In my firm’s Denver office, most of us travel four days a week to our clients. We are then are given the option to either work from home or come into the local office on Fridays… and I think you can guess which option is most popular 🙂 So as the connectivity chair for the Rockies region, it’s a bit of an uphill battle trying to get organize events and incent people to attend.
Today, I sent out an invite for a lunch prior to a mandatory all-hands meeting. We’ve recently switched from Lotus Notes to Gmail (hallelujah!), and I’m still getting used to all the functionality. In general, Gmail blows Lotus Notes out of the water. But when I went to send the calendar invite today, I realized that there is one thing that really sucks about Gmail: the response options for a meeting request. Specifically, you can’t tweak them and force people to pick “yes” or “no”; Gmail always includes “maybe” as an option.
Just today, Gmail announced a “smart replies” feature for their Inbox app. If they can develop their software to lazily write a response on your behalf, surely they could write a little bit of code allowing meeting organizers to eliminate the spineless “maybe” replies?
I do understand the intent around “maybe.” For example, I am always a “maybe” for events that take place on a Thursday night, since I’m at the mercy of the weather and the airlines to get me home on time rather than late. But in my opinion, “maybe” gets thrown around a bit too much. The problem isn’t so much Gmail as it is our society’s collective FOMO (fear of missing out) and unwillingness to commit to anything.
FOMO has been documented all over the place as a hallmark of the millennial generation. Hey, remember when we only had landline phones, all plans had to be made well in advance, and you couldn’t be late or you’d never find the people you were meeting? With cell phones ever in hand, there’s no need to commit in advance – we can make plans at the very last second and arrive whenever the heck we want to. Besides, why commit now when something better might come along? We’ve become a society who fears commitment – and while a healthy dose of spontaneity is great, there comes a point at which our lack of commitment keeps us from truly enjoying ourselves and getting the most out of life.
Of course, one of the real culprits behind our fear of commitment is our fear of disappointing others. As Adam pointed out, “I respond ‘maybe’ when my answer is ‘no’ but I don’t want them to feel bad.” I, for one, am definitely a people pleaser, and find it really hard to tell others no. But 100 replies of “maybe” don’t help me plan an event, and it also doesn’t make my friends feel any better when I reply “maybe” to their happy hour invitations and then don’t show up.
A quick search turned up this article on seven ways to handle FOMO – and it has some good tips. Specifically, I liked the first two: don’t overcommit (a tough one for me), and don’t second guess your decisions after you make them. Sure, I can’t know now what I’ll want to do next Friday, but I’ve lived long enough that I ought to be able to make a pretty good guess. (Here’s a hint: most work-free nights I like to go to bed by 9pm, so it’s dumb for me to yes to 8pm plans.) And as far as second guessing goes, there have been many nights where I’ve dragged myself to something I had previously agreed to but now didn’t want to attend, and was so glad that I did. Sometimes, planning-you knows better than in-the-moment-you! (This is especially true when it comes to diet and exercise.)
So even if Gmail won’t eliminate the “maybe”, I’m going to try doing so myself. I’m not going to start being rude, but if someone invites me to something I don’t want to or can’t attend, I’m going to just say no. And if I’ve RSVPed yes to something? I’m sticking to it.