Confessions of a benefits manager: Candid battles with team meetings

I suppose it was only a matter of time. Big Bad Boss has reinstated the monthly HR meeting. It has been cancelled for several months for various reasons, mainly to do with his golf schedule. I was rather hoping the whole concept of department teamwork would just go away.

Confessions of a benefits manager

I know team meetings seem like a good idea. They are a good idea. It just isn’t ideal with this particular group of people.

Real teamwork involves mutual respect and a degree of compassion. Yeah, like that’s going to happen. I have nothing against the organisational development team. Well, that is not exactly true, given the intense creepiness of Creepy Caroline, but there is nothing I can’t get over, provided I don’t have to sit in a room with her for any length of time.

I am sure the recruitment girls are lovely to their mothers and are probably kind to kittens as well, but I just don’t want to have to listen to people half my age, who haven’t got a clue, telling me how to do my job. 

Of course, I can’t express any concerns about working with others. Being a ‘team player’ is one of those crucial qualities along with ‘leadership’ and ‘creativity’, which no one ever has, least of all the Higher Beings, but corporate life requires one to pretend. If you say you are not a team player, you might as well admit you’d rather work in a supermarket. Or IT.

Big Bad Boss wants us to meet for two hours every first Monday. Two hours. On a Monday? I wonder whether anyone would notice if I took most of my annual leave on Mondays. Worse, he wants me to take minutes. Grr.

HR team meeting minutes

Being asked to do anything remotely secretarial pushes some deep-seated feminist button that I don’t know I have until someone pushes it. I get puffed up with indignation, but he doesn’t notice. I could, of course, suggest my colleague Lazy Susan, but she is a bit slow on anything to do with words. She is even slower with numbers, but let’s not go into that. She is just slow.

At least if I take on the minutes, I can have control over the decisions and actions recorded. Yes, I feel better about that. I just have to keep my dignity while I am about it.

Today is the first Monday. Already. We are bundled together in a freezing cold meeting room. This doesn’t do anything for my ‘team player’ act, because I am forced to fold my arms defensively against the sub-zero blast from the vent overhead. The recruitment girls saunter in 10 minutes late and sit down to check their impossibly long orange nails for damage.

Creepy Caroline comes and sits next to me. She peers at my open notebook. I resist the temptation to shut it in her face. I haven’t written anything yet.

Big Bad Boss clears his throat and makes his teamwork speech. Oh, please. The recruitment girls appear to look rapt. Well, maybe they haven’t heard this a million times. Creepy Caroline sits, back straight, a picture of unbridled ambition, Blackberry at the ready. I try not to feel intimidated.

Recruitment fails to fill positions

The meeting kicks off with updates from recruitment. We have to sit through 30 minutes of why three semi-grown women have not been able to fill two straightforward positions. Their excuses seem to centre around our pay scales being inadequate. So it is my fault that they can’t do their job.

After that, Caroline has to give an update. She smiles winningly as she reels off a list of accomplishments. About five of them are things that other people in her team did, but she doesn’t mention anyone. She peers over to make sure I have written it all down. My button is being pushed again, but there is nothing I can do. Still, I can ‘summarise’ when I type it up.

Big Bad Boss puts her on the spot about retention. Ha, I think, get out of that, I think. Sadly, she does. Although the stats say people are leaving for better prospects, she says that, anecdotally, people are leaving because the pay scales are inadequate. So it is my fault people are leaving.

The HR IT guy gives an update on the system. It seems the reward statements were late because we had changed some codes for the bonus scheme. So it is my fault their documentation was late.

Candid shares her views

Then it is my turn. It is tempting to go into how I failed to meet my deadline on a policy renewal because I spent so long trying to get accurate information from recruitment about an offer. It is tempting to point out how I had to help several managers with their performance planning, because the OD department wouldn’t help.

It is tempting to point out that if the HR IT guy didn’t spend all his time fiddling about on the internet, he would have sorted the bonus codes in five minutes. But no, I am a team player. I just stick to what I have done and what I have coming up. Lead by example, I think.

The next meeting comes around all too quickly but Creepy Caroline doesn’t show up, which makes the whole thing a lot more bearable. Afterwards, she comes storming up to my desk to ask why she wasn’t told about the meeting. Big Bad Boss is hovering around near his door. I explain that he had said the first Monday of every month.

She is still bitching, saying that it isn’t good enough and I should have sent something out telling people when to come. Busy people need proper notice of meetings.

Big Bad Boss comes out and points out that the date and time was written clearly in the minutes. I could kiss him.

Next time…Candid has to educate some retirees.