Well, here’s the story… well, at least the background to the story. Every year our company has an all-out meeting where everyone in the whole place (with I think one exception in customer support) comes to Indy. Since our company of about 90 employees is about half Indy-based and half based in random cities throughout North American this involves a lot of people flying in and getting hotels, etc, etc, etc.
So 90% of this has little to do with me except that in the 3 days this meeting spans I am forced to do something that I don’t really ever do any other time of the year. I’m forced to go and meet people and talk to them. In many ways I dread these 3 days but in other ways I suspect they’re really good for me as they draw my attention away from the things I usually do and onto other people. I’ll give the detailed results of this particular company meeting below because otherwise I’ll not remember a dern thing about them later.
Day 1 was a ‘meet and greet’ at some local restaurant. The pointedly memorable bit was seeing my coworkers each take a microphone in hand and introduce themselves giving name, rank and favorite toy as a child. The most intellectually stimulating bit of this was to notice the incredibly wide range of comfort levels people had in front of the crowd. I have no idea how I looked up there but others ranged from “completely casual” to “looking as if they would rather eat the microphone than speak into it.” For the record, my self-introduction was something along the lines of: “I’m Rob S, Junior Web Developer Third Class and my favorite toy was anything but a microphone .” Not my best material by far. My other choices for a favorite toy were somewhat obvious: “fire” or “rocks and a sharpened stick (when I could get it).”
Day 2 was an all day event and did honestly seem to drag on forever. It consisted of the usual company rah-rah sessions about the state of things and a motivational speaker who had a series of VERY obvious things to say about how to be successful in a job. Afterwards we traipsed endlessly around the zoo in a non-competitive race/scavenger hunt. I’m somewhat powerless to explain my team’s motivation to complete this activity given that it detracted from one’s ability to simply enjoy the zoo. There was apparently a secondary assignment during the activity to ‘observe’ your coworkers and when one of the remote employees sought to ‘observe’ me I wove a string of increasingly unbelievable falsehoods for the observer.
Day 3 was another all day event that I managed to partially skip out on due to previous work commitments to customers. By the time I’d returned to the meeting I’d completely missed the activity in which teams built sculptures from non-perishable food to later be donated to charity. I’m almost sad I missed it (and not just because it was my uncredited idea in the first place.) The Q&A session that followed was, as always, amusing. Some of the questions were just obnoxious and I found myself glad that none of them could be pinned on me. I’d forgotten to ask my obnoxious questions this year. The day closed with departmental outings. Every department had something planned ahead of time with the exception of ours (or so I’m made to understand). I’m not entirely sure what that says about our department but I’m dead certain that it’s not flattering. Luckily, one of our more inventive employees was able to come up with a spur of the moment Geocaching race that I thought went extraordinarily well. (Well enough to cause me to add something to my amazon.com wishlist and create an account on this site anyway.) Initially I was, I’ll admit, a bit piqued that the person who organized the race actually won the prize but after due consideration it seems appropriate considering he pulled our chestnuts from the fire and kept us from sitting through some idiotic transformers movie or something equally inane for a departmental activity.
Now that you have the unnecessary detail, what did we learn/observe at the meeting?
One of my coworkers told me (as she seems to whenever we talk) that she was talking to some other people about me. She’s apparently been telling people that I’m funny if you can get me by myself and not in a big crowd of people. They’ve also given me a nickname of ‘Eeyore.’ I guess I can, if I try hard enough, not get offended at being compared to the greatest stoic of children’s literature.
Along the lines of our glum Eeyore, at several points I got the impression that people think I’m incredibly negative. I’ve suspected this for a while but it’s *SO* not true. The simple fact here is that I just don’t say anything unless it’s necessary. If things are going well and everyone’s happy I have no need to say a word. It’s not until something is amiss that I feel the need to speak. Since things being amiss tend to cause negative utterances one tends to hear nothing but negativity from me. All the positive things are shrouded in contented silence. So yeah, stop promulgating some bullcrap about me being negative.
Our company used to have these annual ‘STAR awards’; basically an employee of the year. It seems to have dissipated for some reason. No doubt some people got offended that we didn’t all get one.
After speaking with a few more people I hadn’t in a while, I think I need to do a better job of seeking out human contact as some of the humans I talked to at the meeting seemed pretty interesting. Pursuant to that, I’m starting up the ‘Lunch with Human’ series again. Any humans reading this who’d like to have a bit of lunch should drop me a line to get on the circulation list. Lunchees should come prepared with an idea of where they’d like to eat.
Finally, it has become obvious that the people who plan company meetings really don’t know how to deal with introverted people. This isn’t really all that surprising though since most planners of such meetings are themselves extraordinarily outgoing. At several points during this this year’s events I felt that someone was REALLY trying to push me into getting to know people but going about it in totally the wrong way. So, for the benefit of meeting planners everywhere, here’s the easy key for getting people of all types to get to know people.
Extroverts: Whatever. If you throw an extrovert into a room with 20 strangers for an hour then at the end the extrovert will have made 20 new friends and have 20 new business cards. It’s like some sort of personality magic.
Introverts: If you throw an introvert into a room with 20 strangers for an hour then at the end you’ll have one exhausted introvert and 20 strangers asking themselves, “What the fvck was HIS problem?” Introverts don’t do well in crowds. We get to know other people one or two at a time. If you put us in groups we’ll shut up like clams and make people think we’re just being snooty.
All that said, it’s good to have that over again for another year if for no other reason than I can get back to an appropriate summer haircut.