TagEncouraging and Engaging Employees

When Good Meetings Go Bad

Once upon a time, I was in an all-day meeting. It started at 8am sharp and was scheduled to go until at least 6pm. Presentation after presentation. Lots of talking and lots of slides. Not a lot of breaks.

Sometime after lunch, I started to lose focus. My mind started to wander. And so did my eyes.

My eyes landed on the phone of the co-worker seated next to me. He was texting. I didn’t want to be obvious in my bored nosiness so I couldn’t see what was said. But I know what came back as the response.

Ta-tas. Puppies. Jugs. Tiggle-bitties … BOOBS!!! Big ol’ boobs!!!!

My co-worker was sexting. In the middle of the meeting. And in my nosy boredom, I’d stumbled on his girlfriend’s booby pics.

It was like a car crash.

I tried to look away — but I couldn’t. I was freaking out — but couldn’t say a word. It was so awkward and uncomfortable — and hilarious!

As it gets more difficult for management to be unreachable for long periods, it becomes more common to see smart phones in our meeting rooms … Inevitably this leads to people emailing about other topics during meetings and texting answers to quick questions from staff. It also leads to loafing behavior like gaming, checking social media, online banking, personal errand and calendar prep, and even sexting.

Have I done these things? Yep. Every single one. More than once.

It is nearly impossible to keep a room full of adults fully focused for a meeting, especially when it lasts all day. I’m not sure it is realistic to expect people to hold it together for that long when we all have so many other things pulling at us in any given moment.

Most employers nowadays don’t care. Attendees at meetings are welcome to bring their smart phones and tablets to meetings so they can multi-task.

Others find it upsetting. Attendees at meetings need to be focused on discussing and resolving the agenda items. And they need to show respect and appreciation for the meeting organizer by being fully present and attentive.

If you fall into the latter group and want attendees to be more focused in your meetings, here are a few tips you can use:

  • Declare the meeting a device free zone.  Instruct attendees to leave their devices outside the meeting or designate a place for them to put their devices while the meeting is in session.
  • Take longer or more frequent breaks. Schedule breaks specifically for device checking. We often don’t give enough time for lunch, restroom and checking/returning messages. Make sure your break schedule allots for this.
  • Call out abusers. If someone is more into their device than the meeting, politely call them out. Emphasis on polite. Suggest they take a break and step out to handle their issues in a way that doesn’t leave hard feelings or tension.
  • Gamify disruptions. At the start of the meeting, ask attendees to place their phones on the table upside-down. Let them know that turning their phones over will result in penalties like having to wear a funny hat or glasses or gloves. Keep a count and give a cool prize at the end of the day for the least distracted attendee.

Love them or hate them or love to hate them, meetings are a necessary part of the world of work. Whatever we can do to make them more effective, bearable and fun is worthwhile effort.

But the next time you’re bored in a meeting, DO NOT attempt to read your co-worker’s texts. There’s no telling what you’ll see.


Not Your Typical Christmas Carol

any traditions accompany the Christmas season. Events – both religious and secular – bring joy, laughter, and much more to countless women, men, girls, and boys. Music is played. Carols are sung. It is the season to be jolly as each and everyone has their own story to tell. It is our tale – our story – just like the stories of Christmas. It is our Christmas Carol. When Sarah asked me to choose a favorite Christmas movie to write about, I have to admit my mind initially went blank. Then, like the Ghost of Christmas Past, the choice came to me – but with a twist. So, sit back and relax. Be prepared to enjoy my choice, A Christmas Carol. Yet, be warned and make no assumptions. This isn’t the typical Christmas Carol.
A Christmas Carol originated as a novella by Charles Dickens. Its publication in December 1843 resulted in the rejuvenation of the “Christmas Spirit” in both Great Britain and the United States after a period of Puritan somberness. The story describes a bitter old miser named Ebenezer Scrooge and his transformation into a gentler, kindlier man after visitations by the ghost of his former business partner and the Ghosts of Christmases Past, Present and Yet to Come. It has never been out of print since 1843. (Information courtesy of Wikipedia.org.) The story has been translated time and again into movie, animation, comic, television, and other media.

The story I tell you is about a character named Kazran Sardick. Kazran lived sometime in the future on a planet that was an Earth colony. Kazran, old in age and very bitter and alone, is first seen when a family comes to ask for one day – Christmas Day – with a family member. You see, Kazran’s family owns all the wealth on the planet and is the one-and-only bank.  A loan must be accompanied by “insurance” and that insurance was a family member – who is then frozen in suspended animation. Kazran refuses and, while doing so, receives a call from the President of Earth. A ship, carrying 4006 passengers, is headed for a crash landing on the planet and only Kazran can help. (The planet’s atmosphere could be adjusted to help buffer and ease the landing.) Kazran refuses saying “What’s in it for me? See if I care.”

The family is about to be escorted out when something – no, someone – comes down the chimney. Is it Santa?

No.  It’s The Doctor.

We see The Doctor change the present day Kazran by traveling back and meeting him as a young child. We see the doctor’s traveling companions – who are amongst those stranded on the crashing ship – take the role of Christmas Present. We see Kazran himself become the Ghost of Christmas Future. The story was ingenious, contemporary with a science fiction twist, and ultimately enjoyable. It is also a testament to the longevity of a story written over 100 years prior.

So, to all who may read this post, I wish you a Merry Christmas and a heartfelt Season’s Greetings. May your Christmases Past and Present be an inspiration to your Christmases of the Future!


This post was written by Kyle Jones. Kyle has over 20 years of experience in a variety of roles including human resources, social media, customer service, and recruitment. He’s the current Social Media Director for the Pine Belt Human Resources Association and the Co-Social Media Director of the Mississippi SHRM State Council. Kyle has served in volunteer roles on both the local and state level since 2007. He was recipient of the 2012 Mississippi Spirit of Human Resources Award.

He has written posts for company, HR and social media blogs and shares his passion for HR and Social Media on his blog, HR to WHO. Follow him on Twitter @kylemj6977 or on LinkedIn.

Bringing that “Back to School” Magic to HR – part 2

In yesterday’s post, I talked about 3 simple ways HR can create magic for new hires like teachers going back to school. This post continues that thought by taking a look at how teacher’s set the tone and expectations in their classroom at the start of the new year …

My kids are in Year Round school. So for me, back to school happened right after the Independence Day holiday. My son started 4th grade while my daughter started 2nd grade.

On “Meet the Teacher” day, I was really impressed with the hallway of 2nd grade classes that would be my daughter’s new dwelling. The decorative themes were super creative; the desks and learning areas were all setup with supplies and inspiring instructions. The energy was bubbling over — it made me want to sit down to color, cut or create something!!



My son’s classroom was a little more low-key on decor. It was still warm and welcoming; however, it was clear that some serious learning was about to go down in that room. It made me sit up a little straighter and listen more intently to what was being said and done in that room.

In the midst of the buying supplies, clothes and shoes while snapping pictures and feeling nostalgic over how much and how fast our kids have grown, we lose sight of the hard work to come. Teachers don’t. Alongside the excitement and magic, teachers are setting the tone for the year through expectations.

In my son’s class this year, we had to sign a learning contract. It outlined the expectations for him as a student and me as his parent as well as his teacher’s commitments to us. I’d never seen anything like it before! I felt the weight of what this school year was going to mean for both of us in a way I really hadn’t before.

HR should do the same with new employees and employees promoted/reclassified into new positions in our organizations. Arguably, this should happen whenever a pay increase is given as well … but I’ll save that for another post.

HR must make sure our onboarding and orientation programs go beyond the customary signing of the I9 form, tax paperwork and acknowledgement of policy. We should seize the opportunity to set forth the expectations and metrics for success — for the employee, the supervisor and the manager. Set the tone and atmosphere by writing these down for everyone impacted to sign and agree. Outline how often the person will be evaluated against expectations and what financial gains, if any, they are likely to get. Make it plain from the outset so everyone knows and can legitimately be held accountable for outcomes.

To whom more is given, more is required and requirements shouldn’t be a guessing game or something discussed only when the person has missed the mark. Like teachers at the start of the new school year, HR should outline objectives and goals at the start of any a change in the employment relationship. This will ensure everyone starts out (and hopefully stays) on the path to success.



Bringing that “Back To School” Magic to HR

I’m not sure how, when or why it happened — but I have a lot of friends who are teachers! And every year around this time, I see all their posts about going back to school. They are very excited, uplifting and full of anticipation for what the new year will bring.

It got me thinking about my own profession and the preparation (or lack thereof) for the seasons in HR … Although we don’t typically have a summer break to come back from or a 100% turnover in our teams each year, there are still some moments where HR can create excitement and anticipation within ourselves and our organizations.

And during onboarding and orientation, HR can definitely make the same magic teachers at the start of a new school year.

Unfortunately, we get so focused on satisfying hiring managers and quickly getting the new hire up to speed that we miss this opportunity. We often fail to put our best foot forward during that critical time. We forget the impressions made in the first 120 days of work sets the standard and expectation for the entire employment experience … Those are bells that can’t be un-rung.

Teachers, on the other hand, never seem to lose sight of this. I’m not sure if this is something they’re taught through theory or something they learn through observation and practice — but teachers understand the importance of making magic at the start of the new school year.

What is the “magic” you ask? Here are a few tricks to keep up your sleeve:

  • Connection on an individual level. Teachers take time to get to know the students, their backgrounds, interests and experiences … HR should do the same. Take moments early in the first few weeks to get to know your people beyond what they were hired to do. Knowing what makes our employees tick will help us to engage and develop them from the start.
  • Guided tour of the environment. Teachers make sure the students know the layout of the classroom, the important people or places within the school, and where to find common, necessary resources … HR should do the same. Tours of the building and introductions to key people should happen in the first few days. Basic explanation of the setup guidelines, times and places for things like lunch, breaks and routine meetings should also occur. This will help the employee become acclimated to the environment more quickly and avoid embarrassing faux pas with colleagues.
  • Positive presentation. Teachers go out all out to make their classrooms look bright, fun and ready for action … HR should do the same. The assigned workspace for a new employee should welcome and exude excitement to have that person on board. The supplies and system access needed to do their job effectively should already be setup and waiting. Nowadays employees want to feel their company is as excited to have them as they are to work there.

These are just a few examples of ways HR can make magic like teachers during back to school. It doesn’t take much time, resources or effort to do these things, either — and it will make a huge difference in the first and lasting impressions of your company and its working environment.

Next, we’ll talk about setting the tone for the environment like our teachers going back to school.

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