When organising a meeting, they love to use inexplicit titles like “catch-up” or “quick chat”. The more creative types playfully introduce more than the required amount of vowels into regular words to appear nonchalant and non-threatening, e.g. “meeeeeeting”. They might even take it to the next level and showcase their wit by including an entertaining meme in the meeting body.
Here’s the thing. If you’re inviting me to a meeting, I need to know two things:
- What the meeting is about
- What my role is in the meeting
If I don’t have both of these crucial pieces of information upfront, I can’t possibly ascertain whether it’s worth my time, or your time for that matter. Additionally, even if I am the right person — you’re never going to get the best out of me unless I have the opportunity to prepare.
Do you know what I don’t miss about being in the office? People appearing at my desk unannounced and attempting to strike up a conversation without any regard for what I might be doing.
Never fear, though! These people still exist. They’ve simply evolved their skills for the Digital Age. You see, these are the same people who expect you to be readily available for a chat by sending you private messages like:
“Hey, how’s it going?”
The problem with “Hey, how’s it going?” is, you’re inviting me to make small talk, which will never take precedence over anything else I’m working on. Try including a bit of context:
“Hey, how’s it going? Do you know where I can find X?”
Now, instead of an invitation to make casual chit-chat, there’s a question I can answer, even if I’m busy doing something else.
If you feel as though the constraints of text input just won’t cut the mustard, this simple modifier will help you come across as less presumptuous:
“Hey, how’s it going? Do you have 5 minutes?”
Now we have an explicit time constraint, and I’m more inclined to respond!
There are a few variations on this habit, but my favourite — and by far the most ineffective — is what I like to call the “Alan Partridge” approach.
Honestly, you know who you are — stop it.
You’re engaged in a full-blown digital conversation; messages are effortlessly zipping back and forth down the wire — you’re feeling productive and good about yourself until… the person you are talking to abruptly ceases to respond, and their status displays as “away”.
This behaviour is, of course, totally justified if you are one of the Highly Ineffective types because you were simply “on lunch” — obviously.
Understand that this is the real-world equivalent of turning around mid-conversation and silently walking away. Unless you are actually Batman, there is no reason to mysteriously disappear without warning.
Just say goodbye! If you’re partial to a bit of 90s internet slang, say “gtg” or “brb” or… “asl”?
This is an excellent technique if you want to score points with senior management, as long as you don’t mind pissing everyone else off.
In the event of a critical issue, try chiming in, in a public forum with something like:
“Guys, is anyone on this?”
At this point, your goal is to convey a sense of authority and a hint of frustration. Now you can relax for 30 minutes to an hour, and when you’re ready, check-in again with something like:
“Guys, any update?”
Once the problem’s been solved, finish off with a cool:
“Thanks all — great effort.”
Now you’ve managed to look like you’ve been useful, but everyone who was actually useful is cringing with embarrassment on your behalf. For the record, this is what genuinely useful people look like:
“Is there anything I can do to help?”
That’s right. Asking if you can be helpful opens up the possibility of being useful. Otherwise, you may as well get out of the way and stop distracting everybody.
Trey Huffine puts it brilliantly here:
If you really want to excel at being ineffective, be sure to keep your camera off at all times. You don’t need to waste time with pesky non-verbal social cues when you already have a perfectly decent circle, with your initials in it, that lights up as you talk.
Remember when people used to turn up to work wearing an Anonymous mask and a jumper with their initials on it? Of course not — that would be incredibly odd and socially unacceptable! Right?
If you’re undercover with your camera off in a meeting, how do you think a lone person with their camera on feels? When another person is talking, everybody is literally watching them nod along in agreement!
This would not be acceptable in the real world. Imagine sitting around a meeting room table, and one person is talking, but nobody is looking at that person. Instead, they are all staring at you, watching you listen.
Please, put your camera on and end this creepy behaviour.