Getting Called an AHOLE and Making Sure You are Muted During Remote Meeting

This is a blog post I have been intending to write for at least a month. I needed to wait so I could calmly and objectively write this blog post. I am also writing this in hopes it gives others perspective on what not to do during a video conferencing call and to respect others and own up to your own mistakes.

Proper Behavior On Video Calls

Since the Covid pandemic, most of my meeting use some sort of  video conferencing technology, it typically is  Zoom, Webex,  or Microsoft Teams.

Initially, it was a great way to see everyone and stay in touch, and I feel people had proper behavior on these meetings or I was more forgiving as everyone was forced into having their entire lives changed.

But at this point I feel we have been in this environment long enough and I have seen some inconsiderate, inappropriate and bad behaviors creep in.

At first everyone had video on and it was great you felt like it was a team. But that novelty wore off and most people are not on camera these days. If you are in team meeting and others have the camera on, turn your camera on.

If you have a background or something in your room that is distracting, make sure you distort or put up a background, you do not want to distract others on the call.

Also if you are on camera and have a window that happens to let a lot of light in, make sure you account for that. I have a bad habit of not accounting for the light as my home office faces the south side of the house and a lot of sun comes in during the afternoon.

Make sure you have a good headset and speaker. Don't be the guy who is generating feedback into the meeting or has a poor connection that you can hear every other word.

I also know someone who has a habit of being on two calls at once you can hear the other call in the background. While we are all busy and at times double booked you can't serve two masters. Pick a meeting and join it. If you have to be on two meetings, turn the volume down on the other meeting so others do not have to listen, it is distracting.

Mute Button

One of the biggest mistakes I have seen is not being muted when you are joined to a meeting. If you are on a meeting, make sure you mute if you do not need to talk. This is especially import if you are on a mobile phone and are in the car on hands free. The background noise from the vehicle can make it difficult for others to hear you. Also, if you are working with others in your home, people can hear the background noise of dogs barking or other people speaking. While Microsoft Teams does a great job of filtering background noise, it can only go so far.

Event That Lead To This Blog Post

This leads me to the event that lead to this blog post. In December, I was on a call with one of the vendors my employer works with. This vendor is always behind and always has excuses on why they are behind. The vendor has a sales rep and and a solutions engineer. The solutions engineer is suppose to validate the design and assist the sales rep in placing orders and verifying the order is correct.

In August the company I worked for moved a datacenter offsite. In moving that datacenter, certain items need to be relocated such as communication lines. One of those communication lines was needed for voice services. The order was placed incorrectly twice. Everyone got on call in October and it was clear the solutions engineer did not have a good understanding about our account and how the communications circuits worked. I explained to him at that time that we have two separate networks and the line in question just needed to be moved.

Fast forward to December, the line is still not active and we are going back and forth with the Vendor. I discovered that he did not place the order as I asked, he place an order for a new circuit, so this had to be addressed, which caused extra delay's and was really unnecessary. In fact, it was suppose to be fixed two week before that, but he made the excuse that email was stuck in drafts or the outbox (which was the third time we heard this excuse). The email was never sent, that is why it never got done. I am a very calm guy, but I had enough and I don't care for people who are not upfront and honest.

I told the vender it is time to stop screwing around and get this circuit moved. I told the sales engineer that if he had listened the first time, he would have realized two networks existed. It should not have taken four months and six meeting later to get this fixed. While explaining my frustration, someone walked into the room and he said "I am on the phone with this Ahole from such and such Company and I am getting my butt chewed".

I understand that mistakes happen, but this was not only unprofessional, it is unacceptable in a business environment.  

I was so angry, I just left the call so I would not react in a negative way and escalate the situation. I did tell them before leaving the call, the circuit needed to be moved and functional by the months end, which it was. The sales rep on the account is overworked and does a great job considering the challenges the rep faces.  

What this system engineer fails to realize is that line was needed for redundancy, if the primary line failed and the company I work for could not make phone calls, it would be a bad day for me. I could be fired for incompetence as it should not take that long to move circuits. Put yourself in someone else's shoes. Besides, you are a representative of the Vendor, you should have an idea of our inventory.

So with that, make sure you are muted when you do not need to speak. Also, no matter what, even if you think someone is an Ahole, don't say it even if you are on mute during the call. You have plenty of time when you are not on the call to do that. Also, accept professional responsibility for the actions you cause. Someone is not being an Ahole when all they are doing is asking you to do your job.

The sales engineer did call with an apology which I respect. But that still does not make the behavior acceptable.

Final Thoughts

Covid-19 has changed people, some for the better and some for the worst. Just because you are frustrated with your job or life don't vent that frustration onto others. Own up to your mistakes and take responsibility and don't keep making them. Finally if you have questions reach out and ask, don't wait until the next meeting or someone is frustrated before reaching out and asking a question.

If you think something, don't say it, even if you think you are muted. If you need to vent, wait until the call is over and no one can hear you.

Also, make sure you follow proper video conferencing Etiquette, which can be found here.

If someone does call you an Ahole, forgive and forget life is too short to hold a grunge or focusing on the negative event. Laugh it off or blog about it.

Make sure you use the mute button so you don't embarrass yourself or end up being part of a blog post discussing the mute button :)

TBJ Consulting

TBJ Consulting