Friday, April 4th, 2014

BY David Raether, Head Writer

Here’s a piece of trivia you probably didn’t know, unless, of course, you are an entomologist (and even then you might know this): there are 17 varieties of locusts. Well, okay, there’s actually only 12 varieties, with three subspecies of tree locusts, and a couple more grasshoppers that are similar to locusts.

The actual number isn’t important (unless, again, you’re an entomologist, and even then probably not that big a deal).

What is important is that there are numerous ways that different kinds of locusts could come along and really ruin your crops in pretty terrible ways, although I’m guessing the Italian Locust would at least be stylish about it.

Similarly, as part of scholarly research I’m doing for my Ph.D. thesis at the University of Quito on “Violence-Centered Group Dynamics and Interpersonal Relationship Management in Drug Cartels: Why All the Anger?”, I have identified approximately 11 Irritating Conference Call Types. Today, we will examine two of these varieties.

1. The Repeating Everything Everyone Else Already Said Guy: Ever heard this kind of exchange in a conference call?

CALLER 1: Okay, so, what we’re planning on doing on the 19th is bringing the cement over the George Washington Bridge in a stream of approximately 125 mixers beginning at 4 am..

CALLER 2: Great. I’ll make arrangements with the city to have lights approved for the site prior to the arrival of the first truck.

REPEATING GUY: So, as far as the 19th goes, the plan is to bring in about 125 mixers across the George Washington Bridge starting at 4 a.m. That means we’re going to have to have lights. I guess arrangements will be made with the city than for lighting the site, right?

(LONG SILENCE)

CALLER 1: Yes, that’s what we just said.

REPEATING GUY: I know. I just wanted to clarify that the trucking of the cement over the George Washington Bridge will start at 4 a.m. on the 19th so that will have to be lit with approval from the city.

(EVEN LONGER SILENCE)

CALLER 2: Can we kill you?

CALLER 1: In a slow and painful way?

REPEATING GUY: So you’re suggesting that as far as my death goes, you two want to arrange it, and to make it slow and painful?

The Repeating Everything Everyone Else Already Said Guy suffers from a basic lack of self esteem.  He believes that people think he has nothing to contribute to the conversation, but if he repeats what other people are saying it will make it seem as if he has something to contribute.  In this regard, the Repeating Everything Everyone Else Already Has Said Guy is justified in his low self esteem.  He, in fact, has nothing to contribute.  He should do two things:

  • Not contribute
  • Have low self-esteem

2. The Irrelevant Topics Gal

There you all are, deep in a discussion about pricing levels on volume purchasing by major customers when this happens:

CALLER 1: I have to be honest, Carol, I think 18% is too deep a discount even on a million unit buyer.  Our margin on this is only 4% already.

CALLER 2: But Bilox Industries is offering a 16% discount at that level.  We have to do something competitive to hold market share.

IRRELEVANT TOPICS GAL: Excuse me, but does anyone know anything about upper respiratory infections in cats?  I think my cat, Bobby, has one because he’s sneezing and his breathing is labored.

CALLER 1: We weren’t really talking about cat diseases.

CALLER 2: Bobby sounds really sick.

IRRELEVANT TOPICS GAL: I’m so worried about him.

CALLER 2: Have you spoken to your vet?

CALLER 1: Can we get back to the business discussion we were having?

CALLER 2: Her cat is really sick, Bob.  Don’t you have a heart?

CALLER 1: I do, but…

IRRELEVANT TOPICS GAL: Jerk.

CALLER 1: Sorry.

The Irrelevant Topics Gal also suffers from a basic lack of self esteem.  She believes that people think she has nothing to contribute to the conversation, but if she changes the subject, she can hide this fact.  There’s no hiding it, however, but she can do three things:

  • Not contribute
  • Have low self-esteem
  • Let the cat go

In future essays, I will examine additional character types who ruin conference calls. It’s important to be able to identify these types quickly during the call so you can mute them or lock them out in order to keep your conference call moving forward.