Workplace Humor – Things we send in email and what they really mean

email

My buddy Kevin (Dude) sent me three of these last week.  I decided to harvest my own inbox and expand the list.  Note:  These interpretations are my own and in now way reflect my employer, co-workers, etc.  If any of my colleagues recognize the use of these phrases, well, that’s on you.    

  •  “I have attached this slide deck to assist you in understanding…”  You are so stupid, I prepared supplemental material with pretty pictures to make it easier for you. 
  • “Per my previous email…”  You clearly didn’t read or understand what I wrote you before, so now I will repeat it. 
  • “Per our agreement…”  You violated something you agreed to, now I must explain to you what it is. 
  • “I suggest a face-to-face meeting…”  We need to stop firing these idiotic emails back and forth.  Let’s sit down so I can call you ‘asshole’ to your face. 
  • “I am copying in (Name) for his perspective.”  We’ve already met and agreed you are an asshat.  I’m copying him as written proof of that diagnosis.
  • “It is imperative that we…”  This is important and it is embarrassing to all of us that I have to explain that to you. 
  • “I’m circling back to you on…”  You didn’t respond to this last time, so now I have to nag your sorry-ass about it again. 
  • “I’m curious as to your thoughts on this…”  Make a decision – ANY decision.  Just take a stand for Pete’s sake. 
  • “To reiterate…” I am repeating this…again – because apparently you are slow. 
  • “Moving forward…”  Don’t ever bother me with this shit again.
  • “Respectfully submitted,”  The exact opposite.  “Hatefully submitted.”
  • “This was helpful.”  I wish you had sent this to me weeks ago when I asked for it. 
  • “Sorry to bother you again on this subject.”  I’m sorry you chose to blatantly ignore me. 
  • “Thank you for your explanation.”  Receipt of your lame excuse is acknowledged. 
  • “I’m not sure my last message was received…”  Oh, it was received…you just didn’t respond.  I’m not going away dickhead.
  • “I apologize for the misunderstanding…”  I am deeply and sincerely sorry that you are an asshole.
  • “It is difficult to find a time that works for both of us…”  It’s not my fault you can’t manage your calendar. 
  • “As I understand it…”  This is reality as I know it.  God only knows what you think.
  • “I look forward to our meeting.” There goes an hour or more of my life flushed down the toilet.
  • “Thank you in advance…”  You have a to-do item – just fucking do it.
  • “I hope you don’t mind…”  I don’t care if you mind – do your job.
  • “I realize that you are busy, but…”  I don’t appreciate you ignoring me in the last four attempts to get you to respond.
  • “Your comment on _____ is fair…”  Okay, you made your point – I made a mistake.  Thanks for bringing it up again just to make me feel bad. 
  • “Just a friendly reminder…”  I presume you have the onset of early dementia, it makes it easier for me to cope with you not doing what you need to. 
  • “Let’s action this…”  Stop replying to the email string and do some actual work!
  • “You may not be aware of the history…”  Your decision was stupid, now I have to explain to you why; complete with historical context. 
  • “It might help you to know the background…”  You are about to do something stupid, so let me explain why you shouldn’t.
  • “No action required.”  I am sending you this to cover my ass.  Just play along and now one will get hurt.
  • “I understand your role…”  I LOVE you mansplaining to me what you do. 
  • “I included you on this email string to make sure you were in the loop…”  This is part of your job – so stop whining about me emailing you about it.  And the only loop I want to see you in is a noose. 
  • “Brilliant!”  You actually responded correctly and on-time.  You get a star. 
  • “With all due respect…”  Prepare yourself for my explanation as to why you are tragically wrong. 
  • “FYI” I am covering my ass here. 
  • “Please advise…”  There’s a button on the email called, “Reply.”  Give it a try. 
  • “According to the system…”  I hear what you are saying, but the data says something entirely different.
  • “Just to clarify…”  I will use smaller words this time since the big ones clearly overwhelmed you.
  • “Any updates on this?”  I’m not going to let this slide, douchebag. 
  • “I’m sure you are already aware of this…”  I’m sure you are completely blindsided by this…so allow me to be the bearer of bad news. 
  • “I’d like to point out…”  Let me explain just how wrong you are. 
  • “Don’t hesitate to reach out to me on this…”  I am pretending that I will give you the time of day to re-read this email to you.
  • “Per our operating model…”  We put together a mysterious and complex process, didn’t involve you, didn’t communicate it, but expect you to follow it. 
  • “We need to give this the appropriate level of due diligence…”  You might actually have to read this. 
  • “Great!”  You finally understand…it sure took long enough. 
  • “I want to make sure we avoid this in the future…”  I know that you are prone to repeating the same mistake that led to this email, as such don’t make me kill again.
  • “This is a high priority…”  This is a high priority for the next hour or two, then I will be distracted by the next thing that is a high priority. 
  • “Apologies for me not…”  You caught me!  I’m impressed enough to admit it. 
  • “It has been a pleasure…”  Clearly I am into S&M because this has been torture.
  • “Thank you for your valuable input…”  You’ve made your point, please shut up
  • “I want to make sure we are on the same page…”  Frankly, I’m not sure you’re reading from the same book. 
  • “I was hoping we could collaborate on…”  I need someone to do the work so I can claim credit for it. 
  • “I don’t want you to feel like you’re being excluded…”  But you are. 
  • “I thought you might want to see this…”  Someone is screwing you over and I’m willing to bet they haven’t told you. 
  • “Would (insert day) be convenient?”  You need to get this done before that day or I swear, I will come after you.
  • “Many thanks!”  Fuck off.
  • “Best regards!”  Don’t ever contact me again. 

Email2

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Stages of Your Alleged Career – Entering The Triangle of Apathy

Career
That triangle above Disillusionment – that’s the Triangle of Apathy (trademark pending) 

Anyone who has read my book, Business Rules – a Cynic’s Guidebook to the Corporate Overlords, knows I am not a fan of the use of the word “career.”  While it applies in some specialty fields, in others it is a self-perpetuating myth.  People have jobs.  They desperately try and string jobs together to tell a story, but often it is a hot mess more than something that is cohesive.  Many people want careers, but in the real world, they have a job.

I have not mapped years to this because it varies for people.  Some people might burn through all of the stages in a matter of five years – some twenty.  Your results may vary.

So what are the stages of this mythical beast called a career?  Here’s my summary, for your reading entertainment.

Idealistic Stage.  You are young(er) with a twinkle in your eye and a bounce in your step. You believe that your long hours of hard work will be recognized and rewarded.  You go above and beyond to kick ass and takes names later.  Initially, it seems to work, encouraging more of this behavior.  Your first promotion or two creates the illusion that you are doing the right things to get ahead.  You confuse management with leadership at this stage.  Hell, it doesn’t matter, you are just happy to do your job.  There are a few older bitter employees, and you mock them openly because you see yourself smarter and more energetic than them.  Your “career” is not just about the paycheck, it’s about the challenge and the thrill you get as your learn new things.  The money is just as way for you to measure how well you are doing, like a ranking in a video game.

You find a specialty at work that intrigues you, and you become an expert in it.  It excites you to become the master of something.

When you go on business travel, it’s a party paid for by the company.  Your interests outside of work are limited because work seems awesome.  In fact, the things that make you happy and the relationships that seem to matter are all tied to your job and you don’t care. You identify mentors who you respect and they give you useful advice.  It is hard to imagine working anywhere else because the values of your organization seem to align with yours personally.

You are building your network in the organization…meaning you engage with many peers and form relationships that may help you in the future.  It is easy to do since many of you are just starting out.

Life is good because you can manage it.  Work and life get blurred, but that’s okay. You have a lifetime to sort that out.

Questioning State.  As you move higher in the organization, you notice that the behaviors that got you rewarded are taken for granted.  Upper management simply expects you to work long hours, they expect it from everyone.  You notice that some people that are promoted don’t share your work ethics or values.  Some advance because they are talented brown-nosers who kiss ass more than work.  You see people who advance based on technical skill rather than leadership capabilities.  Adding to this, the pace of promotions begins to slow down.

The company makes changes to your benefits and compensation and for the first time you question those changes. You notice that some people you respect either move on to other companies, or lose their jobs in one of the many reorganizations you start to experience/feel.  You see entire teams gutted, seemingly for no reason.  Still, you want to believe that the organization you work for cares about you – so you overlook most of these indiscretions, but a nagging voice in your head makes you wonder if you are a valuable member of a team, or merely a commodity.  You begin to ponder what your value is from the company’s perspective.

That thing you became an expert in…you realize you need more.  So you reinvent yourself, becoming an expert in another field.  For a short time that fulfills your joy, but it seems to fade fairly quickly.

The corporate rules becomes blurry and confusing as to what is expected of you as ambiguity becomes a competency.  You are confused by what you see, but cannot fully articulate what is happening.  You begin to question how the organization is run and who is leading it.

Money means a lot more at this stage of your career because you are more settled, have more responsibilities, and want/need more stuff.  You begin to notice that some people are treated better financially those others with bonuses and other incentives, and it bothers you because they are not distributed equitably.  It was probably always this way, but now you start to notice it more and ask, “Why?”  It’s not an overriding concern…yet.

You get to go to training, but much less often than earlier in your career.  It’s not for lack of desire, but there are always budget and timing questions that seem to block you.  You are hit with counters to your request like, “If you think you can afford to take three days to go to training in the middle of this critical stage of the project, go ahead.”  You become the bad person for even suggesting to take time off.

You still are working just as hard as you did, cranking up the long hours, but you are beginning to question if it is worth it.  Work-life balance starts to creep in as an issue.  You still travel without questioning whether it is needed or not.  You begin to question the bureaucracy and rules that you ignored earlier in your career.  Your pool of friends at work is starting to drain and it is harder to bring new people into that dwindling circle.

Disillusionment Stage. You feel as if you are a marked man or woman.  Your manager cannot tell you how to advance or grow in the organization because they are fighting to save their own phony-baloney jobs.  You see long-time friends and colleagues lose their jobs to downsizing, rightsizing, outsourcing, etc. When the promotion list comes out, it is something that infuriates and frustrates you.  “How could that imbecile get promoted and I can’t?”  There doesn’t seem to be any rules to follow or path to walk that can get you promoted.

You want to change jobs but the tentacles of your life and organization hold you tightly.  You have debt in life, you need to keep your medical plan, you don’t want to sacrifice your retirement plan by starting over at a new company, or you are so much older that other organizations won’t bother to interview you. (If anyone out there believes that age discrimination isn’t real, you’re a fool.)  Where you used to be comfortable with work and life blending together, now you want them separated.  You hate going on business trips at this stage of your corporate life because you have started to develop a life outside of work as a means of mental escape from the depressing grind that work has morphed into.

Training you want to take is expensive and the company refuses to send you…after all, why train someone who may only use those skills for the few years remaining in your careers?  At the same time, they ding you for not having the right skills.

The publication of the annual promotions list is a source of frustration and anger.  “How could they promote her?  He couldn’t find his ass with a flashlight and both hands!” are typical comments.  You are no longer sure what to do to progress or grow in your role because the rules are constantly in flux.  Despite this, people come to you to ask career advice and you do your best to help them.

Money plays a role here at this stage too.  You begin to compare notes with others and can see how you are not earning what you feel you deserve.  It makes you angry, but leadership brushes it off when you raise it with them.  “I can’t talk to you about what another person is making.” At this stage, money has become less of a necessity (you make enough) but more of a way to gauge yourself against others.

That network you built back when you were idealistic…it is dwindling.  RIF’s, layoffs, and outsourcing have cost some of your work-friends their jobs.  Some make sense, others seem random, almost arbitrary.  This has you wondering what leadership in your organization is thinking, if anything.

Your days are filled with PowerPoint slide decks and meetings to plan other meetings.  You think and speak in bullet points, even at home.  Vacation and holidays are often rushed, squeezed in between work deliverables, but deeply cherished.  You still check email while off, doing it in secret from your significant other.

In this stage you start to question business travel.  “Do I really have to be there live for two hours of meetings?”  You have a ton of points for hotels and airlines, but don’t seem to have the time to use them.  Your personal life seems suddenly to be more important than, “working for the man.” The things that make you happy are outside the office.

You are in an emotional prison, unable to move up in the organization, living in fear of layoffs, watching incompetent and unskilled people pass you by.  Your last mentor is contemplating suicide and blaming the company in the farewell note. As your company plays with your benefits, you feel powerless and impotent.  You won’t work an hour of overtime at this point; why bother?  Distrust in the organization is your default setting, and with good reason.

Your use of Linkedin supersedes your use of other social media.

Office 3

Survival Mode or “Shawshank Redemption” Stage. Less-than-subtle comments to you like: “We could hire three kids of out college for what we pay you,” or “I can move your job to India for a quarter of the cost,” are your “inspiration” at this stage.  You feel as if you have given the organization so much that you merely want to see this ride through to the bitter end.  That and you still cling to some of the values you had when you first started there.  You want to be back at the early stages of your career when you understood the rules of the game and it was fun to play.  You keep hoping that the leaders will go back to those ideals you cling to.

It helps to know where the skeletons are buried, mostly because you dug a lot of the holes over the years.

Your decisions are always weighed against, “Can they use this as an excuse to let me go?”  You have become that older prick you used to joke about in the organization.  Everything becomes clinging to the thing you have grown to hate, simply because it is a paycheck.  Your moments of inspiration and glimmers of hope are quickly squashed by others in leadership.

Vacations and holidays are seen as sacred time where you completely disconnect from work.  Money means less at this stage of your “career.”  This is more about survival.  You have been complaining of your pay for so long your expectations are appropriately low.

The publication of the promotions list has you seeing people there that you have never heard of.  Your personal network can be counted on one hand.  Many show signs of PTSD, having barely survived countless layoffs and reorganizations.  They are, for the most part, institutionalized – apparently trapped in their roles.

Your mentors have been all laid off, fired, or escaped.  Your circle of friends at work has shriveled to a handful. You actively work to avoid business travel because you have come to hate airports, hotels and people.  Work is a prison where parole consists of reductions in force. Each time the axe is swung you secretly hope you are on the list.  You know the layoff packages in your organization as well as your pension plan.

When there’s a workplace shooting on TV and people say, “I don’t know how that could happen,” you find you possess the answers.

If you look at the chart above, mapping your disengagement increase, your engagement at work decrease, and your salary, you can see that the optimum period comes during the disillusionment period in the small triangle you see on the chart.  I name this little spot the Triangle of Apathy…where you still care about work, but realize the futility of that caring.

Things You Need to Get Answers on Before You Leave The Interview

Bobs

I hate fluff articles with similar titles that give you worthless tips for interviews like, “Tell me why you like working here”?”  Bah! No one cares because the answer to that question ls likely to be pure BS anyway.

At the risk of being blunt, there’s some things you need to get out of an interview, but usually don’t ask because they can seem edgy.  Still, getting this information is important.  How you get it in your line of questioning, that I leave to you.  Also you need to focus on the 2-3 questions that are most important to you personally.

What’s next in this process, and when?  Usually an interviewer will inform you of this as their way of saying, “we’re done with this interview.” If they don’t, you need to know what the next steps are and what the timing is for those steps. Timing can be important, because it tells you how important this role is.  If they want to fill it fast, it is more likely mission critical.

Who’s the decision maker? Organizations often have rounds of interviews, one with a recruiter, one with the hiring manager, sometimes a technical interview, sometimes team interviews, and so on.  Their belief is this ensures they get the best candidate; when in reality it spreads out the blame for hiring bad candidates to a larger group of people.  As such, it can get confusing as to who is the individual that actually is making the judgement call as to your joining the company.  If you don’t know this, ask!

Why didn’t this position get filled from within?  This tells you how important promotion from within is, if they provide training, etc. I asked this recently and got, “Oh, we have several in-house candidates that we like, but we always like looking in the external market.”  In other words, they may just be wasting your time because of a stupid policy. Probing at this can tell you a great deal about how the organization views their people.

What would be my career progression if I were offered this job?  In other words, how long until I can promoted and to what role or position?  Will I have freedom to change career directions, or is this seen as a niche role with little room for growth?   What I always want to know with this question is, “How much flexibility will I have with my career path?” What you want to find out is simple – is this a company that has an up-or-out approach to careers, or one that sees you as a long term asset they want to nurture and grow?

What does your company do to retain talent? Does this company even care enough to try and keep its best performers? The companies that really do care have program in place.  This is also a good question to determine if the organization you are interviewing with is one that cherishes experience, or promotes more of an “up-and-out,” mentality towards its people.

Does your company have any outsourcing initiatives or efforts to move jobs overseas?  I know of someone who hired into a job, only to find out that the seat was vacated because his predecessor had already been told the role was being moved to India.  You need to know if you are entering an environment that is harvesting jobs for outside vendors or to send overseas.  While this is not a deal-breaker on its own (the role you are interviewing for may not be impacted) it can tell you a great deal about the morale and focus of the staff.

What is your employee review process like?  The response to this question tells you something about how the tentative organization evaluates its people’s performance.   How you will be evaluated often drives the type of work you do.  Best to learn that before you are offered the position.

How many hours are there in a typical work week in this position?  Are you going to have time to have a life?  Is this place a sweat shop?  Chances are they will tell you, “it varies,” but you should probe a little further.  “So what is the high end and the low end?”

What is your turnover rate in this role?  You can give a recruiter an aneurism with this question, so I saved it for last.  This is how many people leave this job.  It tells you about the culture and the kind of longevity you can expect in this position.  If people are staying for a long time (a low turnover rate) then it is probably a pretty good place to work.

Bear in mind, the recruiter or the hiring manager may lie through their teeth in response to these kinds of questions. If nothing else, it can give you something to bitch and whine about when you discover the truth, “When I interviewed they told me I could have a career here…those bastards…”

I have been told that some recruiters might react negatively to one or more of these questions.  I try and not live my life around what upsets recruiters.  Well, do you really want to work at a place that won’t share this information with you up-front?  If nothing else, shame on you for not getting this information in your interview.

Office Humor – Things to never put on your resume’, CV, or cover letter

resume

Thinking these things is okay.  Putting them in writing…not so much.  Enjoy!

  • Meet with me and prepare to be dazzled.
  • If you have read my resume’ to this point, clearly you recognize the talent I can bring to you and your team.
  • I am loyal to a fault.  Please feel free to contact me at my current work email or phone number.
  • I am available for interviews after 10:30am.
  • While my availability could be interpreted as having been fired or laid off; I want to assure you, my departure was completely voluntary and even if it wasn’t, I was not the only one affected.
  • When I leave my current position I am sure productivity and morale will drop dramatically, but I am willing to take that risk to join your organization.
  • On Resume’:  Career Goals – Work for a company not as screwed up as the one I currently work for.
  • I am willing to relocate, but only if you pay for it.
  • My current company promised rapid advancement, but never delivered, despite my protests on the subject.
  • I am in high demand so you may want to extend an offer based on my resume’ alone.
  • I feel bad about looking for a new role since the place will fall apart without my leadership.
  • My attorney and I look forward to your offer letter.
  • You may reach out to my current manager as a reference.  She is the one that encouraged me to pursue other opportunities.
  • My reason for desiring a new position is that my current employer refuses to recognize the brilliance I bring to the table.
  • I am content in my current role, but they refuse to promote me, despite my acts of personal heroism in the office.
  • I don’t come cheap.
  • I take teamwork seriously, even after hours.  I have played a pivotal role (cleric) in a Dungeons and Dragons party for the last six years of our current campaign.  If that isn’t teamwork, I don’t know what is.
  • On Resume’:  Accomplishments:  Earned over 450,000 Marriott points in the last year alone.
  • My reason for leaving my current role is that my employer is asking me to work unreasonable hours, such as starting at 8am.
  • This is your lucky day because today you have discovered me!
  • While I may lack all of the skills and experience you are looking for, I make it up with a can-do attitude!
  • The following are sample comments from my last performance review…
  • I am not bragging, but I could probably do your job more effectively than you do.
  • I am pursuing other career options at the time because my current company undervalues my contributions and have restricted our expense policy.
  • You are so fortunate to be reading this resume’.  I am sure you will be promoted based on the offer you are about to tender me!
  • I am pursuing a new company because I was not promoted when others, who were clearly inferior, were.  (Note:  If this was a good excuse I would be changing jobs annually.)
  • I am the kind of person that is always growing.  Last year I took over 195 hours of learning alone!
  • According to Google, your company would be a perfect fit for my personality and work style.
  • The hours I work are not nearly as important as what I bring to the table…something my current employer simply doesn’t understand.
  • After reading my attached resume’, you will realize that I have made your decision to fill this role easy and quick.  When should I start?
  • I am willing to travel as part of this position, but I won’t go to the following countries…
  • Once your meet me face-to-face, I’m sure you will wonder, “How did we get along before she got here?”
  • On Resume’:  Career Goals:  Work for an organization that compensates me for the brilliance I bring to the team, rather than silly things like profitability, billable hours, or delivering tangible work product.
  • I feel sad in looking for another job because my current employer is bound to go out of business without me.
  • I look forward to your call.  I have several questions about your company’s mission statement.
  • If this position doesn’t pay at least (insert dollar amount) then you do not need to read further.
  • I assume your company is pet-friendly.
  • On Resume’:  Career Goals – A salary consummate with the lifestyle I so richly deserve.
  • My involvement on a recent engagement persuaded the client to add three more staff to our team, just to assist on my deliverable!  Imagine what I could do for your firm.
  • Because of the demand for me, I will need a written commitment in advance regarding promotion
  • Before we proceed with your inevitable offer, I need to know the details on your medical benefits.
  • I see my applying for this position as a chance for you to live up to your company’s value statement.
  • My division lost less money last year than the other divisions because of my leadership.
  • Please use this phone number, not the one on the resume’.  That line has been disconnected.
  • On Resume’:  Hobbies include political protests that are against key social issues, macramé, visiting serial killer murder locations.
  • I am moving on in my career because my mother feels my current employer undervalues my contributions.
  • The gaps in my resume’ are no reflection on my work performance, a lot of people were laid off during those periods.
  • My staff often referred to me as “The Head Honcho” which tells you how influential I am.
  • I am pursuing a position with your organization because my mentor suggested that I am a solid fit for your company.
  • One of my strengths is I won’t compromise my values, unless you pay me enough.
  • On a Resume’:  Words used to describe me – “Dynamic, Innovative, Challenges Authority, and Undervalued by Leadership.”
  • Your days of searching for a perfect candidate are over!
  • Just to clarify, any images you find of my on the internet were NOT put there with my expressed permission.  I am seeking legal action against those who posted those photos and please do not hold those images against me during the hiring process.
  • My mother asked me to ask you the following question…
  • On a Resume’:  My low GPA reflects instructors that were sub-par and unreasonably early class start times.
  • If you don’t hire me, I encourage you to contribute to my favorite charity _______________.
  • You don’t want to look back five years from now and say to yourself, “I had a chance to hire that guy and didn’t.”
  • I don’t want to say I walk on water, but I can cross a lake without getting wet.
  • I am excited to see what your signing bonuses are and how they compare to the rest of the industry.
  • Because of legal reasons I cannot travel out of state or be available on weekends…but other than that, I’m your new go-to-guy.
  • While my title seems rather ordinary, I have been called, “the glue that holds this place together.”  So consider that in your decision making.
  • If you were to Google me you would see the phrase, “Anti-Authoritative Risk Taker,” which just about sums up what I can bring to your company.
  • In search of perfection?  I’d say you’d found it with this attached resume’.
  • I suggest you keep this introduction letter, because my autograph is bound to be worth a lot in years to come.
  • I am unavailable on weekends for work due to court-required community service.
  • I can save your company a lot of money in terms of recruitment – simply hire me right now based on the attached resume’!
  • Before we get too far, what is your company’s expense and travel spending limits?
  • Frankly I should be much further in my career, but my manager leaves a great deal to be desired.
  • It should be noted that several of my references are leaders in our industry.
  • My anger management instructor said I am the most improved in her class, which should count for something.
  • I am seeking a new career trajectory because I was falsely accused of telling the truth about the incompetence of my manager to her supervisor.
  • My ratings have been a three for the last few years, but in fairness, a three at our company is a five at other companies (per what we have been told by our leadership.)  So I’m basically a five…
  • I feel it is time for a move, and your company was the least objectionable option.
  • Resume’ Personal Information:  Weight, 197lbs, Height, 6 ft.  Able to bench press 230lbs, highest ranking team member of the Red Cobras Squad on Call of Duty 4.
  • I am currently pursuing a degree, so I will need to know your tuition reimbursement plan in advance of accepting an offer with your company.
  • Think of it this way, you are hiring someone who is likely going to be your boss someday.
  • I hope you can be flexible with interviewing schedules, my father wants to take part in those discussions and he is quite busy.

Like these?  Check out my book:  Business Rules: The Cynic’s Guidebook to the Corporate Overlords

What Everyone is Thinking (but not saying) About Your PowerPoint Presentation…

PowerPoint
And we all know how things turned out for Ned Stark…

I make no small qualms that I loathe PowerPoint almost as much as I hate attending mindless meetings.  PowerPoint has reprogrammed generations of people in business to think in poorly written, vague bullet points.  While some might argue that it makes us be concise, it reality it is a crutch for people that perform crappy presentations.  Some teams actually use PowerPoint decks as reading material…I guess Word was too complex for them.  Morons.  PowerPoint is to documentation what an abacus is to a computer.

I had a manager once, (She-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named) who was so obsessed over PowerPoint, she was concerned about people reading them.  “What if this gets forwarded to the wrong person and they read it?”  So we had to create slide decks for this harpy-from-hell that could be understood if you knew nothing about the subject of the deck.  Seriously.  It wasn’t as if we had plans for making an atomic bomb in your basement in the decks we produced.  I have long suspected that she stupidly fretted over someone reading her material without her being in the room to bask in their praise over what she had produced.

I spend a lot of my corporate life in mind-numbing PowerPoint presentations under the guise of being productive meetings.  The majority of PowerPoint decks are mediocre at best, and at worst, they blow chucks.  I have actually started to shift to doing meetings without PowerPoint.  What I have found is that people are so conditioned to seeing the tool in a meeting that it confuses them when you don’t put up slides.  They get nervous and visibly uncomfortable – which I love.  “Aren’t you going to put your slides up?”  “Fu*k no.”  People have actually frowned at me when I tell them that I don’t want to use slides to make my point.  Presentation is an art form that has been corrupted by the evil programming elves at Microsoft.  This PowerPoint/mind-control is so sinister it could be a plot in a James Bond film.

Having vested much of my day-job in meetings under the dull glow of PowerPoint, it is time for me to impart some knowledge.  Let me share with you what people are likely to be thinking, but not saying, during your next sucky PowerPoint presentation:

  • Really?  Forty-six slides to make your point?   That many slides makes me wonder what you are really up to.   What are you hiding?  I’ll bet I can find it.  Game on!
  • Clearly what you define as important has no bearing in reality, as evidenced by your presentation.
  • You can stop reading me your slides.  If you were going to read them to me you should have just sent them to me in an email.  This may shock you but I learned to read years ago.
  • You said, “I’ll keep this short…”  and that was an hour ago. We all want to kill you and some are taking notes on how to do it.
  • We should make prisoners at GITMO sit through your presentation.
  • Pointing out that your slide is hard to read tells me you don’t care.
  • Based on your slides, you clearly worship Satan given that the devil is in the details — which is where you are taking us.
  • Your bullet points read like a drunken teenager’s text messages.  You seem to be a vowel or two short here.
  • A six-point font?  What is this, an eye exam?  Can’t you see we are all squinting?
  • If you are going to use clip art, at least don’t use 1992 quality clip art.
  • No, your graphic does NOT make your point clearer.  In fact, it achieves quite the opposite.
  • Making something bold and red insults me a little.  I know what is important.
  • When I read that slide I keep asking myself, “What is he/she trying to say?”  Even re-reading it leaves me confused.  A bit of my soul is dying inside me as a result.  I hate you.
  • I am not paying attention to what you are saying because your font choice is distracting me.
  • All of your arguments are invalid because of your spelling and grammatical mistakes on one slide.
  • Your use of graphics is making me cry on the inside.
  • Incorporating meaningless buzzwords and phrases does not help your presentation.  You’re not fooling anyone.
  • This all sounds peachy-keen – what does it cost?
  • Don’t blame the projector for your failure to organize your thoughts.
  • If I had wanted to read a book, I would have brought my Kindle.
  • It is hard to believe that we paid you to produce such a hideous slide deck.
  • This presentation is so dull, I am imagining innovative and creative excuses to leave the room.
  • I have done the math.  It is impossible to cover the number of slides you have left in the time we have allotted.
  • My four year old could have produced a better graph, and she’s limited to crayons.
  • Presentations like this is why I am on anti-depressants.
  • I wonder how much it cost us in your time and effort to put together this travesty of a slide deck?
  • Rarely has so much effort gone into presenting such a lie.  You should be congratulated – or shot.
  • I am waiting for the right moment to destroy your entire premise so that the audience will see me as the genius I believe myself to be.
  • It’s probably a bad time to let you know your fly is open.
  • If your graphic can’t fit on a slide, it’s not worth us looking at.
  • I love your material but your abuse of transitions between slides qualifies as a war crime.
  • We’re about due for someone to raise a meaningless point or analogy in an attempt to ruin the hard work you put in on this presentation.
  • If they had told me in business school that I would be doing this for a living (watching your PowerPoint) I would have pursued a liberal arts degree instead.
  • We are all silently curious…are you going to make a point sometime in the next hour or so?  Seriously, any point will do.  Just pick one…please!
  • Oh, I see you Bob – checking your watch.  We both want this to end.  Who in the hell still owns a watch? More importantly, what time is it?
  • If I could take a nap right now, I would. The fact that I am not asleep is worthy of a spot-bonus.
  • There are at least three people watching this presentation that will tear it apart just to be assholes.
  • Your illegal and unethical use of several copywrittten images only makes us hate you a little bit more.
  • Oh joy, you’re using an acronym that no one in the room knows.  You should know, it doesn’t make you any smarter.
  • Because you didn’t follow the company standard template for PowerPoint, I am ignoring everything you are presenting on.
  • It is only a matter of moments before someone questions the validity of your data.
  • My only concern with your presentation is that I wonder if I can muffle my fart – and if I do, can I muffle its smell?
  • Out of your 26 slides, there is only one that matters.  Why didn’t we just start there?
  • Do you realize that you have the wrong audience in the room (on the call) for the material you are presenting?  Do you care?
  • This presentation is all that is between me and a much-needed trip to the bathroom.  Please hurry…
  • As I watch you flip through these slides I cannot help but think that we need to improve our recruitment and hiring standards.
  • I should have had a friend send me a text so I had an excuse to leave this meeting.  Lesson learned…
  • This is an hour of my life I will never get back and will completely forget by the end of the day.
  • I can, and will, derail your entire presentation with a single question – just to prove I can.
  • My phone is vibrating in my pocket and that is much more exciting than this slide show.
  • It would be nice if you told us at some point what the purpose of this meeting is.
  • Please God, don’t let someone say that we need to have another meeting on this subject.
  • Nothing makes me more nauseous than someone saying, “I’ve run out of time, let me go through the last eight slides in two minutes.”
  • You didn’t build in time for questions?  You really thought your material would answer every stupid thing we could come up with?  Really?
  • Why are the boring presentations always scheduled for late in the day on a Friday?  Why are you always the one presenting them?
  • The colors you have chosen are making my eyes bleed on the inside.
  • It’s bad enough your slides are dull, but your droning makes me want to start cutting myself again.
  • The person you rehearsed this with lied to you…it sucks.
  • I am smiling at you only because it makes you think I care.
  • An appendix to your horrible presentation?  And it’s longer than the presentation?  This just became a homework assignment you douchebag.
  • If you’re going to deflect questions to the end – you’d better leave time to answer them.
  • Stop saying things like, “As you clearly can see…” or “This slide points out…”  Let me be the judge of what your slides say or don’t say.  Otherwise, why have me here in the first place?
  • Having our graphics team make a pretty graphic of your material is akin to polishing a turd.

 

Work De-Motivators – Things That Sap Morale in the Workplace

Dwight5

I have learned over the years more about de-motivation than actual motivation.  Usually I obtain this knowledge while fulfilling the role of “whipping boy” for less-than-able managers (not at my current employer of course!)  What I have discovered is that when you look at what kills motivation you often can gain the important knowledge – what DOES help spur motivation.  Bear in mind I’m work in Information Technology, so my perspective can be slightly skewed – sometimes more than others.

So, in an effort to expand our knowledge, here are my big de-motivators list – in no particular order:

Seemingly random decisions by leadership.  The word “seemingly” is important here.  It’s actually pretty rare when a leader makes a totally random decision.  There’s almost always some reasoning behind it – some context for the decision.  Often times though, I’ve found, that the decision is communicated and not the reasoning or context of why the decision was made.  Without understanding “why” something is being done, the only conclusion I’m sometimes left with is that the decision was made by pulling it out of their collective asses.

Cutting back training. I worked in the auto industry – so I understand what tough economic times are.  Yes, you do have to cut expenses from time to time – and training is the proverbial victim of this.  Training is one area I am sensitive too.  Training is a pact between the organization and the individual. Training individuals says, “We see you being around here for a while and want to optimize you.”  When training is constricted to the point where it isn’t happening – the effects on many people is that they don’t believe that the organization cares about them as individuals.

Leap before you look leadership.  “Any jackass can burn down a barn,” or so the old saying goes.  Making a decision without all of the pertinent information can sap a team’s motivation.  I have seen current management buzzwords about “fail forward,” where people are willing to make mistakes to learn from them.  This kind of thinking creates the illusion of innovation, when in reality it is frustrating to the staff.

Analysis paralysis.  The opposite of leap before you look – this de-motivator is a lack of decisions making.  Sometimes the decisions are easy to make – but analysis paralysis is a major drain on the energy of an organization.  The quest for absolute perfect knowledge and buy-in is often the same as not taking a stand at all. Managers who constantly look for more data are often fearful of making the right decision.

Promotions that seem…well, crazy.  We’ve all been there when the promotion list comes out and we say, “What the hell?”  When promotions are given out to, well, morons of individuals whose only competency is killing senior leadership’s butt…it can be highly demotivating.

No apparent roadmap of where we are going.  I am most effective when I know what I am working towards.  I don’t need all of the details, but I like knowing a little bit of the end-state vision.  When I understand how my work gets us all further towards a goal – I get a sense of satisfaction.  Pretty simple really.  When I have no idea what the goal is I have no idea whether I am part of the problem or part of the solution.  Managers who say it is not about the destination, but the journey, are just deflecting that they don’t know where they are going.  Have you ever taken a family driving vacation, with the kids, in the summer, with no destination in mind?  In fact, a lack of vision can lead people to not take any steps at all out of fear they might be doing the wrong thing.

The Teflon Factor with leaders.  When presented with an issue or problem, a good leader will take an active role in resolving it.  A de-motivating leader will look to his or her team and say, “You people all have a problem.”  Accountability is a critical element of motivation of teams.   People look to managers/leaders to be in the same boat they are.  Managers that deflect issues down to their team erodes motivation of those teams.

Rewards and recognition applied unequally.  A messed up rewards and recognition system has the exact opposite of its intended purpose.

Conflict avoidance.  Some managers harbor the illusion that all conflict is bad.  That’s not true at all.  Conflict can often be protective.  Yes, it’s uncomfortable, but sometimes it forces people to deal with organizational or people issues that have to be resolved for the team(s) to grow.  Dodging conflict, ignoring conflict – these things drain organizational energy.

An attitude of, “You should be thankful you have a job…”  That’s odd, I thought I had a career?  When under pressure, some managers resort to the attitude of, “you’re lucky we keep you around.”  First off, let me tell you if I feel lucky.  Secondly, nine-times-out-of-ten when someone has told me I’m lucky I have a job – I feel quite the opposite.

Micromanagement.  There are times we all need a little direction…well, all of you…frankly I’m good.  Seriously though, some “leaders” think that leading means telling everyone how to do their job.  Most employees don’t need that.  They need a manager to run interference for them, remove obstacles, not tell them what color to make a Times Roman font in PowerPoint so that it stands out.

My purpose was not the come across negative…snarky, yes, negative, no.  If you look at this list you can see some gems on what provide motivation – the exact opposite of these:

  • Provide teams with concrete decisions and why they were made.
  • Invest in your people (train them).
  • Make informed decisions.
  • Make timely decisions to respond to the business.
  • Lay out a convincing and compelling vision of where the organization is going
  • Leaders need to hold themselves accountable to their teams.
  • Apply rewards and recognition fairly and proportionally to the value of the work being rewarded.
  • Employ constructive conflict techniques to resolve issues.
  • Let employees tell you (and the rest of the organization) that they are glad to be part of the team.
  • Tell your people the results you want and let them amaze you as to how they do it.

Thoughts?  Rebuttals?  Recriminations? Did you like this?  Go read my book, Business Rules, The Cynic’s Guidebook to the Corporate Overlords.  (Catchy title eh?)

Office Humor – The Business Trip – A True Story

Travel

In those wonderful days before 9-11, before United bought Continental, before full body scans – back when it took guts to travel.  This is a true story of a business trip gone bad. 

My flight to Washington Dulles (from luxurious Newark, New Jersey) was scheduled for 5:00pm so dutifully I got to the airport at 3:00pm. I had no idea why.  In the history of airports, no flight between Newark and Dulles, on a Friday afternoon, has ever flown within three hours of its designated time.  Showing up two hours early was simply a display of anal stupidity on my part.  Still, as a traveler, you harbor the hope that this might be the exception to the rule.  I heard there were weather delays due to fog, so I figured I might be able to catch the 3:00pm flight.  Experience has told me that all it takes is a car backfiring in a three state area to grind air traffic to a halt.  There’s a subtle art to navigating delay situations at Newark; one which I thought I’d mastered, but my experiences this particular Friday taught me I hadn’t.

I got my ticket for the 5:00pm flight and noticed that I was now on the 7:45pm flight.  That’s generally not a good sign…cancelling a flight and rescheduling me on another flight hours in advance.  I hoofed it down to C85 – at the extreme end of one of the three wings that make up concourse C.  I was determined to catch that 3:00pm Dulles flight(this was back in the days when you could simply switch flights before an upgrade fee.)  I had commitments, as did my wife, that required my physical body back home.

I saw the plane was there, jetway attached, jetway door opened.  The monitors showed it wasn’t even loading yet – in fact it wasn’t taking off for ten minutes.  Yes!  I asked the gate attendant, we’ll call her Jody for the sake of this story, if I can get on the flight.

“No sir, that flight already boarded,” this far-too-peppy Jody replied.

“I don’t want to burst your bubble, but it’s right there,” I pointed. I swear, the plane was there, door open, jetway still attached.  I could see the co-pilot chatting with the flight attendant.

“Sorry, we’ve closed out the flight.  It’s gone.  You can always catch the 5:00pm flight,” Jody replied.  Apparently the plane I saw wasn’t really there, some sort of new stealth technology that Continental was testing for the government.  Continental’s theory is that if you say it enough, it becomes reality…laws of physics be damned.

“No, I can’t.”

“Yes you can.”

“The 5:00pm flight is cancelled.  Listen I don’t want to argue or anything,” a lie, “but the plane door is still open.  You can key me in and I can get home.”

“Sorry sir, I can’t help you.”  Another lie.  It was her turn in the game we were playing. 

Lying was a competency that Continental displayed a lot this particular evening.  Yes, I had a fantasy moment of strangling Jody right then and there, but I let it pass.

So, my new flight was at C130 – the other far end of the extreme wing of the C concourse.  I slothed down there and had dinner.  Important tip here – never eat a burrito from a place advertising Hawaiian cuisine. I had time to kill, even if that was spent in a bathroom.  You know you are a pessimist when risk stomach cramping simply to kill time.  Thankfully I was spared the ordeal of time in the restroom.  I powered up my PC, did some work, read a book, worked on writing my new novel, killed time…I had a lot to kill.  Remember, don’t leave the gate area because information may change at any time.

At around 7:00pm, while at the gate, I noticed our 7:45pm flight was starting to move, not physically, but through time/space continuum..  Now it was 9:00pm flight – then five minutes later, it became a 9:33pm flight.  I cracked up.  Here’s an airline that can’t get you pinned down to what hour you’re leaving, somehow know you’re departing 33 minutes after the hour.  It was so precise it implied an intelligence I knew didn’t exist.  At that point I was still able to chuckle.  Anyway, it morphed into a 9:45pm flight a few minutes later.  Wow, that 12 minutes difference changed everything (read with extreme sarcasm)

At this point I was ready to switch to Washington National and fly there, catch a cab, and get to Dulles.  The board told me that the National flights were also being delayed due to a fog that frankly, didn’t look too bad outside.  Best to ride this one out. In the end this judgment call turned out to be the best choice.

At 10:20pm (for the record, our “on-time departure,” was still showing as 9:45pm), we got the word that we would be leaving at 11:00pm.  Now we were in the danger zone.  I went to the abandoned (at that time) Continental service desk and did some research.  The 9:00am flight to Dulles in the morning was already booked.  That meant if I flew on Saturday I was getting home sometime in the evening at this point. Options were dwindling.

At 11:12pm the word came down from Gary, a short red-sport-coated man of authority (that’s what the red coats mean, right?)  Our flight was cancelled.  “No problem.  We’re putting you on a flight to Reagan National airport.”  Swamped and alone, the other ticket agent working with Gary, seeing the angry mob, grabbed her purse and went home for the night.  Another agent working the gate, seeing his plight, abandoned him as well.  God bless the American work and customer satisfaction ethics.

I felt bad for Gary until I saw he couldn’t deal with the pressure, snapping at people, making up stuff as he went.  I began to see that the red jackets really didn’t mean much.  I think he stole his.

Okay, Gary couldn’t process everything at once.  Frankly he couldn’t process one thing at a time very well.  He finally cooked up a story that Continental would pay for the Washington Flyer bus service to take us to Dulles.  As a point of order, the Washington Flyer bus doesn’t run from National to Dulles – and hadn’t for months.  I pointed out this lie to him and told him that the luggage agent at National could issue us vouchers for cabs.  Suddenly, I became the “Gate Leader and Spokesperson for the Irritated Flyers,” a role I relished.  I think I deserve a red jacket, really. I wonder where Gary stole his from? Could I have one?

Gary struggled for 20 minutes processing one person for the next flight.  I staged a coup, rounded up all of the people, and we rush to the gate at the other end of the airport, leaving Gary dazed, confused, but happy we were leaving.  According to the monitors the National Flight was boarding at, yes, you guessed it, C-85 – the other end of the EWR universe and was going to board any minute.  I made a mental note; “next time steal a Cushman cart to help get there faster.”  This becomes important later on…

We got there en masse – sweaty- breathing hard, but still clinging to the hope we might actually fly.  Substantiating that hope we were all assigned seats.  There was a teeming and aromatic group already there.  I asked status and was told, by someone I’ll call, “Becky,” that, “the aircraft is here and we just finished fueling it.  We’re waiting on your crew and they’ll be here at 11:45pm.”

I point out to her that after midnight, jets cannot fly into Washington Reagan airport due to noise abatement restrictions. Yes, I’ve done this hop before, I know the rules. “Are we really going there tonight?”  I kept mentally telling myself that I didn’t want to go to that airport anyway.  “Most assuredly sir.” Her lie was cloaked in my belief that she didn’t know what noise abatement was.

At midnight, with no updates, I went to the counter along with a suite of bodyguards/other victims, ready to demand answers.  Now things started getting interesting. “We thought we had your plane but when we went down there, there wasn’t any aircraft there.  So now we’re waiting on your crew and an airplane.”

Blaine’s comment:  “So what were you putting fuel in a half an hour ago?”

Becky, “Huh?” She was a real Mensa Society member – this one.

“Never mind.”  Pardoe’s Law Number 227:  “Never get into a logic debate with an idiot.  It only gives you headaches.”

Five minutes passed and I think she realized that she was caught up in a lie because she seemed to want to get us out of there.  Suddenly Becky makes a furious phone call and announces, “Washington National passengers, your flight has been moved to Gate 103 (in the yet unexplored part of C-Concourse during this trip).  It departs in 15 minutes.  She’s a genius Becky.  This was a great way to get us out of there…another lie. I have no doubt she will go far in Continental.

We started to run, then I spotted it – our ride.  I commandeered a Cushman cart (those idiots should not have left it charging with the keys in it), and sped our way down to Gate 103 in caravan, (yes, I went with women and children first on the Cushman,) to find a ground crew sitting there eating their dinner, staring at us with confused expressions – confused because we (okay I) had obviously stolen the cart from somewhere in the terminal.  (My thoughts were simpler:  “I wouldn’t be eating with those fingers.”) Yes, there’s a plane here, I could see it out the window.  But no one has any idea why we’re there.  Heaven forbid that the staff there go off and get help.  As the duly elected spokesperson for the group, I take off and find, 20 minutes later, a red-coated man from Continental who taps the keyboard, then leaves without saying a word.  Ahh, this is the kind of service I would expect in, shall we say, a prison?  Or a Carnival Cruise ship?

Now at this point, we’re all tired, sweaty, cranky, and one woman has begun to paint her face with makeup as if she were stranded in the jungle.  I’m reminded of Lord of the Flies and realize by the time the next shift arrives, we’ll be in loincloths.  Two gentlemen (they owned suits) show up from Continental to assure us that there is indeed an aircraft outside (thank God it wasn’t a mirage), and that our crew is at Dulles, on the ground there.  They will be taking off in an hour or so and if they land, they’ll transfer to this aircraft, prep it, and we’ll take off for National – an airport you can’t fly into with a jet in the middle of the night.

Needless to say, this story wasn’t adding up.  They updated the departure to 1:45am, which was physically impossible given the flight time from Dulles to Newark (our current time was 1:10am).  I pointed this out to, we’ll call him, “Sparky,” who assured me that I didn’t understand the laws of physics as Continental airlines did.  I confirmed with Sparky at that point in time that the flight at Dulles was sitting on the ground, due to fog now at their end of the travel spectrum.  Our “on-time” departure was moved, by Sparky, to 2:00am.  I guess that was supposed to satisfy me. Oddly enough it didn’t.

After my carefully crafted lecture on the space time continuum from a kid that was younger than the pair of loafers I was wearing – I contacted our travel agency, the good old boys at American Express.  They wanted my emergency code, which I told them I was not going to dig out of my bag.  I couldn’t.  The guy next to me was dismantling his seat to make a spear.  Things were getting ugly.  In 10 seconds our Amex guy had my profile up.  “Options?”

“Not a lot.”  Train tomorrow, then a $100 cab ride to your car.  Estimated time home, 3:00pm.  Fly home at the whim of the idiot-brigade at Continental and I could be at my car at Dulles, at around 3:30pm.  I had family commitments, so I was feeling, well, screwed.

Solution – a rental car.  I told the guy at travel this, verbatim, “Dude, you have to get me home.  Get me a car that can do that.”

“I’m on it dude.”  I swear.  We called each other dude.  It was a very straight bonding moment in a night when nothing had gone right.

I took the monorail, which was down twenty-minutes for maintenance, to the Hertz rental car place. That trip normally would have frustrated me, but in reality, it was the smoothest part of my night since we were moving, albeit slowly.  I dashed into Hertz and standing there was, “Little Korean Hertz Guy”, keys in hand, paperwork ready, and sent me on my way, “You in spot 80 Mista Pardoe…you go now!”

The car – a brilliant orange, brand new Mustang, fully loaded – only missing a gun for signaling lane changes on the NJ portion of the turnpike.  A perfect completely non-discreet car when cruising at warp factor seven down the turnpike in the middle of the morning.  I’m sure no police will pay attention to me.  I would have been only slightly more conspicuous if I had a keg of beer and a stripper pole strapped to the roof.

You see a lot of strange things at rest stops on the turnpike system at 3:00am in the morning.  Who would have thought that a Maryland Rest Area was the kind of place to spawn amorous activity?  I have enough material for my next novel or two, tentatively titled, “Rest Area Romp.”  You know you’re in a Maryland rest area when you stop, get out, and a pair of naked butt cheeks slap up into the steamed up window a foot away from you. I can only wish that I was making this up.  That image is burned in my mind to this day.  Add in the rain, the damned fog, and countless police officers looking for suspicious vehicles – which an orange Mustang qualifies as, and you have the makings of a bad 1980’s movie.

To answer all of the obvious questions, I got to home at 6:30am Saturday, scaring the hell out of my wife who had almost given me up for dead.  Logistically, one tank of gas will do it; it takes three 20 ounce Diet Mountain Dews, a candy bar (Hersey’s) and a bag of Utz extra salty potato chips to travel at that hour with no sleep.  The cost was still significantly less than if I had gotten a hotel room at the airport Marriott.

I have long hoped over the years that when United and Continental merged that the characters at Newark Airport lost their jobs.  In reality, they probably were promoted.  While none of this could happen today with all of the airport security, I will always relish the thought of stealing and driving a Cushman cart of angry passengers around Newark.