The “Gotta Minute?”​ Trap

Posted by Richard Moran.

Certain phrases are part of the workplace although they never show up in any business word dictionary. “Gotta minute?” is my favorite. You can be assured of certain factors when you hear the question.

  • Whatever it is, it won’t take a minute. If it is important enough for the interruption, you can be sure it will require time. The minute usually lasts for forty-five minutes.
  • “Gotta minute?” is usually a signal that something really good or very bad is about to happen. On the really good side, it could mean that we met the target or the money is flowing in like a flooded river. Wahoo. On the bad side, it usually means that someone is resigning and it’s usually the person who asks for the minute.
  • If it’s Friday afternoon and your boss asks for the minute, it may mean that today is your last day on the job and you will have many minutes in the future to work on what’s next.
  • “Gotta minute?” when asked very sheepishly might mean there is a personal problem involved. Think someone needs time off because of a divorce or an issue at home. Or, it could mean that someone is about to coach you about your hygiene problem or that you are acting like a jerk. Say thanks for the feedback.
  • Maybe the request for the minute is totally benign and someone just wants to discuss basketball or the lunar eclipse. This is rarely the case when you hear “Gotta minute?”
  • Rumors abound in the workplace, even mean and salacious rumors. The “Gotta minute?” question might really mean, “I have a juicy rumor I want to share with you. It may not be true, but it is worth disclosing.”
  • Lastly, the “Gotta minute?” person is often the man or woman you have been trying to avoid and not letting on your schedule. Their attack for a “minute” is the only way they can talk to you.

Of course, when approached with the “Gotta minute?” question, the answer could be no. But the person who is doing the asking is usually sly and catches you when there is no avoiding the minute. So the best thing to do is to listen for that minute, be empathetic and make a decision about whether or not to continue. Sometimes, we all just need a listener and for that minute, or more, that could be you.

Thank God It’s Monday

Posted by Richard Moran.

TGIM is now a thing. I may be late to the game about looking forward to Mondays. I was always a big fan of TGIF and I am still working through the real psychological effects of the Sunday Blues. Sure there are reasons to look forward to Monday to get back to work. It means you have found work that you love or maybe that you hate staying home. Great jobs welcome happy people on Mondays.  Let me remind you about the research that is clear about what it takes to love your job:

  • You need to feel that your work is meaningful.
  • You need to enjoy being around your coworkers.
  • You need to feel like you are using your skills and expertise.
  • You need to feel a sense of autonomy and can make decisions.

If you can check the yes box on all of these factors, congratulations, you have won the career lottery and I can see why you might look forward to Mondays and returning to that meaningful role with great coworkers. (See firefighters or special education teachers as big winners in the career lottery.) Notice there is not much about pay mentioned in the four factors. In short, a bad job doesn’t become good because of pay. 

New studies are showing that even people who don’t like their jobs are looking forward to Monday. Millennials are especially prone to the attraction of Monday and there are many reasons. We have unknowingly created a badge of honor for working hard. Have you ever boasted about the backlog of emails or texts that have stacked up in your in-box? Striving to be more successful is never ending and looking forward to Monday to get back at the grind is what is now important to many. Heroes like Elon Musk and just about any start-up founder are the models. 

All this work, but to what end? If you say you are looking forward to Monday, TGIM, and you don’t like your job, you are working too hard.

Death By Panel Discussions

Posted by Richard Moran.

We survived “Death by PowerPoint”. We learned how to endure torture through hundreds of presentations that featured slide after slide of a headline with black bullets organized underneath in a row. Each bullet was followed by black words on a white background in sentence fragments. The format ruled the day so effectively that we all had stacks of presentations on our desks that made no sense. Remember, we are talking about sentence fragments, not complete thoughts. We were lulled into watching presentation after presentation by the hum of the hot projector propped up by books on conference table projecting onto a white wall. Sometimes the link between the computer and the projector worked.

One presentation followed another. The only thing different was the title page. Otherwise it was bullet point after bullet point with sentence fragments in between. Then something happened. Technology and creativity joined forces and PowerPoint presentations became better, even interesting. Some presentations now are like Hollywood productions including sound, animation, and videos. Today, when I hear PowerPoint, I no longer consider bringing other things to the presentation so that I can multi-task.

Fast forward — Death by Panel Discussion is now the rule. Go to any industry meeting, trade show, conference or gathering and the agenda will be loaded with panels. I have been to a tavern where a panel discussion was taking place. What used to be an interesting perspective by a speaker is now a dull session with panelists. You have all been to this session: The moderator starts off by saying Welcome! followed by, “We are lucky to have a distinguished set of panelists, please introduce yourself to the audience.” Forty minutes later, the panelists are still introducing themselves but the allocated time is only forty-five minutes. So we go on the next panel and start again. After sitting through three or four panels we look for alternative ways to spend time doing anything else. Anything.

It is understandable why panels are dominant. For the event organizer, panels are a way to cram lots of speakers into a short program. For the panelist, participation really doesn’t require any preparation — just show up. But what about the audience? The audience is suffering at the expense of the panels and not getting the rich content any program should render.

Now that I am a survivor of the Death by Panel Discussion syndrome, as a moderator, panelist and audience member, I have some advice to cure this malady.

  • Avoid too many panels. Back-to-back panels will make attendees run to the bar. I would rather hear one good speaker than ill-prepared panelists. Two for the day is a good number.
  • Too many panels have too many people. Three people and a moderator are the limit. Maybe four if it is an outstanding panel.
  • PowerPoint only disrupts panel discussions. A panel sit with a PowerPoint is a dangerous person.
  • The panel should be composed of people with equal rank. I don’t want to be on a panel with Richard Branson and Rupert Murdoch and no one wants to hear me if I am.
  • Disagreement should rule panels. If everyone says the same thing, that is a speech, not a panel. Enemies on panels are even better.
  • The moderator role is important. He or she needs to listen to what is being said and keep things going. The moderator should surprise the panelists with questions. If the discussion gets hot, keep it going.
  • Panelists should speak to the audience not each other. They are the audience after all.
  • All panelists should have plenty of chances to talk. The moderator should not go up and down the row asking, “What do you think?” Call on the shy person too.

It can be done. We survived death before even though PowerPoint came close. To make our work lives even better, we need some cures from Death by Panel Discussions.