The crippled ballet of big companies

Few months ago I was waiting to see the general manager of an important international company, very active in the Romanian market. Until the time of the meeting, I was sitting in an open office space, right in the middle of the employees, observant witness, trying to understand the culture and the atmosphere.

Here it is, a middle manager, talking to her colleague, maybe a trainee or a junior specialist. They were sitting together, concretely sharing a desk, shoulder by shoulder, and having the blue glass wall right behind them. “Hey, we have an appointment, let’s go the meeting room” – said the more experienced person. “Well, I don’t know if it is available, let me check what I can do.” – answered the junior, well transported by the importance of the moment. And here is me, I can’t abstain from asking a question: “What do you do if you don’t have the meeting room available?”Well, we postpone it, what else can we do?”  Suddenly I remember the answer of a fresh graduate during a job interview: “I see myself well accomplished in a couple of years, sitting at my desk and having direct reports and internal meetings!”

Eventually, I was invited in the main meeting room to assist the top executives’ meeting, this was the purpose of my visit, team coaching, to observe, ask questions and challenge the team. Imagine a formal meeting room, people thoughtfully analyzing Excel spreadsheets and the GM introducing data in the main sheet, data somehow forcepsed from the other managers, commitments for the next fiscal year. Oh yeah, it was that time of the year. “You don’t have a flipchart in the main meeting room?” – I ask, a little bit displeased. “Why, we all have laptops, that’s all we need!” Few minutes later,  few managers left the room, they have to attend another “call with the UK HQ”. All data is in the master spreadsheet by now. “See you tomorrow; we will come to bear this picture in front of our Regional Manager.”

This story is repeated over and over in many places, for some corporate guys this is the only one way to perpetuate the tradition, while avoiding meaningful work. They are territorial, protecting what they have and working on the corporate “legacy”, passing it to the new generations. I just wonder how big would be the shock for a corporate manager if he would not have any meeting scheduled for one entire week. Does this mean that he is going to the wall? How can he exercise the social status?  I guess everybody needs his own small fief to justify the corporate BMW.

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