I was recently chatting with my friend Brenda when the subject turned to corporate life. We quickly realized that we were confounded by similar situations at work. After further discussion, we came to the conclusion that this gap in our ability to comprehend certain corporate phenomena was most likely tied to the fact that, while we each had a B.A. and 20+ years job experience, neither of us held an actual degree in Business. It was clear that if we were going to ever find resolution to our questions, we would need to corner someone with a bona fide business degree.
Enter our friend, Marsha. Marsha has not only earned an MBA from a top university, but she is also one of the sharpest, well-adjusted people I know. If anyone could save us from ignorance, it was Marsha.
Marsha graciously made time for us over lunch and we took turns peppering her with questions. As follows are the highlights of our Q&A session:
Brenda: I receive daily news feeds in my Outlook inbox from my company. I appreciate the company’s desire to help me stay informed, but it’s challenging to find time to read everything they send me and still finish my PowerPoint slides by the deadline.
Marsha: Learn to embrace the delete key.
Brenda: Who is crazier, me or IT?
Brenda: How do I resolve this?
Marsha: Your best bet is to find someone who has the Flu and get them to sneeze on you. Then you can stay home in bed watching soap operas and drinking Nyquil instead of dealing with the crappy data IT sent you.
Me: We used to have an office whistler who whistled loudly all day long. Her specialty was holiday tunes. Why was I the only person who found this annoying?
Marsha: People like holiday music, even in mid-summer. Too bad the whistler is gone or you could have connected her to the Marketing department to help bring in more business.
Me: She showed up at this year’s Christmas luncheon, despite the fact that she left the company a year ago. Who invited her?
Me: Why do companies hire argumentative customer service reps? Wouldn’t it be more efficient for the customer service rep to resolve the issue, so he/she can move on to the next call?
Marsha: Maybe, but you’re missing the point. In the corporate jungle, efficiency or even common sense don’t necessarily drive decisions. It’s all about “cover.” The guy running the customer service department may not be qualified for or capable of doing his job but is being covered by his senior manager. Chances are this senior manager has either never called the call center or, even more likely, doesn’t know there is a call center that reports up to him.
Me: How is it that the senior manager wouldn’t know that he has a call center under him?
Marsha: Most decisions affecting people are not well-communicated. Often you have to rely on an independent news source to tell you that you were actually let go three weeks ago. So, if your company’s stock price is tanking or you think you might have a call center reporting up to you, then you should definitely check out Reuters.com.
Brenda: How can we keep people focused, so that they don’t waste everyone else’s time during weekly meetings?
Marsha: Keep a log of the amount of time each person has wasted. At the end of each month, make a PowerPoint chart and pass it out. Explain that the results will be aggregated at year-end, and using the below formula, each time-waster will be forced to pay out a portion of his annual bonus to all meeting attendees made to listen to him drone on about irrelevant topics.
Since no one will understand this formula (or want to risk looking stupid by asking how it works), the group will be terrified into compliance.
Brenda: What if an executive manager is one of the time-wasters?
Marsha: Whistle holiday music when you hand out the chart. Three weeks later google your name on Reuters.com.