Large bureaucracies, whether federal or corporate or nonprofit (which nowadays is often the same thing), are infamous for endless rounds of often meaningless, seemingly endless meetings.
In the old days (which ended approximately 3 years ago) bored or anxious workers could avoid the MEGO (My Eyes Glaze Over) effect by day-dreaming, whispering quietly to a colleague or quietly exercising their gluts.
Now, thanks to technology, people at MEGO meetings have other forms of escape: PDAs, BlackBerrys, cell phones, et al. They can watch, listen or text out of the line of sight of the bosses, or the person conducting the meeting.
They can, if it’s going to be one of those meetings-without-end, watch a sweeping classic movie like Ben Hur, Doctor Zhivago or Lawrence of Arabia on a 2 inch by 2 inch screen.
The question of the day (hey, it is Monday) is where are we heading? Where is this cell phone, texting, video-gaming at work taking us? Consider:
At a White House press briefing last week, Press Secretary Robert Gibbsconfiscated the cell phone of a reporter after it went off during a briefing. Moments later another cell phone rang. The reporter fled before his phone was taken away. A good time was had by all.
Except stuff like that shouldn’t happen. What if it had happened as the U.S. and Russia, China or Bolivia were holdings talks trying to avert a nuclear exchange?
During a recent radio interview, the cell phone of the host (that would be me) went off. Silly and unprofessional. No excuses sir!
At a recent Army conference in Arlington, Va., attendees were told to turn their cell-phones off. This was to show respect for an outside expert who was asked to be the speaker. When a cell phone went off the program director stopped the show, raced to the offender, took his phone and fined him $2. Shortly thereafter another phone went off. Another $2. Then and only then could the speaker do his thing.
“Cell phones are bad,” an Interior Department employee said, “but now we have people texting during meetings, or Twittering about what they had for breakfast or their commute that morning. I’ve seen coworkers watching movies during what was supposed to be an important staff meeting.”
“I had lunch last week with a friend. Four young (30 something) men came in and sat at the next table. I think they were with the Department of Homeland Security. All four of them spent most of the lunch texting, or glued to their BlackBerrys. My friend and I wondered why they even bothered to sit with each other. I can’t recall if they even spoke to each other,” said a just retired fed.
“An Agriculture Department worker said he was in the men’s room in a stall minding his own business when a cell phone in the next, uh cubicle, went off. Without missing a beat the man who answered it proceeded to have a lengthy conversation. “I don’t know why it bothered me,” Ag man said, “but it just did.” What did he do? He said he made a serious series of sounds, loud sounds, that would make it clear to the caller that the person he was talking to “was very definitely NOT in his office!!!”
Can you top those? Do you have a saga of the out of control Twitterer, texter or someone who is glued to their PDA? If so, fire away. We’d love to share them: firstname.lastname@example.org
National Security Reform
James Locher III is the speaker at Monday’s luncheon of the Council of Former Federal Executives. He’s executive director of a congressionally-established project looking at holes in U.S. security. COFFE members, and welcome guests, represent a lot of Uncle Sam’s been-there-done-that institutional memory.COFFE meets at 11:30 a.m. in the Rosslyn Holiday Inn in Arlington, Va. It’s on the Metro line and the price is $25. To make reservations contact: email@example.com.