Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Office Space

There are two things that really annoy me: stupid people and stupid people who run corporations. In my experience the American corporate environment is a theatre of the absurd whose cast seem to boast more than its fair share of jesters. To give an example, yesterday a member of lower middle upper management made a rare visit to my office.

Normally, this man works from home, but he had to come in, because his computer was malfunctioning. Because there were no empty offices available, he was forced to work out of a spare cubicle in the administration department. Despite the fact that the cubie is outfitted with a phone with its own extension, this jackass communicated to any potential callers that they should not call him at the cubicle next to his. This allowed him to make arrangements with the woman who works there to answer his calls and transfer them to him. Seriously. There he sat at a little desk with nothing more than a glorified piece of cork board separating his work area from hers, while she answered the phone for him instead of doing the work for which she is actually payed.

I am probably just a misanthrope, but that kind of posturing just drives me insane. We are talking about a man who normally works alone out of a home office. He has no receptionist there. Unless he has enlisted his dog to screen calls, nobody expects anyone but him to answer the phone. UNLESS...I bet he answers the phone in a high voice:
"Hellllllllooooooooooooo Mr. Schmuck's office. May I ask who's calling? Oh, Mr. X, just a moment, let me get him for you...Mr. Schmuck, phone call!"
(copious stomping to mimic the sound of approaching footsteeps and then back to his normal deep voice) "Hello? Schmuck here."

The worst part was him mouth breathing on the other side of the partition while she answered calls he totally could have picked up for himself. In fairness, I think his car, an expensive, behemoth black SUV of the sort that makes us more dependant on foreign oil, thereby fueling our interest in attacking small oil producing fundamentalist countries in the Persian Gulf in the name of human rights while we ignore violations in other locations, prejudices me against him from the outset. Of course, he does possess great wisdom, which includes the following advice regarding vacationing in Cabo: "If you go, you have to go on the booze cruise. Just be sure you don't go scuba diving when you are drunk, or you might throw up in your mask." No wonder people are impressed enough to answer phone calls for him while he twiddles his thumbs...


Jen said...

If hating Lower Middle Upper Management jackholes makes you a misanthrope, then I guess I am one too! I think that this theory (the entitled LMUM jackhole and his behavior in an office) can easily expand to the federal government - you've really tapped into a nation-wide problem, here!
Also, am I crazy, or did this used to be longer?

Martina said...

No, you're not crazy. It was longer and meaner too. After suffering pangs of conscience about not being a nice person, I took out the part mocking the dumping stories and the tales of ribaldry one of my coworkers likes to tell (though she would call it "really going at it", because she is a romantic and a poet at heart).

I see what you mean about it expanding. Maybe it's the whole CEO-President thing.

Not to go on a old muppet in the balcony rant, but I think the whole entitlement thing IS becoming more and more a part of our culture. As a culture we often act like we deserve some prize just for breathing. You see it all over the place - in the pervasive view of our (I mean the US') place in the world order and in the way we do business.

One of the things in my place of work that drives me insane is this attitude that it's something special when people do their jobs. It's like they're trying to cultivate a sense of entitlement. We had a project recently where they were cleaning up inventory. 60% of the sales staff actually followed through and people like the jackass were crowing about how great that was, like the people who were doing their job were doing something special and unexpected. What about the other 40%? What makes them so special that they don't have to live up to their obligations in exchange for the salary and benefits they are given? Following through on your reponsibilities is not doing a favor. It seems like people assume they are the cake and any extra effort they make to live up to their end of the bargain is just icing.

But like you said, it's not just corporate environments, it's government too, like George Bush saying he has a mandate (50% is a mandate???) and political capital (capitol? It's early and I am way to lazy for a dictionary at this point) and he's going to use it. And people just buy that, like the woman I used to work with who once told me "Well, I don't really know about his decisions, but I figure he wouldn't be president, if he didn't know what he was doing."

Jen said...

I am glad to hear that I am not entirely crazy! For what it's worth (cue unsolicited opinion theme music) - I think this piece is stronger now without the other, and that now you have material for your "Dear Co-worker, Please Do Not Leave Your "really going at it" Photos On The Copier" piece! (which I honestly think is begging to be written).

AND yes to the Culture of Entitlement! It is very pervasive. As you say, GWB and his "mandate from the people" (hey - maybe 'the people' got together and purchased him a Man Date. Maybe this has all been a horrible misunderstanding), coroporate thuggery, etc.

I saw a segment on 60 minutes talking about generation whatever it is that was born in the 80's (I've heard it called so many things) and the sort of reassurance entitlement that you were talking about at work. 'Yay, you've done the minimum requirements, here's a prize!" I think it's not just this particular generation, but America as a whole. The segment talked about how the culture of child-rearing had changed, and boomers were all about giving out copious encouragements and positive reinforcement for things that a functioning adult should be able to do without waiting for a prize. As you say, it's not just good kids in college with urnealistic expectations, but adults who should know better. I'm not sure how accurate sweeping generalities made about things that are happening right now can be, but I suspect history will find us all to be a bunch of whining self-obsessed babies. Ghosts from the Oregon Trail era are going to come and slap us all around in our sleep and say, "you think you've got it bad? I had to haul all of my earthly possesions over a million mountain ranges (really tall ones), fight off disease and injury, hostile attacks, and fricking BEARS. Suck it up, softie."

Jen said...

this is so weird - I can see my comment (#3) right here above the post "comments box", but it is not showing up when I go to "read comments." I wonder if this one (#4) will show up? If the other doesn't come up by later today I will repost since I copy pasted it JUST IN CASE.

Martina said...

I think their whole program is just a bit wonky. You'll notice on our cooking blog where one of my comments appears multiple times. Apparently the blog was suffering from the heinous "I've said it before and I'll say it again!" bug. I'm pretty sure I only posted it once. At first it didn't look like it had posted at all, then I went in a couple weeks later and found it was there three times!

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