What I saw in corporate conference rooms

I was, last week, in the halls of six major oil, refining, and petrochemical companies. I spent three days running from the endless refining and chemical plants south east of Houston to the glittering glass offices downtown and others north, in the new rapidly becoming poster zone for the irony of work life imbalance, The Woodlands.

Best I leave off specifics.

In one venerable old global company, who have a city block and two “plaza’s” named after them, I was in a conference room on a floor very high above the ground. Views from within skyscrapers in Dallas and Houston are unique, and as evening comes, mesmerizing. Different topic. As we were leaving I spotted a sign asking “Did you feel heard today?. Looking more closely it was a poster filled with emotional teaser questions, it was designed to do nothing but drag emotion out of the folks who were exiting the room at a given time. There were forms there to take away, mark answers upon, and I suppose drop in boxes around the building.

In another company, this meeting held at the factory, in the plants conference room there was a large poster titled something like “Template for Productive Disagreement”….or similar. It has 8 suggested ways to accomplish certain communication needs. There was the old way, then the recommended way. This thing read like a teacher scolding 5 year old children in the lunch line.

Ive been away from the mega company environment for more then 15 years, though I have always dealt with them. Somehow, however, I missed this evolution to banality. Knowing how companies and employees tend to parrot one another (If I have to hear the terms “market facing”, and “space” much more I will have to consult one of those stupid posters on the wall or I will sound rude. When did the word “space” become a way to describe the arena in which a company participates?)

One final anecdote was, in the basement of the office building downtown was, of course, a Starbucks. I sat there waiting for my meeting time and listened to the people talking around me. For some reason I have always remembered a really stupid cartoon i saw in readers Digest when I was a kid. It said, “In the beauty shop, gossip fills the air, the talk alone will curl your hair”….and I found myself inserting the word jargon, and restating that cartoon caption for the Starbucks crowd. Say nothing….with a great deal of panache.

I wondered who leased the “space” to the Starbucks, didn’t muster the nerve to ask that sarcastically.

Does anyone think men dreamed these things up unilaterally? Or could it be corporate policy white knight-ism amok? Do the executive males who are old enough to have worked  in the pre-dumb-down-and-soften  era pander or buy in?

Seeing those things helped me understand our election results in yet another way


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