June 18, 2020
The Secret Life of Meetings
If you are sitting in a meeting right now on Zoom or Teams, the odds are that there is a secret life going on among you and your colleagues that everyone knows but no one wants to admit. It doesn’t take a lot to have a secret meeting life and the truth is that most of us are engaged in it because it helps us be more productive.
One part of the secret is about how we are able to get work done even though we seem to be intensely paying attention to the smallest detail of a shared screen or a specific request from a colleague. We may seem to be paying attention, but the truth is that we may have positioned a second computer monitor directly behind the camera on our primary computer so we appear to be looking directly at the camera while actually checking out our email or the latest basketball scores (oops, we’re not doing that so we may actually be working on another task related to work).
Another secret strategy is to claim that our camera is on the fritz or that we haven’t shaved or put on makeup, thus a blank video stream which either way frees us up to engage in something else, oftentimes something more productive. A recent letter to the editor in the Wall Street Journal had an employee stating that much of his current meetings are irrelevant except for a small slice of business which is when he pays attention. Otherwise, he has picked up another 45 minutes he didn’t have when we worked at his office.
The result is that a lot of people are reporting that they are more productive now than they were ever before because they can selectively engage in meetings when they need to be involved.
Still a third secret life element has to do with *private messaging*. This activity has a rich history going back 8-10 years or so when we all started bringing our computers to meetings, ostensibly to access files or take notes. But we know the truth that many of us were exchanging private messages with trusted colleagues around the room such as “I can’t believe he just said that,” or “how much longer is she going to drone on?” These private (and we hope secret) messages play an important role in maintaining good mental health during meetings in that they helped prevent us from screaming out in frustration, inadvertently, which might have contributed to diminished career advancement.
Be forewarned, however, the private chat function in Zoom is not always private and it if the organizer of the meeting downloads the chat box at the conclusion of the meeting, she may be able to review your private chat.
Of course, you could be completely complimentary to her but just make sure you let the recipient of the chat know about your game. You would not want to throw him under the bus.