COLM O'REGAN: Meetings are the petri-dishes for the bolloxological language

Office workers: savour this week. It’s the one time office meetings will be bearable. It’s like in school when you’re allowed to bring in your toys. Except instead of toys it’s breakfast roll and ‘shcandal’ from last night’s Christmas do.

But for the rest of the year, meetings are the petri-dishes for the bolloxological language that eventually finds its way through the eco-system into letters from schools and parish newsletters. This is because meetings are too long and so you have to fill the time with words that don’t mean anything. The words that are like the packaging for an Easter egg. They serve no purpose but help sell something that’s hollow.

Beginning sentences with “So”, will buy you a few seconds and also make it appear like the hot mess you are trying to explain is being handled as we speak. You can say things like “I wasn’t across this” instead of “I haven’t a clue what’s going on. I hate my job”.

Similarly your bosses will play the game too, asking of “we could just get a handle on this that would be great“ when what they really want to say is “you are giving me an ulcer”.

It will make everyone feel better if you mention that you have “reached out” to someone to fix rather than screamed in the bathroom.

No doubt the most stressful of all meetings are those where you’ve to ‘give a presentation’. Here’s a tip: No matter what you’re doing prior to that meeting, make sure you give yourself plenty of time to allow everything to go wrong in a safe empty environment long before the other attendees arrive. Make your excuses to the other mourners, spouse-to-be, midwife or whoever and get into that meeting room early. Your colleagues have had a stressful day and nothing will make them happier than relaxing and watching you swearing under your breath at your laptop. Or hope that some porny spam will pop up on the big screen instead of a slide on ‘Key Risks for 2019’. The American writer Dave Barry once said: “If you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race has not achieved, and never will achieve, its full potential, that word would be ‘meetings’”.

I disagree completely. It suggests that meetings haven’t played a vital role in our evolution in the past. We speak blithely about vital moments in history without thinking about the simple basics of how they happened.

We praise the cave paintings in Lascaux or Altamira as if they just appeared. But think about the commitment required from a tribe to stage a buffalo hunt and then allow someone to opt out of the hunt and spend the time observing or gathering the required burnt ochre. They must have had a meeting for that. In one corner a sceptical tribal chief and her senior managers. In the other, the young whelp whose role encompassed Corporate Social Responsibility trying to convince them that morale and general tribal ‘engagement’ could be improved if they had a few paintings around the place and eventually resorting to the capitalist tack. “The Neanderthals are doing it, and they’re our biggest competitors.”

The problem with meetings is that they are a waste of time unless the key decision maker is there. Either nothing gets done or worse, the wrong thing gets done. In the Old Testament, while Moses was on Sinai, the Israelites melted down all their gold and made a giant idol of a golden calf. Just at that precise moment Moses was getting – downloaded onto his Tablet - a memo from head office outlawing both idols and cavortion. He/Charlton Heston must have come down from the mountain spotted all the orgying and thought “Have I missed a meeting?”

In the world of self-employment thankfully, I don’t have to go to as many meetings any more. The ones I have with myself can be chaotic, constantly interrupting myself by checking my phone.

Sooo, AOB? No? Great. Meeting adjourned.


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