Stupid (but mostly true) Story of Workplace Terror and a Stapler

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With Halloween rapidly approaching, it seemed like a good time to share this tale of workplace fright.

As many of you know, I work from home. However, I also have an office assigned to me in the nearest company location, which is about 45 minutes away with no traffic…but I live in California, which means that the window in which there is no traffic is between 10 pm and 4 am and, of course, the week between Christmas and the New Year. Outside of these times, the drive is about an hour and a half.

About a month or so into this job I decided to brave the commute to check out our location and the space allocated to me…and print every document I could think of. C’mon folks, a crappy home printer is no match for an industrial machine that prints a 35 page document in a matter of seconds. (It takes Ole’ Bessie at home about a minute per page.) Oh yeah, and the last part of my mission was to kidnap a stapler. You never know how much you need a stapler until you go without one. This working from home gig is not for the faint of heart.

As I soon found out, my company occupies 2 floors of an 8 story building. (I did not know this before, because I had interviewed at our headquarters which are located in another state and had never visited this location prior to this fateful day.) Arriving at the entrance to our suites I knew something wasn’t right. It was extremely quiet. This was due to the fact that with the exception of the security guard, there was no one in sight. I turned right to go search for my office and ran smack into the facilities manager, whom I’ll call Igor. Igor had shifty eyes and a nervous habit of wringing his hands. He put on his best friendly voice, which was still faint and ghoulish, and asked me if I wanted a tour of the facility. Who could say no to a personal tour with Igor? What was he going to do…kill me? I laughed at that thought and quickly agreed.

As we walked down the hallway, things took a truly creepy turn. We passed rows and rows of deserted cubicles and not one other live human being. As we continued on I could hear the buzzing of copiers and fax machines, as they waited patiently for someone to press the button. The coffee machine had sputtered to life but there was no one there to drink the coffee. I wondered if I was being punked. I get this feeling often at work and figured this time it had to be real.

We turned a corner passed more empty cubicles, and then entered into one of several conference rooms Igor would show me, each larger and more elegant than the last. I finally broke down and asked him if anyone actually worked in this office. He was oddly surprised by my question and exclaimed that people did in fact work in this office…just not on the day I chose to visit.

Not to get too hyperbolic here, but it was at this point that I lost my marbles. This place was like the big deserted hotel in the movie “The Shining.” Similar to “The Shining’s” protagonist who went crazy and tried to kill his family, I was pretty sure Igor had gone crazy and killed all the other employees. Thoughts frantically filled my mind. Was I bound to be next? Did HR know what had happened here? All I wanted was a pleasant visit to what I thought was a normal office location and a stapler. Instead it looked like I might have to actually test out my karate training in the real world. I was definitely not ready for this.

I tried to stay calm as he showed me to my office and hung around to make sure everything was “working alright.” As soon as he left I shut the door and locked it. I figured I’d stay long enough to print my stuff and secure the stapler. After that, I was outta there.

After several minutes the lights started flickering, accompanied by a loud buzzing sound. I was certain the ghosts of the slain employees were trying to warn me to get out before Igor came back with an ax. That was it, my nerves were shot. I grabbed my stuff and ran as quickly as I could to the lobby and out the door to the nearest Starbucks with wifi.

And that’s why I still don’t have a stapler.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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PowerPoint Purgatory (and Appraisals)

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I spend a great deal of my work life creating PowerPoint presentations. In fact PowerPoint is my main tool of communication. We start a project, I draft a timeline in PowerPoint. We finish a project, I summarize the results in PowerPoint.  I have an idea, it goes in PowerPoint. In other words, I live out my days in PowerPoint Purgatory (PPP).

I have determined that to make it out of PPP you must either 1) rise to a higher level of management (the preferable solution) or 2) fail miserably and be forced to go back and join the ranks of the people actually doing the work described in the PowerPoints.

On a rare occasion, I am able to leave PPP for a day to obtain some insight into company operations. Recently I spent a day reviewing residential property appraisals. While this may sound boring, I assure you there was plenty of excitement to be had. In fact, based on this experience, I learned some important points to consider before refinancing my mortgage:

1. If you want to make sure the staff is awake, don’t flush the toilet before the appraiser comes to take pictures. A good toilet picture will have a more lasting effect than coffee.

2. If you have so much junk that the appraiser cannot physically get into your house, you might want to first consider renting a storage locker.

3. If at all possible, remove the bicycle hanging from the basketball hoop. This may not affect the value of the property but will probably confuse the review staff who will have to figure out which way to hold the picture.

4. If you’ve converted your Home Depot garden shed to a kitchen/bedroom/bathroom, you probably won’t get credit for the additional square footage.

Now, I think I’ll go put these tips in PowerPoint.

Trends I Hate…Yes, I’m Old

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In my last post,  I discussed Signs You’ve Hit Middle Age. I recently realized that I left out one important sign…namely, that you are irritated by stupid trends. The following ridiculous trends aren’t even new; they’ve just gotten on my nerves long enough that I finally had to vent my supreme annoyance.

  1. Healthy Juice Bars. Unfortunately for this country, “healthy juicing” has taken over. Goodbye Jamba Juice and your affordable, sugar-laden, strawberry smoothie. You have been replaced by Nekter, the detoxifying, cleansing juice bar and its prohibitively expensive foodie crap. One such example is the Tropical Cooler, which is billed as “a puree of spinach, kale, and flavorless gourmet tropical shit, for douchebags like you.” Having recently been a douchebag who tried the Tropical Cooler, take my advice here and save your ten bucks. Instead, throw 2 cups of grass and weeds from your front lawn into a blender with 3 cups of water from your pool. The result looks and tastes the same. (Party tip: When serving to guests at your birthday luau, pour into a Tiki tumbler for added authenticity.)

 

  1. Birthday parties…for dogs. What the heck is wrong with people? It’s not enough to organize a killer bash with clowns, ponies and a snow cone machine for your one-year old who will sleep through half of it. Now you have to put party hats on your pets?

 

  1. Sleeping babies. For some reason, I am the only parent whose babies didn’t immediately sleep through the night. In fact, my newborns both woke up every 2-3 hours for weeks on end, the inconsiderate little brats. I suppose it’s my fault, though. If I had been gluten-free when nursing, my kids would have been better able to digest the milk, resulting in a fuller feeling and hours of peaceful sleep.

 

  1. Starbucks in Europe. Americans have figured out a way to take European coffee, add some quasi-Italian words, reverse engineer the espresso making process so it actually takes three times longer, and then sell it back to the Europeans at a higher price. As disappointing as this is, I guess I can’t completely hate Starbucks  – not only do they bring us the eggnog latte, but they are probably responsible for making coffee across America drinkable.

 

  1. Gender Reveal Parties. Millennial friends of mine, I love you, but knock it off. Just go to the ultrasound, find out the gender of your baby and call your mom. No one else is relishing in the suspense as much as you are. If you have to be trendy and insist on making everyone you know digest something to find out whether you’re having a boy or a girl, give them a blue or pink Tropical Cooler.

Q & A With An Unsuccessful Blogger: Bad Answers to Your Good Questions

I like to pretend I have a blog. I say pretend, because I am not in the slightest bit successful. I only have about 20 followers, 19 of which are family members I force to read my blog under threat of no Christmas gifts. Over the year or so that I’ve been a “blogger”, my readers (aka family members who receive Christmas gifts from me) have asked me many questions about blogging. At the risk of breaking the Unsuccessful Blogger Code of Silence (UBCOS) and being banned from the world of bad bloggers, I will address these questions.

Q: How do you start a blog?

A: If you’re a Millennial, set up an account on WordPress.com and go from there. It’s intuitive.
If you’re from Generation X, get a bottle of wine, go to WordPress.com and pound wildly on your keyboard until you manage to launch a blog or are too drunk to care.

Q: Why do you write a blog?

A: lt’s simple. Since I have to live through this insanity, I had mind as well share the pain. Besides, I have to listen to your crap at the family reunions, so consider us even.

Q: Is your life really as nutty as you make it sound? (Only people with no kids and no job ask this question.)

A: Look, I can’t make this stuff up. If I were that creative I’d be making tons of money as a Hollywood screenwriter. 95% of what I write about I either experienced or observed. The other 5% is the result of hallucinations brought on by the alcohol my kids drove me drink.

Q: What inspires you?

A: It’s not about inspiration. Instead the name of the game is self-preservation, coupled with a strong desire to not go to jail. If I write about the neighbors’ obese, 11 year old, asthmatic Chihuahua, then I don’t feel as strong a need to throttle the thing when I find out that it’s the source of the rattling, wheezing noise every night that had me terrified I was going to be attacked by some kind of deranged science experiment cooked up in their basement.

I know that sounds mean, but in my defense, I pretty much had to keep my karate nunchucks at my side for a year. (In case you weren’t aware, nunchucks are proven to be the best defense against science experiments gone wrong. You don’t even have to know how to use them – just wave them around wildly to look intimidating. Note, however, that you should always wear a helmet when flinging nunchucks around wildly, as there is a 90% chance you will hit yourself in the head…and that hurts.)

Q: You work full time and have kids. How do you have time to blog?

A: It’s really not as hard as it seems. All you have to do is produce low quality, sub-standard work product and feed your kids cereal for dinner. By keeping people’s expectations low, I find I’m able to squeeze out free time for hobbies.

Q: How long does it take you to compose a post?

A: Anywhere from 2 hours to 2 weeks. I’m much faster now that I don’t have to carry nunchucks around and have both hands free to type.

Suck It, Crafters

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Everyone knows that to be a good mother, you must spend hours crafting with your kids. Thanks to modern inventions like blogs and Pinterest, crafting has risen from hobby to absolute requirement. This proves problematic if you are afflicted with crappy small motor coordination (known in medical circles as “CSMC”) and are from Generation X, meaning you were unaware of the crafting movement when you were trying to get pregnant. 

Had I understood that crafting skills would one day be the barometer in measuring my competency as a mother, I certainly would have planned my future differently. Don’t get me wrong; I am not suggesting that I would have chosen better birth control. I like my kids more than 50% of the time, which statistically-speaking, means they’re keepers. What I am suggesting is that I probably would have pursued a double major in college, supplementing my B.A. in Economics with a degree in Craft Shit.

On second thought, who am I kidding? Even Upper Division craft classes couldn’t help me conquer my CSMC. Because of my two left thumbs, I can’t cut a straight line with scissors or even fold a piece of paper in half neatly. I failed a summer school origami class when I was 7. In high school I never volunteered to make the bubble letters on spirit signs, because my bubble letters ended up squished on one side of the sign. I’ve never admitted this publicly until now, but my husband wraps Christmas presents better than I do.

Speaking of Christmas, my two daughters got a “style your own headband” kit last December (from one of my best friends no less…clearly she was pissed off at me about something). Using this kit, you were theoretically able to decorate plain headbands with lace, bows, ribbons and jewels. When I tried to help my 10-year old, I ended up with gobs of glue everywhere. As my daughter sulked in disappointment and I tried to peel glue off my body, my 6-year old took pity on us and neatly pasted a dainty piece of ribbon along the entire outside of my 10-year old’s headband. At least somebody in the family was qualified to be a mother.

As the reality of my incompetence sunk in, I knew it was time to take action. I needed a new approach if I was going to go head to head with the crafting mothers of the world.  I can’t tie bows, but I can create a PowerPoint presentation with bullet points, text boxes and process flows. So, suck it crafters. My kids and I aren’t going to build a birdhouse out of twigs and plant-matter we picked out together on our morning family nature hike and then decorate it with sequins. We’re going to sit in front of our computer with a cup of coffee and make slides in PowerPoint, and if I’m feeling really ambitious, we might even make ourselves a second cup of coffee and write some exciting formulas in Excel.

And when we’re through, we’ll pop a few Lean Cuisines in the microwave. Did I mention I can’t cook either?

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Quick Quiz – Which Corporate Employee Are You?

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Need an objective view as to how you’re holding up in the workplace? Take this quiz to find out if you’re on your way to the top or if it’s time to retire.

1. During a meeting where the logic of your idiotic process is being questioned, you:

a) tell the group that you agree the process stinks, but you are just doing what you were told. You then take this opportunity to hijack the meeting and spend 20 minutes complaining about how no one listens to you.

b) confuse everyone with a long-winded, somewhat incoherent explanation of how the process came about. You get so wrapped up in the history of the process that you forget what the group actually wants, which is that you agree to change the process.

c) pretend that the CEO is calling you on your cell phone and leave the room immediately.

 

2. Your boss needs you to work on an urgent assignment. You:

a) tell him that you’re too busy and will not be able to take on any new work until Q1 2017.

b) agree to do it but forget to ask him what he wants and when it’s due by.

c) zealously agree to help him out, because, after all, you’re always there for him when he’s in a jam. You then secretly pawn the work off on your lower-ranking colleagues who are too timid to say no. In the end, you make sure to take all of the credit.

 

3. When meeting with a manager at least 2 levels above you, you:

a) take the opportunity to loudly voice that you are overworked and stressed out. It’s hard working 40 hours a week.

b) fail to understand what exactly the manager is asking you. Rather than request clarification, you just ramble on about a topic of your choosing.  This makes sense, since relevancy really is subjective.

c) make witty jokes and compliment him/her every five minutes.

 

4. Your co-workers need your subject matter expertise. You:

a) tell them they’ll have to hire a consultant to answer their 3 questions, because you’re busy reviewing training materials.

b) happily agree to help. After an hour on the phone with them you’ve managed to take them down at least 3 rabbit holes without ever arriving at an answer to the first question. It was a “yes” or “no” question.

c) refer them to someone who works for you. Since you are a manager, you don’t really have to have any knowledge. That’s why you have a team.

 

5.  Your boss makes you in charge of a project already being worked on by 5 people, you:

a) put together a project plan but don’t have time to figure out if anyone’s actually adhering to it.

b) do the same work the others had already completed, since you forgot to ask them what pieces of the project had been checked off before you joined the team.

c) make one of the 5 people your “team lead”, have him/her put together a project plan and report back to you regularly. While you wait for status updates, you drink coffee and make vacation plans.

Scoring:

1. If the majority of your answers were a) then it’s time to throw in the towel. You’ve been working too hard for too long and need to be put out to pasture. Find a job at an ice cream shop during the winter months and at a ski resort in the summer.

2. If the majority of your answers were b) then you’re faking. Anyone who truly would answer b) is too confused to take this quiz. Find the b) people at your job and give them a hug. It’s hard to live in such a haze.

3. If the majority of your answers were c), then congratulations. You are a successful corporate douchebag who knows how to make yourself look good while forcing everyone around you to do your work. Watch your back, though, since all of the little people you stepped on will be looking for opportunities to run you over in the parking garage. Don’t be surprised if when you go to an ice cream shop in the winter, your scoop of chocolate chip tastes strangely like pee.

Corporate Mentoring Series: 6 Business Terms Every Elementary School Kid Should Learn

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As a parent, I am concerned that kids in America are graduating without sufficient skills to be successful in the business world. Actually, this concern is probably better described as downright fear, since I see the results of our country’s sub-par education system every day at my job on the corporate hamster wheel.

When my daughters embark on their careers, will they be capable of using first-grade addition and subtraction to calculate time zones when setting up meetings with employees in different parts of the country? As I have learned from the numerous invites I receive to conference calls before 8 am, this is not a skill that has been adequately taught.

If my children choose a career in marketing, will they know how to spell the name of the company they work for? This is also not something that can be taken for granted…at least not where I work.

Since according to the self-evaluation portion of my latest performance review, “I excel as a true driver of change,” I’ve decided to take action here too and have compiled a short list of key corporate words and phrases, which kids should study. While this won’t help with time zone calculations or spelling skills, proficiency with every term on this list will at least promote a child’s ability to successfully communicate with their corporate peers and managers when the day comes.

Add some color:  to provide additional details. This does NOT mean you should add more blue and red to your art project.

Example: John, can you add some color to why your team’s results are in the toilet?

Appetite: level of interest (as opposed to level of hunger).

Example: There was no appetite in management to get us the resources for good results.

Throw someone under the bus:  to blame someone else. Do not take this literally…no one is actually tossed under a moving vehicle.

Example:  John threw management under the bus. He is now looking for another job.

Stakeholders: other people affected by your brilliant ideas. This is not a reference to your history lesson about gold miners claiming their territories.

Example: Beware of Sales; they have been known to hide their plans from the Company’s stakeholders.

Harmonize:  to ensure your thoughts are accepted by stakeholders; the opposite of hiding your plans. This has nothing to do with forming a choir with the other students.

Example: Sales didn’t harmonize with the Legal Department before launching their product; the company is now being sued by the government.

Mission statement: your stated purpose. Do not confuse this term with the opening sentence in your fourth grade report on the California missions.

Example: The Sales Team’s mission statement is to make as much money as possible and leave for the Bahamas when the company gets sued by the government.