Monday, May 15, 2006

Meetings like it's 1899

The only thing that bugs me about my otherwise very cushy part-time website job is the insistance of everyone I work with on face-to-face meetings. Meetings. Like email, only requiring people to be in the same place at the same time and much, much slower.

Now one of my tasks at the moment is to put together a page that will list all the projects that the 25 people in the department are working on. Two weeks ago I sent out an email with a request that people reply directly with the official title of their project(s), and then, when they have a chance, that they also put together a brief paragraph on what the project is actually about. I figured that I could design the page as soon as I had the titles and then add in the rest of the information as it came in.

In the two weeks since then I have had three responses to the email, and five or six people who have walked into my office and requested a time for a "meeting" so we can "discuss" the matter. Of course, they were all on their way off to something, and can't do next Monday, but Wednesday afternoon would suit, oh---wait, you don't work Wednesdays? Well how about Monday in two weeks' time at 11 o'clock? I tried to suggest that maybe they could just send me an email. But no, that wasn't an option.

When I mentioned to my boss today that progress on the projects page was slow because people weren't replying to the email, he looked horrified. "You emailed them? Why didn't you just go around knocking on their office doors and asking for the titles then and there?"

Because, assuming five minutes for each office, a door-knocking campaign would have taken over two hours: that's why. Not to mention that some people wouldn't have been there, wouldn't have had the information to hand, etc, etc. But for some reason no one in this place seems to consider email a real option for passing on information.

So the first of the "meetings" was today. The guy involved has rescheduled twice already. But today he turned up, shook hands, sat down, and then said, "It's probably easiest for you if I just write down my project titles for you, so I'll just do that now."

And behold! with much frowning and concentration and pauses to sharpen his pencil, consult his diary, and find a piece of paper of the right dimensions (whatever they were), he eventually wrote three project titles down for me. Which I typed up and emailed to myself so that I could put them in the email folder where the project lists are currently hanging out.

Breathe, StyleyGeek, breathe.

And then, and then, later today one of the administrators came by my office and asked if I had been in contact at all with the person who used to be responsible for the website.
"Oh yes," I assured her, "I've been emailing her whenever I've had questions and she's been very helpful."
"But have you had a meeting with her at all, darl?"
"Not in person, no..."
"Well, I think you should. I'll set it up with her when I see her this afternoon."
"I really don't think we need to have a meeting. We don't have anything to discuss at the moment."
"What about the problems you've been emailing her about?"
"We sorted those out. By email."
"Well these things are always better face-to-face, aren't they, love? So I'll set up a meeting for you with her next Monday. Cheerio!"

These people are so strange that I can't find words to describe their strangeness. Except that I can, because I've just written 591 words* on the subject. But I'm sure they would have been better words if I hadn't been so perplexed.

* I'm obsessively word-counting everything at the moment. Hah! You thought you were immune because you are a mere blog post. Well you are wrong! Wrong! (I think this is the next stage of that disease I have in which my thesis is progressively colonising my brain.)


Clair said...

People are technophobes.

I get a lot of emails at work from people asking me where our website is. You would think that if they've managed to find our email address, they could work out the website from there, but I think that would be too simple.

StyleyGeek said...

That really is bizarre, clair. You'd also think that anyone interested in a a company's website would know enough to use google.

Some of the people at this place I work at DO use email, because I've had stupid "forward this to everyone you know" mail from them, but they still insist on personal meetings for work-related stuff.