Common Man

My job is rife with meetings.  Meetings of every kind: informational, social, problem-solving, problem-collecting, mandatory, voluntary, committee-based, committee-formed, committee-exploratory…  Mostly, though, they’re unnecessary meetings.

It used to be that I made sure to talk at every meeting.  I wanted to get my face out there and my voice out there.  But it seemed that every time I did, I was given another meeting-based responsibility. I was volunteered for a committee or was told to investigate the possible problems and solutions of my input.

Come to think of it, this is a good trick to use if you don’t really want any discussion on matters; anyone who talks is given a job.  Eventually, it worked and I stopped talking.

For the last seven years or so, I’ve rarely uttered a word during a meeting.  I smile and nod and look annoyed at the proper times, but I make sure not to say a word.  I think this makes me a less-desirable member of any committee (which is exactly how I like it), but it doesn’t really scream “team player.”  Last month, I found a loop hole.

I was part of a temporary committee that got together to talk about a temporary problem in a permanent department in which I am a temporary member.  Everyone was talking back and forth discussing the various ups and downs of short-term solutions for our temporary situation.  I suggested we simply ignore the situation – as it is temporary – and since the only reason this committee exists is to fix a situation that will be forever forgotten in less than a month, we could also disband the committee (saving everyone on it about six hours of meetings over the next four weeks).

My option was considered, discussed, and refused.  It wasn’t a bad suggestion – I’m not talking just to be heard – it was a loophole.  I gave a Common Sense (all capitalized) solution to a problem, people didn’t like my solution, and we moved forward as if I never said anything.  And to a lesser-but-just-as-important extent, we moved forward because what I said wasn’t dumb.

By using this loophole, I’m not looked down on as someone who just needs to give input, I’m not berated as someone who wants to discuss matters long after the time to do so has passed, and I’m not someone who doesn’t contribute.

Last week we had a bigger meeting and I used the Common Sense Loophole again.  I was taken aside by my boss and told that I had a good idea but he could never get it through committee.

I spoke up at a meeting but wasn’t given any extra assignments; I was actually praised.  That’s counter-intuitive.


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