To be irritated by work (petty, boring, long - not selling this am I?)

(62 Posts)
catgirl1976 Wed 01-May-13 19:58:04

Yesterday my work announced there would be a brainstorming meeting in the work canteen to get ideas from staff on a new project at 1pm and sandwiches would be provided. All staff were invited to attend.

Before the meeting my HR Officer e-mailed me to say a member of staff had asked if they could still take a lunch if they attended this as they wanted to be involved but had an errand to do in their lunch break. Lunch breaks are unpaid.

I ummed a bit and then let her know as we were providing sandwiches it was one or the other really. I didn't plan on attending the meeting as I had arranged to take a colleague out to lunch at 12pm.

At 1pm the Marketing Manager who was hosting the meeting came and asked me if I would come any way as I am partly involved in the project and she specifically wanted my input. I said 'well, it's a bit awkward as I've just told xx that it's one or the other, but if you need me there I will come up'.

About 10 staff attended the meeting.

Today it transpires about half had gone on lunch, then attended the meeting from 1pm till 1:45. None of them ate any sandwiches as they had already eaten.

Maybe a bit mickey-taking but not the end of the world.

It gets back to the two partners who apparantly have gone batshit angry about it.

They tell the Marketing Manager to e-mail everyone saying they are 'disgusted' yadda yadda. She drafts an e-mail saying the Partners are dissapointed by the situation and although she didn't explicitly tell people it was to be taken as lunch she had thought the provision of sandwiches would have implied this sufficiently.

She is then told by the Senior Partners PA the e-mail isn't good enough (not a severe enough bollocking I think) and this will be dealt with 'a different way'.

I am at a level that it won't really affect me personally and I am unlikely to get a bollocking over it but it just strikes me as petty.

Apparantly the 2 partners have spent the entire day frothing about this.

To me, people are not paid for lunch. If we want them to attend a meeting and contribute the fact it is held at 1pm rather than say 10am or 4pm isn't really an issue. The fact a few grotty sandwiches were on the table doesn't make it less 'work' than any other meeting. People are entitled to a break during the day even if we give them a sandwich.

Mainly, I just think they should have more important things to froth about and the way to deal with this is to either not have lunchtime meetings or make it clear next time in the invite that people are not to take a lunch as well as attend.

I will end up getting involved at some point as HR falls under my remit but I just don't think it's a big enough deal to be such a major issue with frothing at the top level and words like 'disgusted' being thrown about.

It just narks me. AIBU to be irritated by the pettiness and tell them to chill the fuck out (worded a touch differently) or do I just hate it so much I am overly annoyed by nothing at all?

StrangeGlue Wed 01-May-13 20:03:02

That is so ridiculous! The partners have blown a really minor thing totally out of proportion. If you have a strict lunch break thing and people take it and don't get paid they can't expect people to swap that for a meeting.

It's the partners who have made it petty.

How fustrating!

AnxiousNurse Wed 01-May-13 20:03:07

It wasn't was a work meeting. If that had happened I would still have expected to take my actual lunch break.

catgirl1976 Wed 01-May-13 20:05:28

I am so glad I not being U!

People aren't paid for lunch, so what they were really expecting was for people to give up an hour of their personal time and work for free in exchange for a sandwich or for the love of the company.

They maybe would if they were treated a bit better and not bollocked and told they were 'disgusting' for stuff like this

A meeting is not a break.

theoriginalandbestrookie Wed 01-May-13 20:06:29

Depends how much the attendees earn .As a rule of thumb if they are higher rate tax payers then skip normal lunch reschedule arrangements for another day and try to enjoy the "free" lunch . If not then i'd say the employers are cheeky.

catgirl1976 Wed 01-May-13 20:10:23

Me and another person who attended are senior and higher paid. It wasn't really an issue for either of us - we are at a level where we often work through lunch and that's just the nature of the job and fine.

The rest of the staff are junior and on about £15 - £20k and it is them I am annoyed for. We bang on about employee engagement and then treat them like their input is only worthwhile if we are getting it for free on unpaid time and call them 'disgusting' angry

theoriginalandbestrookie Wed 01-May-13 20:13:46

Then you are right to be outraged.Sometimes senior people forget they are being handsomely rewarded for extra hours with a big salary . They forget or prefer not to remember that this does not apply to junior staff.

Dozer Wed 01-May-13 20:14:01

The partners sound charming. Am sure they get paid lunches!

Isn't it in breach of working time rules to deny people a break? A work meeting with sandwiches or not is not a lunch break.

catgirl1976 Wed 01-May-13 20:16:20

Yup - they are entitled to a 20 minute break (they get an hour but 20 mins is the law) and IMO a meeting is work, regardless of there being a sandwich present or not.

If a meeting isn't work then most of the Senior Management team haven't done any work for the last 20 years <fume>

HollyBerryBush Wed 01-May-13 20:19:03

OMG @ brainstorming on line one

FFS anyone with a PC grip knows it's now thought showering

Should I go back and read further?

Having read further - sack the lot of them - they clearly have no work ethic or any desire to work in a beneficial way for the company. Free lunch? I'll sit there till kingdom come.

Maat Wed 01-May-13 20:19:55

If meetings are to be planned during lunchtime, then they should give more notice than on the actual day.

Lots of people run errands at lunchtime and they are, by law, entitled to a break.

Llareggub Wed 01-May-13 20:24:46

You weren't very clear with the HR Officer were you?

DoubleLifeIsALifeHalved Wed 01-May-13 20:26:48

Ridiculous... My old boss used to open a bottle of red at 6pm on Fridays and wonder why I didn't not appreciate having to work til 10! Grrrr, brings back memories!

BlancheHunt Wed 01-May-13 20:35:36

Back in the good old days when I earned a good salary I worked all the hours and didn't mind working through lunch. My salary reflected my position and I was more than happy to work extra hours.

Now I earn a pittance and my boss happily books home visits (I work at a solicitors) in my lunch break without even asking me if I am free. Like anyone who works full time there are things that I need to do during my lunch break and bearing in mind that I am not paid during my break I get highly pissed off at the assumption that I love the firm so much that I will just give it up.

So in the case of junior staff YANBU.

Jinsei Wed 01-May-13 20:40:10

llareggub, sounds to me as if she was pretty clear - she told the HR officer that the staff could take a lunchbreak OR go to the meeting. Or have I misunderstood?

OP, yadnbu. The partners are being ridiculous. You're quite right to be angry on behalf of your team.

greenfolder Wed 01-May-13 20:41:38

sounds like the shit phrase "lunch time learning"- ie its really critical training but we thought you would be stupid enough to give up your lunch hour to attend- and heres a sandwich

catgirl1976 Wed 01-May-13 20:43:56


I was very clear with the HR Officer. I said it was lunch or the meeting.

My 'umming' was internal because I knew that would be the party line but disagreed with it.

YANBU to be irritated. Mind you, if this is the first of the 'lunch meetings' they've held, then maybe ignore the unprofessional personalising of the partners, call a meeting with them and sell what went on as something they need to learn from? (So do the whole ' it's evident from the 1st May meeting that staff are disengaged, if we want to motivate them and really get them focused on the business we need to hold the meeting at xx time instead, but still provide nibbles' type thing).

Maat Wed 01-May-13 21:01:34

Better still, business lunch meetings should be held in a restaurant with complimentary food & free wine flowing to assist the brain storming instead of curled up sandwiches.

That's how to get staff interested grin

catgirl1976 Wed 01-May-13 21:13:17

grin It would engage me smile

Seriously though I like your first point about selling it to the partners as a learning experience.......I think that's a good way for me to handle it.

(And a lot better than the hopefully-just-this-side-of-not-getting-sacked-arsey-sarcasm-loaded-email I was drafting in my head smile

catgirl1976 Wed 01-May-13 21:14:10

Oops sorry.....two different posters

I'm clearly blinded by my own annoyance blush

Well, at least we begin with the same letter. grin

Maat Wed 01-May-13 21:16:43


WorrySighWorrySigh Wed 01-May-13 21:31:42

Maybe a bit mickey-taking but not the end of the world.

It wasnt mickey-taking. Staff are entitled to a break. Just because the staff canteen was used as a meeting room does not make the meeting a break.

YABU to only be irritated by this. What are these 'different ways' which will be used to punish staff? This sort of work place bullying can be damaging to people's careers. A boss having a temper tantrum and deciding to issue warnings could have far longer impact on his victims than it takes to gather up his toys and put them back in his pram.

catgirl1976 Wed 01-May-13 21:33:21

Ummmmmm.........I think you may have mis-read my OP worry

The thing I am annoyed about is the reaction of the Partners, not people having a lunch confused

WorrySighWorrySigh Wed 01-May-13 21:37:41

I meant that you were BU to only be irritated by this. I have had too crap bosses who have abused their position of authority to bully staff into working through lunch, staying late etc. For the poor sod who has to live with this on a low salary it is more than just irritating.

Are you in a position to make sure that the fall out doesnt affect the staff?

WorrySighWorrySigh Wed 01-May-13 21:41:05

I didnt mean it as a serious YABU more a case that irritation would seem an under reaction for junior staff receiving an 'we are disgusted by your behaviour' type email or even something worse.

LessMissAbs Wed 01-May-13 21:45:25

Well the Working Time Regulations specify that a break should be given if the normal working day is being worked. I guess in some firms/companies, where there is a very close relationship between staff and management, employees might decide to forego their lunchbreak. It doesn't sound like the partners have created that sort of atmosphere. Quite bad behaviour on their part. Along with their own lack of communication. You might also argue that sending of a "disgusted" email by them might constitute a breach of the employer-employee common law duty of trust and confidence.

theoriginalandbestrookie Wed 01-May-13 21:49:20

Actually it's a bit odd that HR thought to e-mail you about it. Surely they should be more aware than anyone about the requirement for staff to have a break.

I agree you need to be very careful how to approach this. You could perhaps email the person from HR (who even though you didn't call the meeting decided that you should take responsibility for someone attending) and clarify politely if staff are required to have a break ( which if they are working more than 6 hrs they are indeed).

Then armed with the email from HR state that they need to handle this carefully as it's a Health and Safety issue as flagged by HR ( which hopefully takes the onus off you).

Honestly though they are liberty takers. As if a few curly sarnies makes up for having an unpaid lunch break. I only get one a week as I work reduced hours and I have a myriad of chores to complete in that time.

Viviennemary Wed 01-May-13 21:53:40

People are entitled to take their lunch break. This compulsory meeting at lunchtimes is nothing short of bullying. The management were in the wrong insisting people give up their lunch time for a meeting whether it was in the canteen or on the roof.

nenevomito Wed 01-May-13 21:59:55

Making people work through their lunchtime is not on. I'm used to doing it, but I wouldn't expect my staff to do it, even for a sandwich. I'm paid to put up with that kind of bollocks. They get an hour of their own time.

nenevomito Wed 01-May-13 22:01:02

The partners can't be that busy if they have a whole day to get frothed up about something that they were wrong about in the first place.

catgirl1976 Wed 01-May-13 22:02:00

Ahhhhh...sorry worry I get you now.

tbh, I am more than irritation. I just despair sad

HR asked me as I have responsibility for the HR department. It's a constant juggling act between what's right, what's legal and what the Partners want

I am going to make sure the staff don't get any flack for this and that the Partners know they were out of line. I am thinking of phrasing it along the lines of

"I heard about the issue yesterday.........XX must have the wrong end of the stick as from what I heard it sounded like we were reprimanding people for attending a meeting and telling them they couldnt have a lunch instead of asking them if they'd be good enough to give up their free time..."

WorrySighWorrySigh Wed 01-May-13 22:13:00

You have my sympathies catgirl, the stink from this sort of thing does tend to linger.

The Partners fail to understand why junior members of staff arent thrilled at the opportunity to give up their lunch break to give ideas to the management for which there will be no reward or recognition. I dont know how people get to be so oblivious to the motivational needs of others.

MrsPoglesWood Wed 01-May-13 22:16:50

My employers tried this one. But they didn't offer sandwiches - it was 'bring a sandwich to the seminar" and of course there were no takers so it has pretty much died a death thankfully. A lunch break is a lunch break. A break from work to eat, relax and re-charge your batteries for the rest of the working day.

If you're a senior exec on film star wages then perhaps it doesn't really matter but if you're not it feels like your own time is being stolen. There is no way I will spend my lunch break - which I am not being paid for - attending meetings without taking time in lieu. If I really have to attend a meeting over the lunch hours, which is sometimes necessary, then I will take a break before or after. There's no bloody way I would just do without and neither would I let my staff.

KenDoddsDadsDog Wed 01-May-13 22:17:25

Tell the partners they need to work on their framing skills. If they had engaged their staff to understand why they needed to do the meeting, they would have turned up because they wanted to. Easy.
They can't get cross because they haven't displayed effective leadership.

MrsPoglesWood Wed 01-May-13 22:36:02

Exactly what KenDoddsDadsDog said. Staff are not engaged enough to bother or put themselves out. Why is that? Is it because they think that management don't give a monkey's about them? Don't listen to them? Just dictate to them?

A fully engaged and motivated workforce who feel that management are right behind them and really value, recognise and reward their input, efforts and innovation will go the extra mile. If your management team don't do any of that then they are flogging a dead horse and they will lose their best workers to other companies eventually. Enforced lunchtime meetings will probably just make it happen more quickly.

Where on earth did these people learn management theory - if they ever did? Stuff like this is given as negative examples in management studies as being demotivating and stiffling innovation, empowerment and organisational cohesion. Bonkers!

catgirl1976 Wed 01-May-13 23:06:12

That's exactly it

The think staff should fall to their knees with excitement because they get the honour of giving their input and a curly old sandwich

Never occurs to them that we should appreciate their input or their time hmm and let them know it's valued. angry

LessMissAbs Wed 01-May-13 23:26:22

Is it a law firm OP?

MrsPoglesWood Wed 01-May-13 23:39:55

My employer has convened a Staff Input Group to canvass views as to the best ways to motivate and engage staff. They meet monthly and discuss honestly how various departmental/management initiatives are affecting staff.

It has a direct reporting line into our Director and has resulted in some changes. Our Director is pretty good but because he is so senior I don't think he had a clue about the petty regulations that didn't affect him that were actually hampering our staff from working effectively.

We have a way to go but we're getting there.

MidniteScribbler Thu 02-May-13 04:31:48

People are legally entitled to take a break. Providing sandwiches does not make something a break. I've worked in firms like this, and it really does fester and affects staff morale and creates a toxic work environment. Let people take their breaks, and let everyone stop work an hour early and provide some friday afternoon drinkies and you'll start seeing some ideas flow.

mirai Thu 02-May-13 04:38:53

I don't really understand as in fact you told HR that employees weren't allowed to have a separate lunch break. You could have told HR that of course, an employee should not be expected to attend a meeting unpaid and of course they could go on a lunch break before or after it. hmm

mirai Thu 02-May-13 04:42:59

" Today it transpires about half had gone on lunch, then attended the meeting from 1pm till 1:45. None of them ate any sandwiches as they had already eaten.

Maybe a bit mickey-taking but not the end of the world. "

Errr no, not mickey-taking at all in fact.

letseatgrandma Thu 02-May-13 07:09:35

I have to say that I agree with Mirai-I'm confused. What is your role in this workplace? You are giving HR advice on working policy-why are they asking you? Why are you giving them incorrect information? Why is it up to you to sort it out?

letseatgrandma Thu 02-May-13 07:12:15

I've just read your OP again-you weren't even planning on attending this meeting (that you expected staff to give up their unpaid lunch for) because you were taking a colleague out to lunch; that would have been popular!!

Llareggub Thu 02-May-13 07:44:54

Your problem has arisen but no reasonable person would expect a work meeting to replace their break, because it isn't a break. I've chaired many meetings that take place over the lunch period, mainly due to the diary commitments of others, and sarnies have been provided as a way of thanking people for meeting when they could be eating (or doing whatever people do at lunch!)

If you want to engage staff then it needs a lot more thinking through. Where were the leadership team in all of this?

Jinsei Thu 02-May-13 08:34:07

Presumably HR was asking the OP because they report to her. And the OP advised according to what she thought the partners expected, rather than her own personal opinion, because she is employed to implement company policy. Yes, in hindsight, perhaps she should have clarified and challenged expectations prior to the meeting, and told the partners that they were BU, but she didn't know how it was all going to pan out.

I think the partners were taking the piss to expect low paid staff to attend a meeting during their break, but it does sound as if the meeting was very optional in nature - clearly not a three line whip to be there. So I can understand why OP made the call that she did, even if in hindsight it wasn't the right one.

Dubjackeen Thu 02-May-13 08:48:20

Wow,that will really motivate people to give their all... First to be expected to give up their unpaid lunch break, and then to get an email attacking them for not doing so.
FWIW in that situation, I would have taken my lunch break and then gone to the meeting, and would not see that as 'mickey taking'. I think some employers, including my own, seem to have adopted the attitude that anything goes, because of the economic climate that we are in.
OP, I would suggest that you use whatever influence you have to ensure that no email is sent to staff, apart from thanking them for attending meeting, their input etc, then kill this idea of meetings at lunch break.

LineRunner Thu 02-May-13 09:27:32

Catgirl, I'd also make it clear that by 'taking a lunch' you mean taking a break at lunchtime, rather than taking a meal. Otherwise it'll stay pointlessly fixated on the sandwiches, whereas it is really about time.

fascicle Thu 02-May-13 10:07:37

catgirl said:
I ummed a bit and then let her know as we were providing sandwiches it was one or the other really.

To me, people are not paid for lunch. If we want them to attend a meeting and contribute the fact it is held at 1pm rather than say 10am or 4pm isn't really an issue. The fact a few grotty sandwiches were on the table doesn't make it less 'work' than any other meeting. People are entitled to a break during the day even if we give them a sandwich.

OP, it seems like you are saying different things to different people. So, it looks like you were giving the party line to HR, but on here you are voicing a different opinion of what's fair and siding with the employees. Given that there are legal implications of providing breaks at work, I think you should have said to HR, and to the partners, what you have said on here (i.e. along the lines of the second quote above).

Overall, the organisation and communication of the meeting sounds a bit of a shambles. Were the partners trying to save time/money by scheduling the meeting at lunch? If lunch is being provided, people need more than a mornings notice since they are likely to have made other plans/brought in their own lunch. And if employees were 'invited' to attend, that indicates there was a choice in the matter. The partners have no grounds for disappointment at the outcome.

Tanith Thu 02-May-13 10:44:54

I think you should present the Partners with a copy of Matthew and Son by Cat Stevens, compliments of the staff smile

Delayingtactic Thu 02-May-13 11:02:41

I think you are all treading on thin ice here. Morale will plummet if anyone gets a 'telling off' about failing to give up their free time to attend a meeting. Even if I had gone to the meeting, hadn't taken a lunch and scoffed sandwiches till I couldn't move I would be fucking angry that an email said those that didn't behaviour was disgusting. In all honesty I would then spend my unpaid lunch hour going on job sites. Because it shows the partners don't give a shit, don't understand employment law and think very little about their staff.

RenterNomad Thu 02-May-13 12:36:09

Interestingly, no mention that International Labour Day was this week! wink

aldiwhore Thu 02-May-13 12:45:06

If I had to be at a meeting at 1pm, then I'd take my unpaid lunch at 12, and stuff the sandwiches! Though nice that they were provided.

It shouldn't be either or, it should be both... if you are expected to attend the meeting.

StealthOfficialCrispTester Thu 02-May-13 12:53:58

"If a meeting isn't work then most of the Senior Management team haven't done any work for the last 20 years"

Love that grin

I have to say you were inconsistent, I can see how it happened, but saying the "party line" to begin with, then doing the opposite yourself wasn't good. It's now good you are standing up for the staff. And no, yanbu. We have working lunches every now and again where I am, but they are optional and you only attend if the subject is of interest - they are mini lectures on topics important to us.

catgirl1976 Thu 02-May-13 19:47:48

Sorry I've not been back on....been manic

Jinsei's pretty much spot on.

I was asked because HR report to me.

I said 'lunch or meeting really' because I knew that would be what the Partners expected. I didn't really agree with it, hence my umming, but they do pay my wages and if I always advised everything 'by the book' in favour of the employees and ignored the commercial or what the Partners would want, I'd be out of a job pretty quickly.

I spend a lot of my working days trying to manage the balance between managing the commercial aspect or Partners expectations against the letter of the law and employee welfare. Whilst I don't like it, at the end of the day I need to get paid, and so I try to pick my battles and save it for when it really matters.

On first ask, this didn't feel like the worlds biggest deal and I gave an answer I didn't agree with because, sometimes, I have to deal with that.

Had the meeting been madatory I think I would have given the opposite answer, but given attendance was voluntary I went with 'either / or'.

I appreciate I have been inconsistent, and, having been somewhat complicit in the first place, I might be being a bit U to be so annoyed. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

I am just annoyed by the massive over-reaction and the fact it has now become such a big issue. I annoyed that the party line is always short sighted and unfair. I'm annoyed that I am constantly tring to juggle between commercial and legal / ethical. I am annoyed that the Partners think its an amazing place to work because we get pizza on a friday and don't realise most people would trade that a million times over for some positive feedback, or a clear career path or investment in training.

My main annoyance is because stuff like this is constant and it's like pushing rope up a hill at times. Plus them wanting to bollock people and call them 'disgusting' is just such a total over reaction and I can't believe they spent a whole day frothing over it when they are (apparantly) so busy and when there are things that really do need some time spending on them that never get it.

Linerunner you are right. They will never be able to get away from "but we provided sandwiches" if I dont make the distinction between 'lunch' and a 'break at lunchtime' so I will be careful to do that

It hasn't come up today as I have been at chambers in the morning and in a meeting (no sandwiches smile ) all afternoon

StealthOfficialCrispTester Thu 02-May-13 21:44:04

You don't need to justify yourself. I think its clear how it happened - you hoped or assumed both sides would act like grown ups.

StarsdontShine Thu 02-May-13 22:26:07

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

catgirl1976 Thu 02-May-13 22:30:20

If only we had a union stars.

Thanks stealth - that is it exactly. I kind of thought it wouldn't end up in a massive deal sad

MrsPoglesWood Thu 02-May-13 23:28:40

But you can have a union, of course you can. Your employer doesn't have to give permission. Any employee can choose to join a union that as far as possible represents their type of employment. My DP's employer didn't have a union a few years back until one bloke struck out and within a month 95% of the workforce had signed up.

Yes the management can choose not to recognise said union - very unwisely - but if they breach employment law the employees have some recourse and some significant resources behind them to fight their corner.

oscarwilde Mon 06-May-13 05:34:41

Hi Catgirl
I remember your earlier post in legal. How is it going generally now you are back at work ?

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