Nonfiction: A Productive Staff Meeting

pukeorspillThe invite for the ten o’clock staff meeting originally went out to the whole section. Moments later there was a follow-up email from Carlos, the director. “Whoa, hold on just a gosh darn sec,” he wrote. “I’m looking at the agenda, and Jill, Peter, and Salvatore, you guys really don’t need to be there. If anything you need to know about pops up I’ll come find you afterwards.”

Carlos then spent the ten minutes before the meeting began going over in his head the essential issues that had to be discussed, thoughtfully considering the most clear and succinct way to present them to his staff. Two minutes before the scheduled start time he smiled efficiently to himself, collected his notes and proceeded to the correct meeting room as specified in the invitation.

The few members of his staff who actually needed to be there because the items on the agenda were pertinent to their work were already assembled in the conference room.

“Hello everyone, let’s begin,” said Carlos. To save time he did this while en route from the door to his chair.

“Do you guys think it will snow later?” asked Bernardo.

“Now now, Bernardo,” Carlos gently admonished him, “let’s all stay on task here. You may resume your small talk on your own personal time after the meeting.”

Bernardo nodded his head sheepishly. Carlos called the meeting to order. “Item one, our revision to the regulations for imported soy beans. Sonja, what’s the status?”

“I’m still waiting for your comments on the latest draft. I have a copy here now if you want to read it quickly so we can discuss,” said Sonja.

“Thank you Sonja, but my inadequate preparation is my own fault. Under no circumstances would I subject you and your colleagues to ten minutes of wasteful idling while I tried to catch up on my work. Sonja, I’ll read it right after the meeting and set up a time to discuss that with you separately. Sorry about that.”

Carlos moved on like an Audi A4 whirring into fourth gear. “Item two, we need to decide whether to approve ImpoExpo Corp’s application for a temporary waiver of tariffs. Please each state your opinion and no more than two supporting arguments.”

Bernardo said, “We should approve it. They followed the proper procedures and have a demonstrated need.”

Sonja said, “I agree.”

Marina said, “I think we should go back to them requesting additional documentation. I don’t have a good reason why, I just like to say things in meetings to look important.”

“So it looks like we should stall their application until the response deadline and then go back to them with a request for more documentation just to make sure there isn’t any tiny detail we might possibly have overlooked,” said Carlos.

Sonja and Bernardo looked like they’d just been sprayed with puddle water from an Audi A4 peeling out in front of them after a rainstorm.

“Gotcha!” said Carlos. “Application approved. Next item.”

He looked at the agenda he had prepared. “Actually, this third item has already been taken care of. And that’s all I had. Any questions?”

There was a momentary pause, and then Marina raised her hand.

“Yes, Marina?”

“Actually, I don’t really have a question, I just thought it might make me look good if I asked a bunch of questions during meetings. So, um, do you think it will snow later?”

“I’m going to say the same thing to you that I said to Bernardo.”

Marina nodded her head sheepishly.

“Do you want to talk about the wheat subsidy project while we’re here?” asked Sonja.

“Thanks for reminding me, Sonja. No, we won’t discuss that here because it wasn’t on the agenda and I don’t want this to turn into a free-for- all. But I will certainly add that to the agenda for tomorrow’s meeting,” said Carlos. “Seeing no further questions, meeting adjourned.”

It was 10:04.

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