Retro Relapse: Business Assholes, Volume 3: Time Wasters

RETRO RELAPSE is a series of older articles from various places where I used to write before Talking Pulp.

*Written in 2014.

It is time for the third installment of my business series. In part one, I talked about chronic interrupters. In part two, I talked about respect. This round, I am going to discuss time wasters.

Also, this isn’t just advice on how to behave in business, it is advice on how to behave in life because usually bad traits in one, carry over into the other.

One thing I am a big fan of is productivity, whether in business or in life. You can’t move forward in the best way possible if you don’t master productivity and even more importantly, time management. Today in business, this concept seems lost, at least in my dealings with people in my industry – an industry that is struggling, which should push people towards being on the ball. It doesn’t, for the most part. However, I’m going to send a shout out to those few who actually hustle and run hard with that ball.

I’ve always been a firm believer in being punctual. In fact, I consider being on time as being fifteen minutes early. That’s just me but it is a good rule to live buy for several reasons. One, you make sure that you are actually there on time and depending upon what you need to be on time for, you can get a head start. Two, it is a show of respect to those you need to be on time for, whether it is a job interview, a business meeting, a movie or just meeting a friend for a drink. Three, it shows that you are a responsible adult in control of yourself and respectful of others and the task at hand. Four, it’s just fucking courteous.

Lack of respect for punctuality is a big pet peeve of mine. Chronically late people piss me off. The reason being, is what they tell me by their behavior is that they have no respect for me or my time, they are unreliable and a mess of a person, they don’t take anything seriously and they’re self-absorbed. In my daily work life, I see plenty of people who are regularly late. Management does nothing to combat this other than bitch amongst themselves and ultimately, the bad habits continue. Where I work is lead by very passive aggressive administrators but that is a topic for another article.

The thing is, even if these chronically late people are good workers otherwise, if I were to one day start my own company and they came to me for a job, I would have no interest in hiring them. You should be ready to work and ready to go from the moment you clock in, on time mind you. Unforeseen things happen from time to time and that is understandable. Tardiness of that sort can also be corrected by calling or sending a text stating that you’re going to be a few minutes late. The problem is, this should not be a daily or even a weekly occurrence. As an adult, people should know how long they need to get ready in the morning and how long it takes to get from home to work. I think I learned how to tell time in the first grade, just sayin’.

Other time killers are having too many meetings, unorganized meetings or meetings with people who don’t need to be there. I tend to often times find myself in meetings that encompass all three of these bad factors.

Unorganized meetings tend to run a hell of a lot longer than they need to be because people usually go in not knowing what to expect, are poorly prepared for the questions they will be asked and when everyone is all over the map in an unorganized way, you spend most of your time trying to create a sense of order where there is none. Have you ever been asked for your whole department to come to the conference room without being told why, only to be stuck in a clusterfuck of confusion because there wasn’t any insight as to what you would be discussing or a proper heads up of the meeting so you could have some prep time? It’s nice to know what is expected of you and to have all your ducks in a row before getting abruptly ripped away from your work to go under fire.

As far as meetings with people who don’t need to be there, I also experience this all too commonly. Many times, I go into a meeting and all the bosses are there. If it is a meeting about sales numbers, why does the head of shipping or the head of marketing need to be involved? If it is a meeting of new concepts for advertising and branding, why does the head accountant need to be there? If you are not discussing a matter that calls for the immediate input of someone outside the sphere of discussion, they don’t need to be there. If you determine you need them, call them in briefly or email them after. In these situations, often times you are bombarded with the two cents of someone who isn’t really qualified to speak on the matter. This doesn’t mean that outside input isn’t appreciated, as it can be valuable, but you don’t need the entire company wasting hours in a meeting regarding one department, who could be in and out of there in twenty minutes with a clear plan otherwise. Also, it is hard to develop a clear plan when over a dozen people are shouting ideas over one another (I talked about this in my article on respect – linked at the top).

The problem with having too many meetings, is that at some point, you need to stop talking and work. Nothing gets done without action and if you don’t have proper time to execute all the stuff you’ve talked about, what’s the point really? All these types of meetings are time wasters and the antithesis of productivity.

Now if you have management that practices any or all of the time wasting violations mentioned above, you have yourselves a real problem. I’ve always been a strong advocate for leading by example. If you do these things from the top of the ladder, you can damn sure expect it to trickle down and assumedly get worse the further down you go. Owners and managers are responsible for the type of culture they create in their company. If the culture is bad, they need to assess what they are doing and how it is being perceived by those they manage. If they fail to recognize that the culture is bad, they won’t stay in business very long and most likely, the good employees will move on because they don’t want to be continually subjected to their company’s culture of bullshit.

Speaking as a guy who has been upper management, middle management and the lowest guy on the totem pole, I know how the relationships between employer and employee work. I know what connects and what doesn’t and I know how bad habits from the top can poison the bottom of the well.

In the end, don’t we all want to succeed and have prosperous lives? The key to that is productivity. The killer of productivity is wasting time. And of course, I say all this to help.