Author Topic: Hang up and lead.  (Read 5242 times)

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Coley

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Hang up and lead.
« on: December 15, 2012, 08:58:57 AM »
I'm posing this question for someone else who is having difficulties with a boss who can't keep his hands off his cell phone during meetings. The boss and his management team have two regularly scheduled meetings each week.

In some instances, the cell phone will sit on the table throughout the meeting. It is set to vibrate, which disrupts the meeting. When it buzzes, the boss is distracted and is compelled to read the incoming messages. In other instances, the phone is in the boss's pocket, but he takes the phone out to see the incoming messages. Inevitably, the boss begins typing a response to the incoming message, which means he is no longer paying attention to the discussion in the meeting. The management team attempts to continue the discussion, but it is awkward because they know the boss has checked out of the discussion.

This problem is reverberating into a larger issue. Matters are discussed in these meetings that relate to the organization's operation, and in some instances, the boss has action items that he must address as a result of decisions that are made in these meetings. The boss frequently does not recall his own action items and does not follow up on them, which could be a result of his distraction during the meetings. In addition, once the boss begins using the phone, he is unable to refocus his attention on the discussion in the meeting. When this happens, there are action items that cannot be fully addressed.

The management team is growing increasingly frustrated with the boss's compulsive behavior with the cell phone. They do not engage in similar behavior during meetings as a sign of respect for each other. Just yesterday, my friend reported that the boss took his cell phone out during the meeting and was so distracted by it that the meeting was effectively over.

They are at a loss as how to address this with the boss and are questioning whether it would be insubordinate in some way to try to address it. My suggestion so far has been that when the boss begins using the phone, the management team should state that they can see that the boss is busy, agree among themselves that the meeting is over, and excuse themselves.

doodlemor

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Re: Hang up and lead.
« Reply #1 on: December 15, 2012, 09:24:26 AM »
My suggestion so far has been that when the boss begins using the phone, the management team should state that they can see that the boss is busy, agree among themselves that the meeting is over, and excuse themselves.

I think that is a good suggestion.

Or, when boss starts fiddling with his phone perhaps everyone there should just stop talking and wait for him to finish. 

Jelaza

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Re: Hang up and lead.
« Reply #2 on: December 15, 2012, 10:03:15 AM »
That's what my suggestion was going to be: Everyone should just stop everything and wait.  Would everyone watching the boss intently while they wait be too much?

GreenBird

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Re: Hang up and lead.
« Reply #3 on: December 15, 2012, 11:34:02 AM »
Can someone in the meeting take notes and write up a list of the action items to distribute to everyone after the meeting?  I always like this anyway just because it clarifies what everyone is supposed to do, but it sounds like boss especially needs things clarified for him since he's not paying attention.  Make sure boss's items are the first ones on the list to increase the odds that he'll actually read them.

Send him the list by email or text so you know he'll read it even if he's in another meeting  ;)

And if he ever says he doesn't remember discussing any of the items, be sure to say, "oh, I think you were on the phone".  >:D


RegionMom

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Re: Hang up and lead.
« Reply #4 on: December 15, 2012, 01:54:55 PM »
There is a new "game" for groups at restaurants, where you stack the phones in the middle, and the first one to check their phone pays for the meal for everyone. 

Could you do a version like that for the boss? 

Last night at drama rehearsal, the director explained to the very large cast that he would need our undivided attention for the next ten minutes as he discussed notes from rehearsal.  He told us that listening and paying attention was showing respect and maturity and patience, and it would be disrespectful and even rude to chat with a neighbor or play with an electronic device. 

What the boss is doing is rude, and if enough people notice and business is hurt, he may be heading down a Professional Darwinism path.
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andi

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Re: Hang up and lead.
« Reply #5 on: December 15, 2012, 08:22:04 PM »
That's what my suggestion was going to be: Everyone should just stop everything and wait.  Would everyone watching the boss intently while they wait be too much?

POD - this was my driest thought.  Or the suggestion of ensign the meeting

Is ther anyone in the meeting "above" him or the same level that could explain how this behavior is negatively affecting both the group and his performance?

Deetee

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Re: Hang up and lead.
« Reply #6 on: December 15, 2012, 10:11:55 PM »
I think there are two possible approaches depending on whether you want to adjust the boss's behaviour or if you want to make sure that the meeting moves smoothly.

For the meeting, there should be an agenda and a dedicated person who keeps track of the action items for each indivual. These should be emailed out at the end of each meeting and then updated. I find the following is a format like so:

Sue's action item

1) Determine vendor for blue squeegies (assigned Dec 3 meeting)

update 1 (Dec 10 meeting) Sue contacted 10 vendors (see vendor.doc for details) and 4 provide the product we are interested in (4 do not and 2 did not respond)
new action item: will now request samples and meet with vendors.

Update 2 (Dec 17 meeting) Sue met with 4 vendors and looked over samples (see vendor.doc for details) and has requested detailed quotes and timelines .


The other approach is to address Boss's phone use. This could be done by asking him directly to refrain, or pausing the meeting entirely if he checks his phone or asking if it was relevant to the meeting or getting everyone to bring their phones. But this depends on the Boss's attitude.

PastryGoddess

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Re: Hang up and lead.
« Reply #7 on: December 16, 2012, 12:37:00 AM »
Is there any way for Boss' boss to see this behavior.  It sounds like it is really obvious that boss cannot focus on the meeting when his phone buzzes, so it may be work his superior seeing just how bad it is

Redsoil

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Re: Hang up and lead.
« Reply #8 on: December 16, 2012, 01:35:10 AM »
I think it may be useful, each time boss checks his phone, to simply have everyone stop and wait until the people present have his full attention again.  Nothing rude in that - they were simply waiting for him to conclude his other business, rather than going on without him and risk having him miss an important issue.
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Morticia

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Re: Hang up and lead.
« Reply #9 on: December 16, 2012, 10:29:47 AM »
I would start texting him his action items, but my boss would think that was funny.

ETA: maybe boss has a problem with face to face meetings. You might have more success with electronic meetings.
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cheyne

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Re: Hang up and lead.
« Reply #10 on: December 16, 2012, 01:24:41 PM »
I think it may be useful, each time boss checks his phone, to simply have everyone stop and wait until the people present have his full attention again.  Nothing rude in that - they were simply waiting for him to conclude his other business, rather than going on without him and risk having him miss an important issue.

This.  When Boss is checking messages or otherwise engaged with his phone, the entire meeting stops.  Everyone waits for boss to finish, then goes on with the meeting.  This may make boss aware that people are waiting on him, the meeting has stopped, and it will take longer to finish than if he turns his phone off during the meeting.

I would also assign someone to take notes on the action items and email those to the entire team.  If someone volunteers to do it at every meeting, fine.  Otherwise it can be done by individuals on a rotating basis.

Is Boss the owner or CEO of the company?  Does Boss have a boss?  If Boss isn't getting his work done, I am sure BIG Boss will notice this.  However, I have seen it play out where the Boss will retain his job while support staff will lose theirs for not "supporting" Boss.  That's where the notes come in.

Coley

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Re: Hang up and lead.
« Reply #11 on: December 17, 2012, 08:18:00 AM »
Thanks for the responses. Just to respond to a few PPs' questions/comments:

Boss is not the owner of the organization. There are several layers of administration above him. During a conference call several months ago, Boss had his cell phone on the table, where it buzzed constantly throughout the call. One of his superiors also attended the call, and according to my friend, was bothered by the buzzing cell phone. My friend wouldn't know whether this superior said anything to Boss about the phone, but my friend did say that the cell phone has appeared less frequently at some meetings since then. It is more likely to be present in management team meetings and less likely to appear in meetings that Boss's superiors or others outside the department might attend.

One member of the management team does send a follow-up e-mail after the meetings about the action items that were discussed. This does not prompt Boss to take action. The managers remind him about once per week, but the items just drop off his radar.  There could be a whole other post about that part of the problem. They remind him by e-mail, and they discuss his action items during each meeting. It's obvious that he's not following through, but they don't know a way to push the issue with him and spur him to take action. 

I have cautioned my friend about making sure he and his coworkers retain their notes from meetings because as Cheyne mentioned, they may be blamed if something falls through the cracks. There have been a few glaring situations lately in which Boss's inaction has created some obvious problems that have affected their operation and have affected others as well. The good news is that these action items are discussed in a meeting that five or six people attend. They all serve as witnesses to the action during the meetings. All of them know the assignment of action items from previous meetings. When problems like this erupt, Boss's first inclination is to point a finger at one of them. However, they can easily say, "You told us during our Nov. 15 meeting that you were going to address that. We followed up with e-mails on Nov. 19 and Nov. 26 about the status, but we didn't hear back from you."

The managers give the Boss deadlines, they prompt him repeatedly, and still there is no action. My friend has had some situations in which Boss's inaction was so severe that he had to take action himself in order to avoid very significant problems in his part of the operation. This generally results in Boss second-guessing my friend's decisions. This is a tremendous frustration because Boss was supposed to take care of the issue in the first place. My advice to my friend has been to stop bailing out Boss. Period. If Boss doesn't take action, then let the chips fall. More recently, when Boss has had to take the heat for his inaction, his response is to blame some external factor -- another department, one of his superiors, etc.

Back to the cell phone ... I like the idea of halting the meeting while Boss is occupied with his phone and will share that with my friend. Perhaps it would increase Boss's awareness of the problem.

Margo

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Re: Hang up and lead.
« Reply #12 on: December 17, 2012, 08:51:42 AM »
I think it may be useful, each time boss checks his phone, to simply have everyone stop and wait until the people present have his full attention again.  Nothing rude in that - they were simply waiting for him to conclude his other business, rather than going on without him and risk having him miss an important issue.

This is exactly what I would do. As soon as his attention shifts away from the meeting, stop the meeting and wait for him. It sounds as though he doesn't see his behaviour as disruptive. If everything stops and goes silent, then he can see that his ations are having an effect.

A second option is to raise it directly - suggest that there is a general arrange3ment that no-one answers their phoen of chekcs texts etc during the meeting. You should be able to put out-of-office voicemail/auto reply on e-mails and (if there is anyone not in the meeting) can give an alternate number/e-mail which someone can call in an emergency and speak to (say) a PA or receptionsit who is not in the meeting but who can interrupt it in case of a genuine emergency.

I also second the sugegstion of minutes with formal action points for the meetings. If you specify who is going to do something, and by when, then that person has a reminder and is accountable if the actions are not taken. If Boss does not have a Boss of him own, this may not stop him, but at the very least, it should ensure that he can't blame anyone else for his failures!

Shoo

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Re: Hang up and lead.
« Reply #13 on: December 17, 2012, 10:29:12 AM »
For all anyone knows, Boss is "on call" with his superiors, and needs to be available to them at all times, including during meetings.

I wouldn't interfere in this.  If Boss is having trouble keeping up with the meeting because he is paying attention to his cell phone messages, that's between him and his bosses.  If I were the him and my subordinates decided to make some kind of point by stopping the meeting or some other PA move, I would not be pleased.

Biker Granny

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Re: Hang up and lead.
« Reply #14 on: December 17, 2012, 10:42:39 AM »
For all anyone knows, Boss is "on call" with his superiors, and needs to be available to them at all times, including during meetings.

I wouldn't interfere in this.  If Boss is having trouble keeping up with the meeting because he is paying attention to his cell phone messages, that's between him and his bosses.  If I were the him and my subordinates decided to make some kind of point by stopping the meeting or some other PA move, I would not be pleased.

While I agree with you up to a point, his superiors should know when he's in a meeting and that his phone will be on silent or turned off (as it should be)

In our meetings, everyone turns their phones off.  If it's an extremely important matter, the top dog will send his assistant over.

I don't think the employees are out of line expecting the boss to pay them the same courtesy and he expects from them.

Complete silence while he's playing with his phone may very well be PA but sometimes PA is the only answer to PA.