A purely cricket terminology - mid-pitch conference is when two batsman walk to the middle of the pitch for a quick discussion on the next course of action. Bringing that to the office environment and you must have observed a colleague’s quick chat with a manager on the hallway, or stopping by the coffee machine for an exchange of notes with a colleague or updating peers of things to do for an upcoming office event.

Such short meetings serve several purposes on the personal and professional front. Without the ado of formal trappings, employees feel more open to come with suggestions, ideas or opinions about work and fellow employees. Let us first check things on the personal front.

Personal issues: More often than not personal issues can be discussed more easily with managers in the hallways or at the coffee machines. Issues like the requirement for a long leave or to permit work from home can be explained without the intimidating atmosphere of the meeting rooms. Also, the curiosity of fellow-employees can be kept at bay through such impromptu discussions.

On occasions, you will have issues with your colleagues on some or several matters. This is very common of a workplace. To bring such issues to the notice of the manager, mid-pitch conferences serve a great purpose. True, there is a thin line between gossip and such conferences but care must be taken that when issues with colleagues are being highlighted you do not overstep or let emotions take over. Be specific and focus on the real issues and ask for suggestions on your course of action.

Professional issues: Generally, it is the managers who initiate a discussion on performance related issues. Pay attention and you will notice that a manager threw a hint about your performance during informal discussions. That topic your manager mentioned during the coffee break might be indicating your performance. Clarifying the matter from your perspective is surely the best thing to do, but when do you grab those few minutes from your boss’ schedule? Why not use the coffee breaks for a discussion.

This will lead to the formal channels of communication opening up and you will have a meeting with the management.

Besides performance, opportunities for growth or lateral movement come up once in a while. Such situations demand that you highlight your existence in the office than leave the decision of choosing the right candidate to the manager. Your performance is well-documented but how do you convey that you are interested in the new project or potential position at the client location. You do not need a formal meeting with the manager to convey that message.

Utilise those few minutes that you travel with the manager from the parking lot to your cubicle, or those long minutes the lift takes to reach your work floor. Convey your interest in the new position and throw your hat in the ring with a sprinkle of lobbying.

Therefore, such informal channels of communication can be utilised for your growth and survival besides withstanding the intense competition that an office environment brings with it. Make those hallway discussions and coffee breaks productive with informal discussions of formal business and your mid-pitch conference will prepare you better for the next course of action.

Jai Kumar