The Seven People on Your Conference Call

As WFH evolves from “working from home” to actually working, we’re all becoming more familiar with video calls. And whether your method of choice is Zoom, Hangouts, Blue Jeans (ugh), or some other platform, the glossy-screen landscape is basically the same. The narrative is usually a big hubbub at the beginning, and then an hour or so of microphone drama, followed by an exit complete. (Bonus points if you smile for 30 seconds in case anybody is still watching). After a few weeks, we’ve noticed a few personalities emerge – see if you can spot them on your next dial-in.

The Boss:

Obviously, no call would be complete without The Boss. Sometimes this isn’t even the actual boss, but just happens to be whoever is loudest. They love the sound of their voice so much that they’ll go to great lengths to repeat exactly what was just said, only because it sounds sweeter in their own melodic tone. Tinged with the tinny sound of a microphone, of course.

The Ghost:

Appearing for a moment in the beginning, but then gone in a flash, The Ghost denies the conference the privilege of a video view. More often than not, they won’t even speak a word. Their presence is designated only by a haphazard name inside a dully-colored box. Is the Ghost even participating? Are they in the room? Are they simply haunting you? We may never know. But we do love the mystery.

The Ref:

“Can everybody mute please?!” followed moments later, “Guys, we’re still picking up feedback, if you’re not speaking can you mute please?” The Ref’s mission is pure, but their efforts can be maddening. We’d guess they’re Type A. The Ref is second only to the boss in the “who’s running this call” competition. They’re probably a Virgo attempting to bring order from chaos, so you can’t really blame them.

The Jack-in-the-Box:

Video decorum suggests that for the most part, you’re in one state of being: video or non-video. Occasionally, of course, nature will call and you’ll have to excuse yourself. You’ll hide the video and go on mute for a moment, have a lightning bolt second in the restroom, then save the day when you return. But, you know, there are some people who want to watch the world burn. They’ll flick between video and darkness as though it were a light switch. Order? They’ve never met her.

The Muted Guest:

Have you ever had a dream where you’re in the throes of disaster but you cannot scream? No matter how hard you try you can’t ask for help, alert the authorities, or share that Karen from accounting has been embezzling from the company this whole time? The Muted Guest lives this nightmare out in meetings. Their good ideas and worthy opinions are cast aside, simply because they consistently forget to unmute their mic. A sad state of affairs, usually coupled with somebody (The Ref) screaming “You’re muted!”

The Absentee:

The trouble with video calls is that the camera shows your face, but not your screen (unless of course, you ask it to). The Absentee knows this better than anyone. Their stare is focused, but not on the content at hand. As far as any of us know, they could be shopping for a new shirt, or even a new job—how rude! We’re all probably guilty of absenteeism at one point or another, but be on the lookout for serial offenders. They’ll email you the next day asking for “next steps” even though they were discussed live on the call.

The Party Person:

This colleague can be recognized in many ways. Their identifier of choice, however, is a fun piece of clothing. It might be a Hawaiian shirt (we love it), but it could be a funny hat of some sort. Their life is a party, a never ending calendar of social engagements. No gathering is too small (especially as we all practice healthy social distancing), no conference call is too important, and when asked, they’d always describe themselves as “the life of the party.” We won’t comment on whether that’s true or not.

If any of these sound like you, worry not. None of them are bad, and we’re all just doing our best out there after all—even if it’s through a tiny screen.