Monthly Archives: June 2012

Office onset flu-like symptoms; you’re not sick, just delusional.

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Outside the office today on the East coast of the US there’s an amplified heat that feels like wearing vinyl to Death Valley, but I bet there’s more than one of you who still has their space heater on in the office.  Maybe it’s just a favorite sweater that helps warm that tan you got over the weekend.

There are a million people out there fighting against global warming and looking for a fix to the environment.  Some of them are riding deer to the Poles with ropes and cool looking snow gear to save the ice as we speak.  You’re fixing a cup of coffee while wearing the fleece pullover your company gave you a couple years back that doesn’t really fit.  Well, I’m fighting for you, friend.  Maybe fight is a strong word.

I once worked in an office where, in my section upstairs, the heat was broken.  How broken?  As you stepped on the fourth stair it went from about 70 to 85.  Evidently the owners had done an analysis and realized paying for someone to fix it would be more expensive than just paying for the extra heat.  Of course, they made this decision in their wool suits downstairs.  Have you ever seen a sheep sweat?  No, because they don’t put sheep in 85 degree carpeted offices.  Trust me, we all had a look at that dial to see if we could fix it.  Well, not the ladies who thought it was great.  Let’s just say buy in for the audits of fisheries and meat packing plants suddenly rose to an all-time high.

In most offices the heat is not broken it’s just controlled by a fairy – the Heat Fairy.  Imagine if your office was a democracy and everyone had a vote as to what the ambient temperature should be  – whoa, bad idea.  Sometimes you know who the Heat Fairy is.  Usually it’s because they made a scene – they built a blanket fort on their body to prove that they were cold.  They use the word ‘dying’ often when they are hot.  They are sadly not good enough hypochondriacs to just call out sick.  They’d rather roam around and infect everyone with the notion that illness and potential death is only avoidable if they are allowed to adjust the thermostat.

Some places, though, the Heat Fairy really is a fairy that you can never quite catch.  Yesterday it was 62 degrees in here.  Today it is 75.  How does that happen?  Why is the AC on in the middle of February?  That’s assuming you have consistent heat across your whole office, but there are mysterious zones.  Do you guys have the one meeting room that is an icebox?  When you see it on your schedule you know you have to bring a sweater with you – it’s like an outing except you’re in the same office and your boss has about 50 slides to run through.  He’s got the projector light to keep him warm.  What do you have?  An ill-fitting sweater and your touchy-feely co-worker, Phil.

I would also recommend not working in a building that is cursed or the owners got a really good deal on.  Here’s the story.  You make the call which of the above led to this:

One day the partner heard a noise above her head.  It was not an accountant trying to escape through the heating system, but something.  She called an exterminator who used his masters degree  to explain we had a mouse problem.  He did not have a degree in psychology though, so when the mice started falling through the ceiling tiles onto desks and floors we were less than consolable – really just paranoid.  You know, if you could fall from eight plus feet, land, and bolt away you’d be in the Olympics.  You can’t and mice can.  We told the exterminator to stop thinking and just start shooting.

It was proven that mice cannot land in your hair unless maybe if you had a Don King afro.  But flying ants can do everything! And they’re creepier than those little cute mice.  Maybe we should have looked into replacing the ceiling after the mice incident because not long afterwards ants started falling.  You know how you get the first drops of a summer rain that peck the dust and you’re just waiting for it all to pick up.  Well, a couple dazed ants sauntering across the floor were noticed.  They had wings which was pretty awesomely scary.  Soon after they were plopping on desks, landing in hair, walking everywhere.  The exterminator was called again.

If you want to be distracted from work maybe a change in the temperature will do the trick.  If you really want to test your mental toughness add some animals into the mix and see how much you get done.  Faithful readers, migrant internet searchers tell us some stories.  You can stay anonymous if you’d like, but me making up comments on my own blog would be the saddest thing ever. Share!

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1980s TV Stars you swear work in your office

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The 1980s was a fantastic time to grow up.  The career paths were seemingly endless.  I was drawn to those trying to help society by fighting crime independently.  Remember Hawaii-50, how they were cops in Hawaii.  In the 80s they took it one step further and had Magnum PI who got to choose who he wanted to help spending the rest of his time hanging out in a mansion with his posse in shorts and a Tommy Bahama shirt.  Michael Knight was driving a talking car, MacGuyver was saving the ladies with his gum wrapper neutron bombs.  The A-Team; even Michael Landon was bringing us on the Highway to Heaven.  When society was fixed it was chill out time.  I call that work-life balance.

I went away to college and found out that everything I had watched in those halcyon days had no career prospects – not even Dukes of Hazzard.  Well, not all my voracious TV study was in vain because one day I would learn that many of the characters I met on TV I would see again someday in real life (just not necessarily the cool ones).  Perhaps you have co-workers like these characters in your office too.

Wesley from Mr. Belvedere

The fact that Mr. Belvedere never backhanded Wesley was kind of touching in a I’m-just-a-kid-one-after-school-special-away-from-getting-that-I’m-annoying kind of way.  But we know adults like this.  The ones that ask a million questions so they can stick you in front of your boss when you trip up on one.  Or the folks that CC everybody in upper management, lower management, basement management so you’ve got to answer to everybody while they take a two hour lunch.

 

 

Edie McClurg in like every role she’s ever done

This is the really nice lady in your office who traps you in the copy room or at the coffee station and a seemingly innocent conversation about knitting somehow winds up with you calling Bonnie the Admin Assistant to God’s new hairdo something you saw on Jerry Springer one time after a stage fight.  You think maybe Edie was so pleased that I complimented her on her advanced crotcheting technique that she would maybe not roll over on me.  Then around 2:00 Bonnie and her ugly hairdo give you the stink eye and you have your answer.

 

 

Vinnie from Doogie Howser, MD.

Poor Vinnie – he was the less smart, less good-looking friend who didn’t even have a computer.  Doogie moved on awhile back, but Vinnie’s still kicking around.  He’s staring down error messages on the old PC, smacking the keyboard around a little bit when he gets frustrated, and generally making sarcastic comments when people complain about his work.  He likes to complain a lot about management, but the only thing they’ve done wrong is let him continue to hang around.

 

Aunt Jackie from Roseanne

Jackie is the perfect encapsulation of a contractor.  There are times when Jackie is the smartest, most logical person in the room at Roseanne’s house because she has some objectivity coming in from the outside.  There’s other times when you get to know her and it’s clearer why she isn’t married and doesn’t have kids.

 

 

 

Ted McGinley in like every role he had in 1980s

Ted is the guy who is in management and is probably in a role that is higher than his actual abilities because he’s so good looking.  He kind of kicked around different places after college maybe until he was around 40 and needed the 401K.  As long as he’s not your manager let the guy have whatever he wants.  He’s pleasant when you talk to him.  He just, from most accounts, doesn’t quite know what he’s doing.  They keep putting him on the brochures anyway.

 

 

Delta Burke’s character in Designing Women

Strangely enough the people who didn’t pay attention to you in high school still can’t seem to hear everything you say now that you’re an adult.

“Here’s the idea that I came up with.”

“I don’t think that’s the best use of resources.”

“Why thank you, it is the best use of resources, isn’t it? What’s your name again?”

“Major Dad and I wasn’t complimenting you.”

 

Bob Newhart from Newhart

There always seems to be at least one old guy in management who is afraid to change.  It’s because he knows once things change it could prove he’s not really that capable.  Mr. Carlson from WKRP in Cincinnatti is another example of this.  Now certainly if you’re working with Les Nessman or Larry, Daryl, and Daryl you’ve got your work cut out for you.  He’s a likeable guy, but frustrating as hell.  Everybody’s on Keurig and he’s holding on to that Mr. Coffee that Joe Dimaggio gave him in 1984.  Let’s move froward with the times.

 

Janet from Three’s Company

Poor Vinnie?  Poor Janet – she’s trapped in a world where she’s competing with Suzanne Sommers instead of just being herself.  Why were there so many neurotic woman characters in 1980s TV?  Joanie from Happy Days, Dianne and Rebecca from Cheers, Mrs. Garrett, Marcie from Married With Children, What’s her name from One Day at a Time.  It’s possible that the hairspray and shoulder pads led to some unintended side effects, but we’re over that now, right?  Not quite all of us.  There’s a few Janets out there that work really, really hard and get nowhere because they give off a nervous vibe.  When they release once a year there’s crying, there’s overindulging at the Christmas party, there’s squeeling tires in the parking lot.  This craziness is certainly not limited to the women in your office.

 

Judge Harry from Night Court

We get it – you like magic tricks and practical jokes. We get it – you love Mel Torme.  We get it – you’re responsible for trying criminals.  Actually we don’t really get that part given that you can’t stop being silly for ten seconds.  Yes, the fun guy is in your office.  Whether it’s sports or You-tube or wrapping your stapler in Seran Wrap he’s there.  It’s fun during a coffee break.  It’s exceedingly annoying when there’s a deadline.  He never quits.  Night Court has so many characters you can see every day – the sleezy Dan Fielding, the neurotic OCD toting Christine Sullivan, Mac the guy who’s there for a paycheck, Bull Shannon, the freakishly tall guy who people keep raving about, but you don’t really know anything about him other than he’s really tall.

 

Dwayne Wayne from A Different World

Who can forget Dwayne Wayne with his flip down sunglasses checking out the ladies? He’s ditched the flip downs, but he’s still stylin’.  Why’s he stylin’ at your office – who the hell knows?  By day he answers phones, but at night he is Miami (at least that’s what he tells you when he’s in the bathroom checking his look in the mirror.  How he could be Joe Smooth in this part of the state you’re not really sure.  He lives in a whole ‘nother world, A different world, dare I say, with tanning beds and manicures!

 

 

Corey Feldman

No really – Corey Feldman works at your office.  He’s the one that drives that beat up Toyota who parks it way out because that’s where the shade is and his creditors are not.

Corey says everything’s going to be alright

If George Clooney was in IT they’d put him in the basement too.

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The plight of the poor IT professional.  Thirty years ago there were no IT people.  They all worked at IBM and other software companies.  They were the cutting edge of a cool, sci-fi, Tron-like world where there was no doubt they would own those people who once made fun of their amped up graphing calculators and mastery of their joysticks.  For a wonderful moment in time there was a binary bubble.  Then Apple and Microsoft decided to put a computer in everybody’s home…and car…and phone.

These computers are just a fad! I’ll be on TV foreva!

In the 1980s everybody’s dad was Tony Danza pulling out the old ball glove pretending they could still play.  In the 1990s they gave up on that crap.  Now they could be a hero to the family if they brought in a PC.  Now everybody knows about computers – even old people!  But where has all of this knowledge gotten us to?  It’s kind of like when you give your dog peanut butter.  He likes peanut butter, but you really think it’s just funny to watch him smack his lips and shake his head back and forth.  We like our computers, but the real entertainment is when people can’t figure out how to use them.

Enter Donna Double Click.  She’s the nice woman you work with who, just has no luck with computers.  It doesn’t really make any sense because she’s had a PC in her house for years, but you ask her send out a meeting request and she says ‘I know you’ve shown me this before, but can you show me how to do that again?’ You suck in a deep breath and say ‘Of course I can because you’re a nice woman.’  Later on, of course, somebody is steamed about something and exclaims, ‘God, she’s such a dope!’  Then the Donna stories come out.  How she called IT when she couldn’t get rid of the lines in Microsoft Word and they had to explain to her that she was in Excel.  How IT got stuck there for an afternoon as there were 178 automatic updates that hadn’t run on her computer because she didn’t realize that turning off the monitor didn’t actually turn off the computer.  And the seemingly daily struggle of the demons within her computer making the icons either far too small or Super Mario big.

Donna’s not even that old.  You can’t blame people who had worked for twenty years before a computer even landed on their desk to be a little slow on the uptake, but it doesn’t seem to be that – there are just some people who don’t get it.  Then there’s five accountants huddled around a computer trying to figure out why the screen won’t move up and down.

It’s tedious at times (especially for IT), but at least Donna asks for help.  Kevin Keyboard Shortcut never asks for help until the Blue Screen of Death hits.  Then you get ‘Dammit, this computer sucks.  My last one was so much better.  What’s IT’s number?’  IT comes up and grabs the computer and then you see neither IT nor Kevin for the rest of the day.  The problem is that Kevin knows how to do stuff on the computer.  He’s got like 15 printer options because he can add one without prompts.  He’s accessing networks that aren’t really his.  Yeah, he gets error messages, but most of them are just warnings; they’re not critical or anything.  Then IT asks him what happened and he’s suddenly pretending to be as oblivious as Donna Double Click. ‘I don’t know.  It just kinda popped up.’

IT should really just monitor some of these people’s screens all day.  They might if they weren’t stuck running to the planning meeting only to find out one of three things:

  1. The presenter figured out the fix to his problem which probably means something else will soon be screwed up.  For every check box clicked there is an equal and opposite critical error message to be dealt with
  2. The solution to the problem was so dumb that it had to be a practical joke because no one who is potty trained or can tie their shoes should have missed it.
  3. The network is actually screwed up in which case there is a shitstorm brewing in emails.  Sitting here and pretending to try to fix this, while people keep telling me how yesterday their computer wasn’t working either, might be the best thing I can do for my own sanity.

Yes, most IT people didn’t seek it out as a profession, but getting blown around from company to company like dandelion feathers wasn’t cutting it as a programmer.  Or the company they working for blew up and this is a job.  There are two rules in the job as IT professional:

  1. Like a magician you can tell people what you’re doing, but never teach them how to do anything.  It saves you and your buddy’s jobs in the basement plus teaching is for training.  IT only trains their own.
  2. You are a data collector.  Sure, figuring out diagnostics and solving problems is cool, but really you just need stories to share.

Sales conferences, at times, are like the movie Bachelor Party, you know with Tom Hanks before he got all Saving Private Ryan on us.

“God, the owner was freakin’ ancient with like mummy breath.  You know like the mix of dentures and that Robitussin you can only get in Canada.  He’s been jerking us around for three years.  I finally just said to him flat out.  ‘You could have had us at $20 a unit two years ago.  What the hell are you waiting for?  For us to throw in a pack of Tic Tacs for you and your wife? OK $35 a unit and one pack of Tic Tacs.’  I actually wrote the Tic Tacs right on the sheet.”

“No, you didn’t do that, Barney!”

“I most certainly did and he took it!”

I imagine IT conferences are a little more subdued

“Yeah, I was trying to fix this guy’s network connection and I jumped on the phone for a couple minutes and suddenly a screen saver pops up and it’s a naked woman…who might just have been his manager.  I hit the mouse and we pretended like nothing happened.”

“Was she hot?”

“Not bad.”

“You should have said, A little pre-meeting scouting?”

“Yeah, I shoulda said that – damn.”

Poor IT personnel, their stories will make you frightened to ever turn on your computer, but they can’t tell anybody.  They just fix your little hiccups and go back to their basement cubicle monastery in the shadows of the junked computer parts closet.

Screw national administrative assistant day (OK, that’s a good idea too), but IT needs a pat on the back once in a while too.  Who would play a good IT pro in a movie?  Are you the IT Hall Monitor on your floor helping to fix everybody’s computer issues before calling in the big guns or are you the saboteur who uses a broken computer as an excuse to leave early?  IT has a dossier on everybody – what does yours say?

Nobody invited Emily Post to their meeting. I wonder why.

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Hi, I’m your IT professional.  You might remember me from such roles as the guy who ended your embarrassing Blue Screen of Death problem, the person who sat awkwardly at your desk while you tried to busy yourself when the network stalled during a ‘routine’ download of Adobe.  Or perhaps it was my finest achievement to date, retrieving your lost Powerpoint on the fly during your last quarterly meeting.  By the way, handy-dandy tip: sweating on your keyboard will not prolong the life of the keyboard.

Everybody has meetings.  They are unavoidable and, at times, actually productive.  But they can also go rotten milk bad real fast leaving us all with nothing more than cautionary tales.  There should be etiquette and when codification was brought up in a recent meeting twelve people volunteered to create Meeting Etiquette Standards.  Somehow it hasn’t gotten done.

Who

If I don’t know why I’m in your meeting I’m going to set out to destroy your meeting.  Not intentionally, of course, but you’re stealing time out of my productive workday to not be productive and I will comply.  It’s OK to check your phone once in a while.  You know, to make sure you voted for American Idle or to see what the weather is in Auckland, but it does get contagious.  The wise veteran presenters tell folks to leave their cellphones in their cubes, but then you’ve got yawning, elbow leaning, and pen cap chewing.  You could set up a table like the kids table at Christmas for the unimportant people or you could just not invite them.

What

If you don’t tell me what this meeting is about in reasonable detail I’m going to use it as a forum to complain.  Are the complaints going to be reasonable? No! We’ll talk about Sue’s squeaky shoes.  We’ll spend ten minutes discussing why some people can work from home, but others can’t.  There will be rollicking argument over font size in memos.  Eventually we’ll come around to the fact that there is no meeting agenda.  What was this meeting supposed to be about again?

Where

I had a meeting once at my desk.  It was a web conference that we were forced to attend, but at least I had my office chair and could check Facebook on my cell phone if I needed a diversion.  Web conferences are the best for reaching a lot of people who are in all different locations, but when something goes wrong it becomes a mutiny.  There are people who are good web conference presenters.  We did not have one of those folks that day.  Our presenter decided not to mute all of the phone lines.  Let’s just say there are people who work less hours and make more money than you do who are not smart enough to mute their own line during a live telephone conference.  These people also listen to weird Euro Techno music, have dogs that berate them when they are on the phone, babies that they leave unattended, and evidently unsettling stomach reflux.  It must have been a full moon because it was happening all at once.  Oh, I forgot the cackler who was laughing at something we ordinary humans were just not privy to.  The presenter, bless their heart, would get through a couple sentences and ask for people to mute their lines, but the laughter and the techno music could not be defeated.  It was Pink Floyd song in my telephone colored by the little blips of people dropping off the call.

The moral of the story is: once a meeting starts to go bad stop the meeting.  Don’t try to resuscitate it.  If your conference room projector isn’t working and you’ve called in the IT professional they might be able to fix it, but you’ve got your MacGruber time bomb ticking.  If you have to call in IT you don’t have to cancel the meeting, but don’t make me sit there and watch.  To paraphrase Englebert Humperdinck’s lyrics to  Release Me, this meeting’s screwed and I need some coffee.

When

The time you choose for your meeting is critical.  If it’s right after lunch I want a laser show.  If it’s first thing in the morning I want a laser show.  OK, just kidding.  If your meeting is before 9:00, between 12:00 and 1:00 or after 6:00 you would be wise to have food because kids are starving in Africa and, apparently, professionals are starving in your meeting.  If your meeting is over three hours long (good luck with that) there should also be some sort of sustenance or, at least, a parting gift.

Making a meeting request for a meeting of more than four people, while giving the group less than four hours notice, is a definite no no too, Daffy.  Today was the day I planned to take a two hour lunch and now you’ve screwed it with your meeting request! Follow this simple rule that I just completely made up: for every meeting attendant give one extra hour of notice.  Four people in your meeting means giving the group four hours of notice.  Three people in your group makes three hours of notice comfortable, etc.

When we worked in public accounting we used to get what I termed ‘4:45s.’  Those are clients who show up at around five with a box of receipts and suddenly your early departure evening is now a rush out the door at 7:15.  Unless it’s an emergency or you are really invested in brown-nosing your boss by proving how late you can work, don’t set up a meeting after 4:00

Why

Why are we having this meeting? Because Joe doesn’t write well enough to explain his three points in a five minute email.

It’s 10:05, why have we not started?  Because Barbara didn’t shut the door and we’ve got refugees somewhere between the kitchen and the copy room.

Why does Phil’s meeting agenda look fall foliage?  Because Phil’s one ‘tryout’ at Giggles has led him to believe he could be a standup and just start winging it when the meeting gets off topic.  Plus a fall foliage background is relaxing.

Why do we always order pizza from Brothers’? You do realize there are kids starving in Africa who don’t get free pizza?

There’s always going to be complaints so do yourself a favor.  In those meetings that you were invited to that you really didn’t need to be at, sit there and think about what you would do to make the meeting better or risk it and just don’t go.

How

How many meetings do you get stuck in each day?  How do you leave one and sneak into another?  How do you rate your workplace meeting etiquette?  Do meetings run smoothly or is it like the wild west?  Have you ever fallen asleep in a meeting?  We all have meeting stories, tell us yours.