Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Cure for boredom

The following is my column for today, August 2, 2006, at the op-ed section of the Manila Standard Today.

IN THE same week that the State-of-the-Nation Address was delivered, someone in my human resource management e-mail group posted an article published in Personnel Today (http://www.personneltoday.com/) that got my friends and I laughing so hard. The article, which was based on a study conducted in the United Kingdom, offered insights as to what people imagine when they are stuck in a boring meeting that is going nowhere.

The top answer?

Why, sex of course, as if you did not suspect or already knew. More than half 57 percent of the respondents admitted to thinking about sex during business meetings. These were adults, not adolescents. The next time I get stuck in a boring meeting, I am going to guess which of the attendees comprise that half.

Interestingly, the survey, which was conducted among 4,000 adults, offered yet another insight on the differences between men and women. (There has been this growing preoccupation with finding out exactly how and in what area men and women have divergence in perspectives since that Mars and Venus book came out). Although the percentages of men and women who think about sex during business meetings were almost equal, more than half of the men (58 percent) admitted that they imagined having sex with a coworker while only 21 percent of the women admitted to having sexual thoughts involving their coworkers. Since my good friend Margie Holmes is still abroad, I asked my friends what they thought of these results. Here are their biased and off-the-cuff theories: a) men do not discriminate the way women do; b) men do not come to work in attires that bring out their sexual allure; c) women have this tendency to think of themselves as mothers and sisters to their officemates and therefore will not see male coworkers in a sexual light; d) the survey was conducted by a woman (right, when all else fails, shoot the process).

And just in case your attention has not been fully distracted by the discussion about sex yet and you are still wondering if there is a connection between the study and the first nine words of this column (you know, that bit about the Sona), let me hasten to say that yes, there is.

While talking about the results of the study, my friends and I wondered what our dear senators and congressmen were thinking while sitting there listening to the President drone on for more than an hour. Oh come on, you actually do not believe all that yarn about how they listened attentively to the President talk about her roadmap. Television is a cruel medium and I have this feeling that they set up the cameras strategically inside that cavernous hall not only to capture the spellbound countenances of proadministration congressman (particularly those who were acknowledged publicly) but also for the same reason that Wow Mali or Yari Ka! exist.

So what were our senators (who were largely ignored by the President), or the opposition congressmen (who were bullied) thinking while they sat there with an utter expression of boredom pasted on their faces?

I am sure it could not have been the second top answer according to study, which was… tadaan, imagining their boss naked. Yup, you read it right. Almost half (47 percent) of the workers surveyed said they get through boring meets by imagining their bosses in their birthday suits. The article did not specify whether thinking about their bosses naked led to hysterical laughing or precipitated a different kind of excitement; just that conjuring images of the boss without clothes helped them get through boring meetings in one piece. There must be something wrong with me or with the people I have worked for because I just do not see myself belonging to that 47 percent. Honest. Really. I swear.

The other top answers: for women, it was staring at colleagues with a discerning eye for fashion (most probable thought balloons, methinks: Are those pearls genuine? Is that Prada bag the real thing or did she pick it out at Harrison Plaza? Did she have botox treatment? Does that busy tie match that equally busy shirt? Is that a wig?). Women, the study said, were mostly likely to be planning their next holiday (33 percent) or their evening meal (29 percent).

The men, on the other hand, were more likely to be planning their TV viewing (27 percent), or thinking about household bills that need to be paid (16 percent). I am not sure if Filipino women will agree with the latter. Again, I asked my friends what they thought would be the top answers for men if a local survey were to be conducted. Here were their fearless forecasts: What kind of car will I buy if I win the lotto tonight? Should I risk playing golf this weekend? When can I afford to buy that sailboat? I wonder what mom will cook this weekend?
And as if to illustrate just how scientific and comprehensive surveys are and can be nowadays, the data was likewise broken down into all kinds of demographic classifications.
One fascinating finding was when they broke down the data per profession. They found that teachers and those working in the media were the most likely to be thinking about sex, with 27 percent reliving their most recent night of passion and a further 10 percent planning a future sexual encounter. I wonder if this means that people in these professions have ah, how shall I say this, more opportunities. Perhaps this explains the perpetual glazed expression on the faces of some television broadcasters. I wonder if these include newspaper editors. And what about media people who teach. Do they have double the fun?

The article ended with an exhortation: “long, boring meetings are neither productive nor inspiring; the best way to keep all minds focused is to keep meetings short and to the point, with plenty of interaction between participants.” I say Amen.

Now if only our local surveys produce data that are just as interesting.

8 comments:

snglguy said...

Believe it or not, I used to imagine killing or maiming our general manager whenever we had those long and boring sales meeting. But that was eons ago...

By the way, hope you don't mind being linked.

ubermensch14 said...

Methinks this also applies to boring classes.

jtagregado said...

I agree with you ubermensch14.

during boring classes I used to imagine this red mechanical button sort of thing located somewhere on the armchair that sez, "Push to eject professor out of the room." So if the professor would start yapping (endlessly), i'll just push the red thingie...then Blam! he's nowhere to be found!

almabien said...

That sampling must have been inadvertently skewed towards a primal-minded population. I keep my sanity during boring meetings by imagining myself at the beach, vegetating on a lounge chair with a chest of cold beer beside me and staring blankly at the sea. That gets me through.

BongA said...

snglguy:
sobra naman yun! maiming your general manager...but on second thought, hmmm...

nah, i don't mind being linked.

bong

BongA said...

uber,
right! i teach at this college in Taft...so you better not be one of my students. hehe

bong

BongA said...

jt,

so that was why you used to look at me with that strange expression on your face, with your finger strategically placed on your armrest.
hmmm

bong

BongA said...

almabien,
with empty arms? hmmm...

bong