Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Strapped to the telephone machine

In all of my other jobs, I've had a certain amount of flexibility with how I spent my time. I worked crazy hours at the law firm, but I could also leave early on a Friday afternoon if I was willing to come in and work over the weekend. During the recruiting thing, I pretty much had to be in by 9 and stay until 6, but I had the ability to make appointments during the day or leave the office during the day to take care of things not completely work related.

Here at this job, things are completely different, I have to monitor what I'm at and what I'm doing pretty much every second of the day. My phone is like a mini tracking system, I have to log in at a particular time and log out at a particular time, and depending upon what I'm doing I need to enter certain codes so that any one of our managers can look at a computer program and see what I'm up to.

I get it to a certain extent, but at times it gets ridiculous. Quick example: a couple weeks ago I got to work about an hour before my day typically starts. I could have just sat there and read my book or putzed around online, but I decided to do some work that I knew needed to get done. It was all email based so I didn't have to log in to my phone to get anything done. About an hour into my work day, one of my manager's called:

Hey ... when did you start work today?

I felt like a kid who got caught with his hand stuck in the cookie jar, except the cookie was answering stupid questions from sales reps because I wanted to help out. I even reacted like I got caught doing something bad, "Well, it was maybe about an hour early, because, well, you know, I was here and we have a lot to do ..."

It's not like I got in trouble. My manager just explained that if I were going to do something like this in the future, I just had to ask first because they had to pay me overtime. I really didn't care about the stupid extra hour of pay, at all, but from now on, I will. To be honest, it kind of made me less likely to do extra in the future. If the focus is all on stats and numbers and abstract measurements, I think all that does is stifle the mindset of the people who have no problem doing something extra (and not needing credit for it) just because they know it needs to get done.

I said when I started this blog that I wouldn't complain because I knew too many people who were out of work that would have hearing a guy whine about having a job. Well, those friends have jobs now, so maybe I can complain a little. I really think people work best when they are given a little freedom to make their own decisions and take some ownership for how they do their work. Am I asking too much for this to happen in a job like my current one? Maybe, but a guy can dream.

Listening to: Post State of the Union analysis
About to: Get my crap together for a massive laundry binge post work tomorrow.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Time flies when you're too lazy to write

Has it really been four months? Doesn't seem that long, but I just checked this thing for the first time in a while and realized my last post on here was September 2nd. Well, I guess I'm getting a little of the writing bug again, we'll see how long it lasts.

I've been meaning to write a post about this subject for a while, and have had any number of occasions to do so. The last reminder was a couple weeks back when I did one of those dumb your year in status updates on facebook and one of mine that randomly came up was that I thought the three worst things ever created by man were nuclear weapons, high fructose corn syrup and Michael Kay. I still believe that those are all awful, but I'd like to add a 4th:

The reply to all button is one of the worst things ever created by man. I first learned this during my law firm days. People reading this who know me (approximately 100% of those reading) have probably heard the story. Our firm had different e-mail addresses for the different offices around the world, as well as an e-mail that would go to every employee at every firm in every office. Occasionally, someone would accidentally use that email when they only meant to email one office, and hilarity would ensue. Until, of course, a woman in the Houston office accidentally emailed the world asking whether anyone was interested in adopting two puppies from a friend. When I got the email, I quickly saw what happened and was waiting for other people to send out some fun responses. But, about two minutes later, one person, who apparently was a partner in London wrote (to EVERYONE):

Just make sure they don't go to a Chinese restaurant.

I'm sorry what? I'm not a fan of the excessively PC stuff that happens in our society sometimes but even I know this was stupid. Even if he had just sent it to her, it would have been stupid. But, he hit reply to all. Even worse, our e-mail system would warn you when you hit that button, "You have selected Reply to All, do you wish to proceed?"

Well needless to say, the response wasn't too good. He didn't get fired, but apparently some stiff financial penalties followed and the reputation of my employer definitely suffered. Lesson learned, never hit reply to all.

Now to my current job situation. I haven't seen anything like the story above in this new job, but something even possibly more annoying: the reply to all used as a pile on to show how GREAT EVERYTHING IS!!!!!

A few times per week, we'll get an email from one of the managers about something good: could be anything from a co-worker getting some really good feedback from a customer to someone bringing in bagels for everyone. For some reason, a large number of my co-workers feel the need to reply to these emails, to EVERYONE, throwing in their two cents.

Wow, great job!

Way to go!

Thanks for breakfast it was yummy!


Oh, sorry, that last one is just what I'm thinking when I get 10 0f these in a row. When I get a bunch of these, I really start to think about the mindset of the people who respond. Are they genuinely happy for the people getting the good feedback? If so, why not just write back to that person or say congrats when you seem them later? I think it has nothing to do with the person or thing at issue. I have a feeling the thought is that if you respond to these emails showing some happiness (which again, are sent by our managers), you show that you are a part of the team and are on board with what the managers are trying to do. I guess that's a smart thing to do to a certain extent, but I've never been one to play ball when it's just silly. And maybe I'm just an asshole (ok that's likely), but making sure 40 people know I think the bagels were AWESOME!!! is definitely silly.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Taking the ASS out of Assault since 2009

I know I said I wouldn't write much because of the tiny lil keyboard I'm using, but I felt this deserved an update.

Just about everyone has dealt with this at work at some point or another: the thing that won't go away no matter what you do. Maybe it's an account, maybe it's a person, maybe it's that pesky harassment complaint. Whatever is is, the more you want it to go away, the worse it gets.

For me, it's been this one account. What should have been a minor issue that would take a day or two to fix took close to two weeks. Nothing was every easy and it just kept getting more annoying. All I wanted was for it to be done, and yesterday I finally thought it was.

But OF COURSE it wasn't ... out of nowhere I got an e-mail from a sales rep about one seemingly easy last thing. This account's ads on our website needed to have the one sentence tagline they could edit changed back to what it used to be. Usually we just tell the customer to change it, but because of all the problems I offered to do it. Was it easy, of course not.

What seemed like a relatively innocuous statement was getting blocked by our system's profanity/offensive language filter, and I had no f*cking idea why. Then I thought maybe it was the word violence, so I took that out, and it still wouldn't take. I was ready to throw things, but instead I relatively calmly emailed somebody who runs the system asking why it wouldn't post and telling the sales rep the changes wouldn't be done when I said they would.

The next day I found out the problem, it wasn't that our filter was super sensitive and was picking up violence. Instead, the system was reading the word assault, seeing ASS and shutting down the whole thing. We were able to work around it, but I also had to e-mail my boss and my boss's boss explaining that this issue would take the rest of the day to fix because our system couldn't differentiate an ass from an assault in the ground (that doesn't work and isn't really that funny, but I'm leaving it).

These are the kinds of things I deal with on a daily basis. And tomorrow is another day; a day of all day training about how to train other people. Perfect.

Listening to: Village Idiot Radio on Pandora
About to: Watch some awful TV and sleep

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

R.I.P. Underemploymentness?

Is this blog dead?

I don't think so. There are two things trying to kill this little adventure in literary mediocrity: (1) my lack of computer and (2) my new job status.

The lack of computer is a huge bummer. As you can see in the last post, I got the blue screen of death a couple weeks ago. The computer is completely fried, totally unsalvageable and has taken lots of pictures, video of my friends looking like fools and Itunes purchases with it. Video of friend whose name I won't mention trying to eat a huge slice of pizza in four bites: I'll miss you the most.

Right now, I'm stuck using a year old netbook that was sitting around unused. The keyboard is approximately 2.6 inches across, and typing on this is a huge pain in the ass. I'll probably pick up a new computer in the next week or two, so until then updates will be few and far between.

But the more interesting thing that might lead to this blog going away is the job situation. The big changes I have mentioned in recent posts are starting to happen. Our department is changing from four horizontally equal groups working with basically different accounts to one large group with four vertically different positions. Over the last week or so, we've all found out what our new position was going to be and all that. I'm starting out one group below the top of the four, which, and I'm tooting my own horn here, is pretty f'ing impressive because I've only been here seven months. I have a crapload of new stuff to learn and all sorts of new responsibilities, but it's going to be a lot more interesting. And it came with a nice little raise as well. All in all, I've got nothing to complain about.

But does all of that mean the blog is over? I say no. Even with the bump in pay and responsibility, I still think I'm in the ranks of the underemployed. And I still work with some first rate wackos. So hopefully I'll be able to keep this interesting. But this keyboard is killing me, so it's time to go.

Listening to: Bill Simmons interviewing Artie Lange on his podcast
About to: Focus on the Yankees

Monday, August 10, 2009

Check Ya Later

The blog is on hiatus until the blue screen of death can be resolved, either by gutting my current computer or buying a new one.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


I'm starting to wonder what I won't see/hear about when my time with this company is through.

I've already worked directly with coffee throwing sociopaths.

I've already had to sit right near a borderline Keebler elf who can say the same thing in the same inflection many many times each day (side note on her: I was in a meeting with her today and she happened to mention during a break that she has size 3.5 shoes ... is that even possible?).

I've already been told that telling someone on the phone that their request was "not a problem" was a terrible mistake.

And yesterday, during a training session, I played with legos.

Can you just read that sentence again? I am over 30 years old, have two degrees, can have relatively intelligent conversations about a variety of subjects on a moment's notice, but yesterday, I had to sit in a room with 12 other people, and play with legos.

So here's why. As part of the fact that my company is being more integrated into the globo corp that bought us a couple years ago, we have to go through all of the training that new hires at the larger company go through, so that down the line nobody can say they haven't been trained in whatever. This particular training was part II of the very basic intro for people for whom part of their job is to take phone calls from customers, and it was meant to focus on the importance of listening and asking questions.

I feel like I'm describing an episode of Sesame Street as I'm writing this (or perhaps this show that parents everywhere should be making their kids watch, for the kids benefit of course). There were two parts to our Lego festivities. In the first, the trainer gave us a series of instructions to put the legos together, but we couldn't ask any questions. Of course, the instructions were purposely vague so it would take complete luck to actually get it right. And when everything was said and done, nobody did.

Then, and here's where the learning went into full force, we got another set of instructions, but THIS TIME (capital letters means to express my unfettered excitement), we got to ask questions!!! So, of course, asking questions gave us all this additional information which allowed us to put the stupid legos together correctly.

My life will never be the same. Not only have I been given a real world in your face experience of the importance of asking questions, but I can no longer express the amount of time that has passed since I last played with Legos in decades.

Maybe this big corporate America stuff just isn't for me and I need to head back to a law firm or a small company again (no playing Legos as part of law firm training I can promise you that). Or maybe I need to stay here just for blog material.

Eh, those are really the extremes. As I've said to friends that have asked me recently how the job is going, I want to wait for all these changes to shake out, which should be done by the end of the year. At that point, I'll re-evaluate where I'm at and if I should look to make a move. Until then, who knows what's going to happen tomorrow. If I'm lucky, Chutes and Ladders.

Listening To: Spoon
About To: take part in my first practice fantasy football draft

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

If my superiors had the opportunity to peruse the following article in greater depth then circle back offline, I'd be subject to disciplinary action

I'm really not a big fan of corporate speak, the morass of words and phrases people in corporate America seem to use when they want to make the nothing they are saying seem really important. When all we hear about is productivity, why waste time trying to craft something that nobody will try to understand?

Every time I hear it at work, I have to stop myself from literally cringing, because having a clearly negative physical reaction when my boss's boss says they're still blue-skying something would probably be bad.

At the same time, I also acknowledge that in a lot of companies, putting this kind of BS together is an important skill to have. It makes you sound smart, and if you manage people you can get away from actually telling them really bad news but clouding it in a haze of run-on sentences and unnecessary bluster (FYI, I completely realize that adding unnecessary bluster to this sentence was, in itself, unnecessary bluster, I just liked how that reads).

I'm bringing this up now because I got an e-mail before I left today that was possibly the Holy Grail of doublespeak. I know exactly what is going on in my company in terms of some major changes happening over the next 6 months, and I'm really not sure what this says. I'm going to delete some things in here that clearly relate to my company, but nothing that would make it harder to understand what was said, plus I'll put a quick description of what I'm blocking out in brackets and maybe a comment or two in parentheses. Here we go:


Just wanted to share additional progress that is being made (passive voice, excellent) as we transition to [operating as similar groups in our parent company do]. As you may have noticed, our partners from [some place in these United States] are here again on site this week to assist with the work needed to move forward with [new initiative].....we are getting closer to completion of the first phase! (um, yay!)

This week [same city as above] is assisting us through formalizing critical skills needed within the path for [my company]. Many of your peers have been asked to assist in this collaborative exercise (I think that was the word meetings extended to 5-6 words) as first hand input is tantamount to our success. These are data gathering sessions only which will assist us in ensuring we are capturing everything we do as a department.

As I had previously mentioned in our June department meeting, we expect to have Phase 1 completed during the 3rd quarter so please stay tuned. This is soon to be a very exciting time for this department with many good changes. There is a lot of work and this will be a transformation over time but anything worthwhile takes work, correct? I ask that you embrace this very positive transformation and understand that our goal is to improve the customer experience and provide you the tools and training to do your jobs as effectively as possible. After all you [awful new tagline that I wouldn't write if I could].

More to come.....please ensure any and all clarifications you may have are directed to me or your direct manager.

[My boss's boss]

It was painful to read that again. Am I missing something or does that pretty much say nothing? I think it's meant to be reassuring about some of the upcoming changes, but when it's written like this, isn't it just going to confuse more people and make things worse?

Either way, sometimes you have to acknowledge greatness, even if it's greatness in something you can't stand. So boss's boss, way to go, you're written something that I can't understand and if I hadn't been writing this blog probably would have deleted within 30 seconds of receiving it. I have an idea that may have been the intended outcome.

Listening To: Dropkick Murphys
About To: Start to maybe think about packing