The building I work in employs roughly eighty people. It has offices, cubicles, conference rooms, and wide open spaces for congregating, complete with tables and chairs. All good places to have a meeting.
You know where is not a good place to have a meeting? The hallway.
It happens every damn day. I’m walking down the hall to get my tea and two people are having another hallway meeting. Each of them occupies a wall as they face each other. Anybody coming down the hallway must walk directly between these two as they are talking to one another. Or sometimes whisper to each other (the whispering stops for a moment as the intruder passes through, then starts again when the coast is clear).
Not sure about you, but I don’t want to walk between two people having a meeting. It’s awkward, embarrassing, and we’re all just too close for comfort. Some have the good manners to both stand to one side of the hallway, which is better, but still not okay. And some have the nerve to stand directly in the middle of the hallway.
I encountered this a few weeks ago. One person was against the wall as usual, the other in the center of the hall. As I walked toward them, I had to make a decision. Do I walk behind Center Person, with only a two-foot wide space to navigate? Or do I squeeze my way between the two, forcing them apart? As I slowed down I was hoping Center Person would move one way or the other to let me pass. Instead, she looked at me and said, “I don’t know where you want me to go.”
What I felt like saying was, “I want you to go to some office, cubicle, conference room, or just a wide open space complete with tables and chairs, and have your %#@&^ meeting there!”
As a lonely voice in the office wilderness, I know that my opinion counts for little. I know that hallway meetings will continue to the end of time. If you are reading this, and you like to meet in the hallway, planting yourselves so that others must walk through you and pretend not to hear your conversation: by all means, carry on.
Just know this. The grumpy guy with the coffee cup who is now passing through your meeting wasn’t grumpy a minute ago.