Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Staring Down the Minutes

I just looked out the window and no one seems to be walking in slow-mo. Cars are speeding along as normal, people are scurrying--life seems to be going on as usual.

So why does it feel like time is standing still?

It's because I have something to look forward to-- a mini break from work. The universe is pointing and laughing at me right now. It lulled me into a false sense of hope that time would go by at a decent clip today-- yesterday flew by and that was a monday. But no, that was all a part of the universe's sick plan. When I left work yesterday I was so excited for monday to be over! And to only have one more day in the work week! Great feeling.

I started early this morning so that I could leave early. I got here at 7.30am. I didn't mean to. Let me explain. In order to be able to leave for 3, I arranged to work an 8-3 day, with no breaks but a 1/2 hour for lunch (instead of the usual hour). Everyone is happy. I got up earlier than I normally do. And calculated that I would need about an hour for the commute and 15 minutes for my coffee run.

Well that is the timeline for when I get here for 8.30. But if you take the bus at 6.45, generally not that many people are on the road and a commute that would take an hour, now takes considerably less time. I stepped off the bus at 7.15. After I got my tea and arrived at work it was still only 7.30. Luckily Amy is an angel (we have worked out a lot of issues) and has agreed to let me leave at 2.30!

So that has worked out. But the universe wasn't going to let me off so easily. No no. I thought I had won--but the universe just stopped time. You can do that if you are the universe. I am powerless. No matter how hard I work, time doesn't go any faster. I can keep looking at the clock, or stop looking at the clock altogether (and that is impossible), it doesn't make a difference. I can try to keep my head down, work hard or I can f**k around and not actually get anything done--either way, time is standing still.

But when that clock finally does say 2.30--I am going to be out of here like a bat out of hell. For 5 glorious days I will not be in the office. I will not have to send generic emails. I will not have to answer inane questions from the Cubicle Buddy. I will not have to listen to other people's phone calls, or read snotty office emails. And perhaps best of all, I will not be staring at the clock.

Monday, June 29, 2009

My Favourite Things

The Sound of Music clearly...

John has set out to make me happy. He is of the Chesshire cat variety-- always grinning (but up to no good) and he needs to see me smile. I'm not a smiley person (my face relaxes into a sad face, not a frown, but very sad) by nature and definitely am not a smiley person at work. I'm not a person that outwardly shows great joy or happiness. Well at work I am none of these things--after hours I'm a different person.

But I think that John has taken my 9-5 melancholy personally and has set out to change my way of thinking about the workplace. The first step? Create a list of the Top 50 (yup, FIFTY!) things that I LIKE about work. Fifty things I like about work. How am I ever going to manage this?

I have come up with one coping mechanism. I know that the List I create for John will have to be serious. Concrete examples of things that I like about work (my keyboard? the colour beige?). But as enthusiastic as he is about the project, I kind of think that its a load of crap AND a waste of my time. So in order to kind of take the piss out of this (only I will know that I am taking the piss but it will be enough) I am mocking the exercise here.

**Please note that the following has been written with a heavy handed use of sarcasm**

Top Things I Like About Work/My Job

1. That I am left alone to do my job without micromanaging. My manager trusts me to do my job and do it well without sticking his nose in every 5 minutes.

2. Patronizing emails and signage sent out and posted around the office. I like being treated like a 6 year old and given step by step instructions on how to wash my hands in the kitchen and the washroom. Emails that tell me to empty my beverage container or make sure to flush the toilet are equally welcome.

3. I value the non-relationship that I have with my Cubicle Buddy--a relationship that involves no face to face communication of any kind. Case in point? When Michael Jackson died I got an IM from him- he sits next to me.

4. My manager John. I like that he has made it his personal mission to make me his version of "happy", engaging me in constructive dialogue that is neither patronizing nor aggravating.

5. I like our business casual dress code that is enforced only in our department. I like the dry cleaning fees and clothing expenses that come with dressing in business casual while employees sharing our work space parade around in jeans Monday- Thursday.

6. I like Lamp.

7. I like my window, enabling me to see outside this bleak depressing black hole of contentment.

8. I like having all of my communications monitored and brought up to me in obtuse terms. I like knowing that my managers are betraying my trust without their actually telling me so.

9. I enjoy sharing our birthdays and special events (and food) with the other departments and getting the shaft on their special days.

10. I like not getting a raise but attending a "party" showing my company's appreciation for me and the work that I do. I agree that a party is a much better way of showing appreciation. I don't enjoy eating anyway.

So there you have it folks- a start. Thankfully I am going on holiday after tomorrow. One more good thing about work: not being here.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Request Denied

Think of me as the middleman. You want a new carpet? I will find one for you. You need a nanny, I know a good one. Except that instead of finding goods and services, I act as a liaison between the company that supports our new product and our representatives that sell to the public. Oh, and I don’t get a cut.

But now my hands are tied.

Once upon a time I used to deal directly with the companies. This seemed efficient to me. I would make a list of all the people that I needed information on and they would email it back to me. Turnaround time? About 2 days. A week if they were really behind.

But then we (well not we really, I wasn’t a part of the decision making proces--I was just told how it was going to be now) decided to get all self sufficient, making our own products and setting up our own department to work that out. Seemingly I was out of a job. But in today’s world everything needs to be done twice to be done well so I continued on. There were some bumps along the way (some bumps seemed more like small mountains) but I thought that we had gotten to a system that worked well for all of us.

Today I was told that I was wrong.

I had been compiling individual emails to this new department to use the new company website to get all the information that I used to just email directly to the company. Obviously me emailing someone else down the hall to check a website is so much more efficient than me emailing one other person who has the answers directly--but I digress. Each email stated the information that I needed, as well as all necessary identifying information. Sure, it was taking nearly a week to get a lot of this information back, but I had done my part and I’m actually pretty good at waiting .

But now apparently because I’m super efficient ourdepartment is backed up. And the company has requested we take a 10 day (10 DAY!) break in asking them any kind of follow up information so that they can get caught up. So what do I do in the meantime?

Twiddle my thumbs I guess. Or start selling real carpets? Nannies anyone?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Little Things

Sadly, I think that I lack the right attitude to make this work enviroment positive. But in my defense, I did try.

I came to work this week full of positive energy (seriously, I did). I had been reading Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert (if you haven't already read it, do so immediately) and it made me feel like I did have the power to change my circumstances. That I had choices- how to react to situations and people, how to smile, how to order my coffee etc. Little things, I have power over.

Well, sad to say its the little things that really get under my skin. And before the end of Monday I was over the positive energy thing, sliding again into comfortable old cynicism and anger. Fits like a glove.

Gave it another shot on Tuesday. Ended the day frustrated, exhausted and headachey.

The little things right? Well here is a list of little things that really get my goat- assuming that I have a goat to give.

A slow operating system. It irks me no end when I am trying to speed through my work and my operating system is unable to keep up. Am even more irritated when I am told that while we used to work on 5 terminals, we are now only working on 3. Yeah, that makes sense. More people, more work volume-- less power. I get it. Except that I really don't.

Making me have meetings on your time. I'm all for having meetings (well no, actually I am not) but when these meetings are scheduled during my lunch break, I'm probably going to be somewhat irritated. I'm not big on fitting into your schedule when you don't fit into mine.

Unclear emails. I get it-- we don't all proofread our emails (or blog posts). But there is a limit to how much I can take. When I ask you an open ended question please don't respond with "yes". Yes what?? If you want something to be imaged into the system, please don't ask me to imagine it. I can imagine lots of things, but they probably won't find their way into our system that way.

Work talk on my break. Aside from working here, we probably don't have that much in common. But on my lunch, the last thing I want to talk about is work. So please save your war stories for someone who cares.

Loud talkers. Phones are an integral part of an office. But please don't complain about my level of chatter when I can hear both halves of your phone conversations from down the hall. And muttering to yourself as you read out your emails...read in your head. Third graders master it, why can't you?

Elizabeth Gilbert was frolicking in Bali when she told me I had power over my destiny. So I'm sure that she would understand my lack of positivity, even over the little things.

Monday, June 22, 2009

A Diversion

video

Cubicle Goldilocks

This morning when I arrived at work, bright eyed and ready to work (ok not true, but I had tea in hand, therefore I was working on it) I noticed that something was wrong with my phone. The screen that is usually showing my extension, the date and time etc was completely blank. So I looked at Maurice's desk (usually we have the same problems, sharing a pod) and his phone still worked. I logged on to my computer...but it didn't have internet access either.

Luckily John was just walking by (luckily in this story) and I flagged him down. I am technologically deficient so I a) had no idea what the problem was and b) if I did, I wouldn't have any thoughts on how to fix it. But John is computer savvy. He got to work, looking to see if all the cables were connected. It appears that they were.

Point is-- it wasn't anything that we could fix, we needed the tech people. Which meant that I was computer-less. And thus began my morning as a computer/cubicle Goldilocks.

John told me that someone in Accounting was not here today and I could take her desk. But I don't really like the people in Accounting, they make my life more difficult. That desk would have been much too annoying. It must have shown on my face because John suggested another empty desk at the back of the office. The solitude of the location appealed to me so I went with that one.

But first John had to set up a computer on that desk. I lugged a box of paper that I needed to work on with me, and waited while John set up the work station. And then I logged on. Which took another 10 minutes. This new desk (not in a cubicle!) was not set up the same way as mine at all and my eyes quickly felt the strain. Plus my printer was now on the other side of the office. And there was too much light. And I was lonely. That desk was much too lonely.

Another girl at work is sick. Her desk is located in a cubicle pod with 3 other people. It is similar to my set up (I did have to adjust the height of the desk and the keyboard). My printer is just around the corner. This cubicle is juuuuuuuuuuuuuuuust right.

But isn't it strange how working in someone else's desk totally disorients you? Her desk, while similar to mine, is backwards which meant that all morning I have had to adjust the way that I do things. There is no mouse pad so I'm trying to control an unruly mouse. She has an interesting daily calendar though: Forgotten English. Today's expression? Treacle Up. It means to rub or polish. So I'm learning new things.

But I want them to hurry up and fix my computer because I miss my window. And the Cubicle Bears will be back soon, and then what will I do?

Friday, June 19, 2009

The Wheels on the Bus...

I used to have a car. I drove it to work every day.

But then I got environmentally conscious. And I started taking the bus.

Yeah, no that's not true. I stopped driving every where because my new job is right in the heart of the city and parking here is expensive. And there is a bus from my house that drops me basically on the doorstep. So you can't really argue with that: its convenient, cheaper and greener.

But this also means that I have to take the bus. Twice a day. And for someone that has been used to driving everywhere (except on nights out, when the bus becomes a party ride, sneaking forbidden drinks along), it can be an adjustment. Even if it is convenient, cheaper and green.

I'm not a big people person. I don't like crowds and I definitley value my personal space. So some days the bus isn't ideal. Its alternatively too hot and too cold. It can be dirty. Uncomfortable.

But I would say that out of all the things that I don't like about the bus, my fellow passengers have to be top of the list. Here is a short list of the typical bus passengers (that I don't like).

The Cologne/Perfume Overdoser. Usually a problem on the morning commute, this person decided to skip a shower and bathe in eau de stink for the ride in. General rule of thumb? If you can smell yourself, its probably too much.

The Stink. Alternative to the Overdoser, the Stink doesn't believe in deoderant. More of a problem on the ride home, especially on hot summer afternoons when everyone is crowded together on the bus like a can of sardines. Hopefully this person gets a seat (not next to you) because if they have to hold onto the poles, they have to life their arm.

Loud Talkers. The bus is not a large space. You can all pretty much hear each other. So talking loudly to your buddy basically sitting on your lap, is probably not necessary. Other varieties include the Loud Cell Phone Junkie who can't disengage from her mobile long enough to be civil to the bus driver. This loudmouth thinks that her conversation is so riveting and important that it must be shared with the whole bus. It isn't and it shouldn't.

Space Hogs. As mentioned before, the bus doesn't have a lot of space. So I don't know why more people aren't more concerned about conserving space. These Space Hogs wear their backpacks on the bus (if the bus is crammed, remove bag and place it at your feet to allow more space for passengers-- also prevents bag from hitting seated passengers in the face), refuse to move down to the end when asked and if a seat does become available somehow manages to take it up and half the seat next to it.

Seated Ables. These are probably the worst of the worst. While the above mentioned passengers are annoying they are, in all likelihood, unaware of their deficiencies. But the Seated Ables? They know better. These are the scumbags that while perfectly capable of standing on the bus, choose to take up the precious seats reserved for those that are not. These people stubbornly refuse to give up their seats to the elderly, disabled or pregnant women. How are you still sitting as an 80 year old woman struggles to keep her balance while holding groceries? How are you not shooting out of your seat to help someone walking with a cane sit down? Who are you? Stand up, offer your seat to someone more deserving!

The only good thing about the bus as far as I can see, is it gives me a chance to put on my earphones, listen to some music and read a good book. Hopefully this is enough of a distraction from all the riffraff that invariably rides the bus with me.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Food For Thought

Stop bringing junk food into my office.

Seriously.

If you bring it I will eat it. And that can't happen anymore. Work is a stressful environment. I am a stress eater. What are you trying to do to me!?

I don't know what it is about offices and food but there always seems to be an occasion to binge. Birthdays? Cake! Milestone? Cookies! Holiday? Potluck! A food answer for everything. Why are you not bringing nice carrots with dip? Or celery sticks with peanut butter? Wraps for a potluck?

No. That doesn't work. Calory laden food is the order of the day. And while I'm definitely not one of those miserable calorie counters (please! cut sugar out of my diet and people will get hurt!) I object to the sheer volume of candy and sweets constantly being pushed at me. What about an office screams food exactly?

It can't be the state of the art kitchen we all use to microwave our leftovers. Or the beige that covers everything from the walls to the carpet- its not an appetizing colour. It should really be an appetite suppressant. Typing and phone answering are not hunger inducing activities (nor calory burners unfortunately)- so where does all this food come from?

It must be the stress. Maybe people think that by bringing food into the office they are making it a sweeter place to be? Maybe they think its comforting? Has no one heard of work place obesity? Read up! Its a problem.

So please stop celebrating birthdays and milestones. Holidays can be overlooked. Stop feeding me.

...unless you are making oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. I do really enjoy those.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

David Letterman

I bet that you are curious now. How did David Letterman make his way into the cubicle? Well as much fun as that would be, it's really just a case of me copying his format. I am bored at work. Shocking I know, since you have been reading of my love affair with my job, but it's true. So I came up with a Top 10.

The Inaugural Top 10 list--I don't know that this will become a regular thing, but for today, its a bit of fun.

Top 10 Things to Kill Time

1. Fantasize about how I will quit. Sometimes there are profanities involved. Sometimes its all very civil, a reasonable typed out letter. Other times I just don't come in. All are equally fun to imagine and fine tune, for the day will come when I have to put a plan in action.

2. Fantasize about winning the lottery. Obviously first things first: I will quit. Pay off parental houes. Then, I'm thinking a canal house in Amsterdam, something fabulous in London and Italy, and travelling aimlessly for a while. A good year. And after that just float around between houses, never working in an office again. Work on a book. Open a bar somewhere that needs one. The good thing about winning the lottery (in your head) is that the possibilities are endless.

3. Blog. Read blogs. Facebook. I haven't stumbled on Twitter yet (I confess, I don't totally get it). But the blogosphere and Facebook have been found to be extremely effective time wasting tools. Admittedly I am jealous of people that blog full time. And get paid for it? How does this come about (without obnoxious ads ruining everything)? But think about the things you can learn about people from stalking...er, reading their Facebook. Pictures, quizzes (which classic movie star are you? How well do you know Disney movies? Which circle of Hell are you?), status updates, and the wall posts! A time waster's dream.

4. Look for a new job. There are countless job search websites. Sometimes the search is deadly serious, pleading with my search engines to turn up something good, in my area, that isn't complete grunt work. Sometimes its for my amusement only. And I click through craigslist, hoping there will be something hilarious like this time that I found a post for a Nanny to work for this mom that sounded like a nightmare. But she was totally up front about it. Points for being honest.

5. Celebrity stalking. Its not like I take their pictures, but I definitely look at them. Indirectly I'm just as bad? But really, its only so that I can look at their glamourous lives and make plans for when I win the lottery. And when that gets boring, it becomes about judging their poor choices. Like Lindsay Lohan posting a nearly nude picture of herself on Twitter- what was that? Why is Dina such a bad example? What is the deal with Kate's hair? Why is Billy Ray ok with his 16 year old daughter getting wet and basically naked for a movie? This is what I do with my time, it makes me feel slightly better on my moral high horse.

6. Read the days' headlines. So that when I do get a new job, I will be smart. Because lord knows this job is making quick work of making me stupid.

7. Read and forward funny emails to co-workers. In an office there is never a shortage of "funny" emails that everyone must read. These contain jokes about parenting, relationships, the origins of swine flu. Sometimes they are truly funny (the motivational posters come to mind) but mostly, they are a way for us to distract ourselves, for a moment, from the disaster that is our jobs.

8. Think of creative ways to waste time. There are the old stand bys like frequent bathroom breaks. But there is also making up Top 10 lists, walking around the office with an armload of paper and an expression of purpose, and having important looking discussions with friends. But if you are engaged in the latter, please be aware of management floating around and be able to switch to work related chatter at the drop of a hat.

9. If there is music in your office (a radio, or an ipod, even better), sing along. Make up dance routines in your head. Act them out in the privacy of your cubicle.

10. Count down the days. To anything.

Did any of those help?

Sit Up Straight!

You totally just sat up straighter didn't you? Its instinctual. Your mom has been telling you for years to sit up straight and you have brushed her off just as often. Sitting up straight just didn't seem as important as finishing my dinner quickly so that I could run back outside and play until it got dark.

But now, sitting at this desk day in and day out, I find myself wishing that I had listened. Had I listened, I might have better posture. And better posture might come in handy right about now.

Like millions of people all over the place, I spend my working days chained to a computer. I spend my working life typing and mouse clicking. I think that my daily tasks might make these motions more repetitive than in other jobs, but the essence is the same. Recently, after smashing long held office processing records, I found that I was actually in a fair amount of pain. And I brought this up to my manager who mentioned ergonomics.

Basically (according to wikipedia and what I have pieced together from my manager) ergonomics has to do with improving the way that you work. Well there is a lot more to it than that, but in terms of the workplace, ergonomics is supposed to make your work space more comfortable so that prolonged use of a computer does not lead to long term injury. Like carpal tunnel syndrome (I'm pretty sure that I am in the beginning stages).

After the initial meeting an excited John came up to me (first thing in the morning! Let me have some tea first please) and started discussing the different things I could do-- apparently I needed to ensure that both my elbows were constantly supported. He also cc'd me on an email he had written to HR, I guess as proof that he was taking this seriously.

That was about a month ago. Predictably HR has not responded. I doubt they actually have anything to do about it anyway. I'm sure that they would suggest more frequent breaks, which would of course, go completely against any kind of policy in place. And as excited as John initially was about the opportunity to explore workplace ergonomics, he too has not brought it up again.

So I'm left with what my mama taught me. And isn't that the way that it always goes? Sit up straight. Shoulders back. It helps for the moment (I feel so much taller) but I know that in about 5 more minutes I will be back to being hunched over, staring intently (and closely, maybe poor eyesight is the culprit) at my monitor, praying for the day to end so that I can walk it off.

Being a hunchback won't be that bad will it? I'm sure there is a church bell that needs ringing.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Welcome to My New Home!

This morning I was in a right kerfuffle!

I was happily trying to come up with something hilarious to write about on my blog (I'm so urban right? I love saying that) when I was stopped dead in my tracks (literally, I was walking back from a coffee break) because of this bomb Sebastien dropped on me.

"You know John totally reads your blog every day right?"

For those of you that are unaware who John is, a refresher. John is my boss. He pretends to be a nice guy, but beneath that goofy grin there is an iron fisted dictator just waiting to bust free. He cannot be reading my blog. I had taken steps to ensure that there were no identifying factors on my blog (you will note that my name does not appear anywhere, nor does my city, and all the names that I do use are made up), not emailed the link from my work address, or posted it anywhere that someone from work would see it.

But, I've said it before: I work in an incredibly incestuous industry and workplace. Everyone knows everyone else (because these same unimaginative people work together year in year out for decades) and sooner or later, information makes its way through the grape vine. In this case directly to John. And apparently he was just as glued as the rest of you, checking in every day to see what witty things I would come up with.

So I had a decision to make. Continue blogging where he could read it, giving him leverage to use against me, always aware that what I am saying could be used against me. Or stop.

I didn't like either option so I created my own. Create a new blog and carry on. It was no easy feat to keep cubicle and find a new blog title that wasn't already taken. I miss Cubicleisms, I felt like I had a good thing going. Although my mom couldn't say it, so maybe that was a sign that it wasn't for the masses...

So here I am. Ready to keep blogging. To keep looking for something new. To keep hoping that Hollywood finds me and makes me into a funny yet smart office comedy. Or win the lottery.

Thanks for following me here! Feel free to comment and keep reading!

Work Socials

So it's just about officially summer. Which means that all of a sudden co-workers will be throwing out all these ideas for "get togethers": patio drinks, BBQs, picnics-- whatever. The point is that these are a social and professional minefield and should be negotiated with care.

As a general rule, I try not to hang out with people from work outside of work. At this job anyway. And as we all know, in order to prove a rule, there must be exceptions. There are a few people that I work with daily that it would be a crime not to hang out with, so fabulous are they.

But generally-- work people and I don't mix socially.

There are a few reasons why. The first one that comes to mind is that aside from the special few, I don't like the people that I work with. I don't find them interesting, I don't plan to continue in the industry and I just get tired of seeing them all day- why would I want to extend that? Another reason is that the people that I work with remind me of, you guessed it, work. And I don't enjoy work so on my off time, why would I want to be reminded of that? And finally, the few times that I have been around them outside of work, being around these people made me want to drink. And I have no real interest in becoming an alcoholic (I admittedly dabble).

One huge problem with work socials is that aside from work, there is no guarantee that you will have anything in common with these people. Which can lead to awkward silences, drink consumption and rehashing of everything that happened at work that day/week. It's depressing really.

But if you do find yourself in a social situation with people from work there are a few things to watch out for.

A Wine-O Boss. I don't know what it is about wine and making people emotional but its double trouble when the wine-o is your boss. I mean, there are social boundaries that have to be observed here. You can never discuss what happens in a wine haze, but you will always be that much more uncomfortable in a meeting with her knowing that her husband cheated on her. Its just a TMI situation that no one really benefits from.

The Silent Supervisor. I don't understand how someone who at work is in control and has no problem delegating and micromanaging, can, in a social situation, be such a nitwit. These are the supervisors that are gregarious, loud, kind of annoying at work. They speak so that everyone can hear them, chew loudly and write sickly sweet emails that are venoumous in closing. Yet as soon as they leave their work comfort zone, they become shy and awkward, not a thing to say that isn't work related. I don't know why, but I find these supervisors sneaky and I don't trust them. I feel like they are observing me, making mental notes for Monday when they are back in their comfort zone, schlepping a bunch of busy work on my desk as punishment for being such a social butterfly. Beware the Silent Supervisor!

The Former Boss. For some reason, there are those who befriend co-workers and continue to socialize with them, even after they are no longer required to do so. This means that you might be at a (rare) work function when your old boss walks in. Or he is already there when you arrive. Either way, this is not pleasant. This can go one of two ways. Either you got along when you worked together and are able to have a pleasant adult conversation about what each has been up to since you last saw each other. Or your d-bag boss screwed you out of vacation, benefits and a salary raise and you would rather stab yourself in the eye with a white hot needle than talk to him. And he is afraid of you. So you spend the event dancing around each other. Or at least he does. Ensuring that you are never in the same room for long. You glare at him and he pretends not to notice you. And then he leaves early because his wife told him to.

Hypothetically.

But if you do find yourself in a social situation with co-workers watch out for that demon Alcohol. Being around people at work can make you want to drink to take the edge off (I should know). But one drink turns into 5 pretty quickly and then you are a loud, slurring fool. And no one wants that.

So. Have a drink (be social!) but have an out. Always have an out. A dinner with friends. Dinner at the parents. You have to walk your dog. A concert.If you can, have someone start the car for a quick get a way.

If you are aware of the above, there is no reason why you can't go out and socialize with co-workers. But when you are sitting there listening to another work story, don't say that I didn't warn you.

Workplace Sunshine

I am not, by nature, a sunshiney person. I tend more towards sarcasm and low expectations. Especially when it comes to work.

But walking around the city, especially when the weather is beautiful, I can't help but notice all the smiling people. Are they smiling because the weather is perfect? Because they are out of their offices? Or (incomprehensibly) because they are happy with their jobs?It has been so long since I have had a job that I enjoyed, that I do not even remember what it feels like to get up and feel contentment at the thought of going to work. Of going to an office where you feel like you actually achieve something in the course of a day.

It has been many many months since I have felt anything other than irritation and dread about going to work.But I have come to terms with the fact that a 9-5 cubicle world is not ideal. Maybe I'm not cut out for this lifestyle. I don't actually think that that is the case. If anyone is suited to a 9-5 office existence it would be me. Why? Because thats a natural life course. That is what you do. You graduate highschool, you go to university and then you get a job in an office. That's how it works. And I am not one to stray off the beaten path. Point is, I have resigned myself to being cheerless and despondant at work.

Which is why it was so offensive to me to be forced to come face to face with this workplace sunshine. I reserve the right to be crusty and curmudgeoneous at work. I do not get paid enough to pretend to be anything else. In exchange I will quietly work in my cubicle, slowly working my way through the piles of paper on my desk.

Yesterday afternoon, as I was faithfully plugging away at my work, my peace and quiet was shattered.Out of nowhere I hear the unmistakeable sounds of wheels dragging along the carpet.

Which can only mean one thing:

"HELLOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO EVERYONE!!! HOW ARE YOU ALL DOING TODAY ON THIS BEAUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUTIFUL DAY!!".

Really? Are you really screeching this as you walk down the hall? This is Becky. She is part of the executives of this branch of the company. She is rarely here. Thank God. Because if she was here every day, and this is what she was saying all the time, in that high pitched happy voice of hers, I would probably snap.

As if that wasn't bad enough, as she walks she gives individual shout outs. Using names. Only problem is that she doesn't actually know all of us by face. Easy fix- use the names labelled on each individual cubicle. So as you walk by Lilly, say "Hi Lilly!!! How ARE you?!" or "Maurice, good to SEE YOU!".

Only problem is, sometimes the labelled person isn't sitting there. And then you are just parading your ignorance. Screeching at 'Maurice' when Kyle is sitting there, well that just doesn't work. So maybe, just don't. Don't come in here screeching, or cheerful. Come in quietly. Do your job, get out.

When I am sitting in the lunch room, that is my time. You are not allowed to interrupt my time. So when Becky is here and she comes into the lunchroom, it is all that I can do not to leave. I mean she doesn't actually know my name--learning my name and what I do here takes too much time and she is too important for that. So she will just pretend. Which is offensive no? I try to keep my head down and hope she doesn't address me. And usually I'm lucky. I think I probably have a "don't-mess-with-me" look on my face.But if its not me she's talking to, its invariably someone I'm sitting close to. And even though I try to tune her out, read the days headlines in a commuter paper, that cheery voice cuts right through my concentration, and her inane chatter fills the room.

Becky can't be one of those people that quietly goes about their business while we go about ours-- her whole presence has to fill the room. Her cheery attitude makes me want to vomit.

There's a reason the windows don't open...

Becky, please stop. If I wanted this much sunshine at work, I would sit outside.

Deep Freeze

I am freezing! My fingers are starting to go numb and I'm pretty sure my lips are turning a very "now" shade of blue. I'm shivering.And its warm outside.

So what's the deal?

Overzealous use of the AC. I can hear the icy cold blasts of artificial air seeping into my cubicle. My fingers are blue (and its not just my nail polish). I can't type properly. I need to put on my fleece. I'm not sure that my company had this in mind when they gave me this free fleece at Orientation back in the day-- but then again, maybe this is exactly what they had in mind.

Its frustrating because this time last week, in the middle of a city heat wave, we were all sweating in our cubicles. The air in here was hot and stale and we couldn't wait to get outside for relief. It was 30 degrees outside. E-mails were sent to the property managers: could they please do something about this heat!And they did. They went in the complete opposite direction. So now we're freezing.

Much like we were back in December during a city wide cold spell (lots of ice and snow in a coastal city unaccustomed to it). We begged for the heat to be turned on then, but we were told that it was broken. So we sat huddled around tea and coffee, hoping to warm our fingers by breathing hot air on them--some went so far (I tell no lies) as to cut the fingers off those cheap little gloves to make typing less of an ordeal.

I'm not sure why it is so difficult to maintain a room temperature. I'm sure that it has nothing to do with older people touching the thermostat. People that have no idea what they are doing, even what they are controlling (I'm assuming that different parts of the floor have different heating units), yet they continue to fiddle with it. Ten minutes ago it was freezing, now its starting to thaw. That, or its the cozy warmth emanating from my tea misto.

I know that its an old wives tale that you get a cold from being cold, but I have definitely noticed an increase in sneezing and stuffed up-edness (couldn't be allergy season, its too cold!). And as we get colder we get more in the zone, anything to keep our minds off our frozen fingers and toes(even my nose!), and therefore we work harder.

So they win.

Again.

And I'm still cold.

How To Play This?

I work for what used to be one of MacLean magazine's top employers. That was 3 years ago. I think it was a goal to be included in the list one time and then that box can be ticked off and we can move on. To be fair, since that time, our CEO has changed which might account for the different management style that can currently be found. I'm being nice here.

Anyway. A remnant of our glory days is a survey. This survey is sent to every single employee and we have 2 weeks in which to thoughtfully give our answers. The first two years I did it, I thought it was a waste of time, but back then I was in a different position, didn't work with a**holes, and was generally happy.

Last year the email came about 2 days after I learned that I was being screwed over in two different ways. After my vacation I apparently owed them money or time AND I had no more vacation days for the entire year. This was June. Six months sans days off? Seriously? S.O.S! So naturally I took the opportunity to let the organization know exactly what I thought of their policies and more importantly, my d-bag manager of the day.The survey promised that they would look at the answers given, quantify it and then feed it back down the chain of command. Within six months we should be able to see a difference at our respective levels. It felt really good to complete that survey last year, like I had done something about my situation.

Except that the changes never came. My manager left, but that was to pursue his own industry dreams (more golf time I imagine, if his wife lets him play more than 3 rounds a year now), not as a result of anything I may or may not have said on some survey.

Since that time I have gotten a raise that has yet to come through, was screwed out of my benefits due to a lack of notification that I was eligible from my manager, had to pay MSP because I did not have benefits from my employer, and after an injury sustained on my way to work, very nearly "owed" them $500.Which leads me to my present dilemma: How do I play it this year?

If you read my posts from late May (all posts now show as June as moved from previous blog address) you will have read that there was some friction between my manager and myself after she (and my other manager? I say other manager? because I'm not sure if he is in fact my manager, or Amy's manager? Or is he homeless? Whats the story here?) accused me of being "excessively social", cutting corners in my work (baseless- it was her fault, I had been telling her to let me do my follow up for about 3 weeks), and there were questions about "gaps in productivity".

It was the best meeting ever. I have never been angrier.But about 2 days later, Amy came and apologized. Admitted that she was out of line. That it was not a reflection of my work but of her mindset upon returning from vacation.

I accepted her apology.

But obviously am still not happy here. So do I let loose on the survey as if this was 2 weeks ago? When I comment on my manager's performance, do I comment on Amy? Or my pseudo manager John? Who does the organization recognize as my manager? If I let them have it, is that just a passive aggressive way of venting (not at all like a blog)?

Obviously submitting my survey full of angry commentary isn't going to make them give me a raise (or hurry up in putting through the first one) or get me a new job. But will it make them pay attention and stop running everything based on a bottom line? Will it make things better for those that come after me? Is this some kind of 21st century route to martyrdom?

Probably not.

But I might still enjoy lashing out a little!

Delegating

Delegating, the art of giving your work to someone else so it gets done and you can take the credit for it, is a management "skill" that is honed to perfection in the supervisor/analyst stage.

This time in your career means that you are in charge of a couple of people (or you have the delusion that you are) for the first time. Suddenly there are tons of more important things on your plate. Things like schmoozing, networking, martini lunches. Soon you find that the work that you were supposed to be doing is falling behind. The solution? Delegating.

There are a few different methods to delegating. One: your work has been falling behind when this is suddenly (and irritatingly) brought to your attention as you are on your way out the door to a mid-day 'meeting' at the pub around the corner. You tell the offending minion that it needs to be done by the end of business and leave. The person that you believe to be in charge of will invariably have some kind of personal stake in the work (ie. an actual work ethic), will sigh deeply/shake their head, and just do it. Because this is faster than trying to make you do your own work.

Two: someone will leave a list of reminders on your desk for you to look through and follow up on. You will leave it on your desk until that same someone comes back, notices the list in its original position, sighs and takes it back. Hopefully they will think that you have just been too busy doing important supervisor type stuff.

Three: you will be doing a cursory glance at all the things that still need to be done (preferably with a deadline looming, ie. end of month revenue type stuff) and fire off a condescending, slightly irritated email to the person you deem to have been responsible (in all likelihood this would have been you, but you do not have time for trifling details at this point in time). The email will include step by step instructions on how to do it (the more simply you lay it out, the more irritated the reader will be) as well as likely consequences for not completing the task. The well written condescending delegatory email will place the consequential blame squarely on the shoulders of the email recipient. Your hands will be clean (the better to play golf with this afternoon) and your lackey will do your work.

If you are going to practice the art of delegation you must remember a few things.First of all, you must actively delegate. You cannot assume that someone will find out that you have not been keeping up and offer to help. The people that report to you (or in all likelihood do not report to you but work near you) think that they have their own work to do and will not offer to help you with yours. This is why you must let them know that they are neglecting certain jobs.

Secondly, when using the delegatory email make sure to end on an equally patronizing, yet cheerful tone. Closings such as "Thanks a million!!!", or "You're the best!!!" will be sure to illicit an eye roll in response but they will not be able to use it against you because you are just being appreciative!

Finally, if everyone is swamped and you are getting grief from another department about not getting the chance to get to your work, make sure to act really annoyed and wounded that someone thinks that you are neglecting your duties. Obviously you are just busy and haven't gotten to that particular task just yet, but you will. Soon. Phrases such as "Are you serious?" and "We're swamped!" go a long way to proving just how busy and important you are.

Remember, delegating is a stepping stone to Upper Management! Think of all those expensed lunches you will be able to arrange!

Hygiene Concerns

I know that posting two times in one day might seem a little excessive, but sometimes it is necessary. In this case, when personal hygiene is involved, it is necessary.

I would like to be able to continue on by saying that this is something mundane like someone wearing too much perfume, or alternatively, skipping an obligatory deoderant swipe/shower in the morning. But alas, it is far more sinister.

Today the department received the following email:

Dear Tenants,Our Janitor Maria has advised me that on many ocassions, when she is cleaning up the washrooms, she finds toilets that have not been flushed, as well as paper towel thrown on the floor near the entrance door.I realize that sometimes we are all in a hurry or simply forget these minor things, but we would ask that you are more diligent in flushing toilets at all times.We, along with Maria do our very best to maintain these washrooms to a level you will all appreciate & we ask that you help us with this, by doing your part when you use them.

Who forgets to flush the toilet??? How is flushing the toilet not a basic human reflex? Who are these people that are not in any way bothered by leaving their excrement sitting there for the next person to encounter? Are you in such a hurry to get back to you important busy work that you can't flush the toilet? You need a vacation!

As for throwing paper towels on the floor- whoever is doing that: you disgust me. Do you think that it makes the janitor's job more rewarding to pick up after you? Like a janitor doesn't work hard enough. Respect the janitor!

My friend Sebastien has pointed out that we do in fact work with adults. That you would think that we worked with children who needed to be reminded to flush the toilets, but that actually children aren't that stupid. And he's completely right.

Do you know whats even more disturbing than an email to an entire department about proper bathroom use? That it was warranted. I definitely had a chuckle reading this (although I couldn't believe whatI was reading), especially when various out loud responses starting emanating from cubicles. My favourite came from Veronica: "Pssh, that's because the toilets are broken!"

Veronica is disgusting.

Fresh Meat

This morning my office is filled with the sounds of laughter and happy chatter. Its not even Friday.

What gives?

Fresh meat.

Today is the day that two new Temps arrived to begin their unfulfilling journey here. And the level of "happy productivity" vibe that everyone is giving off is making me sick. Everyone has a smile plastered on their face, happily chatting with their neighbour, practically beaming at the new kids as they are introduced one by one to each person and their role.

I remember very well the day that I made the rounds. Actually I didn't. I was left in my cubicle, nervously chatting with Mary Kate (this was the moment that we became fast friends), listening as my d-bag manager (he doesn't deserve his own name) tried to find someone willing to give me a tour. I distinctly remember him asking my now supervisor, Veronica, if she would give me a tour. She said "Another one? I'm not doing it. I did the last three." I think it actually took Veronica about 6 weeks to say anything to me. But now that she's a supervisor its all "Hi! How are you! Good to see you! If you need anything! Just ask!". She makes me want to vomit.

At least I immediately got the impression that this place was awful. The initial excitement at having my own desk and phone were quickly replaced with a kind of nervous energy about what I had gotten myself into. I had been eager to return to a "normal" life at home after my decidedly unnormal (but fabulous) time abroad. Maybe I was premature in desiring a regular 9-5 existence. But like I said, at least this transformation took place quickly and I was no longer under the impression that the people were awesome and that the work would be fulfilling (I know I know, if I knew that so quickly, why didn't I try to get out sooner? That my friend, is a whole other story).

Not these new guys today though. They have started their training under the impression that everyone here is friendly and upbeat, that work is enjoyable and fulfilling, that they will be appreciated and recognized for their efforts.

Poor guys never stood a chance.

"Temp"tation

I understand the need for Temps. You use them when you have a temporary gap in manpower. The Temp acts like a sort of stopgap, until you either don't need them anymore, or they prove indispensible and you hire them full time (thereby paying them their worth and giving them benefits).

We like Temps. We like to employ them for long stretches of time, underpaying them and neglecting to afford them any kind of job stability or medical benefits. It's cheaper after all. For the most part, the Temps, as a collective, work out. But I have a few issues.

By their very definition, a Temp is a temporary worker. They are not official employees in any capacity. Usually they are used for menial grunt work ie mail. Occasionally they move up the food chain and have actual responsibilities -- but here is the beauty of the Temp: if they suck, you can get rid of them!

Apparently my office didn't get this memo. Because we have a couple (one in particular) that make more work for the rest of us, have not caught on at all (despite being given the benefit of the doubt AND a lot of time to learn), and are generally ineffective. And yet, we still pay them. We still give them work to do. We still expect them to come in every day. Why? They are useless. Set him free! Sorry **set them free**.
That's my first gripe.

This is the second. Although we have one, maybe two Temps that suck, we actually have had more that are amazing. Awesome. Incredible. We would be lost without them. These are the Super Temps. The ones that continue to amaze, to learn, to excel.

So what's my problem? I'll give you a hint: it's not the Temps that I have a problem with.

That's right- its John and Upper Management that I have a problem with. Because they take advantage.

If you are a Temp, you are paid an hourly wage by the Temp Agency. The Temp Agency in turn gets paid for lending you out. Typically a Temp Agency will get $21 an hour, and pay their Temps $13. Temps get no benefits, no sick days, no paid vacation. And no job security. They work week to week, could be let go any time because they aren't "needed" anymore. I'd say, Temps are already taken enough advantage of.

Companies like mine favour Temps because when its all added up, Temps cost a lot less.

I figure that they already get taken advantage of plenty. Which is why I was incensed to learn that once again John is offering some Temps "overtime". If I work any additional time, I have the option to "bank" those hours and take the time later, or get paid for the additional time at time and a half. A Temp gets the option of working an additional hour every day, at the same rate, for a total of 40 hours a week (they don't get paid lunches, not being salaried). John gets an extra 5 hours of work per Temp, at a lot less.

I just think that its really shady to take advantage of those that are already working at a disadvantage. The Super Temps work hard, do the same work, work the same hours- and just get so much less. I am disappointed that John continues to hire Temps, never giving them the opportunity to get hired full time. Those opportunities go to outside hires. That then have to be trained -- often by Temps.

How's that for a slap in the face?

Hypocrisy at Work

Did you know that there are different rules for different people at work?

I didn't. I found out this morning.

Last week each member of the team got separately bawled out for Facebook use. Apparently taking 30 seconds out of your day to stalk your "friends" is considered poor office etiquette. Yeah yeah, I have read cnn.com too- apparently looking at Facebook at work is tantamount to stealing company time. But if I'm spending 2 minutes sending witty wall posts to my friends and sneaking peeks at pictures of people I have long ago stopped talking to, does that really hurt the bottom line?

No it doesn't. I still get my work done. At the end of the day, the last thing that I want to do when I get home is go on the computer (am making an exception today because I was busy all day beating my own processing record) and log precious minutes of Facebook or Twitter or whatever the cool kids are doing these days.

My point? We were each reamed out for using work time for non-work things. This was deemed highly offensive and actionable.

This morning Lilly went to John's desk on company time to ask a work related question and found John scrolling through a friend's pictures.

On Facebook.

What a hypocrite.

Meetings Are Redundant

It's true! They did a study. Which is kind of like a glorified meeting but still, they have proven what we all have felt to be true for a long time!

According to the article (found in the Metro News, May 27th), 28% of these gatherings are a waste of time (I feel like the percentage should be higher, but then again, I'm not running these meetings). However, 45% of the people asked felt that employees would be more productive if companies banned meetings once a week.I agree. I cannot tell you how many times my managers are unavailable or out of the office because they are in meetings!

On a day like today (glorious weather) I'm sure their out of office "meetings" are actually an 11am tee time and a nice cold beer. The life of a manager is filled with perks isnt it?

We have weekly meetings in our department. On Friday mornings. They were initially set up to get feedback on how we felt John could improve morale, productivity and processes in our department in the wake of the previous manager's departure. They became a weekly occurance.

But instead of productive, constructive essays on making positive changes, they have basically become all out bitching sessions. We bitch about the reps that we have to deal with, broken processes, broken promises, that there aren't enough people, too much work, printers, paper, coffee flavour- you name it, we complain about it.

Obviously this is a symptom of a greater issue- general malaise felt about working here. But the point is that these meetings (which the article notes could outlive their purpose) have degenerated and no longer warrant an hour of our time. Especially when everything is so behind. The only thing that it accomplishes is the feeling of a shorter friday.

Don't get me wrong, I'm loving the shorter friday (in fact, today we didn't have the meeting and I'm finding that the day feels longer), but when everyone is so stressed out about not having enough time, one more precious hour could do a lot to assuage the feeling of panic currently coursing through the department.

Confflicts of Interest

So you know how when you are a kid you have close group of friends and you all run together and hang out and if anyone says anything bad about one of you, they wind up with a face full of dirt? Or if you have a brother or a sister, you fight like cats and dogs but at the end of the day its still your sibling and no one can say anything bad about them to you.Well that's all very well and good on the playground, but can you imagine what havoc that would wreak in the workplace?

Wonder no more.

When we first started working on our own product, naturally a Consultant had to be brought in to oversee the process with a pair of fresh eyes. Of all the Consultants in all the world the one we had to choose was Amy's brother. I mean really. There were no other experienced applicants? Please.

At the time, a few eyebrows were raised--but these eyebrows belonged to underlings such as myself and we were assured that all the appropriate protocol was followed, that they wouldn't be working closely together anyway. And then we were dismissed.

Well not only do they work closely together, they collaborate. Amy is in charge of the people processing and Turd Ferguson is responsible for creating these processes.

Which would be fine. If he wasn't incompetent. And arrogant. And a complete a-hole.He knows that his remaining time here is running out and actually has the gall to tell us that he knows his processes don't work but that he doesn't care because he's leaving. Meanwhile, his processes cause frustration and headache in his wake.

When he does talk to you he speaks to like you are slow. He speaks slowly and clearly with belittling remarks thrown in for good measure. Example: "It seems we have a little communication problem" -- yeah, you are a lousy communicator, I don't know what you are talking about half the time.

He also has nicknames for people. That they do not like. They tell him that they don't appreciate the nickname and he gets really curt and sharp. And continues to use it.

If that wasn't bad enough, Lilly and I get busted for having a 2 minute conversation, but on more than one occasion TF has stood talking to anyone from Maurice (old chum) to Amy (sister) -- anyone that will pretend to listen for upwards of 15 minutes.

But no one says anything to him. The underlings that we are, we certainly don't have any power to chastize him for time wasting. Plus we're grown ups, we should all know better! It would be another thing entirely if a) we actually enjoyed listening to him b) were able to participate in his soliloquys or c) he was able to contain the level of his voice, maintaining about a 30cm inside voice.

Even though I get reamed out for having a conversation, Turd Ferguson is untouchable. He's the department manager's brother! How did this happen?John? He's the old managers best friend. From highschool. Tell me that isn't biased. He inherited all the problems from the old d-bag and made them worse.

But you have no recourse. You can't blame it on the old guy to John because he visibly flinches (I have put a fair amount of blame on him, he made a big mess). And what are you going to say to John about John? Or his new ragtag coffee clutch. Which includes...wait for it...Turd Ferguson.

And so the circle is complete.

So incestuous.

New Resolve

Today I'm just angry. Frustrated. And cynical.At a real low point today. Dumbfounded really. And in a lot of pain on the right side of my back and shoulder- the repetitive nature of my work is catching up with me in the form of back pain. Awesome.

It's not like I wasn't aware that I work in the least sympathetic, least interesting and most aggravating place on earth. I was aware that my superiors are bottom-line based industry folks with little or no people skills (which is why they are in this industry in the first place) but I thought we had gotten to a place where we could co-exist in harmony.

Today my current manager channelled my former d-bag of a manager. It was scary. She used his exact facial expression and tone of voice. I was instantly transformed from a 24 year old into a 9 year old caught with my hand in the proverbial cookie jar. Although actually when I was 9, I'm pretty sure I was never made to feel like I did today.

Before I tell today's story, let me just preface by saying that even though I hate this job, I recognize that it's a job. And unfortunately for me, I do have a work ethic. So even though I can't stand this place, or my managers, even though I earn no money and am treated poorly, I still give them 100%. I don't know why either. That's just the way that I am. For example- I am the fastest and most accurate at sending the new product out to the clients. I can't help it. Not that its particularly challenging work mind you. A monkey could do it. That doesn't mean that everyone that works here is capable of course...

So. The story.It was early in the day. I had already processed a bunch of the stuff that had been on my desk. My friend Lilly had had a rough morning here in our lovely department, getting s**t on by various superiors. Even though she does the work of 3 people. So I went to give her some tissues and while I was over there she showed me pictures of her beautiful new baby niece. I was looking at the pictures on Lilly's camera, perched on her desk for MAYBE two minutes. A nice mental break, like a cool breeze on a hot summer day, is necessary to maintain sanity.But then my manager, Amy, looks over at us, narrows her eyes and says, in her best patronizing manager voice: "Girls, if you're not on your break, put that away and go back to your desk".

I swear that my jaw hit the floor. My face flushed. I felt like a child. I slipped off the desk and wandered back to my desk in a daze. Questions floated around in my head-- Who does she think she is? How dare she talk to me like that? What is this place? How did I get here?How do I get out?

I know that the economy is not in the best shape but there has to be something out there for me that isn't this. I mean this, this is not good for my mental or physical health. You spend 40 of your waking hours at work, with the same people- the job can't be this bad and the people (for the most part) can't suck this hard!

In a way I guess Amy did me a favour. By treating me like a child I found the resolve necessary to get out, to be aggressive and find another job at all costs. But I'm still angry. Angry that she is unable to recognize hard work when she sees it. Angry that as a manager she has not taken the time to work on her people skills and make herself her employees' champion. And angry that since she has chastized me I have worked harder. What is the deal with that? I guess if I had been home I would have cleaned or slammed some doors or something. But I was here, so what was there to do except work.

She wins again.

This has to stop. Anyone know of jobs for me?

Coffee Breaks

Breaks are an important part of any 9-5 job. An opportunity to walk away from whatever crap you are in the middle of for 15 precious minutes.

But while the essence of the break is the same, what a break actually looks like varies greatly across seniority levels.

Newbies
You have not been told that you get two (2) fifteen minute breaks during one business day, consequently you go the whole day sans coffee, wondering if anyone will notice that you are gone for 5 minutes to use the bathroom. If you have been told that you get these precious breaks, you will not use them. You are there to work. You might as well take them- management doesn't notice that you don't, nor do any brownie points get awarded for not taking them.

Veterans
You have been around for anywhere from six months to two years without moving up in position. You are the heart and soul 0f any department, the worker bees. Those of us (yes, I am a lowly worker bee) that are underpaid and way overworked. Just look at my desk right now- overworked. As for the underpaid...please see post about my 'raise'. Focusing...Us veterans? We knew we are entitled to our coffee breaks. And we take advantage. But we literally use them to run out of the building, stand in some coffee shop line for a token coffee/tea and scone/muffin/croissant and run back. Because we know that they are timing us. If we are late, there is a very good chance that an email about punctuality and the workplace will be waiting for us. And there is no better feeling than being chastized for doing something you are entitled to do.

Supervisors
These are a step above the Veterans in that they have been promoted at some stage in the game. They do not take their coffee breaks daily. They are too busy for simple coffee breaks. Plus they have all that extra holiday time that came with their title, plus the extra money...they don't need the coffee break like the Veterans. However, when management steps out, on vacation, away at a conference etc. Supervisors must take coffee breaks. It's in their contracts. But they will compound them into their lunch breaks. Thus...two hour lunch breaks. And don't forget about the all important meetings that suddenly come up. Therefore in one short week, a Supervisor will have managed to make up for 3 months worth of missed coffee breaks.

Management
The Holy Grail of administrative work: Management. Once one achieves Management status all actual work ceases. The amazing thing about Management is that one becomes a 'people manager'. Without actually doing any work, the Manager somehow achieves. The Manager holds meetings, runs reports, makes recommendations- but none of these things actually do anything. Well there is the time wasting aspect I guess...Perhaps the best thing about being a Manager is that coffee breaks become a euphemism for not working. Managers get together "over coffee" to discuss projects, progress and reports. Coffee breaks become extended meetings out of the office, where there is no one to overhear the content of your conversation to ensure that it is on topic. The best part of meeting "over coffee" is that coffee purchases become expensed.
So free coffee and free time.

The only question that remains is: How does one become a Manager?

My Special Cubicle Buddy

When I first started my "real" job escapade I had a partner in crime. Mary Kate. Mary Kate started working here 3 days before me and lucky for both of us there was a spare desk in her pod that I occupied from that day on. She was a temp, part of a Study Work Abroad Program --she left her homeland in search of new people, experiences and adventure and wound up working here. We quickly hit it off through our love of movie stars, sarcasm and mutual disdain for working conditions here.

But soon Mary Kate's visa was up and she had to return home.So Mary Kate's desk was now empty. Although I tried to persuade my superiors to place an equally fantastic person beside me, my entreaties fell on deaf ears.

Let me now introduce you to my new cubicle buddy, Maurice. Maurice is a 21 year old male, recently left his parent's home and alone in the outside world for the very first time. He is an actual employee here, which means that he is entitled to vacation, sick days and benefits. It also means he is impossible to get rid of.

Maurice is a nice guy, doesn't talk a lot at first but once you get to know him...he does begin to speak. Maurice, however, lacks a lot of real world skills.He arrived about 9 months ago I would say. And in that time has become proficient at a wide variety of nothing.

Perhaps my biggest gripe is our shared printer. We have a beautiful state of the art printer with 4 trays of different coloured paper. So that when you print you can select the appropriate tray and it will print on the appropriate paper. Genius no? In theory it is. But in practice, this concept is too much for Maurice. Especially the direction of paper loading. Generally the paper is loaded into the tray face down with the paper header closest to you. It is the same for each tray and has been the same since the printer was made.Today I spent a half an hour reprinting all my invoices from the morning because Maurice loaded the paper incorrectly.

It was not the first time, it will not be the last.

Maurice's vocabulary could also use some work. Like I said, he's not a big talker but sometimes all I can do is shake my head.Our tiny mail girl has to carry these ginormous bags stuffed full of the day's mail past his cubicle every day. The first time he did nothing. We harassed him about letting a tiny girl carry all that mail herself. The next time he helped. So I acknowledged his chivalry.
Me: "Look at you being all chivalrous Maurice"
Maurice: "I did what?"
Me: "You were chivalrous? You helped Tiny carry the mail?"
Maurice: "I don't even know what that means."
Me: "Chivalrous? you don't know what it means? To act with chivalry?"
Maurice: "Why do you always have to use big words?"
Me: "Its not a big word! It means that you are being courteous and/ or gracious towards women?"
Maurice: "Why don't you just say that then?"
Me: "You want me to say 'Good job Maurice for being courteous and/or gracious towards Tiny?"
Maurice: "I dunno, I guess so"
Me: "Good talk Maurice."

But he's not all bad. He's a really snazzy dresser for example. The first day he came to work he was dressed in head to toe black with a fantastic bright pink tie. A stand out in any room. Or there is his lime green shirt combination. With his (now grown out) red faux-hawk he's a definite head turner! He has fabulous white pimp shoes and a gorgoues beaded bracelet, like those prayer beads that Buddhist monks use.

It's the little things that unhinge me though, even if he is a snappy dresser, and I can't help but think that I would give just about anything to have my Mary Kate come back.

I Would Like My Raise Now Please

Currently the company is in the middle of a hiring and salary freeze. I don't think I need to tell you what that does to morale. But considering the economy, it probably doesn't come as much of a surprise to anyone. A few months ago the entire floor was pulled into a meeting room to be told that no one would be hired and no one would be getting any cost of living or merit raises.

Obviously since then we have hired 3 temps- but we don't pay them real money so they don't count. Plus there have been parties held since then to let us know how much we are appreciated. Saving that money to apply to raises would be ridiculous.

Anyway. My old boss, a lovely, warm hearted generous man (read stingy socially awkward goon), had a meeting with me last August. My 6 month performance appraisal. I was told that generally I was doing a good job, but would be even better if I took some courses to elevate my level of expertise. Obviously studying for these tests would be done on my time and I would have to absorb the cost initially but it would help in my day to day operations (I still haven't and don't think that it affects me at all). I was told that we would discuss my "compensation" at another follow up meeting (they sure love their follow up meetings, an excellent way to measure productivity without actually getting anything done).

That meeting never happened.

I figured it was his anti-social management way of not telling me that I wasn't eligible for a raise. When I had my one year performance evaluation (after my manager's departure) I was told that because I was already at "mid-point" in my pay level I was ineligible for a further raise. I was confused by that as I had not received a raise but chalked it up to the pay freeze.

So then it was time to do my taxes for the year. And my taxes claimed that I had earned a lot more (well more anyway) than I was sure that I was earning. So at this point its February. I bring it up with my current manager who tells me she will speak to Human Resources and get back to me. HR tells her that I am earning the higher amount.

So I'm getting taxed on money I never earned. Awesome. Like I don't already hate paying taxes.
After some back and forth I was told that it should go through my next pay.

It didn't.

It still hasn't.

I'm sure it will though right? Yeah, I'm feeling really motivated to work harder...

Mismanagement

My manager pretends to be a nice guy. He does. Really decent, always smiling, wants you to be happy at work. Problem is that a) he was thrown into the role suddenly and without any background in the area and b) he spends his days in meetings, completely removed from the department, focusing on how we can "add capacity", or "improve process".

But like I said, he doesn't have any actual experience doing the work. When he (let's call him John) first started, he had a big mess to clean up courtesy of our previous manager. The one before...I don't even think I have the energy to go there. Anyway, John came in. And saw that we were all in a bad way. And he was full of ideas on how to get us out of our funk. But that was before s**t hit the fan.

Without giving too much away about where I work or even what I really do I will try to explain what is going on. Previously we were working as a kind of middleman, offering products to clients from companies that we represented. But then we got tired of that and thought that if we created our own product, backed by one company, we could make more money. Good idea in theory. In practice...makes a lot of work.

The idea was that month by month we would take the existing clients and kind of convert them to our new product.Well the problems started when the new system didn't give us the information properly which meant that we had to manually check all of the information against the new product. And manually fix all the errors. And there were a lot of errors. We hired new people. But new people, bless them, are cluless. And it takes time to train them. This training takes experienced people away from their roles and backs us up even more.

As a rule we try to work 30 days ahead. We are currently 13 days ahead? This is bad. But there is no help. We can't hire any more people. Some of the people that we do have, have no idea what they are doing and make costly mistakes. Some of these people are temps. And by nature their tenure should be temporary. We don't need a reason to get rid of them- we just can. That's the beauty of temps (unless you are one and then that's the worst part). For whatever reason we continue to hold onto these people, ones that make more work for everyone else.

Anyway. One of the things that John implemented when he started was weekly meetings to see where everyone stood. What your stress levels were at, what you needed from the team etc. It was supposed to make us feel more like a team and hopefully "create capacity" in areas where it was needed.

All good in theory. But there is no help available to offer. Everyone on the "team" is fully engaged in what they are doing, no one has any extra time to help anyone out. We are all behind. So why offer help? And when we are offering suggestions about how things could be better? He listens, but he doesn't hear- a crucial difference.
Classic example.Minion #1: "Is there a way that maybe we could get the reps to read the history in the system before they are emailing us questions that can be answered by reading the system history?"
John: "Who is giving you problems?"
Minion #1: "Frank, Alice, Jim, Phyllis..."
John: "Is it one person that is being a chronic offender?"
Minion #1: "Frank, Alice, Jim, Phyllis..."
Minion #2: "Ali, Bill..."
John: "Ok if its one person talk to their direct manager, if it IS the manager talk to one of your supervisors. But don't spend a lot of time fighting them. We don't know what its like for them...."
Minion #1: "Could we just send a general reminder email?"
John: "Well we don't want to make more work for them."

Really? We don't want to encourage them to do their jobs??? Why not? What are they doing if they aren't doing their jobs? Playing checkers?I think that the most frustrating thing about this is that the meeting wastes an hour of everyone's ability to work. And then we each had an individual follow up meeting repeating what we just went over in the original meeting. Now we have lost...an hour and a half of productivity. Awesome.I could go on, but I think that you get the idea.

Mismanagement at its finest folks.

Cubicle Design

When I took this job, to appease myself I promised that I would only stay as long as it took to finish my degree- about 6 months at that point. That was a year and a half ago. I'm still here. And I have moved in.

Part of the job's charm in the early days was that it came with my very own desk and a phone. I pictured myself being very busy and important, the gentle ringing of phones interrupting the clack-clacking of typing up important looking documents. Little did I know that I was more likely to develop carple tunnel syndrome from all the mouse clicking.

But I digress.

My new desk came with a series of lockable metal drawers and an overhead cabinet that also locked (at least it did after some strange man came into our "secure" building and stole my bag). And walls. Three and a half person-height walls covered with some kind of beige felt that was screaming to be covered in phone lists, notes and plaques of achievement (of the cardboard variety naturally).

But like I said, my tenure was to be very temporary. So I vowed not to get too settled. It all started innocently enough when my boyfriend gave me a framed picture of us for my desk (all together now, awww). Now there was a face on my desk. Then a series of birthday postcards, that I felt added a personal touch.

Now I look around my cubicle and I wonder when it all went so horribly wrong. It looks like my cubicle. I definitely never intended to have such ownership, it makes it feel permanent. But I prefer to think that my cubicle has more detritus than design. There are coffee cups. A poster of a Disney fairy courtesy of a work mate. A Christmas card. A puppy calendar (necessary to plan non-work related events. A visual reminder that there is in fact life outside the cubicle). Dead Gerberas- they were an attempt to cheer up my space and then they died. I like to think that they are a kind of metaphor for how I feel about working here. All totalled up- if I left tomorrow I would take...the calendar?

I look at some of the other cubicles plastered in photos and stuffed animals and inwardly, I breathe a sigh of relief. Lots of pictures and stuffed animals? Dead giveaways that you plan to spend your working life in exactly such a cubicle.I think that the beige felt walls are actually meant to stifle the screams of dispair otherwise sure to issue from each individual cubicle.

I've learned to start screaming on the inside.

How I Got Here

I was living the high life. As a student. Abroad. In one of the most vibrant, exciting, beautiful, fun, extraordinary cities on the planet. I had a tiny room, a borderline crazy roommate but spent days learning about and exploring this incredible city, and nights with some of the most fantastic, funny and smart people, drinking incredibly cheap wine, cycling home as the sun was coming up. It was my paradise.

But- student life is temporary (unless you plan to be one of those people that can't leave, that gets more than one degree, goes on to a masters, then a phD) and knowing that my time abroad was coming to an end, and knowing to a certain degree, how much money I didn't have, I figured that I would have to have employment of some kind.I knew that they had replaced me at my old job and that they would not, in all likelihood, have a spot for me.

So I started emailing some friends back home and wouldn't you know it, one friend lets call him Sebastien, said that they were looking for someone at his office. Not in his department, but he was happy at work and it wouldn't be too strenuous (I still had about 2 semesters to go to finish school at this point). I asked him if he could get me an interview.There was some back and forth emailing with the manager of the department while I was still abroad, he outlined the role- I was confident that it was something I could do.

I arrived back home on the monday. On the wednesday I had my interview. On Thursday I had a new job. I was so excited. I would be SALARIED for the first time in my life. BIG deal.What I didn't know at the time, was that this salary would come with a really high price tag.

So basically I sold my soul to pay off student debt. And try as I might, with the bottom falling out of the world, there just doesn't seem to be that much work in publishing at the moment. I have to be patient. But patience is a virtue that I am struggling to maintain. In the meantime- I am entertained by the characters I work with. And also extremely frustrated. And really- unhappy.

Which brings me to the reason for this blog. I was entertaining my friend Claire with anecdotes of my life in a cubicle and she was laughing, told me she imagined my life at work to be "The Office"-esque. I assured her it was a lot less funny but that I would start a blog and maybe Hollywood would buy it and I could get out of here.

And her response was " DOOOOOOOOOOOOOO IT".

So here I am. An experiment. Maybe my work rage will subside.

**Please note that these posts were originally on Cubcleisms, but I had to create a new blog after my current boss got a hold of the link and began reading. Obviously he was hooked, so I had to move on**