10 Reasons Why

Souls for Sale: 10 Reasons Why Attending a Mandatory Staff Meeting with Your VP Will Suck the Life Out of You

1. You have to show up for work on time.

For some diabolic reason, they always schedule these torture sessions first thing in the morning. There’s absolutely no legitimate reason for this, because no one, I don’t care who you are, functions their best before 10am. At that time of day, I’m still struggling with basic things like consciousness and breathing. I’m certainly not going to pay any attention to “new visions for the company” or marketing pushes involving cute, furry animals and a singing ping-pong ball.

And really, your VP couldn’t care less if you are there or not. She has no idea who you are and probably never will, since she’s going to take the first decent retirement package that comes along and then go live some place where they have dolphins. She’s just here because it’s one of her quarterly objectives if she wants that damn yearly bonus. She will not shed a single teardrop if your seat is empty.

Your direct manager, on the other hand, will crush your career with the ease of a belch if you don’t make an appearance. So you have to initiate drastic measures to ensure that you are on time, like getting up early, not allowing yourself to harvest anything in Farmville, and forgoing the ecstasy of the local Starbucks. Because if there’s going to be a wreck on the highway, it’s going to be on this critical day, and you need the extra time to take an alternate route through a part of town where people get shot for wearing a wrong-color Dolce & Gabbana bandana or playing Celine Dion on your car stereo.

2. They never pick an appropriately-sized conference room.

I really don’t understand this. It’s not like they don’t have any idea how many people will be attending. We have an entire organization devoted to counting things like paper clips and bar tabs, so surely some fool with a forecasting program on his nerdy little PC can project the turnout. How can this be hard?

But no, it always works out one of two ways. There’s the overkill approach, where you find yourself standing in a vast auditorium along with a mere two other people, your footsteps echoing throughout the cavern as you wait for the other people that are never going to show. Your natural instinct to sit in the back of the room is tempered by the fact that the last row of seats appears to be located in Kansas.

So the three of you huddle together in one of the mid-range rows, complete strangers five minutes ago but now united in solidarity against the ordeal to come. Of course, when you get the big-room package, you also get the touchy, feely VP who insists that everybody flock near him on the front row, where you can join hands and pray for the stock price to recover. God is my co-trader.

On the flip side of the room game, we have the scenario where 212 people are crammed into a space the size of a utility closet, fighting over the one chair that isn’t broken and unable to find a single place where the VP isn’t actually breathing on you. Within the hour, the body heat in the room will cause you to snap and wipe out an entire department using a plastic bagel knife and the shiny nickel you got with your last pay raise.

3. You will sit near someone you hate.

This never fails. You can try your best to surround yourself with friends or acquaintances that you can at least tolerate, but eventually someone you despise will slip through the gauntlet and plop down beside you. This usually happens at the very last second, as the irritating VP is approaching the podium with a carnivorous gleam in her eye, so you won’t have any time to make an escape worthy of any degree of admiration or skill.

Of course, if you’re on the Premium Irritation Plan, this person you detest will have no clue how much you can’t stand them. So they try to act like you’re the tight sorority sisters that you will never be. They will tell you all about their latest surgeries, display pictures of their ugly grandchildren, and inquire into the latest stats on your sex life, all within 5 minutes of sitting down. It’s perfectly okay to take your copy of the agenda and suffocate this person until she agrees to shut up for the rest of her life.

4. Your chair is a prop from “The Exorcist”.

Naturally, your chair will look completely innocent when you first make your selection. In fact, it will even seem to be completely comfy and relaxing as the session begins. But once you have been lulled into a false sense of safety and non-humiliation, the deviltry begins.

First, the seat of the chair will suddenly plummet to the ground, causing your knees to be banging against your ears, with you looking like Rae Dawn Chong in “Quest for Fire”. When you attempt to rectify this situation, pulling on random levers beneath the seat, you will suddenly catapult upwards, suffering whiplash and letting out a terrified wail of fear and confusion. Finally, the back of the chair will flip down, sending you toppling backwards to your possible death and causing your uncontrolled, lethal feet to kick the head of the person in front of you. And yes, everyone will focus their rescue efforts on the person you just beaned, while you lay bleeding behind your chair, ass in the air.

5. You can’t see the presentation on the screen.

Granted, we’re not as young as we used to be, no longer able to dance all night at the bars and then drive directly to work with no after-effects. Things on our bodies are now decaying or just dropping off entirely. But still, it’s not really our fault that the idiot in charge of displaying the slideshow has apparently never used the focus setting. (The VP doesn’t care, because she can quote this propaganda in her sleep. Or during sex.) Everything is blurry, and nobody but the people in the first row can read a thing. For all you know, you’re looking at a menu for Chinese take-out. (“I’ll take the Egg Foo Yung and any other job on the planet. Please and thank you.”)

So you have to wing it, listening carefully and straining to decipher even one of the images, because you sure as hell don’t want to be the first one who complains about the quality of the VP’s dog and pony show. No sir. You will never get a promotion the rest of your life. You just sit there, nodding your head from time to time, and praying to the religious deity of your choosing that nobody calls on you to answer a question of any kind. If things become ominous and you feel direct verbal contact with the VP is approaching, surreptitiously reach down and jerk on one of the chair levers. Hopefully it’s one that will quickly put you in a non-responsive coma that will last long enough for the VP to leave town.)

6. They try to belittle you with fancy buzzwords.

I’d like to be the person who sits around and comes up with the latest catchwords of the day. Seems like a really good gig, because there’s obviously no thought or effort behind the choosing. It’s just whatever sounds catchy and hip, and you’re allowed to completely change the traditional meaning of the word if you see fit. Today’s word is “precious”, which supposedly means the facets of our company that are most important. I’m guessing the VP hasn’t seen the movie or been around Mo’Nique when she’s in a bad mood.

7. You will have a coughing fit during the one interesting part of the program.

You know this is going to happen, so you might as well prepare for the shame. You can quietly sit through two hours of monotonous crap that no one cares about, but the very second that the VP utters something like “and on the employee compensation side of things”, your throat will dry up like an 80-year-old hooker, dust will billow out your ears, and you will start choking on pure air. If you’re really lucky, your hacking will be the especially pretty kind that involves mucus, with people in the two rows ahead of you screaming and ducking for cover.

Sadly, because everyone is basically self-centered these days, even if you try to discreetly leave the room, you will fail miserably. People in your row will only grudgingly get out of your way, so you spend considerable time clawing toward the aisle and gasping for air. Eventually you will collapse on your stomach, wriggling toward the exit, only to have your head stomped on by the VP as she retrieves a laser pointer from her Gucci briefcase. (Said VP will later complain to Building Maintenance that something needs to be done about the uneven floor in Conference Room C.)

8. The awards presentation goes on forever.

They stopped including actual bonus checks with these recognition awards years ago, so no one really cares about getting one. (Who wants another lousy piece of paper or a cheap-ass trophy when the light bill is due? You want to make me feel appreciated? Give me something I can cash.) Making the awards distribution process even more slug-like is the current corporate “trend” to reward everybody, even if you have to make something up, so the company can claim they are diverse and all-loving, and thereby they receive a higher ranking from the Human Rights Campaign.

Things start out okay, with the first few recipients getting generous applause and hearty handshakes from the VP. After 100 names have been read, and we’re down to awarding the cleaning staff a certificate for creative toilet-paper-stacking, the thrill is completely gone. Hardly anyone is clapping, half the audience is dozing, and the VP is shoving people across the stage like somebody just spotted the Po-Po pulling up outside the crack house.

9. No one in the audience EVER has a valid question.

There are only two kinds of people who ask questions at things like this. We have the life-long brown-nosers who will do anything to get noticed, even if it includes public nudity or financial transactions involving firstborn children. They will ask the most inane queries, somehow managing to blow smoke up their own butt yet still giving the impression that they would lovingly drop to their knees and wash the VP’s feet with their hair, given the chance. The sucking-up noises can be heard by orbiting satellites.

Then we have the renegades, the people who dare to ask the “questions you’re not supposed to ask”, like why the hell are you laying everybody off and yet expecting us to double the output? You know, tiny little issues such as that. Of course, the VP, because she’s been fully trained in double-talk during all those fancy, high-level, closed-door meetings where they determine the fate of the planet, professionally avoids giving a direct answer. Then she quietly whispers instructions into her hidden Bluetooth microphone to have the renegade arrested when no one else is looking. And she will handle the subsequent “interrogation” personally. The VP does not play.

10. Stupid, lazy people will not get out of your way when it’s time to leave.

Here’s a news flash, folks: When the VP says we’re done, then we’re done. Get your ass up and walk out the door. Don’t sit there like you can’t remember how to do this. Don’t rearrange your purse. Don’t talk to your neighbor about the excitement of winning an award that everybody got. And under no circumstances should you just stand there and paw at yourself, trying to readjust foundation garments that have slid out of place. You should only do that in the privacy of your own home. Or never.

And as for you brown-nosers? Now’s your chance for some quality time with the power person of your dreams. Don’t hold up the line while you stand there meekly, hoping to receive an invitation to the royal court. March right over there and do what you do best. Pucker up and go for it.

But she still won’t remember your name in the morning…



Originally published in “The Sound and the Fury” on 06/02/10 and “Bonnywood Manor” on 05/22/14. Some revisions were made with this post, which mostly involved softening the edges of what to do with people who annoy you in the workplace. Apparently, I had some anger management issues back in the day. I pulled this one out of the archives as today is Labor Day in the States, yet another American holiday that was founded with good intentions but has lost meaning over the decades as Corporate America continues to consume everything in its path and some people choose to ignore history, including a certain commander in chief. Still and all, I have hope. Speaking of, where the hell is my Egg Foo Yung?


24 replies »

  1. Addendum:
    1. You’ll only have decaf in your pantry on the exact same day. Who even buys decaf?
    2. The air-conditioning will be directly proportional to the weather outside. -20 degrees in winter and 97 degrees in summer.
    3. The person you hate that sits next to you is against using deodorants because they make holes in the ozone layer. They are also anti-shower people because showering wastes water.
    4. The chair would also have an invisible crack that will pinch your butt through the many padding layers of clothing, whenever you move.
    5. You CAN see the presentation on screen and it is mind-numbingly boring.
    6. The fancy buzzwords are ones you used in the annual report to stop getting laid off and the person you hate sitting next to you sniggers at them.
    7. You wished you hadn’t had the left over bean burrito for breakfast.You don’t know which is worse, the sound show or the olfactory onslaught in a closed auditorium.
    8. You are the ninety-sevent​​h person to get an award.
    9. A single question goes on and on until you forgot where it started.
    10. ..and you really have to pee because the AC was at -20 degrees and you had three cups of decaf in the morning to wash down the bean burrito breakfast.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. So glad I ahve never had to sit through a big one like this, but when I was a manager we had some very looooong exec meetings (there were just 5 of us) where I wanted to scream, and scream and scream at the fools who just kept yapping. Thankfully, that life is behind me, and now I just have to sit through little team meetings where I want to tell the managers to actually do something useful and give a real answer. Sometimes you just can’t win on either side of the fence.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I work for a woman who hates meetings almost as much as I do. And until I read this, I didn’t know anyone hated them as much as I do. Soul siblings!
    9: Right?! What gets me is when they start with, “this is probably a stupid question” and someone says, “there are no stupid questions” — which is soooo stupid!

    Liked by 2 people

    • It just amazes me what some people will do in a public setting. To be fair, I was raised with a complete lack of role models, so I suppose I should have empathy for those who are unaware of how to act right. But I don’t have that particular empathy. If my childhood turbulence still allowed me to discern between “okay, that seems like a fair thing to do” and “honey, don’t even consider that”, then others should be able to make wise choices as well. Am I asking to much? 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Gobblefunkist grabbed all the good bits that I was going to brown nosingly (buzzword? Maybe. I just made it up) offer for your consumption. The “Laughing Insanely and Now The Dog Won’t Come Out From Under the Bed” Award to both of you.

    Why is it (I’ve always been curious about this btw..I’m retired and both the Labor Force and I are better off for it) why is it that the asshole you hate, besides being hygienically challenged (head lice are REAL. Even in corporate America); always seems to have scarfed several slices of three day old pizza with extra anchovies and whole cloves of garlic on the day of this hours long torture session? And washed it down with something that makes their breath smell like fresh barf? You hope futilely that your own sketchy breakfast stays down. The wobbly chair isn’t helping matters. Bringing a homemade barf bag or sitting as near to the door as you can physically get is mandatory. Helps with #10 and all. People have died because of #10.

    You can amuse yourself during the torture by playing games with yourself (well not THAT kind of thing. The VP does NOT approve of pocket pool, in fact it’s rumored that she’s asexual. This is born out by the whole “Ice Queen” demeanor she perfected in high school after that embarrassing incident on the 50 yard line with the quarterback, an unscheduled scrimmage session and an overly religious coach).

    You can amuse yourself with playing “What Barnyard Animal Sound is His/Her Gut Making Now?” and “Identify that Stench” as they sweat all over your faux Guccis; and perhaps most favored of all “Creative Ways To Kill Your Frenemies and Hide the Bodies”. Me? I used to doodle. Once I drew the CEO at the end of a noose with arrows sticking out of his butt. Huh. Now it makes perfect sense why I didn’t last longer at that job…

    Liked by 2 people

    • See, this is an example of how I’m sometimes stymied with how to respond to your comments. Once again, this is so scrumptiously on-point that I’m very tempted to just delete my own post and plagiarize the hell out of yours. Please don’t ever leave me. I will happily do anything to remain in your favor, even if I have to spend my last penny on delicious treats that will compel Huny to whisper in your ear during the night: “Stay tight with that Texas man. He needs you…”

      Liked by 1 person

  5. We’ve been to the same meetings!

    The buzzwords and clichés always get me: “At the end of the day”, “Let’s take this conversation off line”, “Moving forward”, blah blah blah. I used to set up an office pool beforehand, where everyone paid a dollar to choose the buzzword/cliché they thought would be used most often – winner takes all! (I’d always wanted to set up a second pool to guess who would ask the most self-absorbed question, but never had the guts to follow through.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • I thought I recognized you from some of the meetings, both of us sitting there with expressions of horror and absolute boredom on our faces, secretly hoping that undercover agents from some Alliance of Decency would rush in and abscond with the speaker. Then we could finally get out of there and go find a nice Happy Hour that served free appetizers…


  6. The “flip side of the room game” (#2) is just begging for Margaret Dumont to show up and open the door a la the stateroom scene in A NIGHT AT THE OPERA. If she hadn’t come along, Groucho would probably still be in there playing the crowd and making wise quacks — or was that in DUCK SOUP?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, Margaret was always an integral part of our staff meetings. Otherwise, I would have quit years ago. (And yes, I’m artfully ignoring your “which movie?” question, because right at the moment I don’t remember. Fair disclosure…)

      Liked by 1 person

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