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.