You’re in a meeting. Maybe it’s useful, maybe it isn’t. But presumably, if you all could just focus for half an hour, you might reach some conclusions.
That’s when the first cellphone rings. Someone stands up sheepishly, gives the universal “What are you gonna do?” gesture, and steps away from the meeting table. Not so far, mind, that you can’t hear their conversation – oh no. In an attempt to show that they are kinda still at the meeting, they stay yakking while in the doorway. Now everyone’s listening to a thrilling one-sided conversation about stock levels.
That gives two other people a chance to check their iPhones. They’re scrolling messages, checking the Weather Channel, but still keeping half an eyeball on the meeting, looking up now and again. Just to show that they’re fully participating.
What were we talking about? Oh, yeah. Someone picks up the thread. Suddenly you’re all making progress again – communication is happening.
That’s when Bill walks in. “Sorry I’m late. Something came up.” Pause while Bill finds a chair, sits down, opens his backpack, gets back up, pours a coffee, says hi to Jolene, and sits down again.
Cellphone Guy comes back, but now Cellphone Gal’s phone buzzes. Amazing how “silent” mode is even more annoying than a ringtone. Cellphone Gal is one of those special people who doesn’t even get up. Nope, she stays seated and takes the call right there. But she speaks softly, you know. So as not to disrupt the meeting. Everyone is straining to overhear.
Back to the agenda. Where were we? Who was the last person speaking? Oh yeah. Had you finished?
iPhone Checker One sees people glaring and puts away his iPhone. iPhone Checker Two hasn’t even looked up yet. Now two more folks see a chance to stare at their iPhones – Checkers Three and Four.
Did we reach an agreement on that last agenda point? Better wait till Phil gets back in the room. It’s his baby. Let’s move on. Sarah, the floor’s yours.
“Yeah well”, says Sarah. “I told you I’d have to leave early. Nothing I can do. And,” (Sarah checks her watch), “there’s not enough time – four minutes – to cover this properly.” Sarah starts packing her things.
Let’s start on the next item. Oh, wait, Phil’s back. Five minute delay while we all reprise the discussion Phil missed, trying to remember what we each said.
Faith notices that you look annoyed. She turns to you pityingly, and in her best patronizing tone, says “That’s just how it is in the workplace today. Millenials have no problem with it – they multi-task. It’s only us older people who expect to have attention focused on one thing. Millenials are a new species of human being. They are not like us.”
The meeting ends raggedly as people wander out, checking their iPhones. Just you and Millenial Mary are left. Mary is 22 years old.
“So, did it make some kind of sense to you?” you ask Mary hopefully.
“Nope”, she replies. “You guys have lousy discipline. If you ask me, your meetings are a waste of time.”
Now the room is empty. All that’s left, lying on the floor, is one sad copy of the Agenda.
It says “Mindfulness – Being in the Moment. Our New Corporate Commitment”.
The lights turn out automatically.