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the time for exchanging gifts November 30, 2009

Posted by That Guy in Observations, Pictures, Seen Elsewhere.
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I saw this bit of hilarity on Passive Aggressive Notes.

I’ve never had any major problems with corporate bathrooms, but I’m told that the ladies’ rooms in my building are nightmares. The worst that happens in the men’s rooms is a little splashback on the floor, but from what my coworker told me, the women leave things on the walls and the seats, find ways to arrest the automatic flushers so they leave little presents, and are generally unclean and disgusting.

I’m really glad I’m not on the maintenance staff, if that’s true.

When I worked in retail, each stall in the ladies’ room (which I had to clean some nights) had a small trash can for non-toilet trash. (I think you know what I mean.) They were never really unpleasant, either; the hardest part for me was convincing the managers to store-use a box of gloves so I could protect my hands from the mess. Maybe it’s just my co-workers, or maybe it’s just the ones on my floor.

This sign, though, suffers from the main pitfall of posting semi-amusing signs: people don’t listen, make fun of the person who posts them, rip them down, or post retaliatory signs of their own. It’s too bad because it really is a pretty funny sign.

printer signs November 24, 2009

Posted by That Guy in Seen Elsewhere, Technology Trouble.
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Refrigerator signs aren’t the only signs you find at the office. There’s also the collection of exciting missives pinned up around ever printer.

from Passive Aggressive Notes

The printer is an interesting place. It’s somewhat replaced the water cooler as a kibitzing zone, since more than half the time the damn thing doesn’t work anyway, or you’re stuck there rifling through someone else’s jobs, or you’re busy reading all the signs.

Most common is the “pick up your printing promptly” sign, which is pretty understandable. The average office printer can hold maybe 100 sheets in the output tray, though there’s no safety that says “if you hit an obstruction, stop printing”. Instead, the printer keeps shoving pages out through its slot, crumpling them up and losing them amid contracts and documentation and coupons and personal e-mails and funny pictures of cats and, of course, signs asking people to pick up their printing promptly. These can be ignored because if you see them, you’re not the culprit, and if you’re the culprit, you’ll never see them.

Next-most-common is “don’t remove others’ print jobs” or something similar. Admittedly, I’ve done this. It happens sometimes; I’ll print four or five documents, pick them up, and realize five minutes later as I’m sorting that I’ve got someone’s travel plans in between copies one and two. Usually I’ll just bring the pages to the person’s desk; it gives me a chance to waste some time at work chatting, which is always a plus. The thing is: if your print job isn’t there, odds are good you’ve already reprinted it. Unfortunately there’s no way to be sure someone else has taken your printing. I wish there was.

You’ll also find retaliatory signs, such as the one above about robots learning about love. Wherever there are office signs, there are retaliatory signs — signs that make fun of the signposter for his or her spelling, grammar, bad jokes, repetitiveness, or anal-retentiveness. These are fun to make, but don’t do it. Everyone knows it’s you.

And, finally, there are the helpful signs. I tend to make these. For example: about four years ago, I figured out why one of our printers kept jamming: the rollers that controlled tray 3 messed things up for some reason and told the printer it wasn’t working, even when it was. So I hand-lettered a little sign that said something like this:

Do not put any paper in Tray 3. This will cause the printer to think it is jammed. Use Tray 2 instead.

See? Nothing snide or snarky. Just a simple note.

I also found a way to fix my printer settings so that the computer wouldn’t even look for tray 3, because that particular model of printer would try tray 3 before every page, thereby making the print jobs take five times as long as they should have. Not everyone got the fix… just people I liked. You know who you are.

What kind of signs are up by your printer? Anything interesting? Send in your photos; if I get enough, I’ll do a “printer sign week”.

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fridge sign week October 19, 2009

Posted by That Guy in Free Food!.
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This week, I am honoring — and writing about — the myriad of amusing signs people post in breakrooms to keep people from eating their food, drinking their drinks, or acting stupid about food in general. Posts will arrive around lunchtime each day.

CC-licensed photo by Flickr user quinn.anya.

CC-licensed photo by Flickr user quinn.anya.

But first… I’ve found there’s a relatively large problem with posting admonitory signs in an office environment — and especially in the breakroom — and that is: people don’t pay attention, except to deride the sign-maker. And they all know who it is.

It’s not just the breakroom (or kitchen) either; it’s all over the office. Just try to say something that helps everyone like “please don’t leave food here” or “use this mat for your wet umbrellas” or “we have a smoking area; please be respectful of employees with asthma”.

It becomes a constant battle of one-upsmanship after that. The signs are disregarded or torn down, so they’re replaced with even-more-strongly-worded signs… which are disregarded, degraded, or torn down, so they’re replaced with something in large print that includes a threat to go to HR.

Are you really going to go to HR because someone drank the soda you left in the refrigerator? Sure, it’s a pretty dick thing to do, but is it worth opening up that can of worms and being the guy who got Sam fired because he took your sugar-water?

It all starts at the top, with a good corporate environment. I’ve worked in offices where people leave stickers with their names on their stuff and said stickers are usually respected; I’ve worked in offices where people partook (parktaked?) freely of sauces and dressings but left drinks and food alone; I’ve worked in offices where people were afraid to even get near the refrigerator and left their food in their lockers, sealed in insulated bags. The better the corporate environment, the fewer signs you will have to deride.

Or post, if you’re that guy.

hoist by my own petard June 22, 2009

Posted by That Guy in Did I Hear That Right?, Experiences, The Two-Year-Old.
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Most offices do things in strange, roundabout, or complicated ways not because those are the best ways but because those are the ways that have always been used. As a web guy, I’m much more up on technology than most office drones, and as such, I’m looking for new ways to do things that actually improve the process. To that end, I’ve printed out the following Grace Hopper quote and put it on my desk.

The most dangerous phrase in our language is ‘we’ve always done it this way’.

Well, that came back and bit me in the ass on Friday.

One of the things instituted by the Two-Year-Old is that everyone in her department is in charge of putting their own web content online. Some do it well, some do it average, some do it because they have to, and some (the highest-paid ones, rather predictably) don’t even bother, counting on everyone else to do it for them. I’ve been in charge of plenty of web training, because (a) I’m an expert in all our web apps and (b) I’ve actually been a teacher. Oh, and I also write all the manuals for the web apps, using pictures, big arrows, and as many small words as possible.

On Friday, I went to see the Two-Year-Old about a better way to do web content that basically boils down to this:

Remember when you halved my department and absorbed the person who oversaw all web contend during the day, then made it so he doesn’t do that anymore, and then didn’t replace him but instead just told all your people to put their own stuff online? Basically, we need your people to each take a day and oversee all web content to the exclusion of all else.

For a company that believes the web is the future, I still find it appalling that:

  • I am the entire web department.
  • If I didn’t take it upon myself to police our web content, no one would do it, and no one would care.
  • The rest of the staff either doesn’t care about the web or puts it last instead of first.

However, the conversation was rather deftly turned to “how can we make things easier?” I put forth that more people need to be able to move layouts from the art computer to the production computer. In the old days, we had to use an internal FTP program, but in the past year we’ve implemented a really good piece of software that I’ll call MoveItThere. Dump the layout in MoveItThere, tag it, then go to the production computer and type your tag into MoveItThere. Voila!

Yes, I know, it would be better if they were on the same system, but like I said, “we’ve always done it this way”.

Anyway, the Two-Year-Old said “we need to find a better way” and I said, rather stupidly, “because of the firewalls, we’ve always had to have a process like this.”

“But don’t you have a sign on your desk…”

My stomach dropped down into my socks.

Hoist by my own petard!

I managed to recover and turn the conversation back to my point, which was: “look, we need to make some changes around here. I can plan them out, but as the boss you have to actually make them.” She agreed, looking rather haggard — her job is pretty stressful and she spreads herself very thinly — but we didn’t come to any actual conclusions about changes being made.

Score one for the Two-Year-Old.

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This is post #250 of CorporateSpeak. Thanks for supporting me this long. Tell your friends!

office timetable June 9, 2009

Posted by That Guy in Pictures, Seen Elsewhere, Wasting Time.
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Yeah, that sounds about right to me, except that the day now extends until 6pm so there’s a bit more goofing off in there somewhere.