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Hi All,

An interesting situation has arisen and I am looking for the MT world's advice.

My director has 7 directs, myself included, all managers of 9-24 member teams. The teams consist of exempt and non-exempt employees and all non-exempt are part of a union.

About 2 months ago, my director started inviting his Administrative Assistant to his direct team meeting. The purpose was primarily to take meeting minutes and coordinate the administrative side of the meeting (handouts, agendas, etc.) Last week, she brought in a digital voice recorder and started taping the meeting. When we questioned her, the reason given was to take better minutes and provide more detailed notes on the meeting.

I am concerned about the taping of these meetings (and the AA's attendance in general) as we frequently discuss plans for actions that will impact the staff (such as scheduling changes, policies, etc.) as well as HR-related issues including discipline and promotion of employees. We additionally have the added complexity of the union, of which the AA is a member.

While I know it is typically ill advised to give a boss feedback, I would welcome thoughts on how to raise these concerns to him. Or am I overreacting? I have to admit I say far less in these meetings now that the tape recorder has surfaced.

Thoughts?

Thanks
Dave

jhack's picture

M&M recommend that a manager invite his/her admin to the staff meetings. Makes sense to me - the admin reports to the manager, just as the rest of the staff does.

Recording the meetings seems (on the face of it) innocuous. Is the relationship with the union good or bad? Do you not trust the admin to keep "scheduling changes, policies" private?

Alternatively, why do you feel you need to hold back? Aside from discussions of layoffs or strategic shifts, what are you discussing that would be so sensitive? I assume you discuss performance with your directs, and that they would not be surprised to hear what you say to your peers.

John

bflynn's picture

If I understand your concerns, it is that the recordings might be used in the future for something other than getting better minutes. This is the exact reason you should never record O3s and all the same factors happen here.

I would suggest that IF this is impacting the meeting that you discuss it with your boss. Clear your mind of your own personal prejudices and focus on the impact to the work and the meeting. A cause and effect is usually pretty nice and it doesn't have to be a long message.

Mr. Boss, when your AA tape records meetings, people are quieter. They seem to resist speaking up except when they have to and they don't volunteer anything more.

I understand that she is doing this for better minutes, but I'm sensing that there is a lower level of trust in the room because of the recording device. I ask that we not record these meetings, even if it means we get less accurate minutes from the meeting.

That should be sufficient to open the conversation on it. Yes of course there is a danger in this, you have to judge your situation for yourself. But shame on your boss if you couldn't openly and fairly say this to him.

Brian

jhack's picture

Brian and Dave,

The peer/boss feedback model would have you stop after you describe the impact. Don't ask for the recordings to stop. Don't ask what he can do differently. Just say, when you record the meetings, here's what happens...

Let the boss figure out what to do about it. Or ask your opinion.

John

tlhausmann's picture

[quote="jhack"]Brian and Dave,

The peer/boss feedback model would have you stop after you describe the impact. Don't ask for the recordings to stop. Don't ask what he can do differently. Just say, when you record the meetings, here's what happens...

Let the boss figure out what to do about it. Or ask your opinion.

John[/quote]

I concur with jhack. Meeting minutes, to me, are for recording what happened and tracking action items. Recorded brainstorming or problem solving sessions are a risk that *potentially* jeopardizes trust...the foundation of a team.

bflynn's picture

John, technically you never give feedback to your boss. The danger of course is invoking his big glowing sign that says "you're fired."

I don't view this as feedback, I'm just using the cause and effect aspect of feedback because its really good at illustrating what is happening. This is more "someone is causing grief and I need your help to stop it." The boss isn't doing anything (that I'm aware of), so creating feedback to him just isn't reasonable.

If I'm your boss and you bring be a problem, but not a solution, then you're whining. Great to know that you recognized the problem, but don't leave it to me to decide how to fix it. I may not care enough.

Brian

AManagerTool's picture

Can you say evidentiary discovery? Paranoid, yes, but companies in my industry get sued about once a week....literally!

Suppose one of your staff has a temper tantrum at a meeting and blurts out something that they regret...indeed that everyone regrets. Just knowing that there is a tape of the faux pax may instigate litigation.

My company has strict policies on taping things for just such a reason.

Probably a bad idea....

bflynn's picture

I was thinking about the structure of this today - I suppose it is an indictment of this medium and our own attitudes that none of us said "give peer feedback to the AA."

The first step should be to speak with the AA about the problem. You do have a relationship with her, right Dave? If not, you absolutely should. Use the peer feedback model and just ask her to not tape.

And going back to your original problem - your concern about taping the meetings and information leaking to the union isn't based in taping. It is in the leaking, which could just as easily happen with good meeting minutes as with a tape. Taping isn't your core problem there and not taping isn't going to fix it.

Brian

jhack's picture

When you tape company meetings, here's what happens:

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,351233,00.html

John

AManagerTool's picture

My point exactly.

HMac's picture

Dave - I've been watching the thread and holding back comment because I'd just be repeating a lot of the good suggestions you're already getting.

And as much as I agree with the comments, it's worth being a bit of a "devil's advocate" here:

Regardless of what you're going to DO (peer feedback to the AA, feedback to the boss), are you sure [i][b]why[/b][/i] this is an issue for you? And I couldn't tell from your intitial post just how much of it is an issue for you, and much of an issue it is [i]for others [/i]in the the meeting.

The AA said the reason for recording the meetings is to be able to take better notes. Is there a reason to question her motivation? Is there a history of behavior that gives reasons to doubt her? And if you push back hard against taping the meetings, are you prepared to send signals like "what happens in these meetings shouldn't be recorded" and "we don't trust the AA with a tape recorder."?

Hell - I'm not in favor of taping staff meetings. And I think it's great that you should speak up/speak out. I'm just suggesting you be really clear about why it's a concern, and what the consequences might be. Then by all means, act.

Tool - your post reminds me of a great old quote I've carried around for years. In your industry you might find it useful:

"Of course I'm paranoid. You'd be paranoid too, if you had so many people constantly plotting against you." - Dan Greenburg

-Hugh

AManagerTool's picture

Hugh,

You going to the NY Conference?

We should get together. I like you....lol.