Office Humor: Actual Workplace Quotations

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Over the last few decades I have made a point of capturing some wonderful quotes at work and documenting them.  Some are mine, others are from brilliant coworkers who shall remain nameless.  As I approach my early retirement (28 days, 4 hours, 48 minutes – but who’s counting?) I thought I would share some of these gems, if only for the humor-factor. Many of the guilty parties associated with these have moved on, though some still remain.

  • “We’re looking up the ass of the dead dog with fleas.”  We got this one from The Apprentice and it became the basis for this list.
  • “This must be the KY part of the discussion.” Blaine
  • “I’m not being critical, I’m being elitist.”
  • During a review of a promotion candidate:  “If he saw the ball on the middle of the field, he would pick it up and run with it.” “Okay, but what if we were playing golf?” Blaine.
  • This is a case of, “Lift and present.” What Blaine was told to do during a testicular ultrasound, incorporating the phrase at work. “Interesting slide deck, please, lift and present.”
  • “Any jackass can burn down a barn.”
  • “Why buy a dog and then bark yourself?”
  • “I do not wish to lie to you.”
  • “Words are important.”  “Some words are apparently more important than others.”
  • “She couldn’t find his ass with a flashlight and both hands.”
  • “Who be ‘we’?”
  • “We could line up 12 dead guys with him and he still wouldn’t be a rated a 5.”
  • “That was you…you moron?!”
  • “The nice thing about standards is that there are so many to choose from.”
  • “Would you like syrup on that waffle?”
  • “It just seems a little evil…”
  • “We’ll decide that once we find someone to fart in Jay’s chair…”  I can only assume Jay had a gas issue.

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  • “Congratulations; so now what are you going to do?” In other words, you were successful, but that was in the past…like five minutes ago.
  • “One of our values is watching our backs.”
  • “That is one of the keys to our excess…”   He meant to say, “Success”
  • “JayFest 05” – The week of events leading up to Jay’s moving to a new role, including lunches, two cakes, and a self-planned party.
  • “Look, you could invent penicillin but if you are not on the list to get a 4 rating this year, you’re not going to get it.”
  • “It could be worse…no, wait, I was wrong.” Blaine
  • “Even a blind squirrel occasionally finds a nut.”
  • “I lost my sanity — my curiosity is all that’s left.”  Blaine
  • “Few things in life are solved with the application of another layer of management.” Blaine
  • “I honestly didn’t know that he was there for me.”
  • “What do you have to do to get fired around here?”
  • “May I say something?” “That depends, is it good?”  Blaine
  • “At the end of this you’ll be thanking us for solving this issue for you.”
  • “We have security through obscurity…” (I personally think this is a great T-shirt logo)
  • “We need to communicate the value of the bell curve in personnel ratings.” Here’s a hint, there is no value to the bell curve in ratings for the employee.  Duh.
  • “Add that to our ugly list.”
  • “What is that sound?”  “That’s the mower, I’m mowing right now.”  “I thought you were working today.”  “I am.”  “Look, if it involves grass at all, it’s not work.”
  • “It’s okay to play the role of devil’s advocate.  But if you don’t tell anyone you’re doing it, you’re just being an asshole.”
  • “We’re good at telling people what they should do not necessarily providing them with what they need to do.”
  • “He had a heart attack.”  “Gee, that’s hard to believe, given his lifestyle of, well, rich food.”  “Not to mention, sloth.” “Oh yeah, can’t forget that.”
  • “Whatever solution you use, think globally.”  “How, exactly, do I do that?  I mean we aren’t anywhere near done yet”  “You know, picture a globe…”
  • “Blaine, sometimes you are just evil.  90% of the time you’re good and productive, but 10% of the time you are evil-Blaine – you are disruptive, morale lowering, and corruptive.”  This was a manager wrongly accusing me of giving him anonymous negative feedback.  He was specifically told to not try and indentify the person that gave him the feedback, so he did the exact opposite of that.  PS.  Nothing inspires me more to write incredible negative feedback than to be wrongly accused of writing negative feedback.  More on this in another blog post.
  • “Good morning everyone.”  “I’m not so sure that I can commit to it being a ‘good morning’ just yet.  It’s still too early in the day.”
  • “Assigned to ‘Special Projects’?  Well I guess that entitles her to a small seat on the little yellow bus.”

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  • “You’d think people would respond to a threat of fire a little more than ignoring it.” This was when Dell computer batteries were igniting.
  • “I have knowledge now — next month I should have more knowledge.”
  • “From my accountant’s mind—”  “You’re kidding right?  ‘Accountant’s mind?’ I mean, this is the sixth time I’ve explained Standard Deviation to you.” Blaine
  • “Guys, are we morons — or are we intelligent morons?”
  • “I think Blaine should do it all,” Bob.  “I think Bob is full of shit,” Blaine replied.
  • “Is “mis-remembering” even a word?”
  • “I will endeavor to find new ways to suck in order to be successful.” Blaine
  • “The list isn’t sorting.”  “Are you sure?  When I click on it it sorts.  It just doesn’t display the numbers in ascending or descending order.”  “Uh, that’s the definition of sorting.”  “Right–I can fix that.”
  • “I appreciate everyone responding vocally about the plan, that’s what this project is all about.”  “So this project is about being vocal???” Blaine
  • “I’ll send your name to the project manager to coordinate….  oh wait…  I don’t have one of those…”
  • “When the system goes down there seems to be some functionality that is lost.”  “Isn’t that what happens when the system goes down?”  Blaine
  • “If it involves grass in any way, it’s not work.”  Blaine to a manager about the annual golf outing.
  • “Do you golf?”  “I used to…then I wised up.”  Blaine
  • “It’s a Cannon and a Canyon.  They’ve fired a cannonball across the canyon and decided that is the best way to get across — regardless of the fact everyone is telling them that they need to build a bridge.”
  • “Technically we did deliver on time.”  “Sounds like the customer feels differently.”  Blaine
  • “If you’re calling to chew my ass, I want you to know that the line in front of you was long, distinguished, and they didn’t leave much.”  Blaine
  • Follow-on – “You’re currently suffering from noassatall.”
  • “Does anyone here think that a four minute response time is going to be a show stopper?”  “You are kidding, right?” Blaine
  • Blaine on Status Reporting:  “How can the development team be reporting everything Green and Yellow?  For God’s sake, they spent millions of dollars on an application that was rejected by the customer and the Americas CIO and is five months behind schedule.  I don’t think that’s all green and yellow.  There might be at least a hint of freaking orange in there!”
  • “You need to define ‘slow.'”  “My definition of slow is someone that has to ask the definition of the word, ‘slow’.”  Blaine
  • “He’ll build you the space shuttle when what you ask for is a toaster.”
  • “The way Mexico is acting lately, we call them, ‘South Canada.'”
  • “Is the global mail template really global?”  “That’s what the “global” part stands for.”  Blaine
  • “Blaine the recurring meeting you invited me to has sessions in the past.  Please univite me to the sessions that have already occurred.”  Blaine:  “Please disregard the sessions in the past.  You do not have attend them.”  Especially since that would involve time travel!!!
  • “Rubbing your forehead against a cheese grater would be less painful than dealing with them.”
  • “I’m thinking we’ll have (support) do a reach out to our 4000 users.”  “I think that call is above your pay grade,” Blaine
  • “When are they going to get this meeting started?” “When the other Mensa members show up.”  Blaine
  • “She needs to put down the crack pipe.”
  • “I’m confused – no, wait, I don’t care.”  Blaine
  • “Never before have so many, worked so hard, for so few, for so little.”  Blaine
  • “We are changing our staffing model…” Manager A – introducing a new way to say “layoffs”
  • “Today was a total waste of makeup,”
  • “I feel uncomfortable when things are normal.”
  • “There’s no accounting for psychotic…”
  • “…they’re not being laid off, they’re being co-sourced…”
  • “It’s all about the group grope…everyone has to have their say on everything.”
  • “They don’t need Quickr…they need Smarter.” Blaine
  • “Okay, who put the crazy juice in the NJ water supply this morning?”
  • “I’m sorry I’m late, I had a different idea in my head,”
  • “I would have been on the call but we’ve had a lot of rain lately.”
  • “It’s hard to picture her being happy without a bloody body at her feet.”  Blaine
  • “That will make the monkey jump…” “We’re making monkey’s jump?”
  • “Sixty-seven-percent of New Yorkers are depressed because the light at the end of the tunnel is Jersey”.
  • “She didn’t fall from grace – she jumped from grace.”  Blaine
  • “Let me check, you may be on the failure list.”  “We have a failure list?  It must be long.”  Blaine
  • “There’s busy, then there’s Don Busy.”  Don’s opinion of how much he’s working
  • “He’s a random force of nature. Like a fart in the wind.”
  • “We need one throat to choke.”  One of our illustrious leaders giving us another inspiring one-liner.
  • “It’s a horse in the back and a cow in the front.”
  • “What can you tell us that isn’t public knowledge?”
  • “We don’t have People First, we have People Strange.”  Blaine
  • “Apparently outside of work, I’m some sort of genius.”  Blaine
  • “A kick under the table can be an effective management tool.”
  • “We need to have a big pow wow in the wigwam.”  “That seems like it is insulting to some folks.”
  • “I feel like a kid that’s been thrown into the deep end without any floaters”
  • “Looks like they may have to dust off her coffin…”
  • “He’s not lying, he’s being economical with the truth…”
  • “I could pull of the Miracle on the Hudson and still not get a promotion.”
  • “Why is he on the call?”  “I told him this project was a shit-show.”
  • “Ideation?  Oh please…it’s more like flatulation!”
  • “Don’t let the angry thoughts in my head come out of my mouth as words.”

Please feel free to share this with your friends – or enemies/coworkers.

Looking Back at My Career; What I Would Tell My 21 Year-Old Self? Some Office Humor

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I am early retiring in two months or so.  Stress “early.” As I prepare for this, I started to contemplate my “career.”  In doing so I started to wonder what lessons I have learned.  If I had Doc’s Delorean, what might I go back and tell my 21 year-old self about what I have come to grips with.  The following is my suggested list:

Question all corporate communications you receive.  When they say they are improving something, it is usually to the company’s advantage, not yours. Often times they hide their true intent in the last two paragraph.  Be suspicious and read between the lines.

  • Don’t work a single hour of overtime.  It doesn’t help your career.  A case can be made that it works against you if you refuse to do it – but screw that.  Companies you will work for will not reward you one time for putting in those extra hours.  No one gets promoted for working long hours. They don’t increase your annual raise because you worked longer than your peers.
  • Rebranding or renaming something is not the same as fixing something. People will try and blur these things together.  Don’t fall for that crap.
  • No one cares that you are bestselling author or have won many national writing awards. They ALL believe they can write better than you.  Some will have the ball-sack to tell you that. Smile at their ignorance rather than point it out.
  • Never sweat over budgets.  No one you know will ever be fired or even reprimanded for breaking their budget.
  • You cannot fix a manager that is an asshat.  Don’t waste your effort.  Likewise you cannot easily replace one that is a brilliant genius.
  • Any time a leader tells you, “This is not about a destination, it’s about the journey,” they are lying.  A journey without a destination is just aimless wandering.  None of the “journeys” you are forced upon is worth undertaking.  Remember playing Oregon Trail as a kid?  Yeah, that was a journey too.
  • Your trust will be betrayed many times and sometimes with evil intent.  Believe in your gut instincts about people. Ninety-five percent of the time, your gut is right.
  • Company sponsored competition is always designed to make you work harder, longer, or faster.  The reward is never worth the effort.  Don’t get caught up in the moment.
  • You will spend part of your career being reactive. It is far better to be proactive.  Learn the difference and put your effort into proactive activities.
  • Performance management systems generally don’t measure performance. Feel free to not sign any performance review you don’t agree with.  They can’t make you do it…and that will frustrate them to no end.
  • Job titles and rank have nothing to do with brains or common sense.
  • Always pack an emergency backup pair of underwear and socks for every business trip. You will thank me for this.
  • The sooner you learn what shit to put up with and what shit to ignore, the better your life will be.
  • You will be promoted inconsistently, bizarrely, and rarely.  You will learn that promotion is based on whose coattails you choose to ride rather than competency.
  • You will see a multitude of morons promoted and advanced over you.  Don’t worry.  Most of them are exposed for the frauds that they really are.  Be patient.
  • When you speak out against unethical or possibly illegal activities, don’t be naïve…there will be forms of retribution.  At one point, it will cost you your job – at another it will nearly cost you your sanity. Speak out anyway…because it is the right thing to do.
  • Focus on the big things that earn you the most money or have the most impact on your life. Screw the little shit.
  • The majority of the teams you will work on will let you down, leaving you to do a lot of grunt work. Apparently there are people who work very hard in their careers at not working.
  • Surround yourself with funny people. Most of the humorous people tend to be the smarter ones – so it is a win-win.
  • You will be called upon to lay people off many times. You will hate it.  You will save some people’s careers along the way and at least if you are involved, most of the painful discussions are being handled professionally.  It is small solace.
  • The people assigned to “Special projects” aren’t there because they are geniuses, they are there because of their abysmal failures.
  • People will do things that directly impact your career (without even talking to you) then have the balls to tell you that “You own your own career.”  Don’t try and point out the irony, they won’t listen and don’t care.
  • Your creativity will be constantly suppressed by people who hide behind policies, processes, and their own petty insecurities.
  • The airlines are always lying to you about the delays and re-bookings. ALWAYS.
  • When you point out problems, they often get assigned to you.  It sucks, but be prepared for it.
  • No one hired in from J P Morgan will ever dazzle you.  In fact, quite the opposite.
  • CIO’s come and go…usually every 4-5 years.  Mix up a stiff drink and sit back and watch their inevitable, often spectacular downfalls.
  • Not one bit of mandatory learning you will be forced to endure will change any aspect of your professional career.  Also, no person has ever been fired for not taking mandatory learning…so the threats are meaningless.
  • Avoid travel to Newark NJ between 1997-Present Day.  You will spend more time waiting for planes that will never take off/land or being forced to rent cars to drive home than you will spend in the meetings you went there for.  Don’t’ even get me started on the smell of that airport.
  • Never volunteer to take part in any technology pilot.  They will mess up your ability to work – for weeks.  Just say no. In fact, just don’t volunteer. I am hard-pressed to remember raising my hand for additional work where it didn’t bite me in the ass.
  • Some people you meet love fighting fires so much they are willing to set them.
  • People are not promoted to the level of their own incompetence.  Hell, incompetence is in abundance.  They are promoted to the level where they can inflict the most damage on the organization and its people.  I call this “The Pardoe Principle.”
  • Do not let someone else’s stupidity drive your actions or decisions.
  • People are laid off inconsistently, randomly, and far too often. Maintain connections to your friends, regardless of where they end up.
  • Keep your solutions simple . Almost every crisis you will face in your career can be solved with something simple.  Simple doesn’t mean easy.
  • If everyone around you is panicking, don’t join them.
  • You will encounter people that will take credit for your work.  Treat it as the utter and inevitable betrayal that it is. Feel free to confront the bastard/bitch that does it.  It won’t change anything but watching them squirm for a moment is the best you can hope for. None will ever own up to their crime.
  • Not a single performance management system you will work with will actually improve your career options. Knowing that, give them all of the attention they deserve.  It is, at best, a compliance exercise.
  • No matter how much they cut the budget, senior leaders will always have money to travel around the globe and criticize us for our spending habits. Oddly enough, some in your career will do both at the same time.
  • Don’t let some butt-munch tell you that humor has no place at work.  Humor eases pain, and work generates more mental anguish and agony than anything else in life.
  • People are listening to what you say, even when you wish they wouldn’t.
  • When you know someone is breaking the rules, tell them, then document the hell out of what she does.
  • Every promise you get for future promotion is a blatant lie…period. Getting it in writing will mean nothing.
  • No survey you are required to take at work will ever change anything.  When leaders get the results, they will find ways to question the validity of the data rather than rolling up their sleeves and actually making changes.
  • You will be the only person in your entire career that will show up for a meeting on-time.  Just cope with it.
  • Trust no one in a technology organization who cannot use technology.
  • Fear of litigation drives more decisions and costs more money than actual litigation.
  • The pay gap between the sexes is not as important as the gap between what morons are paid and what geniuses are.  That’s a REAL problem area. Morons make a lot more money.
  • You don’t have to make excuses for doing the right thing.
  • You will not realize the good years until you are in the bad years so make the most of whatever you are doing now.
  • Our competition is as screwed up as us, if not more.
  • Only attend company-sponsored events after work that you want to attend.  If you are going because you feel you have to be there; don’t go.
  • Meaningful change has to happen at the top level of the organization first and foremost.  Far too often you will be told you have to change, but in reality, the problem is way above you.
  • No matter what, you will survive and somehow end up better off.  It never seems like it at the time, but you do.

Wastes of Corporate Time and Money

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Over the holiday break, I started to think about work.  It happens to all of us.  I started to think about all of the things we do in the world of the Corporate Overlords that are wasteful – both in terms of time and money.  We do many of these, “because we always have.” We often don’t think about or even question the usefulness of the process.

So here is my list of things that are utter wastes of time and effort:

Year-End Department Reviews and Recaps.  Every company does this.  “What did we accomplish over the last year?” Hours are wasted putting together a reminder that management is claiming credit for all of the hard work that you do.  We all know what we accomplished and it is embarrassing that we have to document it for our leadership.  Way to motivate!

Defining What Services Your Team Delivers.  “We need to catalog all of the services we provide.”  If your team has to invest time detailing what services you deliver, then your team is not really needed.  Talk about an exercise in navel gazing.

Company Mandated Fun. Company picnics, happy hours, team bowling, etc.  It is bad enough that I have to go to work every day for 9-10+ hours, but for the company to expect me to show up after work…well, that is douchebaggery.

Regular Status Reports or Meetings.  Preparing status reports is useful if you need decisions to be made or if there are issues that need to be addressed.  Otherwise these are pointless cost wasting efforts. I include in this RAID meetings where the status of the risks never changes.

Annual Reviews Where the Manager/Counselor Cannot Influence Raises or Promotions.  Organizations love to keep salary information secret, because if we knew what people were getting paid it would cause rioting in the streets.  If you can’t tell me how I am compared against my peers and how that impacts my career and money; why do we need to talk?

Town Hall Meetings Just For the Sake of Having Them.  “We didn’t have a lot to tell you, but it’s been a while since we shoved PowerPoint slides down your throat.” Some managers mistake having these meetings as “leading.” Let me help you, it is not.

Rebranding (anything).  Rebranding rarely solves problems. Calling something by a new name does not fix any underlying problems that exist.  In fact, most things tagged with the word, “branding” are mislabeled and misunderstood. If anything, it adds to the confusion.

Communications Reviews. Nothing defines time-wasting like someone who sends around a message or email for review and input.  By the time you get eight people to contribute to anything, it is diluted and usually much longer than necessary.  No one has ever been fired because of a lack of proper sentence structure…just send the damn message.

Enforcing Company PowerPoint Standards. This screams “Hi, we’re here to stifle creativity!”  Companies like to box in innovation by saying, “Your PowerPoint decks have to adhere to our dull, boring, bland, and emotionless standards.  PowerPoint standards are pointless monotony in digital form. Yes, I understand that it is all about the company brand.  But you are also telling your customers that you don’t flex enough to demonstrate creativity.

Webcasts or Meetings With Live Audiences and Clearly Staged Questions.  We have all been there, when someone gets up and is clearly reading a prepared question. Save me some time – write that stuff down and email it to me.  Or better yet, don’t!

Timesheets for Internal Functions/Teams.  Timesheets are the bane of business.  I actually worked in one place that had a charge code for the time used to fill out timesheets.  Back office operations don’t need this.  We are not billable.  Our utilization is irrelevant for billing purposes. Having administrative activities fill out time sheets is an utter waste of time and effort.

Eighty-Percent of Live Meetings.  There are times, rarely, when a face-to-face meeting is needed.  Usually it is not.  More often than not these meetings are held so that people can rack up their frequent flyer/hotel points.

Creating Mission Statements.  I dedicated an entire blog post on this one.  Humorous Mission Statements ‘Nuff said.

Learning With Required Pass/Fail Tests. This does NOT prove that you understand the content.  It only proves that you have passed the test.  It doesn’t drive a bit of behavior.  And who was the moron that thought that 80% was a passing level?

Employee Satisfaction Surveys.  I am all in favor of doing surveys, if you intend to take the data and do something with it.  I took one for years where the results clearly pointed to issues with leadership. The actions that were taken were to educate us, the staff, because clearly we didn’t realize how awesome our leadership was.  The action that should have been taken was to fire some of those managers (or break their kneecaps, I’m pretty flexible here.) When they saw the results, most leaders spent their time either trying to track down who gave the negative feedback or to argue why the data was invalid.  “We were in the middle of reorganizing…so you can disregard the negative stuff.”  Morons.

Company Dress Codes.  I remember when the firm I work for allowed blue jeans on Fridays (only in the summer).  They called them dungarees.  Seriously.  Wow, talk about dating yourself!  Most offices, in a vain attempt to appear more hip to the millennials, have pretty much ignored dress codes…but for some reason keep them up to date.  It’s a pointless exercise at best – a wasteful one at worst.

Meaningless Compliance Exercises.  Annually you must read the code of conduct, then click on five buttons to acknowledge that you will follow it.  Nothing says trust like a forced reading assignment.  It also does not assure compliance, only that you acknowledged you read the material.  It’s akin to clicking on a software licensing agreement.  We all do it, but do any of us sit and read that stuff word-for-word?

Videos About Senior Leaders.  Look, if your ego is so big that you have to order videos created about how great you are, well, you’re a douchebag.

Providing Feedback For The Sake of Providing Feedback. Most feedback we get in the world of the Corporate Overlords is fluff…meaningless praise. People don’t want to give critical feedback because it upsets people and requires uncomfortable follow-up discussions and usually a dab of retribution.  Forced feedback accomplishes little.

Dashboards For The Sake of Having a Dashboard. If it doesn’t drive decisions, actions, or raise concerns…it is a waste of effort and time. The more graphic intensive it is, usually the more wasteful.  Can we only produce these monstrosities when there is a problem looming?

Meetings That Could Have Been Emails Instead. I traveled an hour and a half to attend a meeting that lasted 20 minutes.  That could have been covered in a two sentence email.  A lot of meetings are utter wastes of time.

Every Self-Help Diagnostic Tool or Bot Ever Written.  Memories of Microsoft’s talking paperback haunt my dreams.  Does this feel familar?  “Did this answer your question?”  “No”  “Why didn’t it? (Provide response in this box).  “Because it didn’t have the answer.”  “How would you rate this response?  “Do you have something below one star?”  I get it, robotics – automation.  It’s a cost cutting move. Write a bot, lay someone off.  I have yet to encounter a self-help tool that actually helped or provided a meaningful answer.

People Presenting Information in a Meeting by Reading to You The Slide They Are Showing.  “It may shock you Veronica, but I can actually read on my own.  I have been for years!”  If all you are doing is reading, you should not have been allowed to schedule a meeting.

Working Through Lunch. “I’ve ordered in food so we can work through lunch.”  “All that proves is that you are an asshat.  Oh, and how did you know what I wanted to eat?  Jackass.”  Most people can barely do one thing at a time well.  Eating and working – generally is non-productive. Why not let everyone step out for a half-an-hour to eat?  Is your productivity gain really worth that rubber-chicken-salad-sandwich-wrap’s cost? Also, I don’t want to watch other people eat – especially coworkers.

Any Trophy, Plaque, or Award and The Cost to Present/Ship Them.  The time for me to get awards was back in high school.  I have a box in my basement filled with hunks of plastic thanking and congratulating me on stuff that I have done or accomplished at work.  They mean so much to me I stuff them in a box. I swear, I will burn them one day.

Exit Interviews.  Seriously, has HR ever taken tangible action based on exit interviews?  These are designed for one thing – to ferret out possible lawsuits as an employee leaves – period.  Think about it, at that stage, it’s a bit late for action, isn’t it?

So what have I missed?  Please add in the comments.  Oh, and check out my funny book on work – Business Rules.

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

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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

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?)

Why Employees Stay With an Organization – A Question of Loyalty

Toby

Over the years I’ve read a lot of articles about why people leave companies. These often lack perspective.  They don’t explain at all why people remain at companies – which is an equally important way to gauge how well a company attends to its people.  You might think that the exact opposite of what forces employees to leave might be what compels others to stay.  In some cases that is right, but in others, it isn’t.

The easy answer as to why people remain in a company is loyalty. Where does loyalty come from?  Companies have been trying to crack that nut for some time.  Most never will because why they bemoan that they want/expect loyalty; they are, at the same time, sending jobs overseas or simply laying people off.  Welcome to the dichotomy of corporate culture!

Consider, if you will; having a job is the same as a personal relationship.  Over time, there is a give and take, a sense of trust, an understanding of each other’s strengths and weaknesses.  Some people have put in so much time and effort in their careers they feel they owe their organization something back.  That sense of obligation is loyalty – and it is often a powerful motivator for people to stay where they are at.

So where does loyalty come from.  Here are my suggested reasons that most employees stay at their organizations and what are the root causes of an employees’ concept of loyalty:

They believe their work makes a difference.  This is different than job satisfaction.  This is knowing that their contribution to the organization has impact.  It’s not about being happy with your work – It is about knowing you are moving the proverbial needle.

The rewards/recognition match the work contribution.  People tend to remain with companies where they are recognized for the work they do in proportion to the value of that work.  Recognition can come in a lot of different forms.  Nothing demoralizes people more when the rewards go to the wrong people or are disproportional to the contribution. Sometimes the rewards are a good salary, one that might make it difficult for you to consider moving to a new organization.

They have friends at work. The truth be told, if you have good dependable work friends, you are less likely to leave.  As much as I bitch about work, I have the distinction of working with some of the best people in the industry and that makes it far more tolerable.

They are comfortable with the work they do.  In this scenario, you know your job well and do it well.  Starting somewhere else will potentially change that.

Employees are recognized as experts in their field. Being at the top of your game in one organization does not necessarily transfer to another company should you move.  To your new colleagues, you are “the new person,” and you have to expend considerable time and effort to reestablish yourself.  It can be a daunting task that forces you to the easy choice – remain where you are.

Their manager doesn’t suck.  One of the top reasons people leave organizations is their manager is a dick/dickette.  You don’t need a stellar manager, just one that isn’t a micromanaging asshat.  There are those rare instances though where you get a manager who is solid, good, understands what motivates you and does those things, etc.  Going to another organization and you may be spinning the managerial roulette wheel and risking getting a complete and utter moron.

They can’t leave because of age, benefits, or life situation.  Anyone that believes there is no age discrimination in business is delusional.  Once you cross the threshold of 50 years of age, you are caught in a vice.  On one side, is the fact that companies won’t hire you because of your age.  On the other side is the concern that you might impact your pension, or change benefits that would be negative to your lifestyle.  What if you have workplace flexibility and can work for home X number of days a week?  Perhaps your new employer won’t support that – which necessitates a lifestyle change.  Employees are pinched to the point where you resist thoughts of changing jobs as a result of these factors.

They believe the organization does what it says it does. Companies claim they act and behave one way and often do quite the opposite.  That division between the public view and reality is often a contributing factor for employees the leave.  Counter to that, if your organization behaves in a manner consistent with what it says it is in business for, you tend to want to continue to be a part of that company.

Fear of not fitting in at a new company.  I liken this to “the devil you know vs. the one you don’t.”  I saw a job posting on Linkedin the other day and it immediately told me I would not fit in at their organization.  The images the company had on their ad and web site showed only people in their mid-20’s, dressed very casual, and a wide diversity – to the point where an older white male would significantly stand out in their company.  If those images realistically represented that company, I would never apply there because I know I won’t fit in. That sentiment is not that rare with people.  Every organization is like a country – it has its own culture, traditions, language, etc.  The fear of not being able to adapt to these is often enough to compel an employee to stay.

They harbor the illusion of advancement.  The classic carrot that management dangles before us at one point or another, “We are looking at you in terms of a possible promotion.”  This ever-elusive enticement is often just enough to compel people to remain in their job.  “If I can put in one more year, maybe this year I will get that job.”

Immunity to the hypocrisy/chaos.  There is a lot of bullshit that goes on in offices – reorgs, layoffs, outsourcing, etc.  If you get caught up in that chaos, it helps motivate you to look for employment elsewhere.  Likewise if you can tune out all of these threatening distractions and focus on what you love about your job, you are often more willing to remain.

Management leaves them alone. Sometimes flying under the radar makes your life easier.  If you are not motivated by advancement, just keeping your head down is an option.  Other times management just does the right thing, and lets people do their jobs with minimal interference. This behavior can foster a sense of loyalty. For many people, the fact that their management is not interfering permits them a chance to shine.

Obviously, if you like more of my mindless ramblings, you can check out my book, Business Rules: A Cynic’s Guide to the Corporate Overlords…or my other blog posts under business.

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