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Musing: The Ruff Truth About Meetings
The crashing sound shattered my concentration. My hands paused over the keyboard, fingers twitching, as I worked to identify the sound. With trepidation, I pushed back from my desk. What disaster would I find outside my study?
Four of the most innocent faces greeted me from their positions in the den. They denied any involvement in the mishap. They pretended that the noise existed only in my imagination. With their heads cocked and tails wagging, they acted baffled at my sudden interest in their antics.
Yes, my co-workers are dogs. It’s one of the many perks of working from home.
Almost a decade ago, I traded my suits for jeans, my long commute for a walk to my study, and a steady paycheck for the uncertainty of self-employed earnings. And, yes, I gave up human office mates for canines.
Not everything is different, of course. Office politics is only subtly different. Humans maneuvering for the best office or cubicle look remarkably the same as dogs trying to outsmart each out for the best snoozing spots in a treasured sunbeam. Chatter at the water cooler differs little from a minor canine game session.
At least, I thought, I no longer attend thousands of time-wasting, soul-killing meetings. No sitting around a table discussing some topic for an hour and resolving nothing but the schedule for the next meeting.
But then I did it. With a still-unidentified mess somewhere in the house and no one accepting blame, I did the only thing I could think of.
I called a meeting.
After all four dogs joined me in the study, I closed the door so they couldn’t escape. I settled back into my chair and returned to work. The dogs grumbled but soon settled in.
And a revelation came to me. All those meetings in offices over the years really weren’t that different than what I was doing. Bear with me a moment as I explain.
Snacks increase attendance
For many years, I worked for a company best known for its food services. Naturally, most of our meetings had snacks of some sort. At the start of the day, it could be coffee and bagels. Brunch for mid-morning. A tray of sandwiches at lunch. Some snacks for mid-afternoon. And nothing makes working into the evening better than a delivery of pizza.
If people walked into a conference room and no food was in sight, disbelief followed. The meeting organizer gained a reputation. Attendance dwindled at future meetings.
It’s no different for me now. The same dogs who can’t hear me calling their names at the top of my voice can sense the peeling of a banana from a mile. If I dare move toward the refrigerator for a snack, the sound of paws scrambling rises.
So, yes, when I insisted everyone join me in my study, four pairs of eyes watched me until I reached for the treat jar and rewarded them for their attendance.
Derailing a conversation
How many meetings did I attend where someone hijacked the discussion for their own purpose? The organizer did their best to control the agenda, but the arguments would escalate until no one even remembered why we had gathered.
Interesting thing about Siberian Huskies. They rarely bark. Instead, they talk in a series of woos, sounding something like Chewbacca of Star Wars’ fame.
And like humans, when they don’t like what you’re saying, they simply talk louder. And louder. I find myself in a ridiculous number of debates with fifty pounds of paw-stomping, motor-mouthing canine.
PowerPoint was the bane of my corporate life. No meeting could be held without fancy graphics, bullet-pointed lists, and action items.
As they instructed me to flip to page 47 of the deck, I couldn’t help but sneak a glance around the table to see who was listening. Coworkers barely concealed their cell phones in their laps as they checked messages, sports scores, or social media.
Best of all was an incoming phone call to someone who had an obnoxious ringtone guaranteed to embarrass them. Everyone would chuckle and then secretly check that their own phones were on silent.
It’s no different for me today. Just try to hold a dog’s attention while a squirrel scampers in the yard just outside the window. Or a neighborhood dog goes prancing down the road with his human in tow. Or, here in Asheville, a bear wanders through the yard.
In fairness, that last one gets my attention too.
Someone always wants to play
No matter how serious the topic, some attendees to corporate meetings only wanted to tell war stories, gossip, or discuss sports. An hour would pass, we’d glance at the clock, explain we had another useless meeting on our agenda, and excuse ourselves. Not a single agenda item would be covered.
It’s no different now. No matter how many words I need to get written, a paw on my leg or the nuzzle of a cold nose tells me someone doesn’t want me to get any work done.
And, yes, they usually are successful in distracting me.
One Critical Difference
So how do I get anything accomplished with my furry distractions? The trick is to get them to settle down and fall asleep so I can concentrate. The top secret weapon is a few ear scratches and belly rubs. They work wonders in getting some compliance.
Of course, don’t try that in the corporate world. Unless you want a visit from HR.
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If you enjoyed today’s musing, please consider reading one of my novels. Each standalone book tells the story of big lives in a small town, ordinary people facing extraordinary challenges.
Gratuitous Dog Photo: Frankie in Nature
Frankie Suave hangs out among the roses in the backyard, a good spot to enjoy being outside but still avoiding the rambunctious youngsters and their games.
January 2024 Reader Survey Question
Until Next Monday
May you avoid useless meetings this week.
If you have questions or thoughts, drop them in the comments below.
See you next Monday.
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