Office Humor – The Resume’ We All Wish We’d Written

jimh
Best Employee Ever

I recently updated my resume’ for the 432nd time in my career.  I do it from time-to-time, just so that it is fresh.  I believe in being prepared at any moment for a new opportunity.

As I finished the task, I started thinking, wouldn’t it be funny to put together a “real world” resume’ that describes jobs as many of them really are?  It would have to be snarky and mostly agnostic to any industry or business.

This is the result.  This is pure fiction – not based at all on my real-world experiences or employers.  Stop trying to read into this – it’s just a bit of creative exercise on my part. It is designed not to slam any particular organization but to offer you all a chuckle or two while activating my humor-oriented brain cells…nothing more.

 Wild “Buck” Pardoe

1313 Mockingbird Lane
Hooterville, Virginia 20106
555-555-1212  (please ring twice, hang up, then call back)
Emails:  corporateoverlords@gmail.com
Sellingflowersontheexitramp@aol.com

Career Goals: 

A little late for that, don’t you think?  I’m 54 – the  USS Career Goals set sail a long time ago.  Let me worry about that shit – okay?  Just be thankful I’m applying.

Core Attributes:

  • A complete willingness to sell out my few battered remaining principles (not values) to remain gainfully employed.
  • A marginal and often offensive sense of humor which endears me to co-workers of the same ilk and makes me the bane of upper management.
  • An innate ability to detect workplace bullshit and point it out for others amusement and entertainment.
  • A solid understanding of the accounting principles behind and the current balance of my 401K account.

2001 – Present  Position:  Artful Dodger

In this capacity, per my manager, I was responsible for:

  • Getting my manager promoted at the expense of my own dwindling career aspirations.
  • Covering up senior leadership failures, shortcomings, and outright blunders.
  • Producing PowerPoint decks describing the work I wasn’t actually doing because I was busy producing PowerPoint slides.
  • Offer tacit, usually convincing agreement to any lame idea that management put forth.

In my role I successfully create the illusion of offering value to the organization, whilst maintaining a low enough profile to avoid the random waves of layoffs, rightsizings, redistribution of staff, staffing/operating model alterations, or other excuses to reduce the workforce. I was the survivor/victim of eight reorganizations, seven-ish indiscriminate managers forced to take me on, and 48 random changes in strategic direction – all of which I handled with the bare minimum of professionalism and above average cynicism.  The fact that I actually got work down during this period speaks well for my ability to tune out rhetoric/distractions and the strength and effectiveness of the medications that I am on for chronic depression.

I recently honed my leadership skills playing Call of Duty 4, which I treated as meeting the organization’s “required online training” annual goal.  I consumed copious amounts of caffeine and food stolen leftovers from office lunch meetings as my primary means of subsidence during the workday.  My teaming skills were best demonstrated during this period of my career when my Dungeons & Dragons party killed Vorloff, an ancient red dragon, which as you all know is no small feat for sixth level characters, especially a party that was short of a cleric.  I believe these skills carried me well at work as I often am called upon to slay ancient ridiculous ideas.

My competency in meeting attendance and generating the impression that I care about the subject matter is unparalleled.  I am often seen as contributing to the topic at hand when in reality I am often simply restating what someone else has already said.

In the last year along I was chucked under the bus on six projects for pointing out that the lack of sponsorship, leadership, and common sense.   As such I have gained new perspectives on scapegoating and deflecting blame which I believe is grooming me for future success. I have also learned the intricacies of bus transmission systems – so I have that going for me.

I work well under pressure, which is more of a survival tactic than a true business skill.  I have demonstrated an ability in forming teams of peers in cooperative/collaborative work groups; mostly so we can share our mutual misery and gripe about our lack of opportunities and personal growth.  We have formed a shadow-organization (we call ourselves the Legion of Doom) in our department, ensuring that information is shared between teams and that quality is maintained, mostly because the formal communication channels and leaders are so horribly broken, it was necessary.  We essentially are running the entire department under the radar or knowledge of management.  As such we are secretly “keeping the lights on” in our organization, despite the efforts of leadership to hamstring our efforts.  Our determination to keep things operating speaks to the fact that management has not yet fully shattered our souls, spirits, and dreams.  We call that, “Winning!”

Clearly I am one of the smartest individuals on most of the teams I work on but that is only in comparison to my peers and their general level of apathy.  Another perspective on this:  Our recruiting techniques leave a great deal to be desired. Being perceived as more intelligent than average has proven to be a strong asset and useful in preventing my career from advancing.

I have recently learned how to deflect my own personal failings onto others, which has streamlined project reporting by 46.8%.  I have also learned the importance of generating random data points (such as the percentage above) to create the impression that I have actually calculated things out precisely.   You bought it – right?

Delegating the majority of my work and a general cynical perspective is also a suite of activities that I openly embrace and have perfected.

My communications skills are on-par with anyone that has been wearing a straightjacket and confined to a padded cell (cubicle) for the last 15 years.  My power to lace my messages with ISA’s (Important Sounding Acronyms) creates a sense of comfort with many managers in the department.

I work on global teams meaning I’m expected to take meetings at bizarre, often inhuman times and smile while doing it.  I not only must interpret what others are saying in six different languages, but I have to fake caring for the same.

I bring this, “please don’t smother me in my sleep” attitude to your new opportunity!

1995-2001   Position: Target of Mid-Level Management Abuse

Assembled and led numerous teams composed of contributors with marginal interpersonal skills, weak communications competencies, non-existent leadership skills, questionable technical abilities, and incredibly (some astronomically) large egos.  Some individuals I teamed with were not only fugitives from the law of averages, but they lacked an understanding of basic physics or the ability to count above the number ten.  While I managed these interpersonal challenges, I also coordinated an abnormal number of budget cuts, weekly changing priorities, and scope-creep which was so monumental that it was deserving of some sort of award.

In this capacity, I also suffered the slings and arrows of leadership’s abuse for not delivering on time, despite all of the factors outlined above.  The fact that I am still alive today is testament to my recollection of where the bodies are buried.

In this role, I organized the confused; aligned the diverse; educated the ignorant; calmed the irrational; covered for the incompetent; baffled the leaders; exceeded the unreasonable; navigated the confusing; quelled a tempest-level-shitstorm of frustration; led the brain-damaged; diffused the frustrated;  and documented progress where it didn’t exist.  I am pleased to say I earned a solid three-out-of-five performance rating (Meets Expectations!) of which, I am exceedingly proud.  To say that this provided me with an exceeding amount of motivation would be an understatement.

I traveled on business trips to such exciting locales as Cleveland, Ohio in the winter and Newark, New Jersey in the summer.  While peers padded their frequent flyer and credit card point accounts I simply longed to return home.  I participated in numerous after-hours, mandatory teaming events.  These were highly useful in identifying the boot-lickers in the department and I became adept at pretending these events were “fun.”

While performing these duties my “teams” successfully implemented obsolete technology, marketing it as “bleeding edge” stuff to our end-users.  My willingness to subscribe to this blatant lie while totally selling out my professional principles clearly put me on the leadership path in my career. I have so adopted this lack-of-spine-state that I no longer can discern between reality and fiction…which has served me well over the years.  I also developed the competency of identifying both smoke and mirrors in other’s representations of their work.

Thank God I discovered social media during this stage of my life as it occupies a great deal of my thinking during the day.  I post under several different identities just to confuse our information security department.

Summary:   I saw this as my “deconstruction” years of my career.

1990-1995  Position:  Idealistic/Foolish Dreamer

When I started here, I cared. Then things changed, about an hour after employee orientation. Our organization’s motto should have been a clue:  “Give us six months and we will devour your mortal soul.”

In this role my responsibilities included, but were not limited to:  Attending meetings for which I had no idea why I was there; listening to my manager rant about how stupid her manager was; having my job change six times in the first two years for absolutely no reason; and watched as others who were not able to tie their own shoes were skyrocketed above me because of their skills at kissing ass.  This was an enlightening experience that prepared me for a mid-level management position…just enough authority to be dangerous, all of the responsibility, but none of the authority.

While lesser people might have packed their bags and quit, I developed a “Can-do!” attitude.  Once leadership took note of that I was appropriately disciplined and ordered to replace “Can-do!” with “Shut-the-fuck-up-and-suck-it-up!”  This completed my management orientation period and made me feel as if I had sold my soul for a bi-weekly paycheck.  I would feel guilty about it if not for the scars that I have earned.

I became a harvester of other people’s bad decisions, though in fairness, most of these decisions were simply dumped on my desk to resolve.  I innovated several reporting dashboards that upper management demands on a weekly basis but has not used actual data in the last two years.  I consider this part of my “innovation” skill-suite.

Hobbies and Interests:

I am currently am exploring taking up chronic alcoholism and am working to get my name on the Do Not Fly List so I no longer have to do business travel to exciting locations such as Newark, New Jersey or Cleveland, Ohio.  Several people recently have asked, “Are you smoking crack?” so I am also considering taking that up as well.

Based on a documentary I watched called Breaking Bad, I believe I might start up my own meth-lab.  It has to be safer than working in my current role – and potentially more rewarding.  If that doesn’t work, I hope to be the subject of a Netflix Documentary, “Workplace Shooter – the Buck Pardoe Story.”

Thanks to my career, I have become proficient at cutting myself; making shanks in my spare time; and taking up amateur tattooing.

I am also a semi-pro astronaut, a licensed walrus castrator, and a notary.

Willing to Relocate!

Humorous Work Horoscopes for February 2017

zodiac

I saw a funny horoscope online the other day and started thinking about how cool it would be to have a humorous horoscope of snarky one-liners that are quasi-business/work related.   Alright, “cool” probably isn’t the right word…please play along.

So, I have prepared a year’s worth and will be putting them out monthly (I hope). Here’s the first one for February – all set to be pinned to your cubicle wall.

page0001

It is likely that this horoscope is as accurate as any out there, and this one is designed to make you smile.

You can download the PDF from here if that is more to your liking:  february-calendar

Enjoy!  If you liked that, check out my book, Business Rules – the Cynic’s Guidebook to the Corporate Overlords  

Office Humor – Technology Support Model

supportmodel
A universal model for technology support 

A friend and I were talking at work about how we need to have one model for support for tools and stuff.  That got me thinking about how generic support has become.  Back “in the day” we used to do a lot more pure troubleshooting – using your general knowledge and instincts to resolve problems.  In recent years in the industry there is a push to make support a commodity…making the experience the same for everyone trumped good old fashioned “stand back and let me work my fucking magic.”  Scripts with procedural steps that drive you insane are turning good techs into guys and gals that read scripts.

Don’t feed me that bull about, “this makes for a consistent experience.”  This is actually about moving support to low-cost locations.  It also sucks from a customer satisfaction perspective.  Have you ever called for support on something like your internet connectivity at home?  All of us reboot the modem before we call, we know that’s a step.  But when you get Comcast (in some exotic land) on the call, they tell you to do it.  “I already did – move to the next step.”  “I am sorry sir – I am required to make you do it.”  Sidebar:  I lie to them, tell them that I am rebo0ting – just because I can and hate the idiocy of the process.

So, I started thinking about the most generic support model every tech support can use. This is draft and aimed at making you smile – especially my friends in support.  Enjoy the image above!

 

Office Humor: If IT People Wrote Recipes

I was working on a quick reference card for a new IT project and had an exchange with a colleague on the level of instruction needed.  Me – I like to believe end-users have some basic awareness of technology.  We don’t live in 1994 any longer.  I have confidence in our end-users.  Far too often, IT operations concentrate on not generating help desk calls as opposed to writing things that are basically end user friendly.  This person disagreed (incorrectly) with my thinking.  I used a metaphor of a baking a cake and he seemed to understand my perspective – and hence, this spoof was born.

I pick on IT departments because I work in one.  This is not generally reflective of the company I currently work in – I’ve heard this complaint from a lot of end-users in the Federal Government and private sectors.  Time has come for those of us in the industry to remember that we need to prepare our documentation for the end-users, not in spite of them.

So, with tongue firmly planted in cheek, I give you: If IT people wrote recipes

Baking a Chocolate Cake – A simple four step process

Before you begin this baking process:  Make sure you have all of the ingredients and that they are still fresh.  Please check all expiration dates.  Also you need to confirm your oven is in good working order (you can use self-help to troubleshoot any hardware issues you may have.)  Reminder:  Ovens of any type are unsupported hardware and repaired only on a best-effort basis.  You will also need to know the altitude that you are cooking at and refer to Quick Reference Guide #427 – Baking Temperatures Conversions Card by Altitude).   Please note that the Help Desk cannot determine your altitude above sea-level – that is your own responsibility.

All utensils and bowls must be clean prior to starting the Mixing Process.  IMPORTANT:  If you have lactose or gluten allergies please check with the help desk before you initiate this recipe to obtain a list of approved substitutes.

Further, the company is not held responsible for any cross-contamination that may occur as a result of improperly cleaned utensils.  Please refer to the self-help portal for proper utensil cleaning processes.  Should you have any allergic reactions, please do not contact local office support – but contact your own personal health care provider.  Note: Support staff do not stock EpiPens, these are personal expense health-care items subject to Company Policy 34-556-HC for reimbursement.

The process flow:

Baking a cake follows this basic flow (Diagram 1A):

cake-flow

Step 1

Refer to the table below for the items necessary to complete the baking (and decorating) of a cake.

 

Table A – Required Ingredients

Item Unit of Measurement or Notes: Software Hardware
Baker’s Unsweetened Chocolate 10 ounces (used for both the cake and for the optional frosting) X
Miracle Whip Dressing 1.5 cups X
Packed brown sugar 2.25 cups X
Vanilla (liquid form – not a bean itself) 1 Tablespoon X
Eggs (Grade A), Source: Chicken (Hen) 3 individual eggs, classified as Grade A, un-cracked, white. X
Baking Soda (Processed sodium bicarbonate) 1.5 Teaspoons X
Salt (Processed sodium chloride) .25 Teaspoons X
Powdered Sugar 3 cups X
Water (boiling – i.e. elevated to the temperature of 100 °C or 212 °F for a sustained period of time) 1 cup X
One conventional non-convection or microwave oven Note:  May be electric or gas powered.  If you are unsure as to the source of heat please refer to the Oven Operations Manual provided by the manufacturer X
A bowls or other sturdy watertight container Two bowls are required.  Three-quarters or more capacity for the entire suite of ingredients above.  Note:  Mixing bowls do not have to be identical (i.e. the same hardware configuration or color pattern.) X
Measuring utensil 1 cup capacity X
Measuring utensil .5 cup capacity X
Measuring utensil .25 cup capacity X
Measuring utensil A teaspoon X
Measuring utensil A tablespoon X
Measuring utensil A whisk or other approved mixing utensil X
Measuring utensil .666 cup capacity X
Apron (for safety) Size varies to the size of the user.  Please exercise caution when selecting the appropriate apron. X
Metallic Cake pans Two – Nine inches in diameter X
Non-flammable Oven mitts Two.  Note: These are not to be confused with flammable oven mitts which are not recommended for this procedure. X
Two toothpicks One is required, the second toothpick is a packup.  Note:  These must be wooden toothpicks, pine preferably. X
Parchment Paper Two-nine inch disks of parchment paper.  Note:  The paper comes in a container where the paper is rectangular and the end-user is responsible for cutting the paper to fit the cake pans.
Knife Butter, non-edged, metallic X
Spoon Metallic (optional) X
OPTIONAL INGRIDIENTS  
Butter or margarine (end-user choice) .25 Cups X
Powdered sugar 3 Cups X
Milk, Source: Cow, Pasteurized .666 Cups X

Once all ingredients have been properly inventoried they should be laid out on a flat clean surface with easy access for the end-user to utilize them.  A good lighting source should be available as well.  “Clean surface” as defined as one that has been fully disinfected and cleansed with company approved cleaning products (full list available on the self-help portal).

 

Step 2

2.1  Stand before the fully operational oven.  Utilizing the oven heating controls, activate the heating element for your oven to a temperature of 350°F.  Make sure oven door is fully closed before beginning this step.  Overheating or under-heating the hardware can result in a failed cake deployment.

2.2 Melt six ounces of the chocolate as directed on the rear of the package.  Note:  These are outsourced vendor steps provided with the software and the company is not responsible for their changes.  Chocolate, depending on the vendor, may have break-away sections for ounces.  Please select your chocolate vendor with this in mind.   Warning:  Do not attempt to taste unsweetened chocolate – it is not like eating a candy bar in this uninstalled state.

2.3 Carefully measure and pour the dressing, brown sugar, and two tablespoons of vanilla into the bowl.  For those unfamiliar with how to measure using the utensils please consult the Quick Reference Guide to “Measurement – you can do it!” on the self-help portal.  Utilizing the whisk or power mixer, intermix these ingredients until they are of a consistent texture, color, and fluidity.  Slowly rotate the bowl during this process to ensure a consistency with that material which may cling to the edges.  NOTE:  Do not taste the contents of the bowl during this stage of the implementation.

2.4  Take the eggs and gently tap them along the long edge of the egg on the lip or edge of the bowl, one at a time, until a fine crack forms on the outer shell.  Using both hands opposite of the crack, hyperextend the surface of the egg shell and pull apart, forming an apex opposite of the crack.  This should separate the shell into two distinct halves with the contents of the eggs falling out.  Note:  This should be done over the bowl so as to capture the contents into the mixture.

cracking-eggs-01
Correctly
wrong-way-egg
An unsupported and not recommended approach

2.5  Add in the flour, baking soda and salt in the measurements defined the Table A above.

2.6  As per previous instructions above, utilizing the whisk or power mixer, blend these contents together – again aiming for a consistency in color and texture.

2.7  Slowly introduce the melted chocolate into the mixture and continue to mix until the point where the chocolate has been fully drained into the bowl and intermixed with the remaining ingredients.  The approximate pour rate of one ounce of melted chocolate per 45 seconds of stirring.  Estimated overall time for this mixing is 6.25 minutes assuming a whip-rate of 46 beats per minute using a hand-whisk.  If end-users are utilizing a power mixer for this stage of the intermix, please consult the power mixing time ratio conversion chart in the self-help portal.

The final solution of mixed materials is referred to as “batter” and should have a color close to this sample:

Batter Sample Color Comparison Illustration 1:

brown

2.8  Place the cut parchment paper in the bottom of the metallic cake pans.  Please unsure that the paper is placed in the bottom and not the sides or top of the pans as this will prove less-than-effective and may cause a crash of your implementation.

2.9  Pour the contents of the mixing bowl into the two nine-inch metallic cake pans.  It is important that the amount of the mixed contents going into each pan should be nearly the same – or as close as possible.  Failure to get the amounts correctly balanced volume-wise between the two pans can result in inconsistent cooking of the contents and may impact the taste of the final product.

Step 3

3.1  Open the oven door carefully, so as to avoid touching any of the interior metallic surfaces as they are hot.  Reminder:  Heat can damage skin tissue and appropriate caution is recommended during this entire stage of the baking process.  Also items placed in the oven become hot and can damage tissue as well.  If you are unsure of how heat works, please consult the self-help portal.

3.2  Take the two pans and place them on the centermost rack of the oven.  The centermost rack is that rack which is positioned close to the virtual vertical center of the available cooking space; or on the rack on the center setting given the rack guides along the interior sides of the oven.  The pans must be slid in far enough so that the door can be closed without making contact with them.  The pans should not be stacked on top of each other but placed side-by-side horizontally on the rack, allowing for easier access.  Note:  When placing the pans do so in a manner that they are upright, holding the mixed contents, as opposed to upside down where the contents flow out of them and onto the cooking elements or the bottom of the cooking space.

3.3  Close the oven door carefully.

3.4  Set a timer for 30 minutes.  Some ovens come installed with an in-built application and control surface that has a hardware-based timer as part of their configuration.  The use of this timer is recommended for experienced users.  Otherwise another timer (including your smart mobile device) can be used.  It is important to set the timer immediately after the oven pans have been properly placed inside the oven and the door is closed.  If you wait several minutes before starting the timing processes, the cake end-product could be overcooked and inedible.  Note:  It may be easier to set the timer by removing your non-flammable oven mitts.  It is safe to do so at this time.  Please do not discard these reusable assets; retain your oven mitts for use in Step 4 however.  Warning: jarring action on your floor may upset the baking batter and cause the cake to “fall.”  This is deemed to be operator error.  During the baking stage (three) it is recommended that you do not use this time for jarring activities such as jumping jacks, working with a hydraulic lift, slamming doors in the kitchen, bouncing a basketball, etc.  IT cannot be held responsible for fallen cakes due to operator error.

3.5  When the timer goes off, after thirty minutes per step 3.4 above, disengage or disable it using the appropriate keystroke combination.

3.6  Take one of the toothpicks and hold it near one end so that the pick is vertical with the majority of the toothpick pointing downward.  Carefully open the oven door.  Note:  The door and everything in the oven is hot and can harm you if contact is made.  Using one of the nonflammable oven mitts, slide the rack with the cake pans out eight inches.  Using the toothpick as a spear, thrust it gentling into the approximate center of the cake for no more than one second, then extract it (carefully avoiding contact with any metallic surfaces inside of the oven.  Visually inspect the toothpick.  It should come out with none of the mixed batter on it.

3.7  If any quasi-liquid batter is on the toothpick, slide the oven rack back into place and set the timer for two minutes per step 3.4.  Then repeat Steps 3.5 and 3.6 until the toothpick comes out free of batter residue.

3.8  Once the toothpick is removed and is free of residual batter, the toothpick may be discarded.

3.9  Immediately shut off the oven using the power toggle switch or turn the appropriate control.  Please consult your appropriate oven owner’s manual for controls for your specific hardware.

Step 4

4.1  Put on your nonflammable oven mitts and carefully open the oven.  Firmly grasp the sides of one of the cake pans and side it off of the rack, putting it on a nonflammable surface or on top of the stove portion of your oven.  Keep the cakes upright, do not rotate the pans during this stage of the process.  Note:  There should be no more than a one minute time lag between steps 3.9 and 4.1. A timer is not required as this is considered a general guideline.

4.2  Repeat process 4.1 with the second cake pan, putting it near or next to the first pan.  Note:  Proximity between the two pans is not vital during this stage of the process.

4.3  Carefully close the oven door and remove the nonflammable oven mitts.

4.4.  In the second, unused mixing bowl, add the remaining chocolate to the butter.  Place the bowl in a microwave oven.  Close the door.  Set the timer to 1.5 minutes.  When the heating is completed, open the door, remove the bowl, and then close the door to the microwave oven.

4.5  Mix the material in the mixing bowl.  As it cools (3.25 minutes later) add in three cups of powdered sugar from the optional ingredients list along with .666 cups of milk.  Using a spoon or a clean whisk, stir the contents vigorously.  The contents of this bowl are henceforth referred to as the frosting – an optional ingredient for the cake.

4.6  One at time, take the cake pans and gently rotate them on an axis where they are upside down.  Note:  This should be done at a low altitude over a clean surface.  The cakes should come out of the pan.  Important:  Remove the parchment paper.  Then, carefully and gently rotate the cakes back to their original position identical to how they would have been placed in the metallic cake pans.

4.7  Using the knife, you should begin to take small quantities of the frosting and apply it to one of the cakes.  This cake will serve as a the bottom layer of the cake, using accepted nomenclature.  The frosting should be applied to the top and sides so as to prove a film completely and smoothly surrounding the lower cake layer on the top and sides (not on the bottom).

4.8  Take the remaining cake layer and gently place it on top of the frosted cake layer, aligning the edges so that it is vertically symmetrical with the lower layer.

4.9  Repeat step 4.7 on the top layer of the cake.  Extra time should be spent to smooth the sides of the two layers so they appear as a cohesive and merged combination, with the frosting material used to hide any defects or crevasses between the two layers.

4.10  Place the cake in a refrigerator set to 40 degrees Fahrenheit for 2.5 hours or more.

Photograph 3:  A cake

your-results-may-differ
A fully installed and deployed cake.  Your results may vary

Post Cooking Activities

5.1  Discard the toothpicks and parchment paper.  While we are a Green company these elements are generally considered non-reusable expendables during this process.

5.2  Any unused hardware should be inventoried and returned the appropriate storage space.  Note:  Placing the hardware in non-traditional or inaccurate space can result in possible fines, levies, and even a modicum of verbal abuse on the part of your spouse or significant other…all fully justified.

5.3  Any unused frosting may be consumed using the applicator-knife.  Note:  If you have blood sugar issues please consult with your physician before consumption of the remains.

5.4  Clean all used hardware utilizing the approved Quick Reference Guide – Maintenance and Cleaning of Household Kitchen Hardware.

 

At this stage your cake should be fully installed and the frosting implemented. Congratulations.

 

Important:  The company is not responsible for any weight gains or changes to your BMI as a result of you eating the cake you have created.   Also, any allergies related to food products – i.e. gluten, diary, chocolate, etc. are the responsibility of the end-user to manage and may be contradictory to the materials included in this recipe. Please see the appropriate legal disclaimer on the self-help portal.

Real-Life Causes of Workplace Stress

dwight
Don’t be a Dwight

I had a boss once brag that, “I don’t have stress – I’m a carrier.”  When he boasted that, it took a monumental amount of restraint to not say, “Actually, you’re a douchebag.”  Stress is a reality of work.  As such, it was finally time for me to tackle the subject…in my usually snarky fashion.  Strap in and prepare for the ride…

I was going to lead off with the traditional causes of stress at work… you know the usual culprits:

  • Things I want to do but can’t.
  • People’s values and actions clash with my own.
  • Things don’t meet my expectations.

Yawn.  I almost put myself to sleep.  While quasi-accurate, these reasons are too high level and lack the kick necessary to detail true sources of workplace stress.  As such, here is my attempt at a comprehensive list – in an unranked order.   These have come from a lot of different sources, friends in other organizations, etc.  Don’t try and attribute these to my current employer…

Project managers with no sense of reality. “Seriously, do you own a calendar?”

Deadlines that are just pulled out of someone’s ass.  “Why November 13th?”  “Why not?”  “It’s a Sunday.”  “I don’t care, that’s the date I chose.”  “I understand, you’re a dick.”

Colleagues that cook food that reeks in the office kitchenette.   “What is that smell, garlic roasted lizard scrotum?”

Mandatory social events after hours.  In fact, mandatory-anything contributes to my stress level.

When IT staff uses technical lingo for the sake of using technical lingo.  “Stop creating acronyms to sound intelligent!”

People that use shared workspaces and leave it in a mess.  “What did you do here – surgery?”

Individuals that swap out a defective office chair for mine.

Anyone involved with stocking office supplies.  “Are you a time traveler from the past?  A dozen three-hole punches?  Three-ring binders?  Ledger sheets?  I need a binder maybe once every ten years.  How about stocking some pens, paper, and maybe a thumb-drive?”

Technology people that blame problems on end-user ignorance.  “It works fine, you’re just too stupid to use it or realize how great it really is.”

Any conversation about internally branding anything.  “I could seriously go the rest of my life without hearing the word ‘branding.’

Project teams deliberately set up in five different global time zones.  “Our team call is at 5am because we don’t own a globe or access the internet.”

Co-workers who schedule meetings without consideration for anything I have in my calendar.  “You do see that I am not available in that time slot, don’t you—moron?”

Managers who make arbitrary decisions about people’s careers without discussing it with them. “I’m moving you to Dawn’s team – surprise!”

Leaders who reorganize more than twice a year.  “You know, after fifteen of these, it might dawn on you that the problem isn’t how the team is structured – it’s the fact you keep shuffling them around that is the problem.”

Individuals that say, “You own your own career.”

People that only try and put a positive spin on things.  “Some honesty would go a long way here.”

Any steering group.  “That’s all I need, another group giving me conflicting directions…”

Budgeting.  “I resent you asking me what I need, then cutting it by 34.8%.  It’s not ironic, it’s irritating.”

Anyone asking for my feedback and ignoring it.

Smoking areas that are the entrance to buildings where we non-smoker’s must wade through.

People who think Sharepoint is a solution to any problem.   “Sharepoint is the origin of many problems.”

People who ignore me when I say, “I wouldn’t do that shit if I were you…”

(This one is totally mine.)  People who critique my business writing.  I’m not perfect, but I’ve had a little bit more writing experience than you.

IFAC—Idiots from another company.  Consultants or brand new employees who brag about knowing a great deal on a subject, but have no idea how your organization works. This makes their expertise less-than-useful.

Anyone exposing leadership to a buzzword/acronym program.  Management is drawn to a buzzword program like vultures to dead possums. I still have scars from TQM in the 1990’s.

Anyone with unpredictable explosive temper.  “Seriously, that was the thing that set you off?”

Any implemented improvement that makes it ten times worse.

Coworkers that take up smoking to avoid spending time at work.

Performance review discussions where we are going to talk about my career.

A mandatory meeting that doesn’t have to be mandatory at all.

Required learning with a test at the end that no human could pass.   “Please pick the second least desirable or inaccurate response…”

People who are off sick, but posting images of themselves out having fun on Facebook.  “Gee, you don’t look feverish at the amusement park.”

Processes put in place just to make a team seem more important than they are.

Team leaders who attempt to apply Agile or Six Sigma principles on teams that have no idea what they are talking about. “No one cares about your black belt.  In fact, we may strangle you with it.  We have a plan…”

Individuals that trash the office bathroom.  “Seriously do you just throw paper on the floor at home?  And what you did to the toilet could only be described with the phrase, ‘war crime.’”

Any theme day in the cafeteria.  “I just want a hamburger for God’s sake.  I don’t care that it is Festival of Bolivian Afternoon Snacks Day.”

Rules that only seem to apply to me.

Requests for feedback from people I barely know.  “I don’t even remember you being on that project.  In fact, who are you?”

People that invite the entire world to every conference call.

Managers that think learning, all by itself, is a solution to a managerial issue (or lack of leadership).  “You presume that I am ignorant.  I am not.  I’m just ignoring you.  Big difference.”

Skype for Business.

When someone asks for my opinion then spends an hour trying to tell me that I am wrong to have that opinion.  “You lost me at the word ‘wrong’…”

Assigning me a task when I wasn’t even invited to the meeting.  “Really?  What if I say, ‘no’?”

Status reports for people who won’t or can’t read.

Contributing to any dashboard.

Namedroppers that think I care.  “You’ve mentioned Bob’s name three times.  I know who he is.  I’m not just impressed with your argument.”

When someone randomly insists on using video conferencing and I’m wearing my Captain America tee-shirt at home.  Honestly, I don’t even try and explain it anymore. One person asked me once, “what’s that you’re wearing?”  My response:  “My uniform.  I fight crime starting at 5pm.”

Any PowerPoint slide that uses more than five conflicting graphic elements or is so confusing that it disrupts space-time one foot from the computer where it is being shown.  “Go to the next slide – holy crap – you’re warping the space here in the conference room!”

Any solution involving, “throwing more bodies at it.”  “You can’t put nine pregnant women in the room and have a baby in a month.”

Not starting meetings on time.  “So, you don’t respect my time.”

Not ending meetings on time. “So, you don’t respect other people’s time too.  What a douche!”

Scheduling a meeting for something that could have been handled in a short email.

Forced volunteer work aimed at making your organization seen more hip.  “So, you want me to go and plant trees?  So mental and emotional punishment isn’t enough, you want the physical kind too?”

Any business trip through Newark International Airport.  “EWR’s Motto:  We top 3% on-time arrivals and departures most months of the year!”

When my manager refers to me as “evil.”  True story.  “You say that like it’s a bad thing.”

Team building activities after hours. “If it is so important we all get along, why not do it during work hours?”

Anyone asking for a deliverable that requires time travel.  “My time machine is for personal use, not because you can’t manage your project.”

Coworkers that, by default, assume everyone is more stupid than they are.  “That sir, is my job!”

Fear and speculation of layoffs, RIF’s, right-sizing, people being made redundant, etc.

Any project that has a misleading code-name.  Example:  Streak, Lightning Bolt, Fast & Furious, Slam Dunk.

Anytime the company seeks to “improve” the employee benefits.

People that show up late to the meetings and stop the gathering so that they can be brought up to speed.

When a new technology tool is implemented that really doesn’t solve a problem.

When everything at work is a high priority or “Priority One.”  “You do realize that when you do that, you’re not really setting priorities – right?”

Co-workers that text during meetings.  “Put the fuc*ing phone away.”

When management says one thing and does another.

Email message addressed to everyone that should be addressed to a handful people.

People whose entire job is to enforce pointless rules.

People who take meeting calls from Starbucks or Panera.  “Dude, I can hear the Barista in the background.”

Leaders who add requirements to a project three weeks before the unrealistic deadline.  “You are not being ironic, you’re being an ass.”

Any crisis that isn’t.  I learned how to identify real crisis’s early in my career.  Apparently I am on my own in that regard.

When routine technology fails.

When someone assumes a level of ignorance on my part that isn’t there.

Security overkill. “Why do I have to change my password every two weeks?”  “Why not?  Are you hiding something?”

When a leader tries to force a new technology on you because they think it’s trendy.

The annual performance review process.

When management sends out a message to save money by cutting travel costs – while they are at an out-of-the-country meeting.  “Clearly I am the problem…”

When I volunteer to do something and am told no.  “Why did you ask for volunteers in the first place?”

Managers who get survey results and spend hours tearing them apart attempting to invalidate them or convince me that a low number is actually a good thing.

The battery on any device.  “Crap – my Bluetooth just died.”

Weekend or late-night meetings.

Any meeting that kicks off with the person who called the meeting saying, “So why did I schedule this meeting?”

When that thing you have worked on for the last year of your life is cancelled three weeks before it was to be completed.

Anyone who says, “We don’t need to get the senior leaders on-board with this concept.”

When my routine business expense that I have submitted the same way a dozen times is rejected.  “This is Einstein’s definition of insanity.”

People who misuse the word “risk.”  “You keep using that word – I do not think it means what you think it means.”

When real life clashes with work life.  Technically it is when work attempts to override my real life.  “Oddly enough I do not live to work – I work to live.”  In my case, couple this with, “My life outside of this place is infinitely more interesting and entertaining than this cubicle-padded mental hospital.”

Leaders that make up facts.  “Our people are buried in surveys.”  “Um, we do two a year.  How exactly does that constitute buried?”

When the annual promotion list is put out.  Three letters and a question mark sum up my reaction to at least 20% of promotions…WTF?

When individuals misuse the word “strategy.”  “If you change it every six months, it isn’t strategic – it’s tactical.”

When someone ignores my expertise, experience, and skills because they perceive themselves as smarter.  “You don’t want to go there and force me to explain why you are less-intelligent or experienced as I am.”

The cancellation of meetings with no notice – even worse when they are at 7am or earlier.  “There is a special hell for you robbing me of 20 minutes of sleep.  It is dark, deep and filled with evil…”

The annual goal setting ritual.  “Light the candles and put on the robes…it’s time to make some stuff up.”

Watching someone else kiss butt with upper management.  “Why don’t you two get a room?”

People with no sense of humor.  If you made it this far, I think you qualify with having a sense of humor.

I’m sure you have some of your own – so add them to the comments list.  And don’t forget to purchase my book – Business Rules.  

My Secret Identity…

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“I am Ironman…”  Naa, but at times it kind of feels that way.

Many of you know this but for those that don’t – I do actually have a full-time job.  I am an Associate Director at Ernst & Young (EY) working in organizational change management.  At night and on weekends, I am an author.  In many respects, it’s a slightly schizophrenic lifestyle.  The Blaine Pardoe that works 45+ hours a week at one of the Big Four professional services firms is different from the Blaine Pardoe that is the New York Times Bestselling Author.

I’ve had people Google me and compare photos.  Seriously.  Trust me – I’m me.

The Blaine Pardoe that is the author does do his part fighting crime – writing about true crime cold cases.  That Blaine gets to go to sci-fi conventions and sign books and play games.  He has been a speaker at venues such as the US National Archives and even a few times at the US Naval Academy.  He has been mentioned on the floor of the US Congress for his military history books.  The author Blaine Pardoe does TV and radio interviews on his works.  Hollywood is looking into one of his books for a possible movie deal.  That Blaine Pardoe has reinvented himself many times in his writing career, exploring new genres.  The writer known as Blaine Pardoe is actually pretty cool.  His wife likes to compare him with Castle – profession-wise anyway (I apparently lack Nathan Fillion’s good looks.)

My day job allows me to have my secret identity.  Being a successful writer doesn’t necessarily come with bags of cash.  I’m still trying to crack that proverbial nut.  At my day job, I have a flexible work arrangement so I do work at home most of the time.  EY provides me the kind of work-life balance that allows me to huddle in my Fortress of Solitude/Batcave and go out at night and fight crime.  I respect that from my employer. That respect is paid with hard work and long hours (when necessary).

A few years ago I met an internal auditor who had the task of purchasing my books and reading them to make sure I didn’t misrepresent the firm.  That was two steps past awkward.  A part of me was mad, but then I realized that EY was buying my books – so the mercenary in my soul kicked in and the anger washed away.  Still, the thought of Big Brother watching me was creepy.  It was also pretty funny.  That was years ago though…I’m sure they aren’t still monitoring me…right?

In my writing-alter ego, no one ever really asks about my day job.  However in my day job, from time-to-time, people find out that I am also a writer and it comes up in conversation.  For example:  This week I was in a meeting in McLean and one of the first introductory questions that came up was, “What do you do outside of work?”  Nice icebreaker, but there’s no good way to dodge that kind of question.  As such, I always handle it awkwardly.  It’s like Bruce Wayne talking about Batman…you have to choose your wording really carefully.  I don’t deny that I’m the author, but it is sometimes a little strange discussing it with people out of context.  At work the typical topics are not very exciting…not true at all when you are researching and writing a book.

I’m also quite sure that being a successful author has hurt my career.  One senior leader told me once, “I just don’t see how you can be dedicating yourself 100% of the time to your job when you are off doing this stuff on the side.”  Ouch.  The implication was clear, I was somehow cheating my employer – that was his explanation for why I was a successful writer in the “real world.”  The fact that I have two careers wasn’t an accomplishment to him, it was a ding on my work ethic at the only job he chose to acknowledge.  Sadly, over the years, he’s not the only person to cast dispersion’s about how I manage my time.  They seem to ignore how I consume my vacation time to do book tours or conduct interviews. I am sure (though unproven) that behind closed doors, this aspect of my life has held me up from promotions or other opportunities.

You would think they’d make me a poster-child for flexible work arrangements.  Instead I’m a suspect in crimes that are unspoken or unknown.  I accept that my having a life outside of work is a CLM (Career Limiting Move). I don’t like it – but it is a small price to pay.

Whispers of “He must be hiding something…” nag me at times.  But the answer is simple.

I am hiding something.  My not-so-secret identity douchebags.

The War on Employee Loyalty

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Beware the Corporate Overlords are watching!

Labor Day seems appropriate for my latest observation about corporate culture.  The Corporate Overlords, the mysterious demigod (in their mind) leaders have been fighting a titanic global war in the last few years – one that has hit thousands of organizations.  This is a comprehensive all-out war on employee loyalty.  This undeclared war, while somewhat unintended, is still being waged and will have long-term implications on the workforce, productivity, and the very survival of some organizations.

At a time when businesses increasingly demand more from their people, they actively take steps to drive them away.  Organizations expect long working hours, demand their staff stay connected 24×7 (even on their private mobile devices), and set output expectations that often require extended working hours and weekends just to tread water.  The war on employee loyalty would be comical if it wasn’t so funny.

Loyalty is a fickle thing.  In this context it is the commitment of the employee to the organization.  That can reflect itself in several ways; an employee’s willingness to work more hours, their ability to handle more workload, a desire by the employee to provide exceptional service or quality, the drive to do better, etc.  At its most basic level, it can be defined as employees simply remaining at the organization.  Above and beyond that, it is the employees taking extra measure, working harder or longer, or exercising exceptional effort to improve quality, productivity, and workplace culture.  These are all things that any leader or organization should value.  It’s all about commitment.

You would think organizations would place a value on loyalty…that there would be Directors of Loyalty or Loyalty Czars (or my suggestion “Lord of Loyalty.”)  You would also be delusional.  While organizations want (or outright demand) loyalty, they believe it should be unconditional.  In other words you have it and the company doesn’t want to invest in getting it. It’s as if your paycheck alone should garner your unswerving and undying support…as mere thanks for the opportunity to perform above-and-beyond.

Just typing this last sentence I threw up a little in the back of my mouth – no joke folks.

One reason that many organizations don’t place any importance on employee loyalty is they cannot tangibly measure it or its benefits.  It’s a lame excuse at best.  Oh sure, you can look at staff turnover rates, but most managers scoff at such numbers with the whine, “well, that’s not uncommon for our industry.”  This leads to employee satisfaction surveys.  These surveys don’t directly reflect the bottom-line profits, so leaders feel free to disregard the findings of such surveys.  The mentality is “if I can’t measure it, it must not be important.”  Even more entertaining is when results of such surveys are presented, leadership can twist the results to fit their own agenda.  “Oh, they rated us low there because they were confused by the question?” or “That only was rated low because the week before the survey we did X.”  Rather than own the results, leadership blames the results on the suspected ignorance of their staff.  Winning!

Jim
Survey results obviously are the staff’s fault…

There is also the misguided belief that an employee’s level of satisfaction/loyalty is their problem. “I can’t make my people more loyal or happy,” is the war-cry of the insipid and incompetent leader.  That is true. At the same time what leaders can do is create an environment where employees have the opportunity to be satisfied – thus generating loyalty.  To take the stand of, “there’s nothing I can do,” is a cop-out.

Another factor that comes into play is an assumption that staff are content and thus loyal.  Complacency and organizational “quiet” is considered by leadership as the byproduct of a happy and loyal workforce.  In reality, some organizations have little employee noise and friction because the free will and souls of the employees have already been crushed.  Those that speak out are often publicly punished.  Teams that stagnate or show signs of resistance are reorganized, merged, or disbanded.  Leadership takes on a Michael Vick role with the employees being their dogs.

Also chiseling away at loyalty is easy when you take away personal space in an office, going to free-roaming office space or open office spaces.  People used to have a place at work, even if it was a mauve burlap padded cubicle.  Companies have opted to strip that away with hotelling of office space to save real-estate costs.

Employees struggle to build meaningful relationships with each other as well. With more workers being virtual, their physical ties to their organization or their colleagues are stretched thin.  You can work with someone for years and never meet them face-to-face.  Same with your leaders.  Virtual teams need to connect physically from time-to-time to help establish stronger interpersonal relationships.  Many companies have deliberately assumed that because people are working virtually that they don’t need to get together live occasionally.

Another factor chipping away at employee loyalty is the abundant use of antiquated performance review systems/approaches.  The majority of organizations still rely on performance review systems dating back to the 1980’s.  These backwards looking systems based on numeric ratings, bell curves, and often spotty feedback are more of an administrative burden than performance growth process.  Many organizations have tried to divorce salary increases from performance discussions, despite the fact they are intertwined.  For experienced employees, performance reviews have become more of an ordeal than a true chance to talk about careers.

The sourcing of labor; or rather that out-sourcing of labor, also contributes to a dip in employee loyalty.  With organizations seeking low-cost labor solutions, employees can often feel their jobs are constantly at risk.  Some companies generate a culture where segments of their staff are forced to deal with the threat of outsourcing as a daily occurrence.  While this career-equivalent of the Sword of Damocles hangs over their head, ready to sever it from their bodies, they are expected to work longer hours and be more committed to the organization that is threatening them.

Technology also plays a role.  Companies, attempting to curb costs, have flirted with BYOD – bring your own device.  So now the company expects you to bring your own computer or pad rather than provide you one.  They invade employees phones with apps that the employee doesn’t want, but is required for work.  The icing on the cake is that they set rules and policies about the use of your own personal mobile device because they require you to use it to connect to work.  Imagine your organization telling you what features you had to have on your private car simply because you use it to go to work.  That is exactly what is happening in many organizations when it comes to the mobile device you bought and paid for.

One might argue that this is not a war against employee loyalty…that these are merely cases of unintended consequences.  Oops – did we jump up and down on your loyalty – our bad! I understand that and I’m not implying that leaders are huddle off somewhere plotting to take down morale by coordinating these various initiatives and directions.  Let’s be honest, most leaders aren’t capable of this level of coordination or even devious thinking (wink).

Milton
You’re talking about my office – aren’t you?  How did you know? 

My counter to that is that all of these are based on leadership decisions; right, wrong or moronic.  The fact that leadership did not factor in the impacts on employee loyalty, or that they simply don’t care, essentially places the blame at the top levels of organizations. All of these strategies and impacts were chosen directions on the part of upper management.  They simply did not care about the impact on employee loyalty – or worse, presumed that the staff were so enamored with their leadership that it didn’t matter.

Uh oh, I threw up a little bit in the back of my mouth again.

Some organizations deal with poor loyalty as if it were a cancer to be cut out.  Their solution is to drive out the long-term employees and replace them with new staff from the outside.  Rather than cure the problem, they opt for amputation and limb replacement.  In such organizations staff is a commodity that one purchases like office supplies.  Ironically, the result is more reduced loyalty (duh!).

Where can workers turn to mount a defense in the war on loyalty?  If they are US workers – nowhere.  Many HR departments over the year have been effectively neutered; reduced to the role of mitigating lawsuits rather than defending the staff from the mindless onslaughts of senior leadership.  The war against loyalty is a lonely one, fought in stark mauve-colored cubicles under bland florescent lights and in dreary battered conference rooms in glass-windowed hells all across the globe.

I fully understand that companies have to manage costs and address shareholders profit worries, blah, blah, blah.  At the same time leadership has to look at the impacts on its workforce of strategic decisions and plays some weight and value on their people.  Loyalty is a precious commodity.  Without it you have less commitment – a feeling that individual contributions are unappreciated or disrespected.  Whittling away at employee loyalty destabilizes the staff and kills productivity – and even causes them to begin to question the legitimacy of their leaders Sacrilege!  You kick morale hard enough and you get staff that won’t spring in the air the next time you yell, “jump.”  They will simply glare at you with a glazed expression of remorse, emptiness, and only having fond memories of why they used to care about their jobs in the first place.

The war is being waged out there…and many of us were drafted without even our knowledge. To you, out there in the trenches, all I can say is you are not alone!  I’m not with you – my company is great – but I hear your cries from the trenches.  Soldier on!

For more on my twisted views of the workplace, check out my books – Business Rules and Cubicle Warfare.