3 unlikely business lessons from reality tv

Many of us see office drama as an inevitable evil, but it doesn’t have to be. Just like in reality TV, conflict in the office tends to rear its ugly head at the times when people are already the most stressed out. When the stakes are high — whether you need to prepare a slide deck for your boss or nail that Aretha Franklin song in front of a panel of celebrity judges — the tiniest squabbles can turn into full-on crises.

So how do we alleviate that stress and get rid of office drama for good? Let’s take a look at the problems that might arise in your everyday work meeting, amplified through the lens of reality TV.

 

Lesson from Shark Tank: Come Prepared

On “pitch” shows like Shark Tank, there’s nothing more excruciating than watching someone deliver a presentation who clearly hasn’t done their homework. On TV, this often leads to mockery directed at the contestant, but if someone in your office shows up to a work meeting unprepared, your whole team should be prepared to take the heat. After all, a bad meeting wastes everyone’s time.

You can help keep your team on task at meetings by creating a clear agenda and sticking to it. Make sure each meeting attendee has and understands the agenda before the meeting begins and you can reduce the number of awkward situations dramatically. Additionally, if your meeting requires any degree of setup, including audio/video, files from your computer, remote attendees, or simply a table and some chairs, be sure to arrive early so you can finish your preparations before the meeting is scheduled to begin.

 

Lesson from Keeping Up with the Kardashians: Reduce distractions

Because it’s the year 2017, we’re all guilty of checking our phones when we shouldn’t be from time to time. But there’s something especially jarring about watching someone on TV carry out an entire in-person conversation without ever looking up from their phone. I feel like everyone’s dad right now for exclaiming, “it’s just so rude!”

And yet, we routinely do the exact same thing at work meetings — only we have our laptops open, so it looks more productive. Even if your computer use during the meeting is 100 percent productive and work-related, study after study suggests that effective multitasking is biologically impossible for the human brain. Even if you’re simply taking notes for the meeting, doing it on your laptop invites your coworkers to join in, and before long, at least one of you is going to lose focus and start watching cat gifs — from which there is no return. One easy solution? Close the laptops and take notes with an old fashioned pen and paper.

 

Lesson from Chopped: Finish on time

Time is precious, and if one small thing goes wrong, it can derail your best laid plans. It’s a valuable lesson for the contestants on Chopped, who need to plan and cook a meal full of oddball ingredients in only 30 minutes. However, it’s also relevant in your work meetings, which fall in the middle of your already busy day. If one meeting goes long, it causes a chain reaction, and everything else suffers. However, with a few simple tips, you can make sure every meeting ends on time.

First, set a time limit for every single item on the agenda. If you feel like you need to go over time for one item, you can subtract those minutes from another agenda item, but only if the next agenda item has room to spare. Second, schedule your meetings for 25 or 50 minutes, rather than an entire half-hour or hour, to avoid the logjam effect. Third, make sure you start on time. If your team likes to start meetings with small talk or if some team members are habitually late, you can put five minutes of chit-chat on the agenda — then be sure to follow your agenda!

High drama is the reason we watch reality TV, but it’s not the reason we show up to work. And as it turns out, dramatic work meetings, like most aspects of office drama, aren’t unavoidable after all. With the right tools and skills, we can be the masters of our own meeting fate.

About the Author

Steve Stormoen is a writer/editor at Citrix, specializing in content marketing and blogging for RightSignature and ShareFile. He lives in Santa Barbara, California, where you're likely to find him consulting non-profit organizations, playing basketball, or writing and self-publishing indie comic books.