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Managing up through calendar stalking

trashhalo profile image Stephen Solka ・3 min read

Working at start-ups can be a pretty crazy experience. When everyone is running hard, one of the first things to fail is effective communication. One trick that can help plug the gap of missing information is invoking the dark arts of Calendar Stalking.

Calendar Stalking

In many organizations google calendar is configured to allow anyone to see anyone else's calendar. Calendars are filled with useful information. Calendar stalking is the art of using that data to make sense of the swirling world around you.

How to see someone's calendar?

  1. On your computer, open Google Calendar.
  2. On the left click Search for people.
  3. Start typing someone’s name and choose the person you want to meet with.
  4. At the top left, click Create Add.

If they were evil and configured their calendar only says Busy/Free see appendix at the end.

Start with your manager's calendar. Information tends to get lost or distorted when moving between levels. Your manager's manager and up the chain are all great sources of information.

Ignore all the repeating meetings. Ignore the one on ones. 80% of the meetings are boring fluff everyone has. You are looking for one off meetings talking about topics that you do not know much about. Events that have not been accepted yet are especially good because often they have recently been created.

In the calendar event there may be an agenda attached. Be sure to read that. Extra information can sometimes be found in your office wiki using words in from the subject or description of the event.

What do I do with this new information?

Is the meeting on an interesting topic and you wish you were invited to participate? Great, ask if you can come!

You not being invited was probably not an intentional slight. People are more than willing to let more come to meetings if they ask. Being present and contributing at the meetings increases your knowledge and presence at your company.

Meeting with an ambiguous agenda? Sometimes asking the organizer can help get more information.

"I noticed this meeting on your calendar. I was wondering if you might share what it is about?" There are of course limits to prodding. Don't ask people ops why they are meeting with someone suddenly on a Friday. In general people are pretty open to questions.

Your manager is a good resource of extra context for meetings they are in. Your one on one is a perfect time to talk about things you have observed around the office and on calendars. Most things going on at your job are not secret. Once you ask people open up and tell you all about what's happening.

Knowledge is power

The more you understand the world around you the more effective you will be in your job. You can get a sense for what is coming down the pipeline, not just the tickets you have been assigned. Stop waiting for people to notice you and invite you to their meeting. Find the meetings you want to go to and ask!

Appendix: Workaround for free/busy calendars

Sometimes people configure their calendars to hide the names of meetings they are going to. One workaround for this is if you can figure out who this person meets with on a regular basis then you can can look at that persons calendar and look for meetings that overlap.

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Stephen Solka

@trashhalo

Engineering manager growing happy teams.

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