FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

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
December 14, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
A Tale of Two Cities
Peter Linebaugh
The Significance of The Common Wind
Bruce E. Levine
The Ketamine Chorus: NYT Trumpets New Anti-Suicide Drug
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Fathers and Sons, Bushes and Bin Ladens
Kathy Deacon
Coffee, Social Stratification and the Retail Sector in a Small Maritime Village
Nick Pemberton
Praise For America’s Second Leading Intellectual
Robert Hunziker
The Yellow Vest Insurgency – What’s Next?
Patrick Cockburn
The Yemeni Dead: Six Times Higher Than Previously Reported
Nick Alexandrov
George H. W. Bush: Another Eulogy
Brian Cloughley
Principles and Morality Versus Cash and Profit? No Contest
Michael Duggin
Climate Change and the Limits of Reason
Victor Grossman
Sighs of Relief in Germany
Ron Jacobs
A Propagandist of Privatization
Robert Fantina
What Does Beto Have Against the Palestinians?
Richard Falk – Daniel Falcone
Sartre, Said, Chomsky and the Meaning of the Public Intellectual
Andrew Glikson
Crimes Against the Earth
Robert Fisk
The Parasitic Relationship Between Power and the American Media
Stephen Cooper
When Will Journalism Grapple With the Ethics of Interviewing Mentally Ill Arrestees?
Jill Richardson
A War on Science, Morals and Law
Ron Jacobs
A Propagandist of Privatization
Evaggelos Vallianatos
It’s Not Easy Being Greek
Nomi Prins 
The Inequality Gap on a Planet Growing More Extreme
John W. Whitehead
Know Your Rights or You Will Lose Them
David Swanson
The Abolition of War Requires New Thoughts, Words, and Actions
J.P. Linstroth
Primates Are Us
Bill Willers
The War Against Cash
Jonah Raskin
Doris Lessing: What’s There to Celebrate?
Ralph Nader
Are the New Congressional Progressives Real? Use These Yardsticks to Find Out
Binoy Kampmark
William Blum: Anti-Imperial Advocate
Medea Benjamin – Alice Slater
Green New Deal Advocates Should Address Militarism
John Feffer
Review: Season 2 of Trump Presidency
Rich Whitney
General Motors’ Factories Should Not Be Closed. They Should Be Turned Over to the Workers
Christopher Brauchli
Deported for Christmas
Kerri Kennedy
This Holiday Season, I’m Standing With Migrants
Mel Gurtov
Weaponizing Humanitarian Aid
Thomas Knapp
Lame Duck Shutdown Theater Time: Pride Goeth Before a Wall?
George Wuerthner
The Thrill Bike Threat to the Elkhorn Mountains
Nyla Ali Khan
A Woman’s Selfhood and Her Ability to Act in the Public Domain: Resilience of Nadia Murad
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
On the Killing of an Ash Tree
Graham Peebles
Britain’s Homeless Crisis
Louis Proyect
America: a Breeding Ground for Maladjustment
Steve Carlson
A Hell of a Time
Dan Corjescu
America and The Last Ship
Jeffrey St. Clair
Booked Up: the 25 Best Books of 2018
David Yearsley
Bikini by Rita, Voice by Anita
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail