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keys in a pod January 16, 2009

Posted by That Guy in A Stunning Example of Synergy, Technology Trouble.
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This morning, my boss began a week-long vacation, leaving me in charge*. And, as always happens, things go crazy the first day of his vacation, forcing me to send him several e-mails and generally make me look incapable of handling things**.

One of the things that happened was that there was a power outage last night. Every computer in the new wing was shut down long enough to make my UPS*** go into overload mode when the power came back. Most of the computers came back up automatically, or were manually turned on by IT, but there’s one computer in my boss’s office that has to be rebooted manually or else several processes don’t run.

As I have mentioned in the past, we moved into a new building last year. In our old building, there was a spare key to my boss’s office precisely for this reason; it was kept in a secure location^ in case we needed to use it. We also used it to store things in his office that we didn’t want other people to get their paws on.

That Guy's rather-anemic keyring.

That Guy's rather-anemic keyring.

But not in the new building. Now, managers have one key and the building comptroller has the other. If you need to get into my boss’s office and he’s not around, you have to find the comptroller, the Big Boss, the VP of the content department, or her deputy. The comptroller is on vacation. The Big Boss and his secretary are on vacation (they tend to coordinate). The VP is on vacation. Fortunately, her deputy, the former VP, is here, is in charge, and is a really great guy. He got me into my boss’s office, though he didn’t know if his key would work. By all rights it should work, because my boss’s office is right next to his secretary’s^^, but no one around here actually knows.

Except the Big Boss’s secretary. She knows. And she explained it to me thusly:

The keys are regional. Amy, Brad, and Catherine’s keys work for your boss’s office because they’re in the same region. Dana (the HR manager) can get into her office, anything in finance, and my office. Ed (the sales manager) and his people can open any office in sales. Frank (the head of IT and building operations) can open any door in the back on the first floor, and Gloria and Harriet (another department head) can open any door along that whole side of the floor.

Keys in a pod, huh.

Oh, and one more note on keys here at CorporateSpeak: everyone only gets one key to their drawers. The comptroller holds all the spares. Lose your drawer key and you’re screwed. I’m really tempted to make a spare one.

CC-licensed photo by Flickr user *Florian.

CC-licensed photo by Flickr user *Florian.

In my opinion — and who cares about that, right? — the better option would be to make all doors run on a keycarded system (some of our doors do, to comply with Sarbannes-Oxley) or install numeric locks. Not even the expensive kind, just the cheap ones that have five buttons. I can’t imagine those cost more than $100 apiece, and they just need to go on managers’ doors.

But no… we’ll go on using low-tech keys because it’s cheaper, and because we can control access and generally inconvenience everyone. And that’s the corporate way.

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* A scary prospect, I know.

** I got out of management precisely for this reason. Unfortunately, if I don’t start pushing to get back in within the next couple of years, it’ll look like I’m letting my career stagnate. Never a good thing.

*** Ostensibly we have a generator, but it doesn’t work in the new wing. Which is where the 24-hour part of our operation is housed. I made my boss spend $200 on UPS units for that very reason.

^ Okay, it was in a coin purse in someone’s drawer, but the point was that no one knew what the key went to except those of us in the department.

^^ Yeah, explain that; my boss is an executive, and he not only has the smallest (by far) office of any executive here, but it’s the same closet-sized room that one of the VPs uses for her secretary. The office he was supposed to have was grabbed by someone who’s now been laid off, but before he could move in there, one of the other departments started using that room as storage space. I told him he should just move in, like the former employee did, but doing the right thing is the best way to not get what you want.

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