How to escape Zooms by self-sabotaging your audio

Originally published at: How to escape Zooms by self-sabotaging your audio | Boing Boing


“making your presence unbearable to others.”

Roger That!


He wasn’t the hero we asked for, but he was the hero we needed.


I’m not sure if a coworker was trying for this, and I don’t think it works with Microsoft Teams, but he was on speaker phone and creating an echo that made concentrating on the primary speaker (not him) incredibly challenging. In Teams each participant has a mute icon. I muted him. And then the mute icon disappeared, so he had to call back in. Not proud of myself.

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Another, easier strategy to sabotaging audio is to turn the microphone down so low that people you can barely hear anything, as demonstrated in OP’s video.


Another trick: put some aluminum foil over your WiFi antenna, the quality will drop very convincingly such that you can either disable video or drop the call as desired.

I guess I have it easy, or I’m just more comfortable making stuff up. I’ve used the, “my internet is down,” or “phone reception is spotty, must be the wind,” more times than I’m proud of.
My coworkers aren’t going to trouble-shoot the tech issues.
And almost every meeting (in my experience) could be replaced with a well-considered email, or maybe a quick phone check in for rare instances.


I’m loving the idea that the tin-foil hat is making a legitimate resurgence.


As if I needed high tech solutions to make my presence unbearable to others…


Haha! This comment works especially well when read in the voice of your avatar!


Something I’ve already perfected!


A few weeks ago we had a guy at work self-sabotage himself right out of a job. No one is exactly sure what happened, except that the guy ignored or forgot the mute button. But it did get him out of the call (Teams, in this case), along with all future calls.

Way back when, I took a class in radio production and the instructor advised us to behave as though there is a live microphone, somewhere in the station, at any given time and to keep a lid on one’s expletives. (As I recall, when people find out the hard way it’s at an easy listening station.) I never did work in a radio station, but since taking that class, I’ve tried to be mindful that the mute button on any device might not work as intended.


Funny, but also, good lord.
Alright, everyone - quick professional debrief. Just like masturbating - racial slurs, dissing your coworkers, and being a general asshat should be kept under wraps while you’re in the office.

I mean, ideally, you only do 1 or 2 of those things in your private time anyway (you know which ones I’m talking about), but just don’t do ANY of them in your office. Even if that office is your kitchen with your laptop on.
On the one hand, it’s depressing to be surrounded by so much ineptitude. On the other hand, I feel like I will pretty much be able to find a job for as long as I want to work, if this is my competition.


How do you people cope with those regular meetings?
I had one this month with a private company, because our city got a project that they will fund, and i was bored to death, specially after someone says “we will decide that by email later” the third time.

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I have dealt by slowly extricating myself from all such invite lists. If you don’t have that luxury, I find doodling helps. And writing down the silliest office-speak to make mad-libs out of, later.
Oh, and bourbon helps. Just remember where the mute button is!
But seriously, I was about to quit 2 years ago, due to the meetings. I only stuck around because the boss said i could decide what i wanted to stay involved with. So I might not be the best example of how to cope.

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Not that I’ve escaped every meeting, but I’ve developed a lot of coping strategies over a career full of those meetings.

  1. Excuse yourself from a meeting where you’re not contributing or learning, and it’s obvious that you won’t be part of it. Just say “this has strayed way out of my team’s scope, but if you ever return to topic X, just let me know, you can always find me on Slack.” or something like that. Then leave.
    1.a. Side channel your manager on slack or SMS and ask them to send you (and your similarly afflicted co-workers) away with a similar sort of message.
  2. Just because a meeting is scheduled for an hour doesn’t mean it has to last an hour. When it’s done say “We covered everything on the agenda, and we have our takeaways and action plans (or whatever BS words fit your company) so I’ll give you all 38 minutes back. Bye.”
  3. Keep the conversation on topic. Some people love to get distracted by side crap. If they stray off topic for more than a few seconds, reel them back in. Say “We’re getting off topic, can we please get back to subject X?” Everyone in the meeting except the distracted folks will appreciate it. Screw those guys.
  4. Decide before the meeting if you’re an important attendee, and decline it if you’re not. If they invite five people from your team, but anyone on your team can answer their questions, draw straws and only the short straw has to attend. The rest of you can decline in email, saying something like “Marita is the Subject Matter Expert on Topic X, we’ll let her speak for our team.” And don’t always send Marita. Take turns being the expert; it’s good practice for you even if you’re not as sharp as she is.
  5. If you’re scheduling a one hour meeting, make it a half hour. If you’re scheduling a half hour meeting, make it 15 minutes. Use the urgency of getting through all those agenda items to stay focused.
  6. End the meeting on time. If you frequently find it difficult to keep track of time, designate someone else from the team to help keep you on time and on topic. And occasionally volunteer to be that person for someone else who doesn’t know how to keep their meetings on track.
  7. Don’t invite extra people. Invite only those who are directly involved. I remember 20-30 years ago when IBM would look at the meeting invitation list from our company, then add one to it and bring that many people wearing suits and ties. Outnumbering us was a stupid Psych 101 trick; even us junior developers quickly learned to ignore and disrespect everyone except the real tech experts on their side. Their managers would privately tut-tut to our execs hoping to get us in trouble for blatantly not acting professional and that their professionals were obviously more important and worth the ridiculous billing fees. In return, our execs were neither stupid nor oblivious, and would tell their account rep to “STFU and stop playing the stupid games.” (They never stopped, I guess it was an IBM company policy or something.)
  8. Ask management for help to save you from drowning in meetings. If you’re in meetings 2 hours a day, then your boss is in 4 hours a day, and your boss’s boss is in meetings 6+ hours a day; and probably wants some relief from endless pointless meetings, too. Our CIO explicitly gave us permission to use our judgement and decline meetings that we weren’t going to contribute to or learn from.
  9. Do your part. Keep your answers short and to the point; the more you volunteer about the inner details that are really only the internal business of your team, the more off-topic questions you’ll draw from the others who lack the context and are completely misunderstanding the point.

I’m certainly not advocating for skipping important meetings. Your company keeps paying you because you do useful stuff for them, and if they think all those meetings are important, then that’s what they’re paying you to do. There are many interpretations of “important,” but the only one that really matters comes from the person who signs your annual review. Make sure you’re on the same page as your boss.


I wish more managers would realize that they are actually getting work done while in meetings, while the rest of us aren’t getting work done in meetings.

In these pandemic times one really insidious thing I’m noticing is that not only are more meetings being scheduled, they are being scheduled earlier and earlier. Like 7am and 8am. Yeah, I don’t give a fuck that I’m not commuting to the office, I’m not getting out of bed for a 7am meeting unless I absolutely have to be there.

A funny thing I’ve seen is that most meeting calls I’m on intentionally start 5 minutes late to give people time in between meetings to go take a break (never mind the very thought of this idea didn’t give someone pause to rethink the amount of meetings we have). Now I’m finding meetings just end 5 minutes late instead.

Have I mentioned how much I hate meetings?

  1. Any meeting longer than 90 minutes (maybe not even that long) will lead to diminishing returns. Whatever the mgm’t. had hoped to accomplish with said meeting will be increasingly undermined by boredom, sleepiness, restlessness, urinary/excretory needs etc.

There are two types of schedule, which I’ll call the manager’s schedule and the maker’s schedule. The manager’s schedule is for bosses. It’s embodied in the traditional appointment book, with each day cut into one hour intervals. You can block off several hours for a single task if you need to, but by default you change what you’re doing every hour.

Most powerful people are on the manager’s schedule. It’s the schedule of command. But there’s another way of using time that’s common among people who make things, like programmers and writers. They generally prefer to use time in units of half a day at least. You can’t write or program well in units of an hour. That’s barely enough time to get started.

When you’re operating on the maker’s schedule, meetings are a disaster. A single meeting can blow a whole afternoon, by breaking it into two pieces each too small to do anything hard in. Plus you have to remember to go to the meeting. That’s no problem for someone on the manager’s schedule. There’s always something coming on the next hour; the only question is what. But when someone on the maker’s schedule has a meeting, they have to think about it.

For someone on the maker’s schedule, having a meeting is like throwing an exception. It doesn’t merely cause you to switch from one task to another; it changes the mode in which you work.

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