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Piece of Work is a chronicle of behavior and feelings at work: everything that happens in the office except your actual job.
Every other Tuesday, my colleagues and I meet outside the designated boardroom for our late afternoon ideas meeting and wait. Another group has room for an hour before us, and they tend to overflow for a minute or two. It would be one thing if our meeting wasn’t always at the same time, or in the same room, or if the walls in the conference room weren’t glass, so they could see us appearing outside, but it is, and they are. Every other Tuesday my colleagues and I joke about breaking into this room and declaring our territory at 4 p.m. sharp, but we never do.
I decided to name this phenomenon – in which one or more employees of a company become inexplicably, overly annoyed by the delayed evacuation of another from a reserved room – conference room assault. It’s not exactly all-out anger (it dissipates too quickly), nor is it directed at a particular coworker (at least not in my case). It’s a more childish territorialism, combined with an unwelcome reminder of my place as a cog in the bigger machine. I have nothing against the individuals who make up the meeting complained of. But as a collective, representative, more than anything, Man – well, I hate them. Without wanting to offend you.
I feel a little silly to admit this now, but I know I’m not alone in my assault conference room (or CRA, for short). Even my nicest, always smiling coworker tells me she has ARC. “For me, the most embarrassing moment is throwing someone out of a room, especially if it’s a large group,” she says. “What are you supposed to say without sounding stuffy?” »She always apologizes, even when it is they or they who should apologize.
There’s something about being at work that makes us behave and interact in ways we wouldn’t do elsewhere, and maybe get mad at something as stupid as a two minutes late meeting is one of them. As Liz Fosslien (a strategy and design consultant) and Mollie West Duffy (an organizational designer) write in their new book, No resentment: the secret power to embrace emotions at work, the modern workplace is an “emotional minefield”. It doesn’t have to be a bad thing, but the feelings we have at work to do impact our job satisfaction (and productivity), and these feelings are informed by signals we pick up all day, every day.
“There are these little things that we all pick up every day that create a culture, for better or for worse,” says Duffy. When we find ourselves overwhelmed with irritation at something ‘small’ at work – like the CRA, for example – it’s probably because it’s something we’ve witnessed countless times, consciously. or not. “Culture often looks like this very important thing that comes from the top down, but it’s actually created by all these little interactions, gestures and signals,” Fosslien adds. “So the people who see you through the glass door and don’t leave the room are a signal like, ‘I don’t care about your time. That’s what they come to represent over time.
The assault in the boardroom, Duffy says, is just a symptom of what she and Fosslien see as a larger workplace epidemic, in which humans seemingly forget how to treat themselves as … human being. In their book, the authors discuss the Ritz-Carlton’s now infamous “10-5 Rule,” which states that employees passing within ten feet of a guest must make eye contact and smile, while employees who pass within five feet of a guest must say hello. (The rule has since been adopted by many business consultants and leadership seminars as general good practice Between employees, as well as employees and guests.)
The fact that we need to remember to recognize our fellow human beings at work shows how distorted our standards in the workplace can be, says Duffy. Most people don’t like to be in someone else’s way, and most people don’t want to get in the way of someone else’s job. If we could remember to think of ourselves as humans and not as workers, we could eliminate considerable tensions in the workplace. It is not so much about the boardroom as it is about the essential human desire to be treated with respect. The assault in conference rooms is therefore perhaps an acute manifestation of the larger reality that there is not enough stuff for everyone – wage growth is stagnating, economic insecurity is increasing, and a steadily growing concert economy means many of us aren’t. able to earn a living wage from just one job. Employees in 2019 are ready to approach their workplace with stress, then some accounting prankster thinks he can just walk in and out of conference rooms at will? No. If you cannot count on the use of the part you requested to use at the time you requested to use it, can do you plan to get out of work? If we are all to be underpaid and overworked, shouldn’t we at least respect each other’s time?
“Compassion is what it boils down to,” Duffy adds. “You have a call. I’m aware, and I sympathize with your having a call, so I’m going to walk out of this room.
While on tour to promote their book, Duffy and Fosslien say they came across a number of suggestions for distressed CRA businesses. “One of the things we heard was a suggestion to schedule your meetings five or ten minutes before the hour or half hour, just like an organization-wide thing,” says Duffy. “I think it’s a passing period. We all had this in high school and college. Why is it gone? A good point. In an office Fosslien visited, they installed an iPad in each conference room and configured it to display a flashing warning screen when there were five minutes left in a meeting. I really like this idea too. Anything that shortens meetings is a good thing.
The main thing, say Duffy and Fosslien, is to speak about your assault in the conference room. One of the keys to successfully raising a complaint in the workplace is presenting at least one idea for a solution. “You might say to your office, ‘I notice we’re not handing over the conference rooms on time. Here is an idea that I had to deal with, but let’s find some more and then vote on how best. When I say this seems like a good way to get your coworkers to call you a narcissist, Duffy concedes that there will always be eye-rollers, but most people react best when they hear the need behind a request (eg, “When I don’t call my sources on time, they lose confidence in me”). Be honest about Why something bothers you is difficult, but it also helps your coworkers see you as a human, she explains.
Another strategy you could try is to write a general blog post about boardroom assault and post it on your website, but I’m not sure if that works well yet.