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un-green this earth day April 22, 2010

Posted by That Guy in A Very Corporate Something, Seen Elsewhere.
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The 9-to-fried blog posted “7 ways to un-green your office this earth day”*. As I’m the kind of person that doesn’t go crazy about keeping green**, these types of articles really appeal to me.

1. Throw all paper, bottles, and cans in the regular trash- There is no room in the office for extra receptacles. It should all go into one big can that gets dumped behind the building every week. Look for a sewer, a running stream, or a car with the top down.

2. Make sure you’re using the most expensive and high powered light bulbs available- I’d suggest using either indoor tanning bulbs or just buying more lights for the office.

3. Make sure every light is on in the office at all times- Even in rooms no one uses like closets, conference rooms supply closests and the bosses’ special “nook nook with the intern” room. Keep the copier running at all times. Leave on all computers at night and download a huge file every day at 5 p.m. to ensure it never goes into sleep mode.

4. Always use disposable cutlery and plates- Use them as often as possible. A different fork for every bite of lunch. Use paper plates as memo pads. Use copy paper as napkins. Play games of “how many sheets of paper can you rip at one time.” Loser builds a life-sized plastic knife fort in the break room.

5. Take turns driving around the parking lot- See who can complete a lap in the fastest time. Buy an office car that uses diesel gas. In fact, pour the gas on the lawn and light it on fire so it makes a ring around the office complex. Then do laps like Evil Knievel.

6. Use aerosol cans as an element of illusion- Whenever you enter or leave a room, spray the cans like a mist, and then APPEAR. (cloud of Lysol) “I AM HERE! Start the presentation!” Also works well for leaving bosses office when you screw up. POOF!

7. Kill all office plants- Their time has come. All those days of mocking you. Laughing. It’s over Johnny. MICHAEL CORLEONE SENDS HIS REGARDS!!!!

In truth, I use the recycle bins (1), turn off lights when I’m not using them (3)***, drive as little as possible by not going out to eat (5), and only use canned air but freshen the room with Renuzit cone deodorizers (6). But if the Earth Day hoopla gets on your nerves, read this and know there are people out there who feel the same as you.

***

* I actually found this article last year, but it was well after Earth Day. So I saved it — way back in May of last year — to post this Earth Day.

** I recycle, and I drive a hybrid, and I try not to make too much trash, but I don’t go out of my way to use renewable resources or eat free-range food. That’s just too expensive.

*** Since I work in a 24/7 shop, it’s almost impossible to turn the lights off, but I shut them off in the gym and locker rooms when I’m done. And I turn off my monitors at night, but not the computer because I do occasionally have to log in from home and can’t do that without a CPU.

playing dress-up October 12, 2009

Posted by That Guy in A Very Corporate Something, Did I Hear That Right?, Seen Elsewhere, Technology Trouble.
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Dressing up your character in World of Warcraft or The Sims is one thing, but what about dressing up your avatar for work? Analyst firm Gartner warns that, by 2013, avatars will have to have dress codes too.

“As the use of virtual environments for business purposes grows, enterprises need to understand how employees are using avatars in ways that might affect the enterprise or the enterprise’s reputation,” said James Lundy, managing vice president at Gartner, in a statement.

Image from the World Economic Forum

Image from the World Economic Forum

Seriously? Companies are really going to start having business meetings in the corporate version of Second Life?

Yeah, I don’t see that happening. I mean, there are already classes being taught in SL, but to me that’s more a fad than anything else. Conference calls, WebEx meetings, and long chains of e-mails will continue to be the norm for quite some time.

Think about it: you meet in Second Life, but all your stuff is in Word, or Excel, or Powerpoint — so you have to flip back and forth, right? Either that or you’ll just end up using the SL interface to view the files being shared by everyone.

Actually, y’know what the future of collaborative meetings online will be?

Google Wave.

Although I do think that, as more companies adopt instant messaging and company-sponsored tiwttering, people are going to have to stop using amusing pictures of puppies as their IM or Twitter avatars and start using their company ID headshots.

Yes. I groaned at that thought too.

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the swine flu and your workplace August 19, 2009

Posted by That Guy in A Very Corporate Something, Management.
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swinefluYesterday, my doctor told me she believes H1N1 (or “swine”) flu is going to continue to be a problem in the U.S. and elsewhere, despite the relatively-small amount of news coverage it’s been getting lately. Also, over the last couple of days I’ve gotten two e-mails about there being swine flu in my office. I’m sure your company’s put out e-mails about flu prevention, handwashing, and sanitizing.

Amusingly, our Big Boss said, when he announced we had a swine flu victim, that he would ask the custodians to do a thorough cleaning of the building. They did, which begs the question: what do they do every day when I see them trundling through the building with their yellow buckets of doom?

The dilemma at every level has is how to deal with an employee who has swine flu.

Employee: You would think it’s not required for employees to disclose personal health information, but the Littler’s privacy blog says that under the ADA, they actually do in some situations. Plus, in the interest of being a good citizen, wouldn’t you want your co-workers to have knowledge that they might have been exposed to this illness? On the other hand, if you do reveal you tested positive for swine flu, you’ll become a pariah when you come back. People will actively avoid you.

Manager: When an employee calls in sick, the manager asks what’s wrong. If you say you want to keep it private, that raises a potential red flag, and the manager can always request a doctor’s note. Some businesses require it, as a matter of fact. There’s usually a privacy screen in that you can go to HR and say “this is what’s wrong with me, please help me keep it private”. After all, there are plenty of embarrassing diseases that you don’t want your boss to know about — and some not-so-embarrassing ones; one of my co-workers recently beat cancer, and he wanted to keep it private, so he didn’t tell anyone. His boss just said he was out on sick leave and when he came back, we welcomed him as we would anyone who’d been out for a long time. The company really can’t force an employee to reveal his/her sickness, but they can in the interest of general health request more information.

Other Employees: If an employee contracts an infectious disease (in the example above, my co-worker’s cancer was not infectious so it was well within his manager’s rights to withhold the nature of his illness), other employees need to know about it. Managers need to communicate the illness, the prognosis, and the general situation while protecting the employee’s privacy if s/he requests it. HIPAA comes into play in some cases — it did with my swine-flu-afflicted co-worker. Instead, we got a couple of e-mails from the Big Boss. The first warned us that an employee in the department had been diagnosed with the flu and would be staying home until s/he* had recovered and was cleared to return to work. Also, s/he would be getting a swine flu screening. Well, that screening came back positive and there was another e-mail stressing both that the employee was recovering well and that we should enact the protective measures being exhorted by the corporate office since well before anyone here caught it. They will not reveal who was stricken. I feel my company made pretty good choices here. However…

Gossip: When someone’s out for an extended period of time and an e-mail about swine flu goes out, it’s pretty easy to figure out who’s afflicted. The day the first message was sent, most of us figured out which employee it was. She’d been out for a few days, and every day in the message queue it said she was out sick again. We can all correlate data, and we all know exactly who it is. We hope she comes back soon — she’s well-liked around here — but I’m curious to see how people react around her. Especially the person who shares her cubicle pod.

Corporate: At the corporate level, it becomes more about planning for trouble than dealing with the issue at hand. The company has to foster a positive environment despite the difficulty of dealing with this potentially-deadly illness that has everyone running scared and over-sanitizing themselves. They have to provide resources for dealing with potential outbreaks, and they have to keep the lines of communication open if anyone has concerns. Plus, if someone does catch the illness, there needs to be a policy in place to deal with employees who feel they cannot be around anyone who might have been infected — for example, pregnant women, who the CDC says should be first in line to be vaccinated once a vaccine is available. And not just them… what about parents of children with immune system difficulties, or parents whose children have another kind of influenza? How does the company deal with employees who have family members with swine (or regular) flu? The bigger the company, the bigger the potential for trouble if it’s not handled correctly.

The pandemic potential of swine flu** is bringing a lot of these issues out in the open. Despite the danger of the disease, I actually think it’s a good thing. This is stuff managers, employees, and corporations need to think about and plan for — preferably before it becomes a true pandemic.

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* The e-mail from the Big Boss was riddled with “they” and “their” in conjunction with singular verbs — “they are recovering well”, “their doctor said”, and so on. That acceptably-wrong use of subject-verb agreement has always driven me up the wall, and I felt it made our Big Boss look unprofessional. I wonder why his secretary didn’t catch it and change it to s/he and his/her.

** There has always been a potential for flu pandemics. I firmly believe we’re more worried about swine flu than any other in the past few years because it has a cool name. Did the media create this whole pandemic issue by using the name? I can’t tell you — I don’t have the answer — but I’m sure you’ve got your own theories.

no quarter for fuck-ups August 17, 2009

Posted by That Guy in A Very Corporate Something, Getting Fired, Observations.
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These days, there’s no quarter for fuck-ups at work. Except where you work.

Why was I thinking about this? Because of this story:

Best Buy, based in Richfield, Minn., said it has corrected an online pricing error and will not honor the incorrect price. Orders made Wednesday morning at the incorrect price will be canceled and customers will receive refunds, the company said.

CC-licensed photo by Sean Loyless

CC-licensed photo by Sean Loyless

What they didn’t say is that the person who screwed up will be fired*.

Now why doesn’t that happen at your office? Why don’t incompetent people get fired when they screw up at your office? Why do they instead get given a pass and then the task of fixing everything is passed on to you?

No one knows. But it’s maddening, and it will continue happening until the end of time.

Just don’t fuck up. That amnesty? It doesn’t extend to you. If you screw up, you most definitely will be fired… and blackballed… and never work in the industry again… and be out of work for a very long time, until you swallow your pride and go work in retail.

No quarter for you.

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* I don’t know that. I’m just making it up. Don’t sue me, Best Buy.

without access, I can’t help you August 10, 2009

Posted by That Guy in A Very Corporate Something, Technology Trouble.
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On Friday, I got a call from one of our ad-server clients asking me why ads weren’t serving to a specific page on their site. I went into the ad server and made sure the ads were scheduled properly — they were — but the client wouldn’t give me access to their web server so I had no way of testing things on their side. I had to go through their outsourced tech support department, rather than deal with someone at their office. I e-mailed my ticket to them and waited.

It turns out someone at the tech support department — who has access to the ad server — had changed the ads after I checked them. Naturally.

Go ahead. Try to get through. If you really need to, I guarantee you can't. (CC-licensed photo by helena.40proof)

Go ahead. Try to get through. If you really need to, I guarantee you can't. (CC-licensed photo by helena.40proof)

The problem here, though, is that we are so enamored of our walled gardens and our intellectual properties and our copyrights that we won’t give even temporary access to people who can help us. I read an article recently — which I will expound upon on a later date — about how clamping down on all of our company’s intellectual property when we have a new idea is a terrible way to do business.

Secrecy, though, is the watchword. We’re scared to death that someone’s going to steal our idea and make money on it. Well, guess what: if you don’t talk to other people about your idea, someone who can actually help you won’t be able to make your idea better, and which would you rather do: pay someone a few grand now, or lose millions when Google buys their version because it was better and you didn’t listen?

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a miracle of planning July 15, 2009

Posted by That Guy in A Very Corporate Something, Experiences.
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My branch of CorporateSpeak is shooting a commercial in a few weeks. The premise is a complete rip-off of the Verizon “all those people are your network” spot. This is an example of one:

Apparently it’s been decided that these commercials are so effective that we have to do our own version. Okay, fine, I get it: imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

Just one problem:

It’s been abominably hot in parts of the United States this summer, including the state where I live and work. The summer heat is the worst during the middle of the day, just after noon, and stays ridiculous until about 6:30. The commercial shoot has been scheduled for 1:30pm (be there at 1:15pm) in the parking lot.

Which is outside. In the heat. In the sun. Surrounded by trees, so there’ll be less wind.

Oh, and the shoot is an hour and a half in length.

Now, I know why they planned it for that time: it gets the most people in overlapping shifts to show up and pretend to be part of a network of people that are working for you. However, it’s going to be ruinous out there. I guarantee at least one person passes out from heatstroke. I guarantee sunscreen will not be provided. I guarantee refreshments will not be provided. Our company — locally and nationally — is hemorrhaging money. I don’t know where they found the money to shoot and produce a commercial.

But I do know this: no matter how great the commercial turns out, the entire company will be hot, tired, stinky, and pissed off that they wasted 90 minutes of their time out in the parking lot, sweating their asses off for a company that just cut their pay by up to 10 percent.

Truly a miracle of planning.

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“exciting concept” June 29, 2009

Posted by That Guy in A Very Corporate Something, Definition, Economic Downturn, Meeting Minutes.
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exciting concept
ex-SY-ting CON-sept

Layoffs are everywhere. Companies are cutting budgets and cutting services. Employees are doing more with less, and for less money as it becomes clear pay cuts are going to be necessary to even approach the black. And yet you’re still being asked, time and time again, to do new things at work, to add new tasks that you know in your heart will be the business equivalent of vaporware.

And the worst kind of vaporware is something that starts out as an exciting concept.

Warning! Exciting concept creation zone!

Warning! Exciting concept creation zone!

Exciting concepts tend to begin in conference rooms at the corporate office, where several suited employees gather together and try to come up with something that will cost no money but somehow bring in revenue while also virally infecting the internet. These suited employees have been on the corporate payroll so long that they’ve forgotten actual non-suited employees have to somehow make these concepts come to life.

So they sit around, often for days at a time, until a great idea (likely suggested by a non-suited employee three or more months ago) suddenly strikes. They come up with dozens of ways it can go viral and be huge on Facebook or Twitter, and then they lay it all out and order it to occur.

And y’know what? Some of them aren’t half-bad ideas. The problem is that there’s never support for an exciting concept. There’s no extra money in the budget; there’s no extra people to work on it; there’s no possible way that the job can be done by current employees without being slammed shoddily together at the last minute, as so many things are. Then management puts a polish on it and goes back to corporate and says “hey, look how great we did with your exciting concept!”

That only leads to one thing: more exciting concepts coming right down on your head.

Exciting.

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a birth and a death June 10, 2009

Posted by That Guy in A Very Corporate Something, Economic Downturn, Management.
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In The World on Blood, during the funeral for January*, I believe Whistler or Selene says something to the effect of it being fit that a new baby was being born into the vampire/coven relationship even as they mourned the loss of someone else.

Or, to put it another way: how the hell do you go from an announcement about two people getting fired to a baby shower?

Photo by François Rejeté.

Photo by François Rejeté.

CorporateSpeak’s home office decided to consolidate my department company-wide, and they eliminated all the webmasters. That doesn’t include me, but it does include my boss. He had no idea it was coming, though sitting in his office later he took increasingly-frantic IMs from people in the webmaster community who were trying to figure out what was going on and why they were all being summoned to their Big Bosses for closed-door meetings.

Not everyone was fired outright; one webmaster in New York was offered a new position with a different name. I’m sure one other will not be fired because he’s the only person in the division who really knows how to use Flash.

I found out about it around noon; the Two-Year-Old held a meeting three hours later to tell everyone else. She did stop by my desk to make sure I was all right, which was nice, and she also talked to one of the other guys who used to work for my boss but was sucked up into her department a few months ago. During the meeting, she revealed that the company is also consolidating all HR tasks, so the HR person lost her job too**.

Most of the folks around here stopped by to make sure we’re okay. I admit I took advantage of the atmosphere of general sadness to goof off a little more than usual; that, and I really only had one more thing to do anyway, which wasn’t due for another week. I kind of got tired of talking about it after a little while.

Photo by Michael Wade.

Photo by Michael Wade.

And, an hour later, we had a baby shower for one of our employees who’s adopting a child. There was cake***, punch, fruit, nuts, and presents. The mom (she already has one child) was surprised and thrilled, and it was indeed an occasion to celebrate — a child who needed a chance is going to get one by becoming her son. So that’s good.

But how do you turn your emotions around? How, in one hour, do you go from “appropriate quiet sadness” to “yay! hooray!”? Is it even possible?

A valiant effort was made, but in the end, I don’t know that the baby shower was as happy as it could have been for anyone except the mom.

The rest of us saw the ax on the floor, heads on one side, bodies on the other. We stepped gingerly over those who fell and were thankful it wasn’t us. Also, I e-mailed my boss information on several recruiters I’d used in the past in hopes that he quickly finds new employment. He’s not a bad guy, except for his penchant for bow ties now and again.

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* Sorry if I spoiled it for you, but the book’s 12 years old. Deal.

** Interestingly, neither of the people fired today planned to work on Friday — my boss had a vacation day scheduled, and the HR person didn’t work Fridays. Bet they’ll both be here, though.

*** My second piece today; my first piece was left over from a celebration the previous day. I missed it because I was off. But when my co-worker tried the leftover cake and determined it was still good… well, who would I be to say no?

A Very Corporate April Fool’s Day April 1, 2009

Posted by That Guy in A Very Corporate Something.
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I’m hoping that, if you pulled a prank at your office, you followed these simple rules from Entrepreneur.com (in parentheses are my additions):

Make sure it doesn’t embarrass someone or cause disruption in the workplace. (Well, isn’t that kind of the point?)

Think through all possible consequences of the joke. (Like you getting decked.)

Don’t use April Fools’ Day as an opportunity to “get back” at someone you don’t like. (Yeah, don’t do that.)

What’s OK to do at home with family or friends may not be appropriate for the workplace. (Especially if you routinely swat your wife/husband on the backside.)

If your boss is the subject of your prank, be extremely careful. You need to know this person extremely well, understand their sense of humor and never do anything that would diminish your boss’s authority. (See, now that takes all the fun out of it.)

My favorite one from their article is the mouse trick, which I imagine would work equally well on ball-mice as optical or laser. In fact, I tested it on my Logitech optical mouse and, lo and behold, nothing happened.

[Jerry] Ostergaard’s joke is pretty simple to set up, but it managed to stump his IT technician. Ostergaard placed a small Post-It note with the words “April Fools!” written on it underneath his co-worker’s mouse. When the technician attempted to use it, the track ball was ineffective. After about 10 minutes, he finally figured it out.

In the industry in which I’m employed, no one would figure that out. Our IT guy is off this week, too, so there’s no help to be had.

Hmm. I’ll be right back; I have to go “fix” some computer mice. And by “fix” I mean “make temporarily useless, much to my amusement.”

when the big boss calls just before quitting time March 27, 2009

Posted by That Guy in A Very Corporate Something, Did I Hear That Right?, Experiences.
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The problem with working on a team that services every other department in the building is when you have conversations like this:

It’s 5:10. I’m scheduled to leave at 6:00. The phone rings. I glance at the caller ID and note the extension number with a sinking feeling in my stomach.

Me: Hello.
Big Boss: Hi, That Guy.
Me: Hey, Big Boss.
Big Boss: So you’re going to stay until the Marketing Department’s crisis is over, right?
Me: *two-second pause* Sure, I guess so.
Big Boss: *airily* Great. Thanks. *click*

This happened a few weeks ago, and I ended up staying until 9:30pm and getting back the next day by 8am (which meant fighting almost a full hour of traffic and skipping my daily trip to the gym). And what did I do? The online equivalent of mailing brochures to people.

Never mind the fact that there was another guy in my department who was scheduled to be here at that time — and got conscripted into helping marketing too. Never mind the fact that I don’t work for marketing. Never mind the fact that I get to work almost 45 minutes early every day, which meant I’d already been at work for almost ten hours. Never mind the fact that I’m on salary and don’t get overtime, so if I had a part-time job or freelance gig, I’d be losing out on that work because you don’t tell your primary boss that you have to leave to go to your other job when there’s a crisis.

No, when the Big Boss calls, you do what he* says. And if you’re lucky, someone will order pizza and you won’t have to pay for it. That plus a thank-you is all you get, because you’ve already screwed up too many times for it to count in your favor when it’s yearly review time.

Y’know what I would’ve appreciated? For him to ask me. For him to say, “hey, That Guy, Marketing’s having a crisis. Can you stay until it’s over and help them out?” At least then it sounds like I have a choice in the matter, even if we both know I don’t.

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* He knows I have kids. If the Big Boss was a woman — and I admit this is a little sexist, but it’s happened to me before — and you said “I have to get home to my kids”, odds are good you’d be allowed to leave. Instead, I missed seeing my family that night and had to leave so early to go to work the next day that I didn’t see them in the morning either. Welcome to the corporate world!