Sunday, December 14, 2008

Thoughts: Meeting- The Verb

Meeting is usually thought of as a noun – as in ‘to call a meeting.’

But really, it is a verb.

‘To meeting someone’ means to call someone for an absolutely gratuitous, mind-numbing, time-eviscerating meeting and proceed to suck their life-blood in the AC-chilled confines of a conference room using a powerpoint and a laser pointer.

As in…’I meetinged him to death’
Or…
‘I meetinged him into early retirement’

Bosses are usually the finest practitioners of this art. The best bosses are serial-meetingers, violently meetinging their subordinates and fellow managers without let or mercy.

Meetinging is a form of machismo. As in … ‘My meeting is longer than your meeting.’

Bosses gather around the bar after work hours and brag about the supreme irrelevance and vacuousness of their meetings, and how much blood was spilt.

Meetings are a weapon.

Bosses, faced with subordinates who show dangerous indications of having a mind of their own, meeting them into whimpering submission. Usually it only stops after the subordinate cries ‘Corporate Vision!’ After that they’re meetinged some more, just to rub it in.

It is also used between bosses. A manager who sees another one getting ahead in the rodent race launches a broadside of meetings at his rival, who responds in kind. Long volleys and counter-volleys of words like ‘Mission Statement’ and ‘Strategic Goalpost’ ensues. It stops only when one or the other decides enough is enough and enrolls himself in the local lunatic asylum in an attempt to unscramble the brain. Futile. Can scrambled eggs be unscrambled?

I should know. Although at the receiving end of meetings most of my career, I was a boss of some sort too, once, and did my share of gratuitous meetinging.

But I was too kind hearted. Like those anglers who throw fish back into the water after catching them, or hunters who shoot bison, but with tranquillizer darts, I meetinged gently, just enough to irritate, without actually drawing blood.

But that was foolish. As any hunter will tell you, if you must shoot, you must shoot to kill. There is nothing more dangerous in the jungle that a wounded tiger. Old jungle saying.

My subordinates, maddened with pain, lashed back violently, counter-meetinging me viciously. I still have the scars. Psychological scars. They still twinge when the weather turns cold. Or the AC is turned on too high.

Of course, I was meetinged left and right by fellow managers, without having the gumption to retaliate.

Yes, I was more or less a washout as a meetinger.

But my own boss…Ah, there was a man! He was in another league altogether.

A really serious, no-holds-barred, testosterone-fuelled pro-meetinger, his hands were calloused from holding the laser pointer, and he had Carpel-Tunnel-Syndrome in his right forefinger from pressing the Enter button on his powerpoint.

He cut a fearsome sight in the conference room. A look at his leathery throat, slowly champing jaws, yellowing teeth and the dull glow in his eyes as he limbered up with the laser pointer was enough to sent chilled water coursing down the spinal column of the most hard-bitten. It was clear to the dullest observer that here was a man, who was going to bore the pants off you, and he knew it, and he was looking forward to it, with a sadistic, gleeful pleasure. Then he would start off, in a low grating voice, dribbling out inane, completely irrelevant, mind-numbing statistics, larded liberally with soul-destroying management buzzwords, until the brain turned into thin gruel, the liver became a spongy mass, and the bladder collapsed under the strain of holding it in. It was terrifying. But it was also strangely fascinating.

Having left the corporate rodent-race over two years now, meetings are now a distant memory. They no longer hold the same fear. The thought of them no longer causes the quivering of the outer limbs and the palpitations in the chest that it used to. In fact, I now can’t imagine why they used to bother me so much.

In retrospect, there was something quaint- and even amusing- about them.

Like one of those charming tribal rituals. Like head-hunters gathering around the bonfire after a busy day’s head-hunting, slapping each other on the back and sharing bowls of fermented rice-liquor from the hollowed out skulls of the day’s head-huntees.

1 comment:

Anupam said...

Can't agree more!
Meeting is most definitely a verb, and a vicious one too at that!
Although I've been tossing coins as to whether meetings are used to stun the opposition, or as a CYA and risk mitigant - "You were all in the cost cutting strategic meet in which we decided to tell all our customers to go to the competition so as to reduce service expenses"