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Friday, March 14, 2008

An Idiot's guide to Corporate Survival

Looking back at my long and successful corporate career (?..I just like to sound as a presumptuous veteran) and looking at the recent trends, I have come to the conclusion that survival in a corporate setting needs a set of whole new breed of competencies. One of those is surviving the drudgeries of long and brutally stuffy meetings. That is also the subject of this post - How do we keep our energy levels high and blood-pressures low by seeing the light side of it.

Imagine you are sitting in a prolonged meeting with no end in sight. Most of the participants are faceless and you can only hear their voices from the other side of the ocean. Some are debating what sounds like a matter of life and death and after-life while others are clueless. You belong to the latter group. While you strive to be part of the discussion and thus to make an impact, nonetheless, the things being talked about are either above your pay-grade, not directly relevant to you or is utter rubbish (in your opinion, of course). Yet, you are obliged to sit through in case somebody indulges in far-fetched fantasies which necessitate your unassuming participation.

The above is not fictional and is becoming more and more a reality and a corporate athelete has never faced a bigger challenge than to survive these inhuman atrocities. After a lot of post-meeting post-mortems with colleagues, amid dissonance we were able to agree on some common tips which will ensure that you will continue to stay in touch with your inner and forever trivializing human side. We think that our tips are much more original and have ignored some of the prevailing and thus rusted tactics like net-surfing, multi-tasking etc. Some of this is untested (and consequently unproven) and I will love to hear from you the first hand results.

The first tip is the concept of Nested Meetings. This is a brilliant concept contributed by a master artist at this game (The identity concealed to avoid prosecution). The concept is simple. Have small meetings with a small subset of meeting participants on like-minded but ethereal topic which will occupy a small subset of the overall length of the meeting timing. Ouch...I think I have taken a simple concept and complicated the heck out of it. Let me try again with some examples. Nested meetings can be indulgence in trifles like trivializing others' comments via private sms's or online chatting with compatible campaigners. You can also indulge in some humanitarian efforts, for example, you can offer tutions on technical aspects of blogging to fellow participants like how to write a comment on your blog and thereby improving your comment-rate. You can also go around the room and change everybody's homepage to your blog to increase your hit-count. All this should happen when the original meeting is underway. This can be taken one step further by pre-concocting such nested meetings with fellow promoters and assigning specific time to such excesses in advance.

Sometimes, it may happen that all the participants might be genuinely righteous and will not succumb to your charms. In such dire circumstances, you can play games with those unsuspecting participants at your own terms. An example of such a game - "How many times can you use Superman in a sentence while participating in the meeting?" If you are new to this game, you can start with something simple and easy to get away with like 'Boys'. If you dont like the business graduates, then you can choose a word out of some management jargon like 'competitive advantage'. You get better at this game by practice. As a rule of thumb, if you exceed a count of 43 for any particular word, you should move on to something more difficult and funnier. Another example of such a game can be how can you influence to get more breaks than previously scheduled for. The brilliance of it is that you are restricted by your own creativity and you dont need anybody else to play your game with you (Goes well with Voldemort fans).

Now, we are getting into darker and hitherto untested territories. If you dont like any particular participant and think that his/her questions are almost always not only frivolous but dont even deserve an answer, then you can respond by side-stepping and dancing all around and on top but never really answering the question. You should pull out all the jargons from your reserves that you have ever known, mix in a few "words of the day from the mariam-webster email subscription" whose meaning and usage you are unfamiliar with and if possible, throw his/her rhetoric back at him/her by finishing your 'answer' with a question posed directly back. You should count all such instances across many meetings and when you have reached a cumulative count of 23, you should let that person off the hook. Any further exposure may lead to permanent brain damage to the other person. If you start dreaming about such exchanges even before you have reached the count of 23, you should cease. My advice, however, will be never to try this with anybody higher than your level. If you do, let me know how it went. I will pay you for this favor.

More on this later. You are welcome to contribute too.