Friday, June 20, 2008

Business Meetings 101

I used to work for a social services agency (I have mentioned my supervisor, the Succubus, recently) and it was the most meeting happy organization in the known world. I have never heard of any place with more, or larger meetings. And by the way, the topics were hysterically funny. I thought I'd share a few of the better ones here. It's good to know, that these charitable organizations, all of which are desperately in need of funds, piss away money like they had a printshop on premises. Bear in mind, just about every meeting took place at a different facility, which meant the agency laid out cash for mileage and lost productive time while employees traveled to these various meetings.

It's so hard to pick a favorite. But one of the best was this one. I was on the committee to publish the company newsletter. Part of our job was to ceremoniously empty the suggestion box and then to carefully discuss and debate the issues raised by our fellow employees. My favorite suggestion was sent in by an anonymous employee (guess who) and suggested that since the company elevator was out of service for the last 2 months or so, it might be a good idea to install a firehouse type sliding pole to allow faster and easier egress from the second floor.


After about 15 minutes of solid debate, including who would train employees to use the pole properly, it was decided that, perhaps, the writer really didn't want a pole but was trying to make the point that the elevator needed to be functioning.

That would qualify as a sensible meeting by agency standards.

On to some of the wacky ones:

We provided services for adults with developmental disabilities. People who could be described basically as having limited intellect and very limited funds. The county had a new program for providing inexpensive or free transportation to county residents who were financially qualified. We wanted the county to make a presentation to our agency. No problem.
Now, part of the ageny's mentality was that we were the biggest agency around, and we wanted everyone to know. So, while this presentation could have been done for maybe the half-dozen of my co-workers who it actually affected, the powers that be decided every hot, sweaty, overworked body that could fit in the room should be present. The county explained the program, and then opened up the floor for questions.

Mistake number 1. Anyone who ever runs a meeting with social service workers, take note: Never ask for questions at a meeting unless it is absolutely necessary. Management and middle level employees at a social service agency have little else to do but to find stupid things to waste time, including thinking up really dumb, nearly unaswerable questions. How else can we justify our jobs? We never did much that was useful. Being one of the biggest agencies, and loaded with plenty of admin types, we came up with all sorts of incredibly stupid questions.

And then, in an effort befitting of the biggest, and therefore the most useless, overpaid, and desperate to justify her position person, an admin asked the dumbest question of all: what about those clients who need a ride to the airport? Could this in-county, free service, provide airport limo service? This stumped the county folks, because, to be honest, it was the single stupidest question they ever heard. I guess they never expected a bunch of poor, developmentally disabled people to be jet-setters. Bear in mind, that, at most, a couple clients in the entire agency had ever flown, but suddenly, this was a pressing issue. It led to a solid 20 minutes of discussion.

And then, of course, was the great milk and cookies debate of 2004. It was suggested (I had nothing to do with this one) that the agency provide a snack at our slave labor camps. OOOPS, I meant work centers. Just a cup of milk and a cookie or two at the 10 in the morning break period.


Take a wild guess how long that debate went on.

An hour? Two hours?

Not even close.

Days. It started at one meeting, and lasted about 2 hours. It then had a meeting of its own that lasted about 4 hours. It then was brought back to the general monthly meeting for another couple hours of debate, and tabled. More research, and finally, after another couple hour debate, it was decided that it was a good idea, but nothing ever came of it.

Because we always had state mandated IHP meetings and behavior team meetings, we occasionally decided to have pre-meetings in the hope that it would shorten the regular meetings. You could imagine how that went.

But, here is the worst meeting I ever attended.

Two of the developmentally disabled young men in a work program had a "love connection" in the men's room. In our entire agency, I was the only one with a penis who was around that day. They had me have an emergency meeting with the two men to discuss the inappropriate behavior at work. This is normally not in my job description. The Succubus was off for the day, so the Incubus gave me the news that I had to do this.

I found the complete transcript of this meeting:

Crotchety Old Man: Hummina, hummina, hummina, hummina. Work is for Work.
2 Retarded guys: OK
Crotchety Old Man: Sign an X here.

As a follow up, I spent a couple hours in various meetings explaining to the staff what went on in my meeting with the guys, and of course, had to file a complete report, in seventuplicate. (Is there a word for 7 copies?)

A follow up meeting did take place to set up a plan for future such behaviors.

I miss all those meetings sometimes.


No meeting scribes were injured during the making of this post


shyne said...

Fun entry, DOM!
It brought back lots of memories from my HHS days and I found myself nodding in agreement with just about everything.

Thanks for the chuckle and flashbacks.

~*~Shadow.Crystal~*~ said...

LOL... man, this post nails the entire social service industry!

Lord, I want to be whole said...

mmmm...milk and cookies should be manditory...very soothing!

Very good post, funny how an issue gets debated and at times people forget what the original idea was in the first place!

Da Old Man said...

@ Shyne: It's a crazy field. Need a scorecard to seperate the clients from the staff

@ Shadow: I wish I made this stuff up. It's all true.

@ Lord I want to be whole: Exactly. It got so far off topic, the person who brought it up wished she hadn't.

shyne said...

We tried the "cookie" route at the Agency, too.
After about a week of the platter being empty by 10 AM, there had to be another meeting to address the issues presented by this new problem.
Yes, it took almost hour to discuss:

1. People taking more than their "fair share" of cookies.
2. Exactly whose responsibility it was to refill the platter and how often it should be replenished.
3. The "coffee money" wasn't covering the cookie cost, so where should the money come from?
4. Should clients be allowed to fill their pockets with cookies and how did one dissuade this activity.

Finally someone in the back row raised his hand and said, "Get rid of the damn cookies."
Common sense......

savvy said...

So Sad, So True - Laughing to keep from crying!

Kathy said...

Oh my God, man! I'm dying here! Pre-meetings? Wha?? Milk and cookie discussions? Hummina Hummina! Hilarious. How have I not known about your blog until now? Sorry, you're going to have to put up with me commenting on all the posts in your archive. It is a rare blog that gets me digging backwards. Hat's off to you.

Da Old Man said...

@ Shyne: Toss the cookies--LOL

@ Savvy: That was the only way to not cry

@ Kathy: Welcome. Social service agencies rock. :)
I only wish I could have taped some of the meetings. They were youtube worthy.