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“no skills whatsoever” November 26, 2008

Posted by That Guy in Did I Hear That Right?, Meta.
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In this corporate climate where people are being told to do more with less and take part in all aspects of the job, it’s comforting to know that rockstar VPs are perfectly aware of what they’re dealing with. Overheard in a meeting at CorporateSpeak:

And the great part is, people who have no skills whatsoever can help us out!

Seriously, how did I manage not to laugh out loud?

***

CorporateSpeak will be on a brief hiatus for the Thanksgiving holiday, but will return on Monday to help you through your holiday hangover.

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universal law of e-mail signatures November 25, 2008

Posted by That Guy in Laws, Technology Trouble.
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That Guy’s Universal Law of E-mail Signatures states:

The larger (file size, font, or length) an e-mail signature is, the more insecure the e-mailer perceives him/herself to be.

Now, note that I said “perceived insecurity”.

  1. No signature. Indicates the person does not know how to use e-mail or, in fact, any technological applications whatsoever.
  2. Name only. Person is secure in his* position and only feels the need to note his name at the end of the message. Usually a very important person.
  3. Name + Title. Slightly less secure — wants people to know that he’s got a legitimate position of importance.
  4. Name + Company** + Phone Number. Probably the best kind of e-mail signature. Can usually be done in one or two lines. Usually used by people who send a lot of external e-mails.
  5. Name + Title + Company + Phone Number. Only marginally less-good than the previous one.
  6. Name + Title + Company + Phone Number + Logo. Because people really care about seeing your company’s logo and wasting an additional 50K per e-mail received ignoring that logo. Usually used by people who work for the government and are trying to build positive brand recognition.
  7. Name + Title + Company + Phone Number + Logo + E-mail Address. Person is sending an e-mail, but isn’t smart enough to realize that the recipient can see the sender’s e-mail address. He is probably concerned that people won’t realize who he is and why it’s important to read and/or respond to his e-mail. Likely been working for the company for less than one year.
  8. Name + Title + Company + Multiple Phone Numbers + Logo + E-mail Address. Person feels the need to give multiple forms of contact information. He probably works in sales or marketing and is concerned that the company will fall apart without his presence. Rarely will the recipient ever return the message by any means other than e-mail.
  9. Name + Title + Company + Multiple Phone Numbers + E-mail Address + Logo + Multiple Web Sites. Again, probably in sales. Really worried about being recognized as an important and valuable member of the team. May be a person who, in the end, brings in money, but not nearly as much as he should.
  10. Name + Title + Company + Multiple Phone Numbers + E-mail Address + Multiple Web Sites + Logo + Inspirational Quote. Extremely insecure about his position at the company. Probably spends a lot of time on job search sites and sends messages from his work account.

Corollaries:

  • Increase insecurity by 1 if:
    • …person uses a larger font for his name.
    • …person uses a font color other than black or dark-blue.
    • …person uses a non-standard font (excluding cursive/handwriting fonts).
  • Increase insecurity by 2 if:
    • …person uses an oblique, cursive, slanted, or handwritten-type font.
    • …person uses a larger font for the entire signature.
    • …person’s inspirational quote comes from Albert Einstein or Vince Lombardi.
  • If person uses Comic Sans font, he should be worried about keeping his job, because anyone who uses that font professionally should receive a written reprimand.

Feel free to add your own corollaries or suggestions in the comments.

* Using “his” to save space. Obviously I mean “his or her” and, instead of s/he or he/she, I’m just using “he”. Feminists, please forgive me.

** May or may not include company website.

“top priority” November 24, 2008

Posted by That Guy in Definition.
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top priority
TAHP pri-OR-i-tee

Generally, people will prioritize their to-do lists in one of two ways: what they want to do at the top and what they don’t at the bottom, or what’s most important at the top and what’s least important at the bottom. Sometimes, as I do, you’ll see a list thrown together haphazardly and people will do something they like, then something they don’t, and alternate until everything’s done. But however you prioritize, you know you do it, even if you only do it mentally (ie: take out bread and jelly from refrigerator, take peanut butter out of closet, open bread bag, put bread on plate, et cetera).

Occasionally, something will legitimately rocket to the top of the to-do list, however. Let’s say you’re cooking dinner, and while you’re making the salad, you smell something burning. The number-one thing on your to-do list becomes “find the source of the burning and make it stop as soon as possible”. That’s what we call a “top priority”.

Of course, in the corporate landscape, top priority is very, very different. What you as a peon think is top priority — like, oh, I don’t know, fixing bugs and making the product work right — isn’t the same as what your boss (or your boss’s boss) thinks is top priority.

Let’s say you’re in charge of updating all the content on a website for people attending your conference. It’s a pretty big job; you have to do daily newsletters, update photo galleries, post archived presentations, keep schedules current, and post messages. You also send out e-mail alerts when something is about to begin, and you generally make sure people can find what they need quickly and easily. Your personal top priority is making the website work right and be current.

Your boss’s top priority, on the other hand, is putting out one-minute video updates via cellphone to all attendees who’ve signed up, recapping what’s happened and talking about what’s coming up. About 5,000 people are at the conference, but only 75 of them have signed up. Still, this is your boss’s baby, and therefore it becomes your top priority to make sure those 75 people get these videos on their phones. Nevermind that you make the same content available as an e-mailed alert that more than 4,000 people have signed up for; your top priority is whatever your boss says it is.

But what happens when your boss’s boss finds a problem?

Two words: Drop. Everything.

Sometimes, the big boss finds a legitimate problem — the download link for your latest patch isn’t working, or something is spelled wrong on a mailer.

Other times, it’s something so uselessly cosmetic that no one would notice it unless you pointed it out to them. But because the big boss saw it, it becomes top priority. Never mind that you have to keep your own boss happy by sending out video recaps and updates. Never mind that you have schedules to maintain and e-mails to send and that you still have to respond to people contacting you through your company’s main website because that’s part of your job too — responding to customers and potential customers. Never mind that because you’re at the conference you’re out of your element, working on an unfamiliar computer in an unfamiliar location and you just want to get your job done. And never mind that all your other projects are on hold because you have to come to this conference and you’re going to spend several days doing unpaid overtime just to finish your regular jobs.

Because your big boss noticed that the blue background on the conference site is ever-so-slightly different than your company’s main color. Or that in Safari the page fonts render differently. Or that today’s daily customer update came out half an hour late because you were dealing with one of your four required video updates that serve less than 20% of the conference attendees.

Whatever your big boss wants, no matter how trivial, becomes top priority. That’s just the way it is.

shared workspace fail November 21, 2008

Posted by That Guy in Inexplicable Memos From Above, Observations, Technology Trouble.
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The concept of a shared workspace is something that companies have kicked around for a long time. Tech guys do it with code repositories; people who play role-playing games on their LiveJournals do it; even corporations are trying to do it by putting files on sharepoint sites (which, by the way, isn’t really doing it).

But there’s nothing worse than seeing a shared workspace used so poorly that your head actually aches from comprehending it.

Witness this e-mail I received from our Third Shift supervisor (it was sent to everyone, because she’s not technically-minded enough to make a distribution list just for her employees):

Goto calendar.google.com or gmail.com for access to Google Calendar

username: [corporatespeakthirdshift]@gmail.com
password: [thirdshift]

top of page click on “calendar”

This has been reproduced exactly as I saw it, except for changing some of the identifying characteristics of the person who sent it. And yes, the password is that simple.

Okay, here’s the thing:

  1. You can share a Google Calendar. Anyone — even people without Google accounts — can do it.
  2. The password is extremely un-secure. (It’s even simpler than the one I put there.)
  3. (and this is the one that bugs me the most) Our company’s Outlook e-mail system provides a way to do fully-featured shared calendars, and to notify everyone in a certain group when they are changed.

#3 would just make too much sense to a department that actually threw a fit when our IT guys removed the old intranet site and replaced it with the new sharepoint.

Anyway, we experienced a shared workspace FAIL at CorporateSpeak this week. I’m sure we’re not the only ones, but I’m surprised this is our first one.

I’ve considered adding a category called “FAIL”, but really, that’s what this blog is all about. So no “FAIL” category.

freudian typo November 20, 2008

Posted by That Guy in Overheard.
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Full disclosure: I do not in any way think of my boss when I think of sex. That’s just weird.

The problem with instant messages is that once you’ve sent them, you can never, ever recall them. Not usually a problem if you double-check who you’re sending them to — so, for example, you don’t send your vampire RPG partner a note about a client lunch or your co-worker a couple of paragraphs about how you want to bite her neck. But certain keys are near each other. Too near, in my opinion.

Boss: can you send me the original logo for This Product?
That Guy: I sent it yesterday, right?
That Guy: or do you need a different one than that?
Boss: did you… maybe I forgot
That Guy: I can send again
That Guy: one sex
That Guy: sec
That Guy: dammit

Fortunately, he didn’t care one way or the other.

someone’s missing from this meeting November 19, 2008

Posted by That Guy in A Stunning Example of Synergy.
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“A Stunning Example of Synergy” is a new category highlighting the exact opposite. I’m sure you’ve seen other stunning examples at your own office.

One of the many ways companies are working to build interest and good press is by virally marketing their successes and doing things “outside the box”*. Well, CorporateSpeak has a plan to make people a little bit happier by spreading good karma. We’re going to send our street team out to coffee shops and parking garages, doing nice things for potential customers.

Naturally, there’s a website for this. Naturally, I’ll be building it.

Naturally, they had a meeting about it and no one from my department was involved.

Now, this isn’t to say that I haven’t been involved at all. That group brought me in at the beginning to make sure what they wanted to do was possible and that I could get it done in a reasonable amount of time. Then, the day before the meeting, one of the project managers sat down with me and we hashed out what the site should look like.

It’s just frustrating, I suppose, that there’s no actual synergy between departments here. I should’ve been a part of that meeting; when I’m not, things tend to get promised or decided that either we already have or we’re not technologically capable of doing.

Plus, they had bagels, and I was really hungry.

A stunning example of synergy all around.

“you will be required to have made these changes” November 18, 2008

Posted by That Guy in Inexplicable Memos From Above.
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I received this e-mail from CorporateSpeak corporate headquarters regarding advertising:

All additions, changes and deletions will be made to your local pages today. The PC and Mac support groups will be sending notification to your respective technical staff when the changes have been made.

While your global setups are changed automatically for you by PC and Mac support*, any local custom templates created in your market will not be changed. We ask that you go through your local templates and match them to the new layout that you see in the mock-up’s**. We ask that you quickly make these changes,** so your market can benefit. You will be required to have made these changes by [this date].

I guess the thing that bothers me the most about this message is that there’s no real call to action here. Everything’s couched in very corporate terms. Why couldn’t they say “here is what you need to do, and here’s the date you must have it done by”? “You will be required to have made these changes”? Why use Future Perfect when you can use present tense?

Overcomplication, party of… um… however many corporate people that is.

* (added by me) Mac support is one guy. PC support is about 50. Kind of frustrating. PC and Mac are placeholders for the actual departments.

** Way to grammar-check!

we fear change November 17, 2008

Posted by That Guy in Observations.
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Employees fear change. Even those who work in IT or web development. No one wants to do things in a new way; they just got used to the old way. It’s like a baseball glove; you get a new baseball glove and you hate it for about a week. It’s stiff, it’s uncomfortable, and it’s far too hard to close your hand around the ball. So you oil it, you cram it under your mattress, you sit on it, you do whatever you can to loosen it up until it becomes easier to use. Then, after a few months, it’s like you’ve been using it all your life.

At CorporateSpeak Headquarters, a sharepoint was recently implemented, replacing the intranet we used to have. An e-mail was sent out the afternoon before it happened, and for most people it seemed seamless.

Most people.

CorporateSpeak Headquarters is a 24-hour business. It just is. No one knows what we make — except for meetings; we’re a meeting factory, pretty much — but we’re open 24 hours. The people who come in between midnight and 8am apparently choose not to read their e-mail. Instead, they show up, turn on their computers, and have no idea how to access the company’s webmail system. They can’t take three minutes to look at the sharepoint and find the link — which is above the fold — and then click it*. No, they have to start with the whining and complaining about how the old way was better and they’ll never use the new way if they can help it.

They will. Eventually. But not without making life miserable for everyone who has anything to do with computers — web developers, web-savvy content producers, IT guys, engineers, anyone who possibly could have anything to do with this change. I came into work today and was greeted by one of my co-workers being assailed by someone in another department. My co-worker helped him, but it’s not my department’s job to solve problems with the sharepoint. There’s one person in this building who’s a sharepoint developer.

Of course, that person is my direct supervisor, so it’s assumed that I know something about the sharepoint. Which I don’t. I can use it just fine, but I’m not a sharepoint developer. But if you can’t figure out how to get to your webmail after working here for more than a decade, and if you don’t use POP e-mail in the office like a normal person, then why are you here? In any other industry, a person who complains about something as menial and stupid as this would be either laughed at or dismissed outright, but at CorporateSpeak, these people are coddled.

It’s very frustrating. But in this industry (and no, I won’t tell you what it is; have to protect my semi-anonymity somehow), dinosaurs are coddled, not kicked out.

Yes. We fear change.

* I’ve been told that the link to webmail doesn’t work on certain computers. Regardless, if you don’t know how to get to webmail without a direct link, you don’t belong in the corporate world.

“I just hate it when people don’t pass that crack-pipe.” November 14, 2008

Posted by That Guy in Overheard.
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I was having a discussion with someone in marketing about a piece of equipment in high demand in the content management department — there’s only one, but it’s needed by 50 different employees about 75% of the time. We were talking about how no one in the office has the equipment they need, and I used that piece of equipment as an example. I said, “it gets passed around like… like…” and she said, “like a joint?”

To which I said, “people don’t usually get into fights about joints. I’d go with crack-pipe.”

And that’s when she said this:

I just hate it when people don’t pass that crack-pipe.

one is the loneliest number that you’ll ever do for lunch November 13, 2008

Posted by That Guy in Observations.
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The first time I ever went out to lunch as a CorporateSpeak employee was with my boss and someone in our sales department. I’d forgotten my lunch, and they had a standing appointment to go to lunch weekly, so I asked if I could join in. It was all right; the food was good, and I go back to that restaurant from time to time.

Over the past several years employed at CS, I’ve gone to lunch with several people — usually my supervisor or one of my departmental co-workers, but also with people from sales, marketing, and even maintenance (now that was an adventure). I’ve done departmental lunches, farewell lunches, “hey, my brother is in town, let’s go out” lunches, and “let’s go eat and complain to each other about how much things suck” lunches.

But the changing economy and the natural Brownian motion of people as they move along their career paths. The IT guy I used to eat lunch with left the company. The marketing person I used to eat lunch with left the company. The sales person I used to eat lunch with left the company. My good friend in sales is almost always too busy — after all, salespeople have to go out and sell things, right?

Going out to lunch means companionship with people you know and have things in common with, and it means carpooling to save a little money on gas and a little wear-and-tear on the environment, and it means only one person has to worry about finding a parking spot when you all get back to the office.

But there are those days when you have no one to go with. Everyone’s busy, or everyone’s left the company, or because of a combination of the two you have no one you either want to go to lunch with or no one to go with. Period. And that’s the worst. Because, really, what can you do at lunch? You can’t work because your work is at your desk. You can’t read because you didn’t bring a book or a magazine. You can’t watch TV unless you want to watch sports — the best quick cheap but not crappy lunch places are sports bars.

It’s either sitting alone in a restaurant, bemoaning your no-friends status, or swinging by a fast-food joint and listening to your arteries harden.

Make friends at work. At the very least you’ll have someone to go to lunch with.