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Tom Petersen works at a company in the Midwest, where he processes e-mail, attends meetings and recalibrates management expectations. His book of essays on work and faith is currently lurking outside of publishers’ back doors, trying to meet a naïve editor. Contact him at www.HisWorkInProgress.com.

 
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Dodging Bad Fruit in Business Meetings

By Tom Petersen
www.HisWorkInProgress.com

CBNMoney.comThere is nothing like a business meeting to define an employee work group. In that confined space, with stale donuts and unspoken agendas, you learn a lot about your coworkers.

In fact, I think every job candidate should be allowed to sit through a prospective employers’ staff meeting before deciding to join a company. If we did that, I’m guessing we’d have a lot fewer hirings in the work world.

Maybe it’s just me, but I always seem to have bad business meetings. I had another frustrating meeting the other day. I was sitting there, trying to be helpful, trying to honor God in the midst of the meeting. But I could see it was a lost cause. The person who talked the longest dominated the meeting, got his way, and in the process alienated everyone in the room. Fortunately, a couple pieces of scripture were like a balm to my soul: “A fool does not delight in understanding, but only in revealing his own mind.” Psalm 16:27 Or maybe, “A fool’s mouth is his ruin and his lips are the snares of his soul.” Psalm 18:7. Who says Scripture isn’t applicable today?
             
Bad business meeting fruit
Maybe I’m naïve, but I’d like to think that we could all just get along, and that business meetings could be an opportunity to join together to do good work. But in reality, if spiritual fruit are things like peace, joy, and love, the fruits of most of my business meetings are more like suspicion, boredom and poor social skills.

There are a number of behaviors that occur in a business meeting that don’t fit with the model of Christ. There are certainly more than I’ve listed here, but these are the behaviors that always aggravate me.

The Blamestormer: When a meeting discussion turns to “what went wrong,” this individual creates a flurry of blame so that others can’t see that he has failed to do his job. As a result, he many not have any friends at work, but there’s also little chance anyone will give him another assignment.

The Disengaged: Once you’ve gone to all the trouble to call a meeting, you’d like to think that everyone will be attentive and ready to contribute to the endeavor’s success. Think again. Invariably, at least one person is there physically, but completely disengaged from the topic at hand. She is staring out the window or, if the meeting is a conference call, clearly typing away at her e-mail while the discussion goes on.

The Techno-challenged: This behavior can manifest itself in a number of ways: the individual whose pager keeps buzzing during the meeting, the person on the conference call who can’t figure out how to mute his cell phone (so we can all hear his drive through fast food order), or the person who insists he can get the laptop to work with the projector if we just give him another moment. I’m beginning to agree with the executive who decided that if you can’t make a presentation with a Ticonderoga pencil and a yellow legal pad, you shouldn’t be in management.  

The Agendaless: This person feels it is necessary to call a meeting, but doesn’t really seem to know why. She apparently assumes it’s enough to find an open time on people’s calendars, schedule a room, dedicate an hour (or more) to the meeting, so she doesn’t feel it is necessary to actually define what the meeting is about. And by failing to define the meeting purpose, she also can’t be blamed because the meeting didn’t meet its objective!

The Expander: This person apparently relishes business meetings, because he makes it his purpose to make the meeting longer than necessary. He does this by discussing topics to death, by asking questions that already have been answered, or debating points that were decided two meetings ago. I have a colleague who derives some psychic energy by tossing out unrelated comments simply to generate debate, regardless of the meeting purpose (which we would have known, had we had an agenda). But I still think it is a stretch to debate Chinese monetary policy when the meeting was supposed to decide employee benefits coverage.

The Fumer: This person refuses to talk during a business meeting, but instead sits there with arms folded, glaring at other people around the table. Apparently this person didn’t get the donut of his choice, or wasn’t invited to be on the “core” team, so he takes it out by percolating silently in the corner. (Although in my defense, when you have two or more of the behaviors listed above, I happen to think I’m justified in my frequent fuming.)

The antidote to bad fruit
In Ephesians 4, Paul lays out some guidelines for interacting with others. But I think they have particular application in business meetings. The qualities he lifts up include:

  • Be engaged (“that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on a new self”  verses 23-24)
  • Be honest (“Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of your with his neighbor, for we are members of one another.” verse 25)
  • Be restrained (“Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger” verse 26)
  • Be productive (“he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need.” verse 28)
  • Be supportive (“Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.” verse 29)
  • Finally, “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ has forgiven you.” verse 32

If we were to follow Paul’s advice and walk in the spirit we could generate the right kind of spiritual fruit in meetings: peace, joy, love and – be still my heart – self-control. It would be a nice counter to the fruits of the flesh, like strife, jealousy, disputes and dissentions.
Besides, I can always find something else to fume about.

Send Tom an e-mail at tom@tomcpetersen.com

Tom Petersen works at a company in the Midwest, where he processes e-mail, attends meetings and recalibrates management expectations. His book of essays on work and faith is currently lurking outside of publishers’ back doors, trying to meet a naïve editor. Contact him at www.HisWorkInProgress.com.

 

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