I was talking to a former work colleague in recent days and he was going on about his week at work. Just so happens he is still working for a large FMCG company, just like I did for almost 10 years. After that conversation, I couldn’t help but reflect about the annoying quirks that come as part of working in a large multinational corporation. It amazes me the consistencies when people describe what annoys them about their workplace. I guess that is the good news, it is all quite the same. Same shit, different boardroom. No wonder that when people change jobs, it doesn’t necessarily make them happier, unless their previous boss was a complete tool. The result of my reflection were 7 quirks that never ceased to annoy me about the corporate world. If you have more, please feel free to add in the comments box.
1) The meeting before the meeting and the meeting after the meeting
Have you ever been asked, “We need to meet before the meeting with ‘so and so’, so that we can align on the key issue”? Or, “can we meet to review the documents before the meeting with…..” I do believe preparation is required prior to a meeting and it is important for teams to come in with a unified voice, but does that require additional meetings? Just sounds like meeting proliferation to me. Can’t people just read up on pre-work and bring up their concerns in the actual meeting or via other forms of communication? When there is a pre-meeting, you can bet there will be a post-meeting to debrief and discuss the meeting. The result: another hour in a meeting. I remember it all worked best when minutes were typed up sent and at the end of the main meeting time was given to ask questions and raise concerns.

2) The Monday morning staff meeting
After a relaxing weekend, if you managed not to check your work e-mail, you rock up to work nice and relaxed barely remembering what happened on Friday. You are already not very thrilled to be in the office with one foot still back on the weekend. All you have in mind now is trying to plan the week ahead and getting in a better mood before lunch. Just as you are getting in the swing things, your manager taps you in the back, “Time for our weekly staff meeting!” You think, “Doh!” In some of these staff meetings we went around telling our colleagues what we did on our weekend. Sounds nice, doesn’t it? It is actually corny and to be honest, I couldn’t give a rats about what some of them did on their weekend and I really don’t care so much to share what I did on mine. In fact, research shows Mondays are the worse days for staff meetings as people are often depressed, not focused and trying to plan out their week. Apparently, mid week seems to be the ideal time as people are back on the swing of things.

3) The Dude that forgot how to speak and only remembers to e-mail
This is one of my favourites. Have you seen the guy or girl that rather than just pop his head up to ask you for something, e-mails you the request and c/c every man and his dog? When did we forget that we can speak? And why do you have to copy all these people? To make sure I send it? To cover your backside in case I don’t send it? The result, cluttered inboxes and time wasted reading irrelevant e-mails. Well done, buddy! Closely related to this is the goose that always clicks on “Reply to All” and helps propagate the e-mail tsunami.

4) The endless PowerPoint Saga
In some places, if a powerpoint doesn’t have 50 slides and fancy graphics than it is not good enough. I remember spending weeks working on these bloody slides for a 20 min presentation and people barely paid any attention to it. Would have been easier to put it in a one-page recommendation as a pre-read and then open up for questions, since there are always going to be some. I remember working for a company that if you didn’t rock up to a meeting with a PPT, you were frowned upon as if you had just farted. It was worse than rocking up to a BBQ without beer and/or meat. This is one thing I highly admired P&G, a former employer for, everything was discussed over a one-page Word documents, Arial, 9pt, no more, no less. Simple.

5) The Big Cheese visits.
Unless you work in the company’s main or regional headquarters, one of the head honchos will eventually come for a visit to check things out. When this times comes, you will be expected to drop everything and mobilise towards preparing endless amounts of documentation and presentations for the visit. Not to mention the endless pre and post meetings (see point 1). I wonder how much money local and regional branches lose as a result of lost productivity when they receive a headquarters visit. Next time I decide to invest in a company, that is a question I will ask. I want to invest in companies where people can fully focus on their core work. From experience, the problem isn’t really the visitors, but the hosts who take the opportunity to look good and get their staff to help them do so by preparing all that stuff that will barely be looked at.

6) Shit rolls down hill, glory floats up the hill.
When a decision is made or a problem arises, it will roll down the hill for the minnows to implement or solve. On the other hand, when something good happens, it is the big wigs that reap the rewards. If you are lucky, the big wig you are working for will partake on the glory. Otherwise, standby for the shit avalanche. There was a GM in a company where I used to work that tried to explain to us what a GM did. He went on to say, ” As a GM, I rock in and check how we are doing vs. targets. If we are not meeting them, then I will get the respective director to explain, and he, in turn, gets his manager to explain, who then gets his coordinator to explain and so on until the shit comes to a halt.” It is good to be the king/queen.

Keep It Simple
Ivan