There Is a Plague of Consultants Upon the Land

Before I left the Fortune 200 facility where I used to work, I was unnerved by the proliferation of a relatively new phenomena: seminars led by expensive, silver-tongued consultants. In the early years, not only were we not required to attend seminars, we had no idea what a “professional seminar leader” even looked like. But beginning in about 1990, mandatory seminars became a way of life.

Over a pitcher of domestic beer, a company executive once confided to me off-the-record that, in his opinion, these consultants were little more than “glorified con artists” (his exact words). Of course, because this man already knew my views on the subject, it was possible he was humoring me, which wouldn’t have been out of the question.

But whatever the case, I couldn’t have agreed more. I had come to have a decidedly negative opinion of “seminar creatures.” This executive went on to say that the reason seminars had become a ubiquitous feature of the corporate landscape was because some high-ranking HR honcho had fallen in love with the idea of “worker participation.”

Let’s be clear. It’s not that these group-thrashes were totally “useless,” because they weren’t. Admittedly, they did make a modest contribution. Indeed, if you dug deeply enough, you were likely to find a kernel of “truth” buried in these padded presentations.

But alas, this “kernel” was something that could have been just as easily expressed in a pamphlet or brochure, or spray-painted on a freeway overpass, and not something that required a punishing, mind-numbing session of homilies and role-playing in which full-grown adults were treated like infants.

Here’s an example of a seminar conducted by an outside consultant. I would call this example “typical.”

A bright, articulate woman, whom we later learned was paid $1,500 for her performance—which, in 1990, was a nice piece of change for a few hours “work”—began by asking each of us to introduce ourselves. State your name and department. This was unnecessary. We all worked in the same place, so everyone in the room (roughly thirty of us) pretty much already knew each other.

And because this woman instantly forgot our name the moment we uttered it (we had no name tags, and she never, not even once, addressed any of us by our names), it became obvious that this superfluous exercise in “introducing ourselves” was her way of killing a half-hour of time. One half-hour down, four hours to go. The clock was running.

She then walked to the white board and asked the room how many hours a day we spend at work. Her point was to demonstrate what a major role our jobs played in our lives (as if we didn’t already know that). People raised their hands. Some said eight hours. Others said nine hours. A couple people said ten hours. After dutifully writing down everyone’s answer, we all agreed that nine would be a “fair” average. Only one hour of this seminar had elapsed, and I was already bored and mildly annoyed.

Then she said “But you have to drive to work, don’t you? And shouldn’t the drive to work be counted as part of your job?” We all agreed that it should. So she asked us how long it took us to get to work. Some said thirty minutes, others said fifteen minutes, and others said twenty minutes. One poor bastard said it took him an hour. We agreed on thirty minutes.

But after writing down “thirty minutes,” she cocked her head, smiled at the room, and said coyly, “But you also have to drive back home, don’t you?” She said this with a “Eureka” flair, as if none of us would have factored in the return trip on our own. So we wound up with nine hours, plus thirty minutes, plus thirty minutes.

And that’s pretty much how it went. It was painful. We did role-playing, and broke into little “buzz groups,” both of which were a profound and slightly embarrassing waste of time. My only positive memory was the catered lunch. Instead of sliced bread, the sandwiches were served on croissants. Excellent.

More articles by:

David Macaray is a playwright and author. His newest book is How To Win Friends and Avoid Sacred Cows.  He can be reached at dmacaray@gmail.com

Weekend Edition
March 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Michael Uhl
The Tip of the Iceberg: My Lai Fifty Years On
Bruce E. Levine
School Shootings: Who to Listen to Instead of Mainstream Shrinks
Mel Goodman
Caveat Emptor: MSNBC and CNN Use CIA Apologists for False Commentary
Paul Street
The Obama Presidency Gets Some Early High Historiography
Kathy Deacon
Me, My Parents and Red Scares Long Gone
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Rexless Abandon
Andrew Levine
Good Enemies Are Hard To Find: Therefore Worry
Jim Kavanagh
What to Expect From a Trump / Kim Summit
Ron Jacobs
Trump and His Tariffs
Joshua Frank
Drenched in Crude: It’s an Oil Free For All, But That’s Not a New Thing
Gary Leupp
What If There Was No Collusion?
Matthew Stevenson
Why Vietnam Still Matters: Bernard Fall Dies on the Street Without Joy
Robert Fantina
Bad to Worse: Tillerson, Pompeo and Haspel
Brian Cloughley
Be Prepared, Iran, Because They Want to Destroy You
Richard Moser
What is Organizing?
Scott McLarty
Working Americans Need Independent Politics
Rohullah Naderi
American Gun Violence From an Afghan Perspective
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
Why Trump’s Tariff Travesty Will Not Re-Industrialize the US
Ted Rall
Democrats Should Run on Impeachment
Robert Fisk
Will We Ever See Al Jazeera’s Investigation Into the Israel Lobby?
Kristine Mattis
Superunknown: Scientific Integrity Within the Academic and Media Industrial Complexes
John W. Whitehead
Say No to “Hardening” the Schools with Zero Tolerance Policies and Gun-Toting Cops
Edward Hunt
UN: US Attack On Syrian Civilians Violated International Law
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Iraq Outside History
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: The Long Hard Road
Victor Grossman
Germany: New Faces, Old Policies
Medea Benjamin - Nicolas J. S. Davies
The Iraq Death Toll 15 Years After the US Invasion
Binoy Kampmark
Amazon’s Initiative: Digital Assistants, Home Surveillance and Data
Chuck Collins
Business Leaders Agree: Inequality Hurts The Bottom Line
Jill Richardson
What We Talk About When We Talk About “Free Trade”
Eric Lerner – Jay Arena
A Spark to a Wider Fire: Movement Against Immigrant Detention in New Jersey
Negin Owliaei
Teachers Deserve a Raise: Here’s How to Fund It
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
What to Do at the End of the World? Interview with Climate Crisis Activist, Kevin Hester
Kevin Proescholdt
Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke Attacks America’s Wilderness
Franklin Lamb
Syrian War Crimes Tribunals Around the Corner
Beth Porter
Clean Energy is Calling. Will Your Phone Company Answer?
George Ochenski
Zinke on the Hot Seat Again and Again
Lance Olsen
Somebody’s Going to Extremes
Robert Koehler
Breaking the Ice
Pepe Escobar
The Myth of a Neo-Imperial China
Graham Peebles
Time for Political Change and Unity in Ethiopia
Terry Simons
10 American Myths “Refutiated”*
Thomas Knapp
Some Questions from the Edge of Immortality
Louis Proyect
The 2018 Socially Relevant Film Festival
David Yearsley
Keaton’s “The General” and the Pernicious Myths of the Heroic South