Thursday, November 6, 2008

I hate meetings, except sometimes

Meetings at work are not my strong suit. I am good at a lot of things in my job, but meetings just aren't one of them. My conference room is not large enough to hold everyone in my department comfortably, for one thing. I solved that particular problem by assigning everyone in my branch to a meeting "team", each one consisting of not more than six people, so that we could all sit comfortably at the table and have more valuable time together. This means more meetings (when I have them) but they feel more productive than before.

While that solves my size/space issue, I find I just don't have time for regular meetings. I meet with specific individuals regularly on issues, have one-on-one time when I feel like this or that employee needs some redirection or clarification on policies; I publish and distribute memos and changes to the operations manual when necessary but we generally seem to keep functioning well without regular meetings so I have gotten into the bad habit of not having them very often.

My group doesn't like meetings. They get restless, bored, don't pay attention, irritable, short-tempered, and grouchy. Some people are really engaged and others just stare at me like they want to claw my eyes out. They don't miss the meetings.

Except for one person in particular. Late last year I promoted a data entry operator to Reconciliation Specialist. She was especially challenging to train, and it took us a good long while before we could work well together. She is a passionate individual; she puts a lot of energy into her job and she works really hard not to disappoint me. The passion she brings to her job is simple: she has figured out that working hard allows her to stay at the company and make money, and a steady paycheck seems to be what she wants most of all. She enjoys challenges and new tasks, and giving her praise for a job well done seems to be more valuable than just about anything else I can give her.

The passion she brings to work also means she feels very strongly about her interactions with others. In the course of her work, she is often yelled at by the dealerships she works with. Rude people who are accustomed to bossing others around feel that it's okay to belittle her. They challenge her decisions and take their frustrations out on her.

She feels this all very deeply. I have worked with her to separate some of that feeling-ness, but the problem is that I don't relate to it. People yell at me too; sometimes they are downright abusive on the phone. About once a week I hit the "release" button on my phone to terminate a call because I can't get a word in edge-wise. It doesn't rile me up, doesn't hurt my feelings. It might hurt my ears but soon after the call is over, I'm past it.

Not so with my recon girl. She absorbs it all, and gets herself fantastically worked up over such things. In an effort to help her find a way to decompress and let some of these frustrations out, I have set up a weekly meeting with her to give her the opportunity to vent at me. She tells me about her week, the calls she takes, how she feels about the tasks she's doing, even things she sees other employees around the office doing that she feels I should be aware of. She thrives on regular feed-back and one of the biggest challenges I had with her was that I don't do well with people who are insecure and need me to tell them every day that I think they're doing a good job.

This is important though. Note to self: most people need regular feedback. They deal with negative feedback well so long as they get to regularly have their daily decisions reinforced. Tell them if they're doing well, and help them grow when they don't do so well.

I had wondered, privately, if the meetings were doing any good for her. She told me today that she loves our meetings. She said she feels so much better about her job and the shit she faces everyday because of them. That could have been the coffee talking, but I was pleased to know that she finds them useful and that I'm not just wasting my time and hers.

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