen someone congratulated publicly for back end work in these sorts of meetings (or, generally, acknowledged at all by C-level staff, but that’s another story).

        Reply
    1. Greg M.

      exactly. Based on what we’re told here this woman is angry that you got a job and didn’t give it to her. This woman is a user not a friend.

      Reply
      1. Artemesia

        And any time someone else passes along that she is angry the OP should just say what Alison suggested i.e. ‘A friend offered me this job; it was not up for grabs. I have no idea why Jerkface believes she is entitled to a job I was offered. That is just very strange.’

        Reply
        1. Ramona Flowers

          A fellow grad on my masters course could never congratulate anyone for getting a job. It was always: “but I could have done that.” It got very old very fast.

          Reply
          1. College Career Counselor

            This is the zero-sum culture of graduate school–there are so few jobs in academia that some people view someone else’s success as coming at their expense. “That was MY job” (whether I knew about it or not).

            I mean, there is a finite number of jobs in any industry (someone else is likely to get “your” job, ie, one you could have done), but the massive over-production of PhDs has made this especially stark in higher education.

            Reply
            1. Academic Snob

              +1000 to this. When you have all of the people becoming “experts in the field” clustered in the same environment, it’s a tough balance between competition and camaraderie. The more specialized your degree gets, the more you assume that you’re definitely going to get any job that you’re qualified for since relatively few people have your same qualifications. The reality that there’s one job that wants those qualifications and there are 8 people in your program who all feel like they’re the single best option for it hits hard.

              Reply
          2. Arielle

            I do some voice acting as a side thing, and a friend of mine recently got a gig that I really, really wanted. I was insanely jealous until I listened to the episode and was like, “Ah. She got it because she’s better than me. Well, that makes sense.”

            Reply
            1. Code Monkey, the SQL

              As a sidebar, what a cool gig! I’ve always thought voice acting would be a really interesting industry, with fewer of the downsides that are usually a part of entertainment jobs.

              Reply
            2. Anna

              I wouldn’t tell you not to feel your feels; as long as you aren’t a jerk to the other person. (I doubt you were.) I think once you realize why someone got the gig it’s so much easier to let those feelings go and move on.

              Reply
          3. General Ginger

            I have an acquaintance like that, and it’s the worst! Sometimes I just want to go, “but you didn’t do that, and nobody offered for you to do that!”

            Reply
          4. Rainy, PI

            It’s very common in the discipline my grad degrees are in to do a lot of tutoring as a grad student and sometimes even as an upper undergrad, and when I arrived in my PhD program I ended up getting a lot of tutoring referrals from one of the profs I’d TAed for–which I appreciated very much–a few months in, I was doing a lot of tutoring and heard through the grapevine that an undergrad in the program was running around telling literally everyone who would listen that I was “stealing food out of his mouth” by “taking HIS tutoring jobs”.

            Reply
        2. Falling Diphthong

          I wonder if part of this is it being a graduate program, and people are young and pretty new to this field? This attitude would be met with disbelieving laughter from most experienced freelancers–I could see a response to Angry Friend somewhere between “You are being weird” and “Mmm. Mm hmm. Mmmm.” But if people whispering to OP think Angry Friend has some ghost of a point, they are not very experienced with freelancing.

          Reply
          1. Anonygrad

            Grad school is also the worst for petty infighting and everyone bring in everyone else’s business in the best of cases.

            Reply
        3. Annonymouse

          Especially since jerk face isn’t doing niche work.

          I mean if it was something specialised that she was known for (I.e translating Latin into Ye olde English – Shakespeare style) and did it regularly I could see her being miffed at not having it passed on to her but she still doesn’t have any “right” or “claim” to it.

          It sounds like a general writing or tutoring job – that anyone in the program could do. (No offence to OP, I just mean it isn’t super specialised)

          You could try: “I’m sorry but are you saying that my friend who offered me work, specifically BECAUSE she wants to work with me on the project, I should have turned down and referred a virtual stranger to her? That seems a bit odd, don’t you think?”

          Reply
    2. Tangerina Warbleworth

      Let me guess: she’s stewing away telling everyone but you, OP #3, that she’s expecting your abject apology any day now. Sure.

      Sigh. Take it as a life lesson: some people simply will not learn until they do. Wash your hands and move on.

      Reply
  2. all aboard the anon train

    #2: Thinking that employees should be happy to have a job is never a great sign. It often comes off as condescending, and you’re going to get a lot more apathy and perhaps some resentment if your staff knows you feel this way. Moreover, you say that they should be grateful for how good they have it, but are there areas where they’re not happy that you’re unaware of?

    You seem to be passionate about your company, which is great, but not everyone is as passionate, and that’s also okay. Someone can be great at their job and appreciate the perks associated with it, but at the same time not be 100% engaged or in love with what they do. Not everyone wants their job to be their passion. For a lot of people, their job is just a job.

    That said, are these status meetings truly necessary? I’ve had similar meetings and often it’s a lot of executives and managers going on about how great everything is, but down at the lower levels we’re all thinking, “great, so we’re doing well, now why hasn’t that rolled down to give me more resources/better pay and benefits/a better way to do projects/more money to spend on vendors/etc.” More often than not I, and my colleagues, just view them as senior management getting a chance to pat themselves on the back and hear themselves talk. If these meetings aren’t directly impacting the staff’s work, chances are they may look at them as a time suck and 30 minutes they could have spent getting something work related finished.

    Reply
    1. Sam

      I get that she’s used to working with very passionate people, but if this office’s culture is unique, it makes sense to me that it would draw people who aren’t interested in the standard experience in their industry. Being rah-rah about the job seems irrelevant if they produce good work and are reliable coworkers. I mean, I’m quite good at what I do, but any boss who expects me to be thrilled about my work will be forever disappointed.

      Reply
      1. all aboard the anon train

        Exactly. I’ve never liked the assumption that a good employee also has to be a dedicated, enthusiastic employee. I’m great at what I do and it’s in an area most people expect me to be passionate about, but I’m not jumping up and down in excitement when I come to work every day. It pays my bills, and that’s how I look at it.

        Reply
        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

          Very much this. I am passionate about what I do. But if you want me to come in super chipper every day and tell you how grateful I am to have my job and how I love it, you will be disappointed. My commitment is to being competent, pleasant, and hard-working, but it’s not to feign enthusiasm for mundane or flat-out boring administrative tasks. I’ll pay attention in your meeting, and if appropriate, I’ll participate. But otherwise I’m going to be politely blank/observatory.

          Reply
        2. Mallory Janis Ian

          Even if I love my job, I’m likely to love it quietly to myself; I don’t have it in me to go around emoting all over the place about how great everything is.

          Reply
          1. always in email jail

            ^yes. I literally have my dream job. But I also want to go home on time and see my family and enjoy my hobbies. I love my work and appreciate the positive aspects of my workplace, but I would be irritated if I had to frequently sit in meetings for a cheerleading sessions.

            Reply
          2. Countess Boochie Flagrante

            Yep! In fact, I emote more outside of work than I do at work — I really do love my job, and I can very easily nerd out about it. But actually at work, I’ve got my professional face on and I’m not going to go on nerdout sessions about the beautiful math of options strategies or whatever.

            Reply
        3. LBK

          I get excited about my individual work but that doesn’t necessarily translate to passionate love for my division or company as a whole.

          Reply
      2. CMart

        This is exactly what I was thinking the entire time.

        The profession I’m in (accounting) is well documented for having insanely long work days in the profession at large. Most people spend the first half of their career nearly burning out before landing somewhere with better work/life balance. I skipped the first step and went straight into a position at a company with that balance. Other than my team (busy period grumble grumble) and a few others, nearly the entire accounting and finance department left shortly after noon *yesterday* to have a four and a half day weekend. That’s unheard of in this profession.

        The trade off is that this company and ones like it? The types of jobs that offer this slower pace where you put in your 8-5 (and take your full hour for lunch) and leave work at work? They attract exactly the kind of “disengaged” workers the OP is concerned about. I chose this job because… it’s just work. If I were passionate about it I’d be putting in my 65 hours a week in public accounting, not my <40 at a manufacturer. If your company culture is one of being balanced and not taking work home with you (literally or just in your heart), then you're not going to attract the people who live and breathe your industry. They're going to work somewhere faster paced. The ones who don't want that life are the ones who find companies like mine and the OP's.

        Reply
        1. CMart

          The point being: I know how good I have it. I’m in awe every day when I get in at 8:30 because I dilly dallied at home snuggling my baby and finishing my coffee and I’m still one of the first people in the office. I’m extremely grateful that I found this position.

          But I don’t really care about my work, other than the satisfaction of doing a great job, and the fact that they’re paying me for my services. And as far as I can tell, that’s just fine with everyone here.

          Reply
          1. Sir Humphrey Appleby

            In other words, you’ve been mommy-tracked. And if that works for you, so be it; but it’s not what everyone wants, and if I may be so bold, it’s not what companies that genuinely care about promoting women as leaders do.

            Reply
            1. Sylvia

              What? Your comments on this post aren’t making much sense in general, but I’m not seeing how “mentioned a baby and work-life balance” means “been mommy-tracked.”

              Reply
              1. Sir Humphrey Appleby

                The poster above is saying that she wants a less intense work environment so that she can spend time with her baby. That’s the mommy track. The problem is that she’s extrapolating that all women want this and that successful companies organize around this principle (sorry, neither).

                And again, I’m not saying “one size fits all.” Some companies are OK with Type B personalities and people who seek out that kind of environment. That’s fair dinkum if that’s what you’re looking for. What I’m saying is that I think truly cutting-edge companies (I’ve mentioned Apple, Amazon, Mrs. Fields, etc.) don’t organize along these lines, and you shouldn’t expect to stick around at a “Type A” company if you’re looking for “just a job.”

                There’s a reason the armed forces are up-or-out organizations, and that Ivy League colleges look at applicants holistically, rather than just picking grinders with the highest GPA. These organizations are trying to cultivate leadership, not people who think that only their immediate task at hand is “real work.”

                ; they’re trying to cultivate leadership.

                Reply
                1. Elizabeth H.

                  This seems like such a strange perspective to me. A lot of people don’t think that Apple, Amazon etc. are “cutting edge” in a positive way or that the attitude where you want to be able to leave work at work instead of being super energized and thrilled about your organization, is something that companies have to be just “ok with.” I think there are many successful companies that don’t operate with the need for this type of aggressive engagement from employees. Also “mommy track” is a deliberately disparaging term, the discussion wasn’t relevant to opportunities for female leadership, and nobody extrapolated or even vaguely suggested that all women would want a less intense work environment.

                2. CMart

                  I know it’s a very long time since this post was up, but I just now saw all these replies to my comment (anyone go back and search for their previous comments? just me?), and for posterity’s sake for future people who read through this post:

                  That actually isn’t what I said. What I said was that I want a less intense work environment and that I found it. I also said that sometimes I’m “late” to work because I spent time with my baby *and yet* I’m still one of the first people in the office.

                  I also didn’t extrapolate anything about women in general or companies in general. All I said was that sometimes companies offer a slower pace, and that the slower pace attracts less ambitious people and that’s the trade off the company makes in order to have that culture.

                  I work for a corporate HQ with a finance department of nearly 300 people, a majority of whom are men. We all enjoy leaving early on many Fridays and not often working a full 40 hours a week. What was relevant to the OP was my point that her high-intensity style might be the thing that is out of place here, not the other employees’ lack of engagement in catch-up meetings.

                  “Mommy-tracking” is a big societal problem, yes. High intensity companies are not a good fit for low-intensity career people, true. But neither of those things were present in my original comments.

                3. CMart

                  I also think it’s very interesting everyone assumed I’m a woman. Nothing in my post mentioned gender.

                  Was it the baby? Because my husband has a baby he enjoys snuggling in the mornings as well.

            2. Perse's Mom

              You should perhaps be less bold. You’re coming across in multiple comments as needlessly condescending and dismissive of commenters with whom you don’t agree.

              Reply
    2. Mike C.

      What I really love is when they try to talk about something they know is popular to relate to the rank and file, but completely screw it up because they actually know nothing about the topic. Stuff like “…and we’re going to be just like that local football team, hiking that ball down into the touchdown zone…” and so on. I’m not exaggerating either, we’re talking Steve Buscemi in 30 Rock type stuff.

      That sort of thing will just kill morale.

      Reply
      1. all aboard the anon train

        It’s so painful. Every meeting I’ve been to with senior management has had a situation like this, and not only does it make them seem out of touch, but it’s annoying and upsetting. It’s like when rich celebrities and politicians say they can relate to common people by doing those food stamp or homeless for a night challenges.

        I just wish they would realize that no one wants to be at those meetings if it doesn’t directly impact them.

        Reply
      2. Mallory Janis Ian

        Ha. The team at the design firm I used to work at used to make fun of the bosses’ meetings like that. Whenever they had a successful project outcome, they’d say, “And that was an end-zone home run!”

        Reply
        1. Sir Humphrey Appleby

          Which is a stupid way to run a meeting. Sports metaphors aren’t a substitute for serious discussion. It doesn’t follow that organizations shouldn’t run occasional strategy sessions.

          Reply
      3. esra (also a Canadian)

        You can only get away with that if you’re already a great manager and morale is good. My VP is a super dorky dad, and we love him for it.

        You see the same thing over and over, management not understanding that teambuilding/camaraderie come from good morale, they don’t create it.

        Reply
      4. Mallory Janis Ian

        “…and we’re going to be just like that local football team, hiking that ball down into the touchdown zone…”

        For some reason, I read this in a Tina-Fey-as-Sarah-Palin voice . . .

        Reply
      5. Anna

        It’s like that Huey Lewis and the News song with all the city names so they can get a cheer from the local crowd.

        Reply
    3. Ramona Flowers

      Also, why ask covertly? Does management not understand that asking people for their input and being seen to value it is a good thing to do?

      OP, the fact you’ve been asked to do this covertly speaks volumes about the situation.

      Reply
      1. Junior Dev

        Maybe the reason people aren’t enthusiastic about meetings is they can sense the kind of disrespectful, toxic atmosphere that also involves covertly trying to suss out people’s loyalty rather than having an adult conversation about their performance.

        Reply
      2. Sharon

        That’s a really good point. Employee engagement is all about having everyone feel like they bring value to the company, right? Don’t be covert. Turn it into an explicit discussion: help us make the company better, give us your feedback on how things are going, etc.

        Reply
      3. Sasha

        Covertly because when they’ve reached out in the past people have always said everything is fine and they wouldnt change a thing. Maybe covertly was the wrong word to use. An anonymous survey wouldnt work as there are only 50 people in the company and hanwriting is usually recognizable.
        Trust me, there is no nefarious sinister motive behind this. I gathered my responses casually at the water cooler

        Reply
          1. Chaordic One

            I think people would worry that a digital/online survey could be easily traced back to them through software. Back at “Dysfunctional Teapots, Ltd.” when we were emailed an employee survey, we were not allowed to forward the email to our personal email accounts, supposedly because management was afraid that people would forward the survey multiple times, fill it out multiple times and then squew the results.

            I can understand people being a bit paranoid about being honest with management, even in suveys.

            Reply
        1. Fictional Butt

          Maybe they are fine. “Unenthusiastic” can be “fine.” Are there specific goals your bosses want to achieve with these meetings? Are they not being achieved? Can you focus on that instead of focusing on people’s feelings?

          Reply
        2. all aboard the anon train

          People aren’t likely to give real responses in a casual conversation with HR, though. They’re probably worried that there are sinister motives behind it, even if you know there aren’t. They’re going to be on their best behavior with you.

          I think an anonymous online survey would get you the responses you’re looking for. Sometimes it’s because the anonymity makes them feel safer knowing they won’t be punished for saying they don’t like something.

          Reply
        3. Amy

          Why don’t you trust them when they’ve said everything is fine? Why do you think they have to be effervescently, enthusiastically passionate to be reasonably happy and producing good work? People who come to work every day, do their job, and then go home make up most of the work force, and most of them do good work. I guess I don’t see what the problem is here.

          Reply
        4. Shannon

          You can use a free tool like surveymonkey or scantron sheets.

          I really don’t tend to trust HR and I’m especially trying to get out of the habit of saying anything negative at all, really.

          Reply
    4. some mammal

      Exactly. We have quarterly meetings where top management spends 2 hours talking about sales, orders, bla blah. Stuff that has nothing to do with me. Meanwhile I have work to do. I try to avoid attending these meetings because they really are a waste of my time.

      And “they should be grateful to have a job” is a terrible attitude to have.

      Reply
    5. Cookie

      I like to call these “pep rallies.” And just like in high school, they only serve to make me more disengaged and eager to get out. It’s great that the organization is doing great things, but when I don’t get those same opportunities it’s like rubbing my face in it.

      Reply
        1. SheLooksFamiliar

          I wasn’t a rah-rah type in high school, I didn’t turn cartwheels when the horse I bet on won The Preakness last year, and I’m not going to wave my pom-poms at work during a meeting, ever.

          Come to think of it, I can’t recall many meetings like this that couldn’t have been handled with a well-written memo. But I guess some management teams just love the limelight. So to speak.

          Reply
      1. Heather

        I never thought of it this way and you are so right. Then or now, you’ll find me sitting in the corner of the bleachers and rolling my eyes.

        Reply
    6. Koko

      Yes, OP, you should be careful not to let yourself get into the mindset that your company is doing employees a favor by treating them well. It’s sort of the employer version of Nice Guy Syndrome – expecting employees to go above and beyond showing appreciation for what is honestly the minimum a company that cares about retaining employees could do. Employees should expect to be treated well by default, not expect to be treated poorly and then be a die-hard superfan when the company isn’t a jerk.

      Outside of work, I frequently tell people what a great place this is to work. How there’s a great work-life balance, we’re compensated generously, the cultural is collaborative and supportive…but this usually comes up in conversations where I’m sharing a job opening with a prospective candidate, or someone I’ve met/reconnected with asks me how I like my job. It doesn’t really come up otherwise, and it certainly isn’t something I’m making a point to show appreciation for every day at work. I show my appreciation by working hard and not leaving for another show.

      Reply
      1. One of the Sarahs

        Yes! Relating this to “Nice Guy Syndrome” is perfect. If people have taken a job on the understanding that their work hours are 9-6, with X many days holiday etc etc, you can’t expect them to be *grateful* that those are the conditions of work – that’s just standard,

        Reply
  3. Natalie

    For #3, I think it’s worth addressing rumors briefly if they’re relayed to the LW, for purposes of managing reputation. Some variation of Alison’s suggested wording (“I was offered work by a friend and I accepted it. It wasn’t up for grabs; it was specifically offered to me.”) would be fine, offered in a conversational, low-key way.

    Reply
    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      1000% agreed. This woman is behaving outrageously, but I think it’s worth doing a little bit of preemptive reputation management if any of your colleagues brings this up to you or mentions the “job stealing” around you. Grad programs are weirdly insular, and it’s easy to set a rumor fire and watch it grow into a conflagration. I don’t think you owe this woman anything, but I think it’s worth noting you did not steal her job, using Alison’s script, in a low-key, non-defensive and semi-bewildered tone (I’m thinking a “how could I have stolen a job that wasn’t offered to her and for which she didn’t apply?” tone, but with good cheer as an undertone).

      Reply
      1. Persephone Mulberry

        Agreed with both of you. If all the OP is hearing is rumors I wouldn’t make any effort to track down the sour grapes acquaintance, but I would be matter-of-factly setting the record straight with the rumor-passers.

        Reply
  4. Ramona Flowers

    #2 There are all kinds of reasons why people dislike all-staff meetings. I dislike them because they involve being bombarded with two much information (I prefer bitesize news stories on the intranet), they’re too crowded and involve too much milling about and shuffling and waiting which I find stressful.

    One thing that struck me reading your post is how many variables are involved – you are asking for input on getting people to attend a meeting, but not all meetings are the same.

    You haven’t mentioned the following things, all of which need to be considered before you assume the lack of engagement is purely a reflection on the staff who aren’t attending:
    – Who is talking at the meetings? Do senior management talk at them for 30 minutes or do different people get a turn to provide updates on their projects?
    -Are the speakers engaging or boring?
    -Where are they being held? Is it a big or small room? Seating or standing? If seated, are there enough seats?
    -Are there visual aids to help people focus?
    -What time of day are they? Are they starting on time or is there a lot of waiting around?

    I suggest you allow people to feed back on these issues in an anonymous survey. Ask why they don’t go and what they would prefer.

    And please, stop focusing on how they don’t know how good they have it. Things are just not that black and white. I have a great job at a great organisation and the fact I hate all-staff meetings doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate that!

    Reply
    1. Bagpuss

      I think these are all good suggestions. If you do do a survey, then include a question about how people feel it would be most helpful to be updated about projects, and whether they feel that meetings might be helpful in different contexts (e.g. less frequent, smaller meetings).

      Obviously specifics will vary from one organisation to another – in my firm, we very rarely have all-staff meetings. (There are regular departmental meetings, and people have one-to-one meetings with their direct managers, but most all staff information is either via e-mail or dealt with in departmental metings, or both)
      The only all staff things I can think of are certain kinds of training (which I think is a little different to meetings, and it only happens where the training is for things which are directly relevant for everyone) and social events (which are always optional!)

      Reply
    2. Anxa

      I’m probably a bit of a freak because I love meetings. I’m starved for an opportunity to learn more about the decision making from on high, to maybe contribute my insight, to feel a sort of sense of direction at work.

      That said, I would probably not like a big all staff meeting because I feel like it would be a missed opportunity to really, actually engage. I can’t follow lectures very well, and a lot of stuff like this has a lot of filler that makes it harder for me to keep focused, even when I want to.

      I would prefer disseminated articles and then more actual meetings at a size where it really can feel like a two way discussion.

      Reply
      1. Browser

        I used to love meetings. Back when I had a job that was on my feet, customer facing – meetings were a welcome break.

        Now I have an office job, and a lot to do. Meetings disrupt that. And as interesting as it might be to learn how other aspects of the company work, I have enough on my plate remembering all the details that are directly pertinent to me and keeping up with changes to have the time/energy to care about parts of the company that are irrelevant to me.

        Reply
        1. Annonymouse

          I agree
          There is an all staff meeting that happens everyday at 3:15 at my work.

          It’s supposed to be at a certain location (this changes frequently)

          Be attended by the higher ups (who are often late or no show)

          And be an update for everyone on what’s going on (but often dissolves on to off topic subjects).

          Even if none of the above happened I’d still find it a huge waste of time every day.

          I’ve got too much stuff to do. I can text/email my update for the meeting and after the meeting it takes me about half an hour to get back in to work mode.

          Reply
  5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

    OP#4, I’m hoping your manager is just really bad at explaining what she means. I probably would have interpreted her comment the same way you did—that she wants me to always feel a little overwhelmed/underwater. But my logical mind hopes that, assuming she’s not otherwise behaved as a wingnut, she just meant that she wants to ensure you have a steady workflow going. Because hopefully she is not an awful person who believes in working her reports to death by flooding them with tasks.

    In most of my jobs, it takes me about 6-9 months to become kind of competent at what I’m doing, and after that, my productivity increases… but so does my “to do” list. I’m hoping your manager meant that now that you’re overcoming your learning curve, what’s on your plate can shift and there are other things to learn. So hopefully her comment is about personal development and load management.

    Reply
    1. Al Lo

      We have a newer staff member who is efficient and gets things done, but (he’s been with us a year now) is just starting to realize exactly what needs to be done, and the list he’s been working off of has been incomplete. Not by any fault of his own; just the learning curve for the job. He couldn’t possibly have known everything that needed to be done in the bigger picture. He’s had to get over that feeling that he can get to the end of his to-do list, because there are always ongoing projects to come back to, or there are things that he should be taking different initiative on, now that he’s more familiar with the job.

      I definitely have days where I say that I’m finished, and that my plate is empty, and I feel a sense of accomplishment. I’ll get to inbox-zero before a long weekend, or I’ll be really prepared for a big project and be able to have a not-so-stressful week leading up, when other departments are really busy (both of those happened in the last month). But, I’m not really “done” with everything that I could be working on. I’m choosing to prioritize my time off or my stress levels going into a major event over picking away at a longer-term project for a day or two, and that’s my prerogative to balance as a senior staff member.

      But now that my work is really slowing down over the next month, it’s my prime time of year to dig into those other “to do” items that don’t get done during the busy time. When I choose to leave them for a while, I know that I’ll be coming back to them.

      Reply
    2. Mazzy

      I can’t speak for the OP but for me this would mean the following. In another Dept there is a senior staff member who took the position as a stretch role – they didn’t really have enough experience – and they aren’t really performing up to the role. It’s not what they do wrong, but the things they don’t do at all. There isn’t a specific error or omission to point out, but they just aren’t bringing the higher level impact and projects we expected. More junior staff members are working on much more complicated software improvement projects than the more senior one. It’s hard to say “make more complicated projects you should be busier and more stressed than the junior ones” but that is kind of how some of us senior staff are beginning to feel.

      Reply
    3. Zinnia

      I was also thinking this from a personal development angle. In my field, the first few years out of school are basically an apprenticeship. As soon as an employee has mastered a piece of work, it’s time for them to be assigned something more difficult. The basic idea is:

      If you aren’t uncomfortable/overwhelmed, you aren’t being challenged.
      If you aren’t being challenged, you aren’t growing.
      If you aren’t growing, you aren’t going to be promoted.

      But there’s a difference between feeling somewhat overwhelmed with the difficulty of your work and being overwhelmed by the sheer volume of it.

      Reply
      1. Carla

        I don’t think overwhelmed and challenged are the same thing. Feeling challenged is a positive; I’m challenged when I am doing something I don’t have much experience with, but I have confidence in my ability to complete the task. Overwhelmed is a negative; I’m stressed out about the amount or difficulty of the work I have and I have little to no confidence that I will be able to satisfactorily complete the task.

        Reply
        1. Starbuck

          Yeah, that’s how I see it as well. I feel challenged when I’m scheduled to lead a new program that I’ve never seen, but I know I have the experience and skills to make it work. I feel overwhelmed when I find out we’ve scheduled another program that same day/time, which I am also responsible for managing…

          Reply
    4. The Other Dawn

      A former boss of mine made a comment similar to OP’s boss, and he definitely meant that I was lazy if I didn’t feel overwhelmed all the time and had a much longer list than could reasonably be accomplished this century. These days, however, I can look back and see that he was a self-proclaimed “workaholic” who came in around 7:30 am, basically putzed around most of the day and then got down to real work later on, then stayed until 8 pm. He was barely doing 6 hours of work during the course of those 11-12 hours.

      Reply
    5. OP #4

      OP 4 here. The context about gaining competence on a learning curve does make the remark make more sense. I think I was panicking because of the context of previous jobs I’d had where ‘feeling overwhelmed’ and ‘having less on your plate than your manager feels like you ought to have’ would have both been grounds for termination.

      Reply
  6. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

    OP#5, I have a chronic illness, and I don’t tend to bring it up until the offer and negotiation stage, when we’re working out things like a flex schedule or frequency of sick leave usage, etc. There’s a school of thought that says wait until you’re hired and then open the ADA-accommodation process, but that’s not always as proactive an approach (especially if your illness doesn’t meet the ADAA’s definition of a disability) and can sometimes limit your accommodation options more significantly than if you negotiate around it during the offer/acceptance stage. Unless the employer is evil (in which case, bullet dodged and lawsuit seeded), there’s pretty low risk in handling it the way that Alison has suggested.

    Reply
    1. Rookie Manager

      This is when I mentioned the accomodations I need. After they offer, before I accept.

      It’s never been an issue but if it was I would know it is not an organisation I want to work for. If a manager ever pushes back on my accomodations I can remind them I gave them full knowledge befote accepting the job and it wasn’t a problem then.

      Reply
    2. justsomeone

      Yeah, this is the stage where my husband brings up his chronic illness as well. So far, it’s always worked out well for him.

      Reply
      1. Bibliovore

        I have a chronic illness. It is visible in that I use a cuff crutch. I do not discuss this during interviews except to say I have a connective tissue disorder and sometimes I need help walking around. All my accommodations have been discussed after I have accepted an offer. Flexible time for physical therapy, parking space, and office furniture. If these things are going to be a problem, I want to know before I upend my work life.

        Reply
  7. seejay

    LW#2: You know what I’m passionate about?

    I’m passionate about what I *do*.

    I generally don’t care about the end result or the big picture.

    And I’m not passionate about meetings where I get yanked away from things that I’m interested in doing where I have to stand around and listen to someone tell me about the projects and their progress. Someone just interrupted the progress I was interested in, probably derailed my concentration, and is taking time away from something I’m passionate about to try to engage me with something I’m not interested in.

    And they’re doing it on a monthly basis? Hell no. I get annoyed with the quarterly all-hands meetings which is four a year and does pretty much the same thing.

    They’re not apathetic about their jobs, they’re apathetic about monthly meetings. I honestly don’t blame them. :/

    Reply
    1. JamieS

      I’m a little torn in this. On one hand I do care about the big picture. On the other hand the big picture can usually be expressed to me via email.

      Reply
      1. hermit crab

        I agree, JamieS. I care a lot about the big picture, and it’s also good for my job/career to stay up to date on thigns, but there’s more than one way to do that! Where I work, part of this is solved by having recorded webinars on various projects, so you can either attend live or just listen/page through the slides later if you want.

        Reply
      2. Lala

        OMG, THIS.

        Any time I attend a meeting that could’ve been an email, I get annoyed. I enjoy meetings where input is solicited, where a bunch of us from different departments are brainstorming, or that sort of thing. Meetings where I sit and people talk at me/everyone else? Noooo. Write it out, email it, and let people open the email and fit it into their workday when it’s good for them.

        Sometimes my coworkers and I exchange this picture after a particularly boring meeting:

        Reply
          1. hermit crab

            Haha, I love this! I might send it around during the next staff meeting that’s 20% content/80% trying to get Skype for Business to work properly…

            Reply
      3. Turtle Candle

        I also care about the big picture, and I don’t even mind all-hands meetings as much as some people here.

        But once a month just seems really, really frequent. I can get excited and be passionate about the big picture that way once, maybe twice a year. On a day-to-day, month-by-month basis, I’m passionate about my corner of it, and don’t want to be dragged away from that. It feels like a diminishing returns thing.

        Reply
    2. Jennifer

      As a peon, I just don’t care about “the big picture” or the CEO’s “vision.” None of that matters to me when I am at the bottom of the pecking order shoveling shit. I’m the one that does the actual work, I have nothing to do with the vision in your head. I am just trying to get the actual workload done so I don’t get in trouble. That’s my “vision.”

      Reply
  8. KR

    For meeting OP.. I recently joined a large company that does quite a few conference calls since many people are remote in our division. We have a periodic meeting with our entire division of the company where whoever wants to be there in person gathers in a conference room and broadcast over a conference call. People can just listen at their desks with the phone on mute, working at the same time or whatever, and then unmute and chime in if they need to. Is this something your company could do?

    Reply
    1. Ennigaldi

      At ExJob, the company wide meeting was first thing in the morning in a large room everyone had to walk through to get to the elevator to their desks. They served a hot breakfast featuring bacon and mini doughnuts. Attendance was around 90%!

      Reply
  9. Dan

    #2

    FWIW, if you have to *tell* people how good they have it, you may not be offering as much as you think. Anybody who has been with you less than five years knows what life is like compared to somewhere else. People who have been with you for more than ten years haven’t quit for a reason.

    Reply
    1. JamieS

      This was my thoughts too. I think OP’s opinion may be coloured because other companies in the industry are worse. I’m going to assume the company does treat their employees better than competing companies or at least does compared to OP’s experience. However an employee having it better compared to another company’s employees isn’t the same as having it good. A person who works 100 hours a week has it better than someone working 120. That doesn’t mean the one working 100 hours should feel blessed to work for such a great company.

      Reply
    2. One of the Sarahs

      +1 . As someone said upthread, it sounds like OP has worked in toxic workplaces before, and is expecting everyone else to treat “not awful’ as “really great”. I get this, I really do – when I moved from charities, where I worked way too many hours, to the Civil Service where I worked flexitime, but HAD to keep within my hours, it was a massive culture-shock, BUT people like me and maybe OP can’t expect other people to judge their jobs by our previous badly-mamanged roles.

      Reply
  10. Myrin

    #3, thinking about it from a different angle, if I were the friend who specifically offered you this freelance gig – and who seems to know about and trust in your competence, seeing how she’s actually willing to fund you for a summer – I’d be really bewildered if you suddenly referred me to another person just… because?

    Reply
    1. Ramona Flowers

      Well quite. People need to be free to choose the vendors they want – what’s she going to do, monopolise the market with tantrums and gumption?

      In my experience freelancing has far more to do with relationships than specific experience, a lot of the time.

      Reply
      1. Annonymouse

        Oh Ramona!
        You used gumption wrong. Gumption isn’t about passive aggression, it’s all about ACTION!

        Gumption in this situation is jerk face going through OPs LinkedIn contacts/Facebook friends list and messaging everyone that she is an experienced teapot person and did any of them have teapot work over the summer?

        This way she is trying to win back “her” job and can thank OP for the referral.

        Gumption!

        Reply
    2. Falling Diphthong

      In my freelance field, that’s how a lot of work comes in. “I don’t have time to take on a new job, but I worked with Wakeen Lannister on something similar a few months back and he was really good; here’s his contact info.”

      But Wakeen Lannister imagining that all steam haiku jobs had to be passed to him by everyone in his circle would be laughed at.

      Reply
  11. Ramona Flowers

    #3 About unwritten rules: no, there aren’t. I was freelance for years and the number one piece of advice I give people is: be nice to your competitors as they are also your colleagues. I got more help, word-of-mouth recommendations and opportunities from fellow freelancers than anyone else. The appropriate response in this situation would have been: “I hope it goes well – if they need any more help I’d be really grateful for an introduction.” This person isn’t conducting themselves with grace or decorum and that will harm them in the long run.

    Reply
    1. The RO-Cat

      All the above. And I suspect, in a freelancing community where free competition rules are well known, that person will receive more side-eyes than meet the eye (!). At least that’s my experience as a longtime freelancer. Even grossly undercutting prices (sometimes regarded as lacking taste and grace) does not rise at the level of that attitude of entitlement.

      Reply
    2. Artemesia

      Great point. I refer consulting work to colleagues and have done many a gig that was offered to a colleague first and referred to me. Be a jerk like this person is being and she will be the last person on the list who gets referrals from colleagues who are offered jobs they can’t take.

      And I agree the OP should do a little reputation management when given the opening.

      Reply
    3. The Other Katie

      #3: I’m a freelancer who sometimes works with a small intermediary. Our rules are that if no one’s actively requested we can fight like baby sharks over it, but if someone actually is asked to do it, they get right of first refusal. Of course, knowing what other people around you do is a good idea, so if you get a line on teapot painting and you’re a teapot designer really, you can send the potential client to Jane and she can do the same for you. But there’s absolutely no obligation to do so, ever (especially if you didn’t even know they did it!)

      Reply
      1. Hrovitnir

        That is how I would imagine it would go, as someone who’s not a freelancer. It seems intuitive – and as mentioned above, just because you ask a competent friend to do a project doesn’t mean you want a random doing it for you, even if they actually would be better.

        Also I’ve got to find a way to work “fight like baby sharks over it” into conversation some time.

        Reply
      2. Turtle Candle

        Yep. I do a very small amount of freelance work. A friend an fellow freelancer passed someone along to me because it was something she didn’t have a lot of experience with and that’s right in my wheelhouse, and I was really pleased she thought of me–but had she done it herself, I would have thought absolutely nothing of it.

        Reply
  12. This is She

    LW #1 — I read something once, I think it might have been by Miss Manners, that rang so true and reasonable to me. She said that the yardstick by which we should decide if we ought to try to do someone a solid, wrt life’s tiny embarrassments like this, is to ask ourselves: what can he/she do about this Right Now? If the answer is ‘nothing’ then it’s best left alone.

    For example, if I notice my friend or colleague has a run in her pantyhose, and there’s no convenient way to fix it (no drugstore nearby, no time, e.g.) then no sense mentioning it. What’s the point? But if someone has spinach in their teeth or their fly is down, then a quick fix is possible, and you’re being a stand-up person to discreetly give them a chance to remedy it.

    Of course Alison is right in this instance — it sounds like it couldn’t be fixed in the moment, so you’re in the clear, according to Miss Manners. But I have always used the above guideline to help me decide if I am helping or not in similar situations.

    Reply
    1. SignalLost

      This was my thought. The main reason for not mentioning something that can’t be fixed is that when your interview goes to the restroom and sees the lipstick, she doesn’t know when it happened but it must have been very recently, since you didn’t say anything or stare at her teeth.

      Reply
    2. Rebecca in Dallas

      Right, if you try to tell someone she has lipstick on her teeth when there is no mirror around, it’s going to turn into that awkward, “Did I get it?” *grimace* “No? How about now?” *grimace*

      Reply
  13. GMN

    OP4, I actually agree with your boss and could have said the same thing, so it’s a good lesson for me to see the reactions here!

    I literally told my boss the same thing at my last performance review: I like the pressure and I want it to hurt a little bit to know that I am growing the maximum amount. If I’m comfortable I’m bored and it’s time to move on.

    Reply
    1. OP #4

      I can see how the remark was probably meant, now. At the time, though, I’d had a few too many ‘fired out of nowhere for things I’d never been told were problems’ experiences to look past what I felt like my manager SAID to what she almost certainly MEANT.

      Reply
  14. Sasha

    OP 2 here, thank you for answering my question and its jnteresting to see others perspectives. I just want to clarify that my background is in a disfunctional environment so im just very happy to finally be in a functional one. I am absolutely not intending to actually grab people, that was a metaphor. And i appreciate that a lot of people hate meetings and have stong views but meetings are a part of most office life and arent going anywhere, i genuinely dont believe 30 minutes a month is onerous. As for being shown work that doesnt pertain to you, i just wanted to explain that all the projects being presented are images, a lot of our staff are fresh out of school and, in theory at least, would benefit from seeing the standard of others work, whereas the old guard could learn something from a younger perspective.
    What i dont think anyone considered was that having such a meeting in the morning breaks up the flow of the day and takes people away from wharever schedule they have set themselves. Ill definitely bring that up. Another point to consider us that maybe there is a flaw in the hiring process, it takes so many years to qualify in our field that only the toughest (and wealthiest) candidates usually stick it out. Ill see if its possible to diversify our candidate pool the next time there is an opening

    Reply
    1. katamia

      Thanks for clarifying what’s happening in the meetings. It does put a slightly different spin on things for me (I posted after you but didn’t see your comment before I posted and was assuming a very different type of thing was going on in the meetings), but images for people to look over still sound like the kind of thing that could go in an email.

      And, yes, you’re right that meetings are a part of life in most offices, but because they currently are, do you think that automatically mean they should continue to be if they’re not benefiting the employees?

      Reply
      1. katamia

        Realized I wanted to add on to what I said. It seems to me that right now they don’t view the meetings as valuable, or maybe not as valuable enough to make up for the productivity hit they take. Maybe some minor changes (moving the time, providing snacks or more comfortable chairs, whatever) would be enough to make them less unenthusiastic (getting them to be actually enthusiastic might be a stretch). Or maybe there isn’t anything you can do because they’re just really not into this meeting and nothing will change their minds. Not being involved with the field, your company, or the workers in question, I have no idea.

        So the end question here, I think, is whether it’s more important to have this meeting or to give them this information (by which I mean the images). If I read your question right, it’s the job of senior management, not you, to answer that question. And if they really love the idea of having this meeting that many of their employees aren’t interested in, then I’m not sure where you go from there.

        Reply
    2. Jules the First

      Speaking from experience, these kinds of all-hands update meetings are unique to design firms in that they really are necessary and it’s not something you do by email and attending them is a very common and reasonable professional expectation (it’s a cultural thing about presenting and critiquing work among peers) and the trick to getting people to attend enthusiastically is a combination of timing and format. My rules of thumb:

      – during working hours, usually beginning of the day or end of the day to minimise disruption to people’s flow (lunchtime sounds like it will work well; it doesn’t because it interrupts the workflow and occupies the time they need to recharge)
      – lots of speakers. In a 30-minute meeting, no one should speak for more than five minutes. If you aren’t already, look at a pecha kucha format and insist people stick to the limit
      – bribery: most designers will happily show at a meeting if you have really great snacks. Spring for beer and nibbles if you do it in an evening; I’ve also had great success with monthly breakfast, the trick is to make breakfast different each time so people are keen to find out what the surprise is (so one month we’d do a muesli bar; the next month mini-bagel sandwiches; then pancakes…)
      – day of the week: first thing Monday morning feels like the right time to do it but isn’t…your staff will resent you for making them start their week in a particular way. I’ve had maximum engagement with Tuesday mornings right at the start of the workday (send a reminder on Monday night so it’s fresh in everyone’s attention) or Thursday evening right before close (with beer and nibbles) so it becomes a sociable thing but doesn’t intrude on their evening.

      If I were you, I’d also start scheduling 45 minutes and only using 30, with the rest left to encourage people to stand around and discuss. These meetings are supposed to inspire and unblock, so chit chat is a real part of them.

      Reply
      1. Optimistic Prime

        We’ve done these kinds of round-table meetings where everyone is presenting some work they did briefly. We limited people to a really short time limit (5 minutes? I think?) and we hammed it up the first time we did one with referee shirts and whistles and stuff. It kept people to their times!

        Tuesday mornings really is perfect. Or Thursday mornings.

        Reply
      2. sepviva

        I work in design and agree completely, and also with Ramona Flowers below. One firm I worked for did these at the end of the day on a Friday, with beer. It also should feel more like an open conversation than a presentation, and I’m suspecting that’s not the case here.

        Reply
      3. Sir Humphrey Appleby

        A lot of excellent suggestions here, and yes, I think Tuesday or Thursday morning is the ideal time for a strategy meeting like this.

        Reply
    3. Ramona Flowers

      Well if you want to inspire new designers and compare work, I’m afraid that really isn’t the best way to do it.

      Some design agencies have whiteboard or pinboard walls. People can pin up ideas, tear sheets, project mock-ups etc and add comments, suggestions and ideas to what’s already there. That’s just one example of how to make this stuff happen. Why don’t you check out some of the workplace features on websites like Creative Review and Creative Bloq – their agency profiles often mention how they collaborate and share ideas. Look for ways to play around with ideas and collaborate – not to have them sit and watch. If you want them to see recent projects, put them somewhere they’ll be seen. If you want junior and senior staff to work together, lose the show-and-tell and have them collaborate on projects or set up an action learning set to workshop specific problems.

      I’d also just like to caution against talking in abstract, absolute statements like “meetings are part of office life”. That’s not particularly helpful. It’s better to focus on what is needed in YOUR office, what works, what doesn’t and why? Start with the problem you need to solve, not the thing you want to be the solution. Getting people to go to these meetings is not your problem here – it’s your wrong-solution.

      It’s great that you are in a workplace that makes you happy. Just try to remember that your colleagues may not feel the same way if they are being pressured to go to pointless meetings! Ask them for input, non-covertly, and listen to the answers.

      Reply
      1. One of the Sarahs

        Co-sign that if you want people to be inspired by other people’s work, present it differently. EG have a wall in the break room/kitchen/by the water cooler/opposite the lifts as a place to showcase ideas people are working on. Provide opportunities for people, informally, to be able to say “I have this problem, can you help?” and “I’m really proud of this solution to my problem”.

        Basically, if what you want to do is foster a culture where people can see each others’ work and be inspired by it, there are tons and tons of different ways to embed it in daily life (on your walls, your office intranets, in your reception etc etc) – BUT! as everyone else has said, don’t fall into the trap of expecting inspiration to looks specific. I’m an outgoing, enthusiastic extrovert, so I might look like I’m more excited by someone else’s work – but the introvert next to me could be even more inspired, without gushing how much they love something etc etc.

        Reply
    4. Danger: Gumption Ahead

      If you aren’t already doing it, you might want to make the meeting a bit more thematic. Rather than a slide show of what people are doing, pick specific design challenges and have people address how they overcame them. For example, instead of showing the teapots as a series of images, focus in on how people prevented heat transfer to the handle and have people talk about how they insulated the handles while maintaining aesthetics. It will take more planning on the part a of management, but in addition to the other recommendations, it might make people engage more.

      Reply
      1. pomme de terre

        “It will take more planning on the part a of management” — THERE IS THE RUB. Everyone wants to see amazing, dynamic office presentations and no want wants to create them.

        Sorry, I’m a person at a design firm in charge of monthly office meetings blowing off some steam. It’s frustrating when everyone is like, “Ugh, there was so little design content in the meeting” and then NOOOOOO ONE VOLUNTEERS to do it even when we recruit them and offer support and generous timelines.

        Reply
        1. Danger: Gumption Ahead

          Everyone wants a party but no one wants to plan or host. And everyone has an opinion on what should have been done better :)

          My work gets around this by the bosses picking topic X that is cross cutting and assigning a brief presentation to one of their reports who recently finished a project where topic X was an issue and how they got around it. Of course this requires bosses to have a good handle on what their teams have been working on, which is unfortunately not a given

          Reply
    5. Fictional Butt

      It’s great that you are out of a dysfunctional office, and happy with your new job! It’s important to keep in mind, though, that your feelings about your job are not really relevant to your coworker’s feelings about their jobs. They’re allowed to hate aspects of their jobs if they want to. Focus on how they’re telling you they feel, not how you think they should feel.

      Reply
      1. Jessesgirl72

        I think the OP is too focused on how they feel, anyway.

        They don’t have to love the meetings- they do have to attend them without being being herded like kindergartners! The OP says they serve an important purpose- so that needs to be communicated to the ones resisting, and if they still can’t comply with attendance without hand holding, that needs addressed by their managers.

        I’m not saying the OP shouldn’t do what she can to make the meetings better or more convenient, but in the end, there are always going to be people who don’t want to go, no matter what she tries.

        Reply
        1. Turtle Candle

          I agree that there may(?) be more focused on feelings here than they ought. From the LW’s follow-up comments, it sounds like this might actually be a standard industry practice in their industry/region, not an imposition as it would be to many of us. (I’ve been on the opposite side of this: it’s not at all uncommon in my industry to have very short daily team meetings–standups–and they serve a distinct purpose, but outside the industry people sometimes recoil at the thought.)

          If that’s the case, then yeah, it’s reasonable to expect them to attend without being reminded/nudged/cajoled/found and brought to the meeting. But the focus should be on behavior (I need you to come to the meeting promptly without having to be lured or nagged) more than on feeling (I need you to be enthusiastic about the meetings and grateful to the company). It’s reasonable to ask for a change in behavior, and to minimize obvious signs of displeasure like grumbling, but outside very specific contexts it’s not going to come across well to tell people how to feel about it.

          Reply
    6. ArtK

      Even though *you* don’t see 30 minutes as “onerous,” your perception doesn’t matter — it’s the other employee’s perceptions that matter. I’m on a tight deadline and 30 minutes out of my day is a very big deal. In part because it’s not just 30 minutes. I have to disengage from what I’m doing and get to the meeting place. Then, when I get back to my desk, there’s another period where I have to get my brain back on the problem I was trying to solve. 30 minutes could easily work itself into an hour of lost productivity.

      For you, the meeting *is* your job. For people like me, the work I do at my desk is my job. Please don’t try to turn your job into my job.

      Nobody thought that you were going to physically grab anyone, so your response there tells me that you may not get the point that others are trying to make. Alison made it pretty clear that it’s your attitude (“don’t they realize how good they have it — why aren’t they more happy/excited/grateful?”) that’s the problem. Enthusiasm about meetings is a *terrible* gauge of how the employees feel about the company as a whole. You need to change your measurement and assess what *really* matters. Note that this is a very common problem. People latch onto simple, obvious measurements that are completely inappropriate. If you want to measure the employee’s attitudes, look at things like turnover. Are people staying for a short time and then leaving? How do they respond when there’s a crisis? Is it all-hands-on-deck or meh?

      Reply
        1. WhirlwindMonk

          While technically true, this is a terrible attitude to have if you want to retain good people. “Because I said so” is almost never an appropriate reason for why an adult should do something.

          Reply
          1. Jessesgirl72

            It’s also a bad attitude to say “It’s not my job, it’s your job!” if you want to be retained.

            Reply
            1. WhirlwindMonk

              Shockingly, two adults should be able to have a reasonable discussion about what a particular job’s duties is and ought to be without either resorting to “Do it because I’m the manager and I say so” or “No, that’s not my job and I refuse to do it.” Neither I nor ArtK advocated for the latter response. You advocated for the former.

              Reply
              1. Jessesgirl72

                Art specifically said “For people like me, the work I do at my desk is my job. Please don’t try to turn your job into my job.”

                I would never say those words to someone I was managing, but if he said those words to ME, he’d probably end up on a PIP really fast.

                Reply
                1. Browser

                  A decent manager, upon hearing those words, would explain to the employee why the meetings are relevant and important to the employee, because clearly that has not been communicated previously.

            2. ArtK

              The company hired me to do a specific set of tasks based on the skills that I have. Yes, they can ask me to do other things, but, if those other things actively interfere with the tasks that they hired me for, then their priorities are out of whack. I’ve left companies because of that.* I’m an employee, not a slave.

              If these meetings are actually important to the goal of the company (making money) then that needs to be communicated clearly. As I said above, though, a lack of enthusiasm for meetings is an awful criterion to use.

              * Someone I worked with, who had some control over our process, was rewarded solely on whether the process was followed or not. When given the choice between delivering a quality product on schedule to the customer and completing some paperwork for the process, they chose the paperwork. The company was rewarding them incorrectly and they actually prevented me from meeting the corporate goal of making a valuable product.

              Reply
              1. Sir Humphrey Appleby

                Forgive me, but if the company is asking you to attend occasional meetings, then the company *is* saying that meetings are part of what they have hired you for, and the company *is* communicating clearly that meetings are part of your job.

                You’re choosing not to hear the message.

                Reply
          1. Interviewer

            This is exactly what I thought when I read #2. OP, please consider that “you are lucky to have this job” comes across as kind of threatening, like they didn’t earn this job fairly or their high-level performance isn’t enough to secure it.

            Suggest to management that they create news items for the intranet to share the info previously given in the monthly meetings. And stop looking incredulously at people for not wanting to go. Not everyone is passionate about attending meetings.

            Reply
        2. Lora

          Completely disagree. I work in a field where bad bosses have gone to jail and companies have been fined many millions of $$ for doing whatever their boss told them to do. Your job is whatever your job is, in your field of expertise, and in which you either follow an established process to which you have been thoroughly trained, or you use your professional judgment.

          Also, a generic comment as a manager: “Because I said so” is something best thought of like exclamation points, or emojis: you can only use them once in a great while if you want people to take you seriously. As Browser pointed out, it’s best to explain your reasoning. And if you can, only ever use “because I said so” for little things – when assigning a roster for cleaning the whatchamacallit, when someone’s work area looks like a bomb went off and the board of directors will be touring tomorrow, when everyone is supposed to put the new company logo on their email signatures. You do NOT use it for things like “why am I on a PIP?” or “why do I have all the crummy projects and Fergus gets the fun projects?” or anything actually important.

          Reply
          1. Sir Humphrey Appleby

            “I work in a field where bad bosses have gone to jail and companies have been fined many millions of $$ for doing whatever their boss told them to do.”

            ^Because “I need you to attend a quarterly strategy meeting” is akin to “I’m Bernie Madoff, and I order you to comingle client and company funds.” Gotcha.

            Reply
        3. Sir Humphrey Appleby

          I agree with this.
          And while 30 minutes for a daily strategy meeting might be excessive (depending on circumstances), ArtK can surely spare 30 minutes once per quarter or month. Genius doesn’t always come from being a grinder.

          Reply
    7. all aboard the anon train

      I am absolutely not intending to actually grab people, that was a metaphor.

      No one took this as anything but a metaphor. We know you’re not going to grab people, but I think you may have missed the point that your attitude of “you should be lucky to have this job!” might not be going over well with some of the staff. That attitude is usually pretty easy to spot on others. It’s great that you got out of a toxic workplace, but for some of the staff, this new company may be their toxic workplace.

      The level of engagement in meetings and your feelings about how they need to better appreciate the job they have are two very different things. They might be linked, they might not, but expecting people to be grateful they work at this company is pretty out of touch. No one wants someone say, “You should be happy to work here! I’ve worked worse places!” because your experiences and ideals may be different than theirs, and that’s okay.

      a lot of our staff are fresh out of school and, in theory at least, would benefit from seeing the standard of others work, whereas the old guard could learn something from a younger perspective.

      Are you telling them this or assuming they know that’s why the meetings are being held. Is this made clear in the meetings? Are the meetings used as, “Jess, since you’re fresh out of school and have been working on Level 1 projects, you should connect with Ashley, who’s more senior and works on Level 4 projects to see what you might deal with one day. And Ashley, you should work with Jess to see if she has a different perspective on this work.”

      Or are you just doing a rundown of what’s going on and letting people draw their own conclusions? Because a lot of people aren’t going to take away what you want them to if you don’t make that clear.

      Reply
    8. WhirlwindMonk

      >I just want to clarify that my background is in a disfunctional environment so im just very happy to finally be in a functional one. I am absolutely not intending to actually grab people, that was a metaphor.

      Yeah, you should really work to reign that in. If my boss ever said or implied to me “Be thankful you can leave at 6 when most of our industry can’t!” I would hear “Be thankful the place you currently work is somewhat less of an appalling crap-heap of stress and overwork than some other places!” “Better than elsewhere” is not the same as “good” and “happy to not be elsewhere” is not the same as “happy to be here.” The wrong attitude is going to give your new place its own form of dysfunction.

      Reply
    9. EmmBee

      I think people are being unnecessarily harsh in their comments about your post. I 100% agree that staff shoudl attend regular Town Halls because it’s important – in a functional, thriving company – for employees to know what’s going on in other departments.

      I’m coming at this from a place of having worked at a company where quarterly Town Halls were well attended and very successful because they were relevant, opening, and useful. Which is the goal, right?

      I’m a bit surprised and disappointed in a lot of the reactions I’ve seen here about not wanting to know what’s happening in other parts of the company…it’s not about being “rah rah” (not that there’s anything wrong with that!) but it IS about keeping people informed. It’s for their own benefit. (What if you discover something really cool happening in a department unrelated to yours and you decide you want to be involved? There are lots of examples like this.)

      Anyway. I wanted to assure you that you’re desire to get people to like these meetings, or at least to see their worth, is perfectly normal and, in many companies, would be much appreciated.

      Reply
      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        I don’t think people are being harsh towards OP (except for the issue about telegraphing “you’re so lucky to have this job!”). Commenters are asking OP to question (1) why meetings are necessary, (2) what “engagement” in a meeting looks like, and (3) how meetings are designed (logistics, content, and presentation). And they’re identifying those issues because, as evidenced in the comments, many people are required to attend meetings that fail to answer those three questions and subsequently waste people’s time and energy.

        OP has now given us information on #1, but we still don’t have answers about #2 and #3. That suggests that it would be helpful for the powers that be at OP’s workplace to drill down on #2 and #3 in order to help employees understand #1.

        Reply
    10. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      OP, I think there are two issues here, and you’re blending them.

      The first is the necessity of the meetings, and the second is how people *feel* about the meetings. You’ve mentioned (and Jules seconded) that the meetings are necessary, and the frequency and length appropriate/required, and that this is a standard practice in your industry. Ok! Let’s take as given the length, frequency, and necessity of these meetings, then.

      But I’m concerned about the second question. Why do people have to be “engaged” in those meetings, and what does “engagement” look like? (I’m asking b/c I’m not in design and simply don’t know.) Are people actually getting the benefits you described? Because to me, this sounds like a problem with the meeting’s design and presentation, not with your employees or your hiring process. What is the kind of participation you expect/require of employees at meetings like this?

      If you have a systemic problem in hiring related to class background, then of course that should be reevaluated. But I don’t think the class background or “toughness” of your employees is the sole (or even primary) reason they’re feeling disengaged or unexcited about meetings.

      Reply
  15. katamia

    OP2, the updates on people’s projects sound like the perfect thing to go in some sort of email newsletter that people can read when they have a free minute rather than interrupting them when they may be engaged in work that requires a lot of thought (as I’m assuming design does, although I’m not sure what kind of design). In their shoes, I can’t imagine NOT seeing these meetings as a waste of time/a frustration, especially since it’s company culture for people to not stay late.

    (Actually, as a side note, not to say later hours should be encouraged, but if they’re expected to do in 8-10 hours what employees in other companies do in 10-12 hours, then it might not actually be less stress for them as your final question implies because they might be trying to fit more work into less time.)

    Also, I have ADHD, and that makes it extra frustrating to be ripped away from what I’m working on because it takes me FOREVER to get back into the work mindset afterwards. I don’t know if any of the designers have it or a similar issue (and there’s no reason for you to know), but even though the meeting might only take 30 minutes, I might lose an hour to an hour and a half of productive work time total, some before the meeting because I have a hard time focusing when I know I’ll have to leave my desk soon and a lot more afterwards because it just takes me a really long time to get back into the work headspace when I’m interrupted.

    Reply
    1. Sasha

      Thats interesting, i see what you mean. The meetungs are schedules in advance so people know there will be one, but i see how it might affect concentration going forward. We do a review every 6 months to see if people havd to much to do, and how to ease the load if so, its effective; and staying late is definitely discouraged

      Reply
      1. JulieBulie

        This sounds like a very good place to work, so I hope you can convince TPTB that the employees’ reluctance to attend these meetings does not necessarily signal that they are disengaged. It’s more like they have to disengage from something they’re engaged in, in order to attend the meeting. And that is actually the kind of engagement that is good for the company – people being engaged in their everyday work.

        Reply
    2. One of the Sarahs

      I was also wondering if it’s easier to share the work in other formats. Are people having to do presentations, so taking 5-10 mins to talk about something people could read in a minute or two? Are there opportunities to ask questions, or are the majority of staff sitting in a room watching the same people present each time?

      Reply
  16. SusanIvanova

    I worked at a place once that would combine the “see what other teams are doing” with the weekly beer bash. The featured team got to show off, the others got to see it in a relaxed environment instead of powerpoint overload.

    I worked at a different one where, for long and complicated reasons, the original flagship product was in a division with other products that didn’t overlap it at all with a director who didn’t really know (or care, as far as we could tell) what we did. As a result our team never got mentioned in division all-hands, even when we’d just shipped and the other teams hadn’t. None of us got individual recognition, etc. So we stopped going. And then that was thrown in our face as us “not being interested in our division.” Well, duh.

    Reply
  17. One of the Sarahs

    OP2, this jumped out at me:

    “Don’t they realize how lucky they are to work in a place that cares about their well-being, where everybody goes home at 6 (unheard of in our industry)?”

    I want to just push back on this a little bit. If they were hired for a 40 hour week, and are working 9-6 with a half hour lunch break, they’re still working 2.5 hours without pay, effectively – and if they’re coming in earlier, more.

    I absolutely get that you probably worked in worse places, but you can’t operate on the idea that they should be grateful because other workplaces are worse – especially because staying late unpaid isn’t a sign of “passion”, it’s a sign of really bad management. People need to rest and recuperate and have a work-life balance, and it’ not a kindness when an employer keeps to a 40 hour week, it’s actually tons more efficient in the long run, as the staff are less tired/less likely to get sick/less stressed etc.

    I said this upthread too, but I struggled with this when I moved from charities, where I worked stupid hours, to the Civil Service, where I worked flexitime, but with an expectation I averaged my exact working hours over a month, or if it was a crazy-busy month and built up hours, took them off the next month – and would be checked for it. It was a culture shock, and felt a bit lazy, and I thought people were jobsworth, until after a few years I realised I wasn’t getting sick/burnt out, and was working so much better.

    I’d also push back on the idea an office-wide meeting is just 30 mins. Even my old all-floor meetings, where people clustered around desks, had 5 mins on either side for gathering, waiting for the last person to get off the phone, that kind of thing. It might be worth re-evaluating it in terms of time away from the desk – eg get up, grab a coffee, get to the meeting room, find a chair, wait for everyone to be there, and the person running the meeting to get their laptop plugged in (or whatever) and if people can leave quickly afterwards, because there could be some ways to make it all more efficient.

    Reply
    1. Sasha

      Hi op2 here, we’re not in the US, so all the staff are paid for the hours they work and have an hour for lunch

      Reply
      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        OP#2, I don’t mean to be a jerk, but I think you’re focusing on the wrong part of One of the Sarahs’ comment. Has any of the feedback re: passion provided another perspective for you?

        Reply
      2. One of the Sarahs

        So, what you want is for people to be grateful that your company sticks to their contracted hours, and doesn’t try to exploit them in this way? That should be standard, and just a fact of life, and of course should contribute to loyalty to the company, but it’s also done not to be *nice* but because it really is a more efficient and effective way of running a business.

        Like PCBH, I’m wondering what looks like “passionate” to you, specifically. But especially, you can’t treat your old workplaces as “normal” and this one as abnormal, especially if you have HR responsibilities. You absolutely don’t want to be the type of HR person who, if someone came to you complaining they are having to work, I dunno, 3 hours extra a week and it’s causing them problems, who’d have an attitude of “suck it up, buttercup, it’s much worse in other places”.

        Reply
  18. Aloot

    #1: If there wasn’t a way for her to deal with it, then I wouldn’t have mentioned it. It would just serve to make her self-conscious and feel bad about something that shouldn’t really have any impact on your decision to hire her. I would’ve been embarrassed about it when discovering it too if I was her, but in the grand scheme of things it’s not actually a big deal.

    #2: Be very careful with that “don’t you know how lucky you are!!” attitude, as it can bite you in the ass later on *and* it’s a really big morale killer. Rather than giving a veiled threat (which is what “don’t you know how lucky you are working for us!” always sounds to me, like you’ll change that “luck” into something worse if they don’t comply) go for a better, more constructive “hey, we’d like you to attend these meetings, what can we change to make that more likely to happen?” approach.

    And of course, have a good think about whether or not the designers actually *have* to attend, or if you’d just *like* them to. Are they missing out on crucial info? Or is it just that you want them to sit in and listen to the rest of the projects that they don’t work on and have zero interest in?

    #3: The only way this could’ve been a case of a “stolen” client is if you’d actively poached your friend by approaching her *after* she’d already begun talking to your coworker.

    You could start framing this as a “this is as much a favor for my friend as it is a job” in further talks about it, by using a confused and puzzled angle. “I don’t really understand, my good friend Sylvia approached me about helping her with her project, and I told her I’d love to.” Really play up the ‘this is my FRIEND, not (just) a client’ angle, and don’t mention anything about pay.

    I doubt it will change the mind of your ridiculous coworker, but it will help make your mutual friends see how unreasonable she is being.

    Reply
  19. EuropeanConsultant

    “2. Our employees are apathetic about our company-wide meetings”

    Let me tell you why I hate such meetings and avoid them as much as I can.

    1. The management tries to make the meetings fun but they aren’t. They are extremely fake and infantilising. The managers are the only one who seem to enjoy. If I were paid as much as they are I would also enjoy working at my company probably.

    Also they frequently simply boil down to indoctrination… Nobody likes being indoctrinated. And telling people they should be happy even one million times won’t make them happy if they aren’t. So if you do during the meetings, I’m not surprised people avoid them.

    2. They are obligatory. While working with my previous client, objectively speaking, I didn’t have any opportunity to join these meetings even by dialling in and although obviously the decision to work with the client was our management’s, they criticised me for not attending. I tried to explain that skype was blocked at the company and I had no work phone since well, the company hadn’t given me any, unfortunately they wouldn’t listen. I actually had “not integrated enough” in my yearly performance review. I got so angry with that that I don’t care now. Although I could attend the meetings with my current client, I skip 95%.

    Nobody likes being forced to do something.

    3. There are really a lot of them. Whole department meetings, team meetings, integration meetings, pizza & beer meetings, updates on the whole company, calls for updates from individual nodes of my company. We are expected to attend everything APART FROM our normal work. If I attended everything I wouldn’t be able to do my job or would have to stay longer without pay. It’s even worse if these meetings are organised after our working hours of course and I’m asked to attend in my “free” time.

    IMHO you should analyse the overall satisfaction in your company. Not only working hours but also salary levels, managers’ behaviour, whether the rules you want employees to obey make sense, etc.

    Reply
  20. Optimistic Prime

    OP #2, my company frequently has these types of meetings, where the goal is to “show everybody progress on current projects and keep everybody in touch with the direction the office is going.” I usually dread them, and nobody on my team is ever excited about them. In order for me to look forward to a meeting – or at least not dread it – I have to feel like it’s as least as good or a better use of my time than sitting at my desk doing actual work, because it helps me do my actual work in some way. In my experience, there are a couple of major issues with these types of meetings that prevents them from getting there:

    1) they are sometimes completely irrelevant to the people sitting in the meeting. Especially if they have members from a really big division with disparate goals. I’m sorry, but if I work on teapots, I probably care a little bit about updates with the teaspoons, kettles, and sugar bowls teams. But if my work doesn’t overlap with the stand mixers team at all, I don’t really care about a progress update on the stand mixers, and I’m going to be resentful if I have to sit through a meeting on their progress. The leadership needs to help the team understand WHY the meeting is relevant to them, beyond the simple “We just think it’s good for you to know what’s going on across the company!”

    2) They often employ speakers who are really bad at explaining that relevance or presenting the material. I’ve sat through several update meetings where the speaker droned on for 20 minutes about a specific branch on a specific tree in the forest, or showed complicated and unreadable graphs and charts with 10-point font or whatever. Particularly if your team is big and works on lots of projects, keeping things simple probably works better (leave time for Q&A if people really want to know some details).

    3) The speaker never really seems to say anything…this is kind of the reverse of the above problem, where everything is so high-level and vague that I don’t understand what the speaker is talking about or why it’s important. Lecturing at me for 45 minutes about the value of creativity is going to make me daydream about actually finishing that report on my computer.

    The best kinds of these meetings I’ve been to 1) take time to celebrate people’s successes (work anniversaries, major accomplishments/releases, etc.); 2) are more or less interactive (allow people to ask questions or participate – some of the ones I’ve been to have fun competitive quizzes); 3) usually have multiple speakers; but, most importantly 4) are demonstrably relevant to the work I do every day.

    Also…I’m not going to get down on my knees and thank my employer by abiding by basic standards of employer decency. Employers SHOULD care about their employees’ well-being and expect a standard 40-50 hour workweek. I am appreciate of employers that do that, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to be 100% happy about all of the things I have to do at my job. Also, I can both be passionate about my work and apathetic about a specific meeting. I think this is a common problem in “passion” fields – I work in one too (video games). Employers are expecting the “passion” for working in a specific field to take so much precedence that they think they don’t have to work as hard as other teams in non-passion areas to support their employees. I’m not saying that you believe that, but I see people leave video games all the time for productivity or enterprise software because the opportunity space is better. I’m sure the same is in design…passion doesn’t pay the bills, and it doesn’t solve burnout.

    Reply
    1. Sunshine

      “Also…I’m not going to get down on my knees and thank my employer by abiding by basic standards of employer decency. Employers SHOULD care about their employees’ well-being and expect a standard 40-50 hour workweek.”

      +1

      Reply
  21. Shay

    No. 2 — I worked at a company that got large turnouts for our monthly meetings by adding birthday cake for all at the end, to acknowledge every birthday that month. It worked well. Updates/important messages were quick. Something sweet one day a month (though we had maybe 200 people in the company). Some smaller groups did separately recognize birthdays as they came up — but everyone’s was acknowledged in the email reminding of the monthly meeting/cake.

    Reply
    1. Shay

      I see OP came in above and just wanted to add: Our meeting was on a set day if each month — think first Monday or second Tuesday of each month, something consistent — and was in the early afternoon but after most people’s lunches (think 2 or 3). And people still maybe just always have a bad attitude (I’m kind of shocked by the comments above, but whatever) but it becomes part of the routine and … CAKE. Sure, it’s a bribe, but it works. And our field actually is NOT one that most people are passionate about, though it’s important/necessary.

      Reply
    2. Name (Required)

      In my workplace we were given an ‘opt out’ option for the birthday cake thing. Almost everyone did because recognising your birthday once a year does not compensate for all the things they did the rest of the year. YMMV but this really seems like a token gesture. It pisses people off in the workplace when you are asked to work late even when you have other stuff going on (kid in hospital etc)

      Don’t do it. Unless you care about all the other things (big and little) that you’re employees are going through. While they may show up to eat the cake, it’s only cos they are hungry or trying to get a freebie rather than being there genuinely.

      Reply
      1. Shay

        Oh PLEASE. This company has been in business for half a century and people came in large numbers to the monthly half hour meeting — drawn partly by the cake. It was a couple sheet cakes or cupcakes made available TO EVERY PERSON. It wasn’t a birthday celebration with singing — it replaced all those so no one (including the company) had to ever participate or foot the bill for any at any other time of the month.

        I can’t believe that at a website about work the consensus is that it’s a burden to ever have to show up on time, and what kind of monster company would want advice to encourage its employees to attend one half hour meeting a month. I don’t get it. It’s like this isn’t even really a place visited by people interested in constructive advice — unless that advice is just pay people and shut up. The resentment toward even just routine professional expectations is so off the charts here.

        Reply
        1. Name (Required)

          Huh? Sorry if I tipped you when your tank was on empty. (sorry NOT sorry)

          As a manager I judge my team on how they perform and eating birthday cake is not in their performance stats. Neither is attending the monthly or quarterly meeting. When you say ‘routine professional expectations’, I (and the teams who have worked for me) have never worked under any regime where the kind of thing you allude to was expected. Even the place where we were expected to show up, our performance was ALWAYS judges on the $$$ value we added to the company bottom line.

          I suspect we have wildly different ideas about what is ‘professional’. I have no idea why you were so upset about this however could I ask you think about alternate scenarios to the one you have in you have at your end. For eg. One of my team’s Mum died (on his birthday) when he was 8 years old. I met him in his early 60″s and one of the first things he said up front was ‘Please never celebrate my birthday, it’s not a good day for me.’ It was 2 years later when he told me why.

          I’ve been immensely careful ever since. Are you OP? I don’t get why you came back so strongly. Are you worried about getting fired?

          At the end of the day, employees will not give a toss if you celebrate their birthdays if you don’t care about them the rest of the time. If you are clock watching them when they show up and miss the 2 hours plus they did after hours off the clock and then complain about them the they will not be happy.

          Are you OP? Or a friend of OP? Look, OP seems really intentioned but OP is also making judgement calls OP has no actual evidence of (ie – everyone leaves at 6.00 – without knowing if they spend til 12.00 fixing up the stuff that happened during the day)

          Good luck to you.

          Reply
          1. hbc

            You seem to be saying that birthday cake only occurs when you’re screwing them over every other way. It’s possible to have cake *and* not be jerks.

            We had people request birthday celebrations. It’s not something I ever considered anyone would care about, but we offer it, with an opt-out option clearly available.

            Reply
            1. Myrin

              Yeah, I thought that (your first paragraph) as well. I mean, I agree that if your company treats their employees horribly, a birthday cake once a month isn’t going to fix that, but as far as I can tell, Shay didn’t say aything to that extent, just that the cake exists.

              Reply
            2. Name (Required)

              Nope, not what I was saying :) What I was saying was that attempting to celebrate someone’s birthday while ignoring them the rest of the year is a recipe for disaster. Especially if their birthday causes them grief and pain.

              Reply
              1. Elsajeni

                Okay, but that still seems unrelated to Shay’s comment that you replied to. She didn’t say anything about how her company treats and rewards employees generally, or whether they make it easy to opt out of having your birthday recognized; she literally just said that they combine the monthly all-staff meeting with the monthly birthday cake, and that it seems to help with turnout for the meeting. I don’t understand why that quite benign comment sparked a reply about how birthday cakes aren’t enough to reward hardworking employees.

                Reply
            3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

              Yes, agreed. I don’t think Shay’s comment had to do with toxic companies that screw over their employees consistently. She talked about a nice (and often effective) perk that helps blunt the frustration people have about attending certain necessary (but often boring) all-hands meetings.

              Of course, tactics that are innocuous or effective at a functional workplace could be patronizing and enraging at a toxic workplace (e.g., one that buys you cake but won’t let you see your child in the hospital). Most functional workplaces I know allow people a birthday opt-out, still have birthday often, are not jerks to their employees, and the cake (or other food things) does help encourage timely turnout to all-hands events/meetings. And at the four dysfunctional workplaces I’ve worked at, the opposite is true.

              I’m not sure why this exchange escalated so quickly, but I think it’s worth taking a step back and a deep breath.

              Reply
          2. EuropeanConsultant

            I agree. And to be honest, after working for a startup that always prided itself on being such a great place to work and for being “a bunch of friends”, I would never want to work in a similar place again. Unfortunately, even big corporations are currently adopting this style with personal celebrations, ping pong tables they take pictures of for their employer branding materials, etc.

            I don’t see absolutely any added value in that. The opposite is true, it makes you fake that you enjoy it for fear of having problems.

            I would hate to have a cake in the office for bday btw. My birthday is my business and my work has nothing to do with it.

            Reply
        2. some mammal

          You basically admit that you bribe people with cake. Would they come to the meeting if there wasn’t any cake?

          If a meeting is relevant to a person’s job, then you should expect them to be there. Otherwise, leave them alone.

          Reply
          1. hermit crab

            I’m a professional in my 30s who works hard and is good at my job and goes to meetings and all that — and I’ll be the first to admit that I’ll be more enthusiastic about an event if there are snacks. I’m not above being bribed by cake!

            I get what everyone is saying about cake not making up for bad working conditions, but sometime a cake is just a cake, and it’s OK to provide a simple small nice thing that a lot of people enjoy. If that makes me shallow and food-motivated, then so be it. :)

            Reply
            1. Marillenbaum

              Shallow and food-motivated here! I rarely LOVE meetings, but I appreciate that they can be useful; even a well-run meeting is improved in my books with snacks.

              Reply
            2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

              Totally with you. I can’t eat cake, but if you bring snacks, I am way more likely to show up early. I’m ok with that.

              Reply
          2. Sir Humphrey Appleby

            Did you seriously never organize any events for student groups in college? Rule One was: “probide pizza, and they shall come.”
            So in the corporate setting, no, employees might not show up at meetings without the cake. Big deal. Didn’t mean the event in college weren’t worthwhile, and and it doesn’t mean that the meetings are unimportant, either.

            Reply
        3. Mustache Cat

          This is a really startling comment. Maybe you’re having a bad day, or maybe you’re new to AAM (I don’t think I’ve seen you comment before?) but I don’t think your assessment of the state of comments here is accurate. The OP came specifically looking for advice on why her employees seem to dislike meetings. Of course a lot of comments are focusing on the reasons why people generally dislike meetings, or why meetings may not be all that important–that’s exactly the perspective OP was asking for and trying to understand. A comment like “I really like our all-staff meetings! OP, don’t change a thing!” would be interesting, but not exactly helpful.

          Reply
          1. Another die trying (not)

            I’m not sure if you are responding to me personally MC but if you are, yes I’ve been here a while but don’t comment often. Thanks for asking but no, I’m not having a bad day. The comments I made were particular to the birthday thing (as it relates to being unkind to employees the rest of the year)

            If you find the idea of giving a birthday cake to people you ignore or crap on the rest of the year and you think that’s ok , Happy days you! It’s not rocket surgery that this kind of thing will alienate your colleagues. And holy shit. no-one likes staff meetings. There’s no constructive comment you can make on that one

            Reply
            1. JulieBulie

              I didn’t see anything in this thread about being unkind to employees for the rest of the year until you mentioned it, so I don’t understand where that came from and I think that’s why you’re getting this reaction.

              You seem to be coming from a place where people are ignored or crapped on most of the year. Not everyone is, and in places were people are treated respectfully, cake is not upsetting.

              I did get a birthday cake once at a place where I was crapped on, and it tasted like bitter irony. Yeah, if it’s a shitty place, don’t try to make it better with cake. But if that’s the kind of environment you’re in, Another die trying (not), I hope you are looking for something better.

              Reply
              1. Name (Required)

                Julie I’m not trying to be unkind to you (or Shay) but you know not everybody is happy on their birthday and I’m kind of wondering given my comments above, how people could not get this. To put it in terms people can not possibly not understand. I had a direct report whose Mum died when he was 8 years old. When he was 60, he asked me not to celebrate his birthday. When he was 62, he told me his Mum was actually murdered on his birthday. it took him 2 years in his 60s to tell me this. (I was in my early 40s)

                It’s not about you. it’s not about OP. It’s not about me. To be honest what really pissed me off about OP (and Shay) is that they way they wrote their words seemed to make it all about them. Being rah rah without knowing what your colleagues are actually feeling or going through is just silly. I mean OP could step in her office and pull people up not realising the person she is confronting may have just been diagnosed with cancer. OP seems to be genuinely trying to do the right thing but also seems to be completely tone deaf when it comes to employees.

                Is it too hard just to be kind and help your colleagues get through their hardships??

                Oops sorry just saw Alison’s comment blow – will leave it here

                Reply
                1. Ask a Manager Post author

                  Of course people get that. But that doesn’t mean offices should shut down birthdays entirely; it just means that if someone wants to opt out, they shouldn’t be given a hard time about it.

                2. Name (Required)

                  Good lord I’m not suggesting office parties get shut down and neither did G (his birthday was 2 days before mine and he always bought a ridiculously expensive cake on my birthday on the premise that just because his birthday was not something he wanted to celebrate didn’t mean the rest of us had to suffer :)

                  Having said that, he didn’t want to celebrate his. And there were numerous times during his career where admin / HR people (to get back to the OP showed up going rah rah, come to the meeting, eat cake etc when he really wasn’t up for it. There really does seem to be a default position where birthdays are supposed to be happy and they really aren’t for everybody. Is it really too hard to run with this. Some people will be stoked if you remember their birthdays. Some people won’t. Actually a lot of people won’t for various reasons (One of my team’s wife left him on his birthday eg)

                  Just OP seems to be looking over the surface (why do I need to cajole them to the meeting?? (without looking to the bigger picture). And to be honest, sometimes the bigger picture is simply I need to go to the toilet. Change my tampon, etc.

                  Sorry about the derail but it’s totally fair that when you get an enthusiastic new person in the organisation, they won’t know the history and it’s pretty clear OP doesn’t. Shaking your colleagues is not a thing

                3. Ask a Manager Post author

                  Okay, but as PCBH says below, it seems like you’re projecting a lot from your own experience into a different situation, and reacting to something different than what the original comment described.

              2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

                Name (Required), I think you’re reading in a lot that is specific to your experience but is not common for others. And most of your comments have emphasized the “crappy company” aspect, with the “people who have suffered on their birthdays don’t want to celebrate” aspect being buried, which is why I think people are pushing back.

                Many folks have mentioned that you can work for a humane employer, have birthday opt-outs, still attract people with food, and not cause excessive suffering for people who have traumatic or negative associations with their birthday. You mentioned your employee whose mum died on his 8th birthday. Of course people should be sensitive to that and not bring it up every year. But the fact that some people do not celebrate their birthdays doesn’t mean a practice of bringing cake or acknowledging birthdays is inherently harmful and categorically should not exist.

                Reply
                1. Name (Required)

                  Replied above. Lovely G never wanted anyone else to not celebrate their birthday but he DID get thrown in his face many times that he was expected to celebrate his birthday which he could not do given his experience. I supported him totally on this and ate the cake he bought me for mine every year even tho I am not a cake eater. As above, there seems to be a default position that everyone should be happy on their birthday (also Christmas etc) which is just really lazy actually. I don’t know anyone one including those who had traumatic experiences on those occasions who would begrudge anyone else at those times.

                  But expecting them to turn up and celebrate on company things at that time and be all ra ra (I can’t help ever but go ra ra Rasputin, Lover of the Russian Queen – Boney M) well that’s a different thing. But it seems like it’s the OP thing, OP said a lot about how happy she was and how happy other people should be.

                  I probably didn’t articulate this how I should have

        4. Ask a Manager Post author

          Shay, I think the rest of the comments in this thread indicate pretty clearly that that’s not the consensus here. You’re taking a few comments that are outliers and using them to characterize the whole commenting section. (Although I agree with you that some of the comments yesterday about showing up on time were bananas.)

          Reply
      2. TL -

        My workplace celebrates birthdays and it’s fun (and optional). It’s an excuse to eat something yummy and chat with coworkers for a few minutes. Since our workplace is functional and a good place to work, it comes off as exactly that – an excuse to eat cake and catch up with people.

        Reply
  22. Sunshine

    Re the ‘They don’t know how good they have it’:

    I used to work for a company that prided itself on always shutting at half five. Great, you might think. However in reality, they also kept the office understaffed, so employees simply had to come in early and take work home.

    While the higher ups were convinced they offered a great ‘work-life’ balance.

    Reply
    1. Chaordic One

      I used to work for a company that similarly prided itself on shutting prompt at five. The thing was that during the time that people were working they were always working at 110% and there was never any letup. It was a real pressure-cooker. Some people made some very stupid mistakes and others (such as myself) became completely burnt out. When I left at five I was so stressed out and revved up that it took me a couple of hours to decompress.

      There was never any time to tie up loose ends, or to assess what had already been done, or to sit back and reflect on what had been done or how to improve things going forward. There was very little time to document what had been done or to write down what procedures were followed and there was never any time to plan ahead for anything.

      Reply
      1. Sunshine

        Yep, exactly this. I was a wreck when I finally quit, just totally burnt out. The weirdest thing is that I think management were genuinely confused about their high turnover.

        Reply
  23. Alter_ego

    So my company does have the all hand meetings, and I don’t mind them. But here’s why. We have two a year, one on Christmas Eve, one on the day of our summer outing. They start at noon and last 15/20 minutes. The announce promotions. They give people with 5-10-15 year anniversaries gifts. Then they take us to either a bar (Christmas Eve) or a booze cruise (summer outing) and pay for astronomical amounts of alcohol and food. Then we go home, having worked a half day but paid for a full.

    If I were expected to attend one of those meeting once a month, in the middle of a work day, with no further incentive, I would hate them too. Probably, I’m busy enough with actual work that those meetings just take away from my productivity.

    Reply
  24. Widgeon

    #2: Every month is just a bit much, isn’t it? Why would all staff need to be updated about the company’s direction monthly? Unless you’re going from ground start-up to national in record time, is there actually enough information to provide each month that is relevant to the staff’s immediate position (and therefore taking time from their actual duties)? I really can’t imagine. This is more something appropriate for senior management.

    I work at an organization that holds three per year and offers a catered lunch. They are very popular and even then, people sometimes feel they have other work to do (but agree that it’s a reasonable timeframe). Even then, there’s a lot of “ho-hum” to the average employee. The saving grace is that we break into pre-selected mini sessions about a certain topic we’d like to learn more about. I recommend it.

    Reply
  25. Wakeen Teapots, Ltd.

    #2 is timely.

    We just had an XYZ vendor day at Wakeen’s, where the vendor brought in a lot of their staff, set up vendor meeting stations, and arranged a wonderful catered lunch for the whole company. The vendor *directly* related to people’s jobs, especially the sales reps, as this is a major teapot vendor whose products we sell. Attending the meetings could directly impact people’s incomes and yet, I approached the entire thing as no one would want to go and I’d have to manage everything tightly to make sure we had good attendance and enthusiasm.

    Because: I am old, and I know that no matter what, nobody ever wants to go to any meeting ever. ($100 bills at the entrance way might make a difference.)

    This is a thing that just is.

    Make the meetings as relevant as possible to the people whom you want to attend. Make them brief! Then sell the participants on how beneficial the meeting is to them personally, and how brief it is going to be. Attempt to offer flexibility to the participants schedule while nailing them down on a commitment to attend. (Me, I rounded them up at their committed time, with a big smile on my face and lotsa energy because that’s how I roll.)

    I blocked my entire day off to do this because that’s what it takes to herd 100+ people through 2 to 8 vendor station meetings and make it productive and successful for everybody. (And it actually was productive, and successful, and everybody seemed happy and energized, plus good lunch. But that didn’t happen without a lot of effort.)

    Reply
    1. LBK

      This is really great. Acknowledge that a huge meeting like this is an endeavor and don’t treat it as casually as any other catch up meeting that you just throw on the calendar like nothing.

      Reply
    2. Marillenbaum

      This is a really excellent point! So much of this just requires a lot of work to herd people into, and sometimes that’s just the cost of doing business.

      Reply
  26. hbc

    OP2: I feel (some of) your pain. I actually started monthly all-hands meetings at the *request* of a lot of the people who end up complaining about it. I promise this isn’t a disconnect in what they say they want and what I’m covering–I took a list of anonymous and non-anonymous suggestions, I vary the main topic and speaker to cover all ends of the business and provide variety, and the topics are all relevant (and brief.) What it mostly comes down to is that they don’t really want the information but they don’t want to be denied the information.

    YMMV, but we mostly deal with non-enthusiasm by providing a decent lunch, making any suggested change if it’s not actively harmful, and printing out the presentation so that people who can’t focus on meetings can review later. (Many don’t have email.) In all honesty, it’s the first thing that really works.

    But I do want to point out that disliking that meeting has nothing to do with gratitude. I don’t expect someone to be “OMG, tell me more about what the handle division is doing” just because Teapots Inc is the first place they’ve worked that actually has air conditioning on the assembly line. They can love the company’s mission and hate the meeting. They can be uninterested in the company’s mission and month-to-month happenings and still be grateful for the working environment. Nothing will make them feel less grateful, however, than anything hinting how grateful they should be. If any of that is in these meetings, that should be the first thing to go.

    Reply
  27. Ace

    I used to work for an ad agency with a monthly all staff meeting. At that job, we have to log out time to talk codes in 15 min segment all day. The meeting was a different job code than real work and we were only allowed so much of that code per week, which also covered getting coffee, water cooler chat, whatever. So the meeting directly took away from my freedom for the rest of the week.

    Then in the meeting, it was just senior management talking about their pet projects, which only they and a couple senior creatives had access to. No regular employee was on the project. So it felt like show and tell with the employees being a captive audience for senior management to show us all the cool projects we weren’t allowed to touch all while taking away our freedom task code time.

    Reply
  28. NEW YEAR, NEW ME

    For Q3: As a freelancer, I’ve learned to realize that, for one reason or another, there are jobs that go to other people. Maybe it’s because their reputation/skillset is more known than mine, or they are thought of first for a job because of close contacts. Your “friend” has no reason to get mad at you. She/he needs to network more.

    Reply
  29. AnonMarketer

    So I wanted to comment on re: #5:

    I have a chronic illness and I didn’t let anyone know until after my probationary period ended. Sure, they knew I had doctor’s appointments, but by then, I had solidified how valuable I was so the fact that I had a chronic illness kind of became an accepted thing (ergo, “Well, that sucks, but you seem to be putting out work under deadline without negative impact, so I guess we’ll keep you, even if you drive our health insurance premiums up…”).

    I agree that you shouldn’t mention it unless it starts getting super obvious and glaring, and even then you can be vague. It’s not really their business to know just how ill you are, just “I need time for doctor’s appointments.” If you do good work, a good employer really shouldn’t have a problem with this.

    Reply
    1. Arielle

      Yeah, I’m kind of vague about chronic illness stuff because I just don’t want that to be the first/only thing that somebody knows about me. At this point I’m pretty sure my whole team knows I’m type 1 diabetic, especially since I recently got a new insulin pump and was showing it off, but I’ve been here almost a year and let the info just trickle in naturally in conversation. (Although my boss recognized my pump on like my third day because he has relatives with type 1, but ordinarily I wouldn’t have initiated that conversation so early.)

      Reply
  30. That Would Be a Good Band Name

    #2 – It could be something as easy as schedule. We only have a couple of all employee meetings a year here, but they are on the busiest day of the week for my department every single time. We don’t hate the meetings, but we sure don’t like the timing.

    Reply
    1. Jessesgirl72

      My husband’s work only has them twice a year too, but they schedule them at 8am so as not to interrupt the work day.

      Let me tell you how much people love having to get in an hour early to listen to talk about financials. ;) Or the ones who flex that early are still having their work interrupted.

      Reply
      1. LoiraSafada

        I worked somewhere like this, except it was at 7 am and it was on Monday every. single. week. Talk about a morale killer.

        Reply
      2. LBK

        Ugh, yes, ours were always at 7am. Shortly after I left I heard they were moved to being after work and held somewhere with a bar, which surely made them a lot more tolerable.

        Reply
    2. The Southern Gothic

      Once upon a time when I worked in Mortgage, the last week of the month was the busiest for funding, and the last day of that week was by far the busiest day of all until 2pm Pacific time when the Fed stopped the wire.
      The amount of work that was accomplished in that one day was completely insane and stressful.

      Our CEO (who was in an eastern time zone city) would schedule a mandatory “all hands” one-hour conference call at NOON Pacific time every month on the last day. He spoke for a solid hour on things that could’ve been easily translated into a bulletin (sparing us phrases like “paradigm shift”) and other corporate goings-on that we’d never be effected by.

      Despite the fact that our department was literally in charge of the company’s failure or success in terms of loans funded, we would be threatened with reprimand for trying to sneak back to our desks during the call to finish funding loans. We brought this to management several times and were met with shrugs and incredulous looks.

      Ten years later, this still stands out to me as easily the most clueless tone-deaf bit of C-Level faffery.

      Reply
  31. Delta Delta

    #2 – I had a drink with a friend last night who is repeatedly told by her boss “you don’t know how good you have it” whenever she tries to push back on things that happen in her workplace. This person is in her 50s, has 3 degrees, and has worked in lots of different environments. (Boss has had 1 professional job ever.) She is well aware of how “good” she has it. The fact she has to be told she has it “good” is pretty indicative of how hugely dysfunctional the place is.

    I see OP 2 has noted in the comment section that nobody actually says this. Just, please don’t start saying it.

    Reply
  32. Allison

    #2 We had quarterly, company-wide meetings at my last job. I hated them.

    First, the logistics drove me nuts. It was a big company, 700 people by the time I left. The meetings were offsite, meaning everyone in the office had to drive over to a hotel and park in a garage, and if you were one of the later ones in you had to hope there was still room (no idea if they even had a plan for overflow parking). If the after party was somewhere else, we also all left at the same time, which was a pain.

    The big room was cold. And the meeting was long. And boring. So boring! Much of it was informative, but the not all the speakers were engaging, or good at speaking to audiences outside their area of work. Pretty much every department made a presentation. Sitting through it all might have been a nice break from work, but it wasn’t great.

    For a few quarters they had the after party in the hotel where the meeting took place. Rewarding us with free wine and food was okay, but it also meant having to socialize with my coworkers. Most of the time, I just wanted to go home, unless the meeting ended at peak rush hour.

    And to be clear, while I’m sure some people looooved the meetings, I think most people found them to be a pain.

    It would have been so much better if we had the option of streaming it online from our desks in the office, or from home. But then I’m sure most people wouldn’t have bothered attending, and they did work very hard to put it together. A newsletter would have been good, but then maybe not everyone would read it.

    If you want to communicate updates, communicate updates. But I doubt people appreciate taking hours of their day, to be herded into a room and forced to listen to boring speeches, just “so we all feel connected.”

    Reply
  33. living the dream

    Re: company wide meeting: if these are really just an update, I suggest making a video and sending it out.

    Reply
  34. TL -

    OP #2: I work in a lab. Every week or so, we have lab meeting. It’s non-negotiable, attendance is mostly mandatory, and it takes an hour and a half.
    People complain about presenting, people make faces about going, it is not fun to sit through a long meeting while people present about projects you may not know much about.
    But. Lab meetings are really, really important and no one would join a lab that didn’t have them. We’re still going to complain, we’re still going to not airways be engaged, and I’ve never met anyone actively enthusiastic about lab meeting. It is hard to sit still for that long. That doesn’t mean we don’t appreciate their inherent value; it just means that we’re all human.
    If the meetings are important and if people are showing up, give them some free food for the effort and maybe just let it go?

    Reply
    1. Liet-Kynes

      Having worked in a lab, I find it interesting that you a) find that a 90 minute lab meeting is productive and b) that you hold them once a week. We held that kind of meeting once a month at most, and it wasn’t more than 30-40 minutes.

      Reply
    2. EuropeanConsultant

      If your lab meetings are relevant then it’s probably a completely different situation than what OP described. I attended meetings for graduate students during my Ph.D. and I actually loved them as they offered me an opportunity to learn something, to get to know people, etc.

      But most all-hands meetings in companies are something totally different unfortunately.

      Reply
  35. Ali in England

    OP2, at my employer we’ve worked though a few issues around updating colleagues about what’s going on outside their own team. It’s a great thing in theory, but in practice some approaches work better than others. What DIDN’T work for us was the Monday floor meeting, otherwise known as Creeping Death by Feedback. The poor souls who’d drawn the short straw talked without enthusiasm about what was happening that week in their departments and everyone else stood there shuffling their feet, trying to remember what was on their own increasingly red and inflamed to-do lists and thinking I DON’T CARE, PLEASE MAKE IT STOP. OK that last bit might just have been me, but you get the gist.
    What has worked well for us is making good use of our quarterly divisional meetings. We’re a large division on a split site so we take turns to host – half the staff pile onto a train and go visit the other half for the day. Getting away from ‘business as usual’ and meeting up with the folk we usually only see on Skype makes a huge difference to people’s levels of engagement, as does a bit of interactivity in the day. We’ve taken to using a good chunk of time for a ‘marketplace’ where colleagues can circulate around several tables and talk to people from different teams about what they are doing, how their projects are going. What really made a difference was making it fairly short and sharp (15 minutes at each table) and asking colleagues to actually do something – give views, test approaches, do games and quizzes. I can certainly understand that this might be some people’s idea of Hell, but it seems fairly popular and I always come away feeling energised rather than drained.

    Reply
  36. LoiraSafada

    I worked somewhere with a mandatory meeting at/start time of 7 am every Monday. My boss was shocked that no one seemed happy to be there! I would have killed for one monthly meeting during normal business hours instead of the weekly slog and mandatory 10 hour Mondays.

    Reply
  37. Amy

    #2: My company has monthly company-wide meetings like this. We theoretically do it to promote a consistent company culture, share information that’s relevant to everyone, and generally keep everyone on the same page about how the company is going. It doesn’t work, for several reasons.
    1) We’re a large company, so the majority of the topics discussed are irrelevant to at least part of the audience. There are some roles that basically never hear anything relevant to their work there, which is very discouraging and gives a perception that company leadership doesn’t pay attention to those roles.
    2) It doesn’t actually convey culture very well. In my experience here, culture is actually created on much lower levels–by managers setting expectations and standards, coworkers getting lunch together or chatting in meetings, etc. Talking at a crowd of people doesn’t actually do much.
    3) When all I hear from leadership at these meetings is how great we are and how bad our competitors are, it gets hard to trust. There’s not much room for nuance or balance in a short presentation to a large group, and when there’s no nuance and you just keep hearing “Things are great! We’re great!” all the time, it starts to sound like propaganda after a while. I get a much clearer picture of how things are going by discussing it with my manager than via these meetings.

    People also really dislike it because it’s a huge time suck. Since it’s everybody in the company, it’s crowded, and it takes a lot of time to get everyone there and seated beforehand and out and back to their desks afterwards; that’s wasted time. We’re still expected to do our normal full workload on days where this meeting happens (and we’re mostly salaried, so no overtime pay is involved either), which is incredibly frustrating when it eats up a good chunk of the day. It’s actually the most dedicated, engaged people that dislike this meeting the most, because it keeps them from actually doing their jobs. People who don’t care are fine with it, since it’s time when they have an excuse to not get anything done.

    Reply
  38. Will's mom

    OP#1. IMO, If I were in your shoes, I would have told her discreetly, but in a matter of fact way that she had some lipstick on her teeth. If she got flustered and all embarrassed, I would have reassured her that it was no big deal and then just move on with the interview. I was the person with food in her teeth once, and my interviewer did just that. I was embarrassed of course, but I thanked her and at the end of the interview, I apologized for my faux pas and then I joked that at least I would stand out in her mind. I got the job and worked there for 5 years before moving out of state. I was truly grateful that she did that, AND I learned to never eat spinach before a job interview.

    Reply
  39. Tammy

    For #4, I had a grandboss in a previous role at CurrentCompany who liked to say “I want you to have more work than you can possibly do, because it’ll force you to make intelligent decisions about what you work on.” Perhaps that was true in his head, but for the people who worked for him it just created feelings of overwhelm and dissatisfaction. Grandboss meant well, and I definitely understood what he thought he was communicating by his comment, but it just landed wrong with the people on the receiving end. I’m wondering if your boss is trying, and failing, to communicate something similar.

    Reply
    1. OP #4

      That does seem to be the consensus. Knowing my manager, I’m going to guess that this is a case of “things managers say to eachother about being managers,” situation, and she maybe hadn’t quite considered how that sounds to a non-manager.

      Reply
  40. BBBizAnalyst

    I find most meetings incredibly useless. If your staff meeting is just to provide updates on projects, send an email. I get wanting to engage your staff but no one wants to sit through an hour circle jerk of status updates.

    Reply
  41. Liet-Kynes

    “From what I’ve heard, people just want to do their work and this is “just a job, after all.” I want to grab them all by the shoulders and shake them! Don’t they realize how lucky they are to work in a place that cares about their well-being, where everybody goes home at 6 (unheard of in our industry)? I’d expect designers to be passionate about their work, but does that passion only thrive in stressful environments? I’d love to hear any thoughts you have on staff engagement.”

    See, the problem you have, #2, is that you have this mental image of passion and engagement that is totally out of step with reality. You want them to act like Japanese salarymen busting out a lusty rendition of the company chant, or something. They want to do their job well, take quiet satisfaction in that, and enjoy their work-life balance and reasonable hours . You think “just a job” is a bad thing? HELL no, it’s a GREAT thing. My job is just a job. That’s why I love it. I get to do what I do well, then go home, cook dinner, play with my kid, toss a ball for my dog. I want nothing more out of a job. Your employees are in the same boat.

    My suggestions? Critically evaluate whether this meeting is actually a good use of time. If so, hold it quarterly, hold it at 8:30AM, provide coffee and a few varieties of round baked goods, and tell everyone it’ll last 30 minutes then stringently limit it to 20. And I strongly suggest you divest yourself of your duties as Happiness Comissar and stop trying to make fetch a thing. It’s never going to be a thing.

    Reply
  42. theletter

    #2 why not have a ‘Cheers and beers’ meeting on Friday afternoons? In my experience I’m usually pretty burnt out by the end of day on Friday and don’t mind an excuse to sit in a meeting and listen to a CEO talk about how great we all are – especially if there’s interesting beverages and/or an excuse to pack up and leave afterwards.

    Reply
  43. Justasecy

    Regarding number 4, you don’t have to have a “professional” job to never be able to strike the last item off a to do list.

    Reply
  44. Manders

    OP #3, this is one of those times when graduate school might be setting your friend up with unrealistic expectations about how the rest of the working world functions. In grad school, sometimes funding opportunities and jobs that pay well *are* a zero-sum game, and you’re acutely aware that if student A gets the gig it means students B, C, and D lost it.

    Taking that attitude out of academia can put you in a bad position, because the other people in your field shouldn’t be treated as your competitors. They’re your future colleagues and contacts, and if you treat them poorly, you’ll lose out on opportunities because they don’t want to work with you. So you did nothing wrong, and it’s possible your friend would never have been offered that work anyway (because often, smaller freelancing gigs aren’t posted for everyone to apply to anyway).

    Reply
  45. SheLooksFamiliar

    LW #2 – I’ve said before that there is such a thing as appropriate communication in the workplace, but that’s not the case here. You and your senior management team seem to expect that a hard-working and productive team should not only attend a meeting – which may or may not be useful or productive for them – but be really happy about it. Not gonna happen. Heck, I’m pretty low key but I can be rah-rah – say, at the Preakness and my horse is in the lead. And if anyone expects me to show enthusiasm for a meeting that could be summed up in a well-written memo, they have another think coming.

    You’ve asked the team to show up for a regularly scheduled touch-base meeting: it sounds like they do, so they’ve met their obligation. Expecting them to wave their pom-poms and do high kicks, or show outward signs of whatever leadership thinks is ‘enthusiasm’, isn’t realistic. Either they’re introverts, or doing a slow boil because they could be working, or they’re making mental grocery lists, it doesn’t matter. You don’t get to dictate their response, no matter how ‘good’ they have it.

    And please, don’t ever tell someone how ‘good’ they have it. That’s a very subjective issue, and you don’t get to invalidate their views.

    Reply
    1. pomme de terre

      It is a great point that you can’t expect everyone to be REALLY EXCITED about a helpful but perhaps not critical touch-base meeting. If they are there and being reasonably attentive, you’re actually doing pretty well.

      Reply
  46. Aphrodite

    My blood pressure shot up to the sky immediately upon reading your post, #3. I work at a community college that has two meetings a year–the All Campus Kickoff–to do nothing but spend a day cheerleading: “Aren’t we great!”

    I hate them. I hate they beyond reason. Have I mentioned how much I hate them? I really do, and I avoid them as if they are the plague (which, in my opinion, they are). While SBCC is a good place to work with fabulous benefits to kind of make up the soul-sucking politics, it IS just a job. And it always will be to me, and to others. I refuse to attend these meetings any more and stay behind to work. They are not fun, they are not interesting, they are a horrible invasion of my time–and I am not cheerleading for the college. It’s beyond stupid.

    You may be astonished that some or many of your employees do not want to attend, that they don’t view the company, however good it is, as their “divine god.” Why not just accept that they can appreciate the company by working hard when they are there and producing good work. Why isn’t that enough for you?

    Reply
  47. Iris Carpenter

    #2: My observation is that a job well done is not noticable. So apathy & poor turnout at meetings might mean that there are few problems.

    What is the culture like? Do you have an opportunity in these meetings for staff to ask questions? If someone asked “The presentation shows staffing cost is only going up by 1% and staff numbers are to remain static, does that mean that raises have already been deicided as 1% ?”, how would that go down? Would the questioner be punished in some way? Do you have a loudmouth who can ask that kind of question without making a personal attack or attempting to hijack the meeting onto their favouite hobby-horse ?

    If a manager asked the meeting for one thing to improve working conditions, what would the likely response be?

    Reply
  48. Louise

    OP#4 – I work at a pretty fast-paced, high-pressure org and the management philosophy is basically “give you work until you cry uncle, then work with your manager to negotiate and prioritize needs.” I think the thinking is that this helps managers figure out what your actual capacity is and what’s most important to the team/org. I think this management style is super dependent on having really excellent managers and a culture where employees feel like they can talk to their managers openly, which luckily we very much do! I could imagine this going really poorly if you don’t have a healthy relationship with your boss though.

    Reply
    1. OP #4

      That absolutely makes sense, thank you!

      I think what was scaring me about it wasn’t the culture of my current workplace, it’s the culture of past workplaces. Places I have worked before, the immediate reaction of a manager upon being told that an employee felt overwhelmed would be to hand them a box to clean out their desk with.

      Reply
  49. EmKay

    Forcing me to take precious time away from my work to attend a cheerleading meeting then being told I don’t know how good I have it will at best get you an icy stare, and worst get you flipped off.

    You want cartwheels? Buy me drinks or dinner off the clock.

    Reply
  50. pomme de terre

    OP #2, I feel you! I also run a monthly meeting at a design firm and it can be a really thankless task. It has to be the Sermon on the Mount presented like a TED talk on their pet project, or it’s a horrible waste of time. And if you canceled it, everyone complains they don’t know what’s going on, even if you send out emails or establish an elaborate company intranet to make it more of a “pull” communication rather than a “push.” Because they will never pull. Gahhh!

    Mostly I like my job and I even like the challenge of running the office meeting but it IS a challenge. I do think SheLooksFamiliar makes an excellent point that you and/or management might be expecting too much in terms of enthusiasm. If they’re showing up and being reasonably attentive, you’re good. If you expect every person to leave every meeting aflame with joy, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment.

    Reply
  51. AEM

    #4: To me saying she wants that is saying “I always want my employees to feel overwhelmed by their job to the point they feel unable to control their work or feel at all competent or confident in their abilities.”

    Reply
    1. OP #4

      That’s more or less how I took it at first, but I’m feeling more and more like that isn’t what she meant. But thank you for not dismissing my concerns, I was admittedly worried I was going paranoid when I first wrote in.

      Reply
  52. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2

    #2 – yes, some managers should take note. Frequent company-wide, or “all hands” meetings detract from what we’re trying to do = WORK.

    Some of these are just pep talks. Some are just managers thinking we’re all interested in what they have to say, when we’re all anxious to go back to work so we can go home to our families.

    Sometimes these company-wide things are good but when you have six or seven a month – well, they become counter-productive.

    Reply
  53. GraceW

    Why NOT tell someone she has lipstick on her teeth or spinach on his lip? I think it’s basic courtesy.

    Reply
    1. SheLooksFamiliar

      Good manners demand that we consider how our actions can affect the other person. I interview people for a living, and I know that even simple things can cause embarrassment – and even panic – for the candidate. The OP said no one noticed the lipstick until the interview was well underway. Can you imagine how the candidate could have felt to have someone point it out DURING the interview? Why cause the person more stress at the moment – with an audience?

      As Alison already said, if you can do it without bringing unwelcome attention to the gaffe, tell the person and be discreet about it. If not, then let it go and overlook it…and it sounds like the interview panel did, as they like her.

      Reply
  54. Former Employee

    The idea that we should be grateful if we work for a company that treats us decently sounds like something out of a novel by Charles Dickens!

    Reply
  55. Cassie

    #2 – years ago, we used to have staff meetings once a quarter so thereabouts. It was pointless – the manager would start with “oh, I didn’t have time to put together a schedule”. If you can’t even jot down a bulleted list of items that must be discussed (what, it takes like 2 minutes?), then why are we even having a meeting?

    My friend has to attend weekly managers’ meetings and she said it is pointless – the other managers complain/gossip about other people, they ask the dept head how to solve the most basic problems, and it’s just a waste of time. The dept head thinks the meetings are great and is an example of his great leadership.

    I just heard that our dept is planning on having a staff town hall meeting. I can tell you right now that it will be pointless. Half of the staff will be silently counting down the minutes until they can get back to their work. The other half will be glad to slack off for an hour or two. Nobody speaks up with any concerns (not since a few vocal people retired years ago). The dept head bloviates about this great initiative and that great program. We had a town hall a couple of years ago – afterwards, the general consensus was these new initiatives have nothing to do with our jobs. Why do we need to hear about them at length?

    Reply
  56. OP #4

    OP #4 here. Thanks very much for the context, it’s helped a lot!

    The funny thing is, the company culture is one of the things I was most worried about losing: this is the first time I’ve worked anywhere that I felt my welfare was a concern. I was so worried about losing that that it didn’t occur to me to interpret my manager’s remarks in light of that company culture.

    Reply
  57. RobM

    #2 – you talk about “employees” and “people” having a problem with those meetings.

    If one person has an issue with something like a meeting then maybe it’s the person that has an issue.
    If several people have an issue with something like a meeting then maybe the issue lies with the meeting.

    Reply
  58. Noobtastic

    #2 – I think the reports, to keep everyone in the loop about progress, are great. It’s the meeting that is not so great. Instead of having a monthly pep rally, perhaps you could suggest a monthly pod cast, which they can listen to at their work stations, or during lunch. That way, they don’t have to break their concentration at their desks (breaking out of The Zone, just to sit in a meeting in which you do not actually contribute can be very frustrating). They can pick a time to listen to the pod cast, that works for them, and they’ll be informed about all the news and progress. Make a transcript available, for those who prefer to read (assuming the speeches are planned in advance – or just make the transcript available a day or two later).

    Then, if you see the need for an actual pep rally, schedule one that is more about pep and less about progress. One that gets them on their feet and engaged.

    Reply
    1. Noobtastic

      Also, take a note from high school football – they don’t have the pep rallies after they just won the big game. They have the pep rallies JUST BEFORE the big game, to get the players hyped up.

      Therefore, hold your pep rallies right when you need to generate some excitement for the final push on a project. “We’re THIS close, and we have THAT deadline. Come on! Come on! We can DO this! Hype! Hype! Hype! Now, back to your desks, and let’s MAKE THIS HAPPEN!” Such pep rallies can be very effective. And they don’t need to be long, at all.

      In fact, you can, with a proper PA system or monitors spread through the building, have little mini-pep rallies in each area, close to the work spaces, for minimal disruption. Five minutes of pepping, then get to work. Bringing in pizza or other “fun” lunch treats on such a day would also help to boost the morale and keep the pep going for that final push.

      After the “big game,” you can celebrate, but don’t make it a big meeting. Have the various departments organize small parties, maybe with cake, or maybe ice cream bars, or maybe a little dance party – whatever works best for that particular group. Let the teams choose what works for them, within time and budget constraints. Thirty minutes of recognition, and then on to the next project.

      If you separate progress reports from pep rallies, I think you’ll get a better response to both.

      YMMV

      Reply
      1. Noobtastic

        Where’s the edit button?

        The reason I suggest the celebrations be small, and team specific, is because the people involved have individual buy-in, choosing the time and style of celebration for themselves. They’ll feel less like robots and “human resources” and more like “personnel.”

        Also, don’t make the pep rallies or celebrations monthly occurrences, but only when you need to have a big push. It sounds like most of the time, the long-term projects are chugging away well enough without it, and most people don’t want to be interrupted for a pep rally when the game is still three months away. Whereas the podcast progress reports (“We’re right on track on X and Y, and ahead of schedule on Z! Yay!”) can certainly be monthly. Allowing the people to choose for themselves when they will consume those reports makes them feel like they have some control and buy-in.

        I would not make it mandatory, although it should be simple enough for IT to track who watches/listens to/reads a report, if it is posted on the company network, and requires log-in to access, so it could be mandatory, if you really want to insist that your employees to be well-informed. Although, there will be at least one who just wants to do his job, and hide under a rock when it comes to actual news.

        Reply
  59. Noobtastic

    #3 – “When did I ever sign a non-compete agreement with you? For that matter, when did anyone sign a non-compete agreement with you? That’s not how this works.”

    Your “friend,” is not really a friend. She could learn to become one, if she gets this bee out of her bonnet, but friends do not begrudge others their success. Unless, of course, they really DID sign a non-compete agreement, in which case, it’s not about begrudging success, but about breaking of promises. You never promised her anything about freelance work, so she has no right to be angry with you for “taking HER work.”

    I think this is one of those times when you wipe your brow and say, “Whew! Dodged a bullet!” because now you know what sort of person she is, and you can just avoid her, in future. Imagine if you were working in the same company, and selfish, jealous nature reared its ugly head. Forewarned is forearmed.

    Reply
  60. Noobtastic

    #4 – Allison’s answer is good. Only you can tell what kind of manager you have.

    That said, it’s up to you to manage the optics. If you really do have a manager who wants you to feel like you just can’t quite handle it all, then throw her the occasional bone, saying, “I’m almost caught up, but I just can’t quite do it all.” or “Some days, I swim, and others I just tread water. Either way, I’m not sure I’ll ever make it to shore.” Things like that. Use your imagination and mix it up.

    If you have a manager who just wants you to recognize the never-ending nature of your job, you can express that. “I know the pipeline is full, and it just keeps coming, so I’ll never actually be ‘done’ with my work, but I’ve stopped feeling overwhelmed, and now feel like I can manage it.”

    Depending on your relationship with your manager, you might even come right out and ask her what she meant by that, and what she wants from you. Then, give her what she says she wants, by carefully managing the perception.

    Reply

Leave a Comment

Before you comment: Please be kind, stay on-topic, and follow the site's commenting rules.
You can report an ad, tech, or typo issue here.

Subscribe to all comments on this post by RSS